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Reflections on OE Global and OER17 – part 1

by Anna Page (OEPS project)

Cape Town Convention Centre

Cape Town Convention Centre

Attending a Higher Education conference is always unique to each person.  There is always a lot going on and with presentations scheduled in parallel sessions it is impossible to attend everything or talk to everyone.  This year OEPS had a poster and a presentation at OE Global which for the first time was held in Cape Town and then a few weeks later had several presentations at OER17 in London.  These are my reflections of attending both conferences.

I was fortunate enough to present a poster and presentation for OEPS at the 3 day OE Global conference, hosted by the University of Cape Town and chaired by Dr Glenda Cox, in the mother city of South Africa.  The conference was held in the city based international conference centre, rather than on campus which sits on the lower slopes of Devil’s Peak.  OE Global is organised by the Open Education Consortium and has always been in the ‘global north’ so it was good that the open education researchers in the ‘global south’ were given the opportunity to host it and challenge ‘global north’ perspectives about open educational resources (OER) and open educational practice.  I had not attended OE Global before so it was an enormous privilege to travel such a great distance to present on behalf of OEPS in the city of my birth.  Everyone I spoke with at the conference was very engaged in open education and how it might be used to improve the educational opportunities of a wider group of learners.

View of Table Mountain and Lions Head

View of Table Mountain and Lions Head

There was significant representation at OE Global by two overlapping groups – the ROER4D project, convened by UCT and the GO-GN researchers, convened by the OERHub based at The Open University.  I attended several presentations by people from these groups, including a discussion about making use of MOOCs at UCT and another about understanding lecturer’s adoption of OER at three South African universities, postgraduate students as OER capacitators and exploring open educational practices of first year students at a SA university.  I was interested in collaborative practices, so attended a presentation on teacher collaboration and practice (by Melissa King of BRIDGE, an NGO) which also explored the thorny question of measuring impact of OERs and one about teacher professional learning communities in India (this was a ROER4D sub project).

OE Global Gala Dinner

OE Global Gala Dinner

I was fascinated by the experience of an OER creation novice, Professor Jasmine Roberts from the USA, who discussed the impact of authoring OER on student engagement, learning and retention when she authored an open textbook for her students because the existing textbooks didn’t cover what they needed for their class. Early in her presentation she identified key reasons why more teachers are not using or creating OER: This is the same issue that Josie Fraser and others discussed at the OEPS forum 4 last year and is a challenge common to both ‘global north’ and ‘global south’ educators. Some of us in the session were able to point Jasmine to online resources which offer such advice and support, such as OEPS Becoming an open educator and How to make an open online course OERs on OpenLearn Create.  However it was also clear from her experience that supportive open educational practice networks to help with answering specific questions about OER creation can help give OER creation novices the confidence to make a good start or to avoid some of the pitfalls along the way.  It was encouraging to learn that the open textbook she offered her learners for free was well received, proved accessible to the learners and had a positive impact on their learning and enjoyment of the class.

Anna by the OEPS Poster

Anna by the OEPS Poster

The issues about making the work of researchers in the global south more visible and discoverable was explored by a presentation about the ROER4D curation and dissemination strategy.  This strategy aims to make content open by default when it is legally and ethically possible to do so, especially if this increases its value to learning.  I liked the fact that in the reasons why it was necessary to have such a strategy, all the arguments for good academic practice were cited as also good open educational practice.  This was approached in a way to make it attractive to an academic to implement.

The poster sessions were in the coffee breaks and I was able to discuss the poster with several people as well as hand out OEPS leaflets, stickers and OpenLearn pens!

My presentation was on the last day in the final session before the closing plenary.  It was encouraging to have an interested audience and some good questions about what OEPS has been doing with opening up practice on participatory course production.  Beck Pitt, OEPS Researcher, live broadcast the presentation via Twitter Periscope.

After the closing plenary panel it was time for goodbyes as everyone dispersed back around the globe after taking in some of the sights of Cape Town.

Part 2 covers OER17 in London and my reflections on comparing the themes of the two conferences.

Image credits: Cape Town Convention Centre, OE Global Gala Dinner, View of Table Mountain and Lions Head and Anna by the OEPS Poster by Beck Pitt and licensed CC BY 2.0. 

OUT NOW! How to make an open online course

Badge for 'How to make an open online course

Badge for ‘How to make an open online course

We are delighted to announce that How to make an open online course is now live.  It is a new badged open course which explains how to design, structure and produce your own open online course.  It was written by the Free Learning Team at The Open University and includes sections by the OEPS project team.  How to make an open online course complements the OEPS course Becoming an Open Educator which was released in September 2016 to focus on how to find open resources, how open licences work, the benefits of using and remixing OER and how they might influence the course you create.

How to make an open online course guides you through the practical steps to take in building a course including planning the course, how it might be hosted online, the use and reuse of free content, what sort of assessment activities you might want to include, social learning and the important steps you need to take before you publish your course.  It prompts you to think about what consider to as you compile content, it also discusses the writing and editing process.

Badge for 'Becoming an open educator'

Badge for ‘Becoming an open educator’

When the OEPS project began, these two courses were proposed as key tools to help those discovering the benefits of using OER for widening participation in higher and further education.  As the project has progressed and we work with partners to help them create their own OER for their particular contexts we have reflected on processes of course creation.  We have focussed especially on how a course can be created in collaboration between universities and organisations or those unfamiliar with how to produce meaningful online learning materials and this experience has been incorporated into these courses.

The Open University has plenty of expertise in creating good quality distance educational materials to support students, more recently in online settings both for formal courses and for the informal courses and resources hosted on OpenLearn.  The OU Free Learning team, who commission all the free open courses hosted on OpenLearn, including the highly successful OU Badged Open Courses, have compiled How to make an open online course to share this knowledge in an accessible way to anyone who wants to try building their own course.

The OEPS project team welcome your thoughts, comments and suggestions on how this new badged open course or Becoming an Open Educator makes a different to your open educational practice.  Please contact us at  (oepscotland [at] gmail.com) or tweet using the hashtag #openeducator about your experience of using these two courses to guide your course building activities.