OEPS hub workshop at the advisory forum
by Anna Page, OEPS project team
We ran a workshop on the OEPS hub at the advisory forum in October 2014 as part of the requirements gathering exercise for project objective C ‘Development of an online hub to encourage and share best practice in open education’. In early project team meetings and a brainstorming session we had come up with some features of the hub and I had worked these into a series of user stories. Andrew Law (Co-director of OEPS) and I decided to use the workshop as an opportunity to get user feedback from potential users on the user personas and stories to help us identify the priorities for development.
We thought that the main user groups will broadly be Practitioners (practitioners/providers/researchers) and Learners (browsers/informal learners/students). Some user stories were relevant to everyone, some more important to practitioners and some for learners. We asked each group to discuss the user stories amongst themselves from the perspective of Learner or Practitioner, make notes and try deciding if they were high, medium or low priority. Each group gave a brief summary of their discussions and asked questions.
I had explained earlier during the OEPS project team panel session that the existing OpenLearn Works platform http://www.open.edu/openlearnworks/, which provides a free public space for people to run their own free learning projects, will be further developed to fully support the OEPS hub. Planned features include adding content on good open educational practice including case studies, clearer guidance on creating and uploading OER and improvements which support communities and organisations to make the most of OER (which will include improving the user profile features, better search functionality and a recommender tool). Other important features include making the platform mobile friendly, interoperable with other platforms and technologies and support for alternative formats. The workshop gave a little more detail about these aspirations and naturally triggered plenty of questions.
What became clear from the discussions at both workshops was that people needed reassurance that the hub will not be just another repository (which most wouldn’t find, especially if their default search tool was Google) when there are plenty of OER repositories available already. Existing repositories are not necessarily known about by those new to OER and therefore some might be suffering from low usage. Instead the hub aims to introduce people to the concept of open educational resources, how to use OER in practice and connect users with each other. It also aims to re-aggregate search of existing OER repositories such as JORUM, Re:Source and Solvonauts. This means the hub will need to facilitate the building of strong supportive communities of OER users and provide those communities with sandpit space for them to experiment with OER. People were very concerned that the OEPS hub would not be a silo, instead it needs to be a pool of connectedness and some people saw it as a node rather than a hub. Others cautioned us to ensure that the development of communities supported by the OEPS hub will need to come from grassroots development and growth, because such communities are likely to be much more successful than top down initiated communities. The concept of a sandpit space for practitioners was embraced.
One group pointed out that we had missed a persona group who have the ability to make considerable contributions to the hub – the learning technologists. This user group may want to contribute tools and code towards the further development of the hub to benefit both learners and practitioners, possibly via a learning technologist community space in the hub.
The recommender tool concept was extended – in one workshop it was pointed out that a star rating wasn’t sufficient for users whose primary goal is to find or recommend good OER – there needs to be a facility for people to feedback on how an OER had been used and what people are doing with it. This wasn’t explicit in the recommender tool user story, though had in fact already been identified as necessary functionality by the IT analyst. Most teachers would evaluate the quality of a resource before using it themselves, so finding a trustable practice-based resource which others had used successfully in their particular context was really important to them, and community building would help inform their choices of OER.
High priorities for the OEPS hub which emerged were:
- Provide good trustworthy search facilities coupled with a recommender tool which guides user choice of OER they find via the search
- Host online events to stimulate discussion, using targeted marketing to different community groups so it isn’t just the ‘usual suspects’ involved in discussing OER
- Publish good case studies of OER and OEP
- Provide comprehensive user guidance and good open educational practice (this would be targeted for the different user groups of the OEPS hub)
- Mobile optimisation is essential
- Provide information about how and why OER applies in a Scottish context, why are we investing in it
- Provide space and guidance for practitioners to put their OER or experimental OER because a significant percentage of users are unlikely to have access to an institutional space for creating and sharing OER
People were less sure about the updates needed to the existing profile functionality, unless this development was integral to the community building feature of the OEPS hub and were keen to allow users to login using a third party profile.
For the perspectives of two people who attended the OEPS hub workshops, see http://lornamcampbell.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/thoughts-on-oepsforum14-and-the-battle-for-open/ and http://dougbelshaw.com/conferences/2014/10/13/oepsforum14/
The project team are discussing the outcomes of the OEPS hub workshops as we work towards the first IT developments to bring these aspirations for an OEP community space for Scotland into reality.