Enhancing Digital Infrastructure to Support Open Content in Education: announcing 15 new projects

I am very pleased to announce fifteen new projects to enhance the digital infrastructure to support open content in education.

The Call for proposals was released in November 2011. We received 34 proposals, the competition was very tough. I’m grateful to all the expert reviewers who helped evaluate bids. Because of the high standard of proposals we were able to allocate more funding than anticipated to approximately £350,000 of HEA/JISC OER Programme funds.

These projects will be completed by November 2012, hence they are Rapid Innovation projects using open innovation methods: plenty of blogging, lots of user involvement, and they are driven by delivering new tools and functionality.

Here is a taste of what they cover

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wordcloud created with the free tool wordle.net

OER Rapid Innovation Projects: the full list:

Attribute images Further developing a tool that allows users to upload images (singly or in bulk), select a Creative Commons licence and specify the name of the copyright holder, publication date and a URL. The tool will then embed a licence attribution statement in the image. It will have integration with Flickr. University of Nottingham
Bebop The main outcome of this work will be a WordPress plugin that can be used with BuddyPress to extend an individual’s profile to re-present resources that are held on disparate websites such as Slideshare, Jorum, etc. University of Lincoln
Breaking down barriers Developing open options for Landmap and geo-aware functionality in Jorum. To enable easier and richer sharing of geo-based resources. University of Manchester, MIMAS
CAMILOE This project reclaims and updates 1800 quality assured evidence informed reviews of education research, guidance and practice that were produced and updated between 2003 and 2010 and which are now archived and difficult to access. University of Canterbury Christchurch
Improving Accessibility to Mathematics Turn an existing research prototype into an assistive technology tool that will aid accessibility support officers in their task of preparing fully accessible teaching and assessment material in mathematical subjects by translating it into suitable markup. University of Birmingham
Linked data approaches to OERs Extending MIT’s Exhibit tool to allow users to construct bundles of OERs and other online content centred around playback of online video Liverpool John Moore’s University
Portfolio Commons Create a plugin for Mahara open source e-portfolio software that will enable users to select content from their portfolio and deposit it into Jorum and EdShare. University of the Arts London
RedFeather RedFeather aims to provide users with a lightweight Resource Exibition and Discovery platform for the annotation and distribution of teaching materials. University of Southampton
RIDLR Dynamic Learning Maps meets Learning Registry UK node (JLeRN) to harvest OERs for specific topics within curriculum and personal learning maps and share paradata. University of Newcastle
SPINDLE

This will be using cheap/free automatic transcription services to transform video to text to enable richer subject specific metadata for cataloguing purposes, using recognised standards and data formats. University of Oxford
SupOERGlue Will pilot the integration of Tatamae’s OER Glue with Dynamic Learning Maps, enabling teachers and learners to generate custom content by aggregating and sequencing OERs related to specific topics. University of Newcastle
SWAP sharing paradata across widget stores Using the Learning Registry infrastructure to share paradata about Widgets across multiple Widget Stores, improving the information available to users for selecting widgets and improving discovery by pooling usage information across stores. University of Bolton
synote mobile Creating a new HTML5 mobile version of Synote to will meet the important user need to make web-based OER recordings easier to access, search, manage, and exploit for learners, teachers and others. University of Southampton
TRACK OER OER in the wild can get lost. This project will add a tracer to find where they go for attribution, research and remix. Open University
Xenith Adding HTML5 as a delivery platform to Xerte Online Toolkits, allowing content to reach a much greater range of devices. University of Nottingham


See the JISC strand page for more detail.

Digital Infrastructure for Learning Content Update: February 2012

So much has been happening since my last update in November 2011, I thought it would be useful to round up the news around JISC work on digital infrastructure relating to learning content.

OER

The Call for OER Rapid Innovation Projects closed on Friday 27th January and I’m pleased to say we received 34 bids. Thank you all for your hard work! The bids are out for evaluation now, and in parallel we are looking at how to best present the collection of Use Cases. Bidders should hear back by early March. Note there is likely to be a big UKOER Programme Meeting on 26th March, venue tbc. So if you’ve bid to run an OER RI project, please pencil it in your diary. You should know a few weeks beforehand if you’re successful, so there will be time to make travel arrangements then.

Other news on the UK Open Educational Resources (UKOER) Programme:

OER beyond the UK OER Programme

Our sister strand in the eContent programme, OER digitisation is now underway, and the OER WW1 project will shortly be announced.

Open is a major theme for JISC in 2012. I blogged my individual take on openness in My Story of O(pen) but watch out for future JISC activities in Open, building on the Open Access section and case studies but taking it broader and deeper and drawing on the richness of JISC-supported work. This includes a study I’ll be managing on the Open Landscape (see below). I hope you saw the pieces in the current JISC Inform on  Joi Ito: education is at the core of creative commons and the Round up of what’s happening in open access publishing. There will be more about openness in the next issue.

Globally, March 2012 will see the very first Open Education Week , and April 2012 is the joint OCWC and OER conference, so expect to see more around the issues of supporting open content and open practice.

Developing supporting infrastructure: including two developer challenges!

The JISC Learning Registry Node Experiment (JLeRN)  is coming to life, see their introductory blog post. They ran a Hack Day on 23rd January for people to understand how they might work with these approaches. They are also sponsoring a Challenge for Dev8D

“Are you interested in capturing, sharing, mashing up or otherwise using paradata, AKA data about the use of open educational resources?

Are you thinking about exploring where and how teachers and learners are using resources, or sharing them via social media, or what they are saying about the resources?”

See The JLeRN Experiment Paradata Developers’ Challenge at Dev8D 2012

The Jorum team are doing so much at the moment its hard to know where to start. See their blog for an inside update. Highlights for me would be they are exploring how best to provide analytics to users, as part of that they are developing a dashboard approach. They are also running a Challenge for developers;

Are you interested in exploring new ways to extract, share, visualise, search, collate or mash up the thousands of open educational resources available in Jorum?

See The Jorum Developers’ Challenge 2012 at Dev8D: Releasing Open Educational Resources into the Wild

Pssst … If you’re a developer working on educational technologies, then I will whisper a rumour at you that it might be worth keeping 29th & 30th May pencilled in your diary for our very first DevEd event. Shhhh! We’ll tell you more as we plan it!

Meanwhile, the UKCoRR repository managers community ran a session on OERs on 27th January. The presentation from Phil Barker is a really useful whistlestop tour of different approaches to managing and disseminating OER

Funding opportunities for digital infrastructure work

There is currently a major Call for Proposals out from the Digital Infrastructure team . Most closely related to the area of digital infrastructure for learning resources, I would flag up the potential of Research Tools – Projects to Develop Sustainable and Open Vocabularies for Research and Information Management  , and also a Synthesis Project. Worth watching also will be the access and identity management projects arising from this Call.

Also due out very soon are a set of Invitations to Tender for a range of Reports on Digital Infrastructure Directions.  I’ll be managing a report on Embedded Licences: What, Why and How, and an Open Landscape study that focuses on how openness supports institutional objectives. Also requested will be a Report on the Advantages of APIs and one on Activity Data: Analytics and Metrics, one on business models around open source, and one on citation.

Sign up to JISC announce to get funding opportunity alerts via email.

Some hot topics

E-books, i-books and open books have been a big topic recently (E,I,E,I,O!). Apple caused a stir with their announcements. If you’re interested in ebooks, there is a wealth of technical material and guidance in the JISCPub Technical Monograph Landscape Study . JISC Digital Media are running a webinar on Getting Started with eBooks on 22nd February.

There is a growing interest in the role of libraries and librarians for OER. CETIS have been tracking this opportunity . A nice edtechpost sums up what this might mean all for emerging roles. Talking of libraries, my colleague Ben Shower’s post on the future of Library Management Systems, the Squeezed Middle has implications for how the role of content management within institutions might develop.

I had the pleasure of joining a NIACE workshop on open educational resources on 20th January. I gave a presentation on the benefits of content sharing and reuse . The big take home message of the day for me is that in HE we have a wealth of support, content and tools for both adult learners and the people to teach, tutor and support them. There is so much more we can do to promote open and free learning beyond HE, as highlighted in the soon-to-be-released OER Report on Open Practice across sectors .

JISC has been busy behind the scenes coordinating evidence and responses to Hargreaves review of copyright. That warrants a whole blog post which I won’t attempt here!

… (pause for breath) …

Coming soon …

Major reports due out soon which may be of particular interest :

I’ll be out and about a bit this month too. I’ll be running a session at Dev8D with CETIS’s Lorna Campbell about digital infrastructure directions for learning content, 2-4pm on Wednesday 15th Feb .  As well as attending the Learning Registry session at the CETIS Conference , I’ll be contributing ideas on the potential of social network analytics for education and research on 23rd February.

And thus endeth my update for February 2012.

Hope this update is useful! A lot of this work has involved my colleagues in the UK OER Programme, JISC CETIS and Mimas, as well as the many expert projects we are lucky enough to work with. Feedback on this update is very welcome.

My Story of O(pen)

Here at JISC we think a lot about openness: what it means, how to support it, where it takes us.

This is my contribution to that thinking. It is very much my individual views, but informed by the work we do at JISC, and by the Open Knowledge Foundation, amongst others.

My open narrative

Open makes things visible.

The everyday sense of “open” is open rather than closed – letting people see what is there, what is happening.

The web enables you to;

Open makes access easy.

This is where open–as-in-open-access comes in: open without needing to log in, and open without payment.

SO

Open is social.

The “many eyes” principle of sharing open data and the open innovation model encourage others not only to view but to comment, to feed back, to engage. This speeds up the process in hand and improves the quality of the resulting work.

AND

Open makes things usable by others.

Open standards exist to encourage as many developers as possible to adopt them.

This is where open licensing comes in: granting others explicit and generous permissions to use your content.

FURTHERMORE

Open can be a way of working.

Doing open working and openly releasing outputs can make a person feel differently about what they do. Researchers might call this collection of activities open scholarship, technologists might call their activities open development, project teams might call it open innovation. Each of these types of open practice has elements in common and elements specific to the sorts of activities the practice involves.

HOWEVER

Open is not exclusive

Open source can mean both the open development process and the open source software. They are not always found together: open development processes can produce non-open software, and closed development processes can produce open source software.

BUT

Opens are mutually beneficial

There is a virtuous cycle when open process and open products combine. In open scholarship, both creating and using open content and using open ways of working, the content feeds the practice feeds the content.

I’m watching the Openness in Education course with interest and I expect this whole meta open concept to deepen in 2012.

A Diagram of Opens

Its important to note that is is an abstracted diagram: in my view, open is not a replacement for the  way things currently work. There is not ever going to be a total transformation to open. The reality is a mixed economy. Business models matter. Practice models matter.

Open can be good for business, open can be good for practice but it exists in a bigger ecosystem of technologies and behaviours. Good is not enough, it needs to be useful. That’s what JISC and other advocates of openness are working hard to surface.

Ultimately I think open is good because it is a good way of working.

Amber Thomas

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My Story of O(pen) by Amber Thomas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
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Sharing Learning Resources: shifting perspectives on process and product

I’m working on a paper with my colleague David Kernohan on the context of the UK OER Programme and it occurs to me that people understand the sharing of learning resources in very different ways. Even over the past 15 years that I’ve been involved in the field, the emphasis has regularly shifted.

One way to look at is that each iteration of the concept of sharing learning resources foregrounds different aspects of activity.

Processes and Products

For the sake of simplicity, I am illustrating this as four main activity domains: designing learning, creating resources, sharing resources and using resources. This is activities from a resource-centric perspective rather than a curriculum design and delivery perspective or a software/platforms perspective. This blog post is deliberately couched in soft systems terminology rather than practice.

Diagram

(Paragraph clarified 2012/01/05 based on feedback!)

There are often multiple discourses in play at any one time – it’s not a linear or singular evolution. The diagram can just be used to describe the focus of a particular set of concerns/approaches. Sometimes the emphasis is on the process, with the product as secondary. For example, the late 90s to early 2000s emphasised the benefits of collaborative resource development. Later on, some advocates of Open Educational Resources (OER) brought to the fore the concept of content as by-product, exhaust, frictionless sharing. Simultaneously, the early 2000s saw a focus on reusable learning objects, with the transfer from resource creation process to resource use process being key. Towards the end of the decade that thread partially shifted into a discussion about the sharing process being key to open practices, a different angle again. There is currently an emphasis on making the learning resources themselves available to learners: a focus on access to product rather than improvement of process. Sometimes there is a new interest in eliciting a product/output from an existing process, for example, analytics brings to the fore the idea of usage data as a by-product of use. In parallel, approaches are maturing in designing learning, and an interest in how that design can be shared, directly as “a learning design”, implicitly as learning design built in to the resource creation process, and passively as contextual metadata to assist resource selection and use.  I could expand these examples to show more clearly what I mean.

Value

One of the benefits of looking at it this way is that we can see different models of value. Although deeply unfashionable to talk about academic practices in this way, looked at from a soft systems perspective there are variables of time, cost and quality. The discourse about why and how to share learning resources shifts its benefits model between these variables, and whether the value is in the process or the product.

TCQ Triangle

Examples:

A: PROCESS: Improving shared taught courses by using collaborative learning design

B: PRODUCT: Reducing time spent creating new resources by increasing the availability of existing resources

C: PROCESS: Promoting institutional subject expertise by sharing specialist learning resources

This was just a quick attempt to map the benefits. I found it easiest to think of examples where the driver is quality, though I seem to remember that the late 90s was more about saving time. We may be seeing a shift now to saving or making money (however indirectly). But the variables have always been there: the emphasis just shifts.

Infrastructure and Practice

I have a feeling that understanding where we are in terms of process and product will help us identify more accurately how technology can help. There is a history of sociotechnical engineering in the field of sharing learning materials that would be useful to tell. It’s not just a story of changing practices in pursuit of quality, it is also a story of government investment in a soft system, and a series of interventions (many of which I’ve been involved with), to support emerging good practices both processes and products. Maybe one day I’ll write a thesis on that!

For now though, I think it is salient to draw the conclusion that there is no reason to assume that today’s conception of the value of sharing learning resources will persist. This is a moving field. And that makes it very difficult to anticipate where public investment in supporting technologies should lie. Do we need specialist process based tools? Or generic platforms to share products/outputs/artefacts from each process?

Interim conclusions

There is more to be said about how this process and product model layers itself over individual, institutional, subject, national and global levels. There is also more to be said about how tools/services can get the balance between process-centric and product-centric models, and how this story plays out with VLEs, repositories and web2.0 tools.I found it useful to get my thoughts down on paper and hopefully some readers will be able to point me in a useful direction.

Digital Infrastructure to Support Open Content for Education

Background to this blog post

The OER Rapid Innovation Call for Proposals was announced in November 2011. It is open to HEFCE-funded institutions to bid.

I am very aware that the issues in scope for this Call are broader then the UK. It includes a snapshot of the digital infrastructure space at November 2011, it builds on the understanding and experiences of projects within the UKOER Programme and beyond, and is particularly informed by the expertise at JISC CETIS . It therefore seems useful to make the snapshot available as a blog post so that it is more accessible to people working in open content for education around the world.

The following is taken from Paragraphs 25-75 of the Call, but with added headings to enable easier reading online. Please read the full Call for further understanding of what the requirements are for projects.

The Global Picture

The OLnet initiative has recently identified Key Challenges for the OER Movement. These challenges include:

It is these global challenges that underpin this Call for projects to enhance the digital infrastructure to support open content.

The Story so Far

Through the JISC Digital Infrastructure Team, JISC  supports the creation and use of a layer of scholarly resources for education and research across the network. This includes the development of infrastructure, technology, practice and policy to support processes from creation and access to re-use of resources. Major activities include sharing and storing content, providing access to content (via licences and technologies), developing solutions for curation and delivering data and content resources via data centres and distributed solutions.

Through the OER Technology Support Project, the OER IPR Project, the evaluation and synthesis, and the experiences of funded projects, and aided particularly by JISC CETIS’s technology synthesis work,  JISC is developing a clearer understanding of the role of technologies and infrastructure in supporting open practice and open content.

In particular JISC has funded a number of elements that support the sharing of learning materials including Jorum, the Repositories Infokit,  previous rapid innovation funding for the Xpert search, the SWORD protocol, the CaPRet project and an OER Programme-funded prototype showcase of UKOER content that is currently under development.

Opportunities and Challenges

There are some key areas that JISC has identified where developments under this call are encouraged. What follows is a description of some of the opportunities and challenges that have been identified in this space. However this list is not exhaustive and bidders are welcome to submit proposals that address different areas if they fulfil the main aims of the call.


Open licensing is key to open content, and fertile ground for developing digital infrastructure. Tools built around Creative Commons licences may provide a useful backbone, so the Open Attribute tool and projects using those conventions, such as OERGlue and CaPRet are useful in that they provide benefits to users (easy attribution) rewarded by benefits to content providers (analytics). Tools such as Xpert Attribution Tool help the flow of rights. Implementation of Open Attribute into tools and services, and a set of services around embedded licenses are potential areas that proposals could tackle.

Improved resource description, both machine-readable and human-readable are important to enable content to be effectively found, shared and selected. CETIS have provided a summary of the key initiatives to track, namely Learning Resources Metadata Initiative which is a profile of the schema.org initiative for improving html markup. HTML5 may offer promise in this area. Including provenance and licensing information in the sharing of resources is important to digital literacies as well as meeting the requirements of attribution such as in the Creative Commons BY clause.

Aggregation and discovery is another area of interest for open content (see OER aggregation blog post). The OER Thematic Collections projects have explored a range of approaches. The Content Clustering and Sustaining Resources publication provides a good description of the approaches in this area generally. The Shuttleworth-funded OER Roadmap Project proposes an ecosystem of repositories and services, characterised by the use of APIs and shared protocols such as JISC-funded SWORD. The Discovery Initiative promotes an open metadata ecology to enable better use and aggregation of content. The Learning Registry approach explores the use of activity data to enhance the metadata and discovery of resources and the OER Programme is funding a UK experimental node. Solutions might be developed that build on these initiatives, specifically to enhance the digital infrastructure for open content in education.

Many sites hosting collections of educational materials keep logs of the search terms used by visitors to the site when searching for resources. There might be solutions that could be developed to aid the understanding of search activity. For example, a project could deliver a tool that facilitates the analysis of search logs to classify the search terms used with reference to the characteristics of a resource that may be described in the metadata. Such information should assist a collection manager in building their collection (e.g. by showing what resources were in demand) and in describing their resources in such a way that helps users find them. The analysis tool should be shown to work with search logs from a number of and should produce reports in a format that are readily understood, for example a breakdown of how many searches were for “subjects” and which were the most popular subjects searched for. A a degree of manual classification will be required, but if the system is capable of learning how to handle certain terms and that this learning would be shared between users: a user should not have to tell the system that “Biology” is a subject once they or any other user has done so. Further information on the sort of data that is available and what it might mean is outlined in CETIS’s blog post on Metadata Requirements from the Analysis of Search Logs. Solutions should be developed as open source software then made free to use or install without restriction, with full documentation. The tool proposed above is one way that we could improve the understanding of search, other suggested solutions are welcome.

Effective Search Engine Optimisation is key to open educational resources providing benefits of discoverability, reach reputation and marketing. Guidance on “improving your online presence” needs applying to the wide range of platforms and content types used for OER, as described in JISC CETIS’ UKOER technical synthesis. Projects have explored SEO in several ways, for example, the SCOOTER project has produced guidance on its chosen approach to search engine optimisation and the MMTV project experimented with Google AdWords to improve SEO. The variations in format types and platforms mean that it is exposed to web search in a variety of ways. A particular key issue is how “repositories” compare to “web 2.0 services” in terms of search engine optimisation. To answer that, we may need to go beyond theory into running a structured experiment. For example, a technical investigation/tool for the SEO of commons platforms and formats for OER would be very useful. This project would be a repeatable approach, using technical tools to run the SEO work and capture and present the findings in a useful way. The outputs of such an investigation would include the methodology, a findings report to JISC, and an accessible set of outputs aimed at OER projects. Other solutions to improving SEO for open content would also be very welcome.

Understanding use has been a major theme of the OER Programme Phase Two. The Value of Reuse report and the Literature Review of Learners Use of Open Educational Resources captured what is known about use of open educational resources. The Learning Registry is relevant here. The Listening for Impact study analysed the feedback and usage of some open content collections. Further useful resources are available from the Activity Data Programme. Analytics may be an important way to provide evidence of the benefits of open educational resources, so enhancing content and platforms to enable enhanced usage tracking, exploiting APIs of third party systems, exploring ways of capturing and visualising use, and providing dashboards to manage analytics data may be very useful.

Online profiles are becoming a part of academic identity and open content provides a significant opportunity for academics to enhance their profile, alongside managing and reflecting on their professional work. To this point many efforts at creating academic profiles building on institutional information and open content have focused exclusively on profiles of publications and the provision of open access to scholarly communications. However, other forms of open content can play a significant role in academic identity and professional development. A key opportunity is therefore linking a broader range of open content to academic profiles.This might involve fully/semi-automated integration of publication/release/record of multiple types of open content into academic staff profiles. This is not about creating new platforms but of using feeds and APIs to enhance existing systems that handle continuing professional development / CVs / ePortfolios etc. Examples of this sort of functionality can be found in Humbox’s profile on contributing authors which also allows users to embed that author’s content list elsewhere, and Rice Connexions offers author profiles. Services such Slideshare and Youtube host user-generated content are well used as platforms for open content.Proposals could demonstrate fully/semi-automated approaches that can flexible draw on multiple distributed sources of open access articles, OER, blog posts and so on. Proposals to address this opportunity are very welcome.

One mechanism that connects people to content is social recommendation. This includes favouriting, liking, bookmarking, reviewing, and social curation tools such as Scoopit, paper.li, zite, storify, pearltrees and so on.  Often this involves browser-based tools such as bookmarklets making it very easy for people to capture, share and store useful resources. There are two OER-specific bookmarking tools available that handle the licensing characteristics of open content: FavOERites developed at Newcastle University (as a UKOER funded project) and the OER Commons tool both of which have APIs and have open sourced their code. The implementation and enhancement of these tools to handle open content may be a useful area for projects to explore. For example, projects might develop solutions for making content “share-friendly” to these tools, how the tools can use automatically generated metadata about licences, the user and their context, and how shared tags and vocabularies might enable more effective sharing for educational purposes.

The growth in e-books and e-readers, both open and proprietary, is of interest to education. Books are a familiar format to use in teaching, but also digital technologies affording new ways of creating, sharing and using books. For example, the College Open Textbooks initiative states that “We have found that open textbooks should be:

In the UK, JISC Collections have been running the ebooks observatory and examining business models for etextbooks. Developments from the research world are emerging around Enhanced Publications which combine research text, date and rich media. There is a recently announced pressbooks platform. International initiatives such as the The Saylor Open Textbook Challenge the WA State open course library etextbook initiative and have raised the profile of open textbooks. JISC CETIS have described the use case for open e-textbooks. There is guidance on ebooks available from JISC digital media, and JISC has funded the #jiscpub R&D projects. Several campus-based publishing projects have piloted reusable approaches, including Epicure, CampusROAR, Larkin Press and another useful example to look at is “living books about life”.

Phases 1 and 2 of OER programme made use of a wide range of platforms, blogs, wikis, repositories and often made modifications to the software to fully support OER use cases. It is likely to mean improving ingest and expose mechanisms, handling licence information, addressing syndicated feeds, APIs, widgets and apps. An example of platform enhancement would be the work Oxford University and others have done with WordPress or the CUNY Academic Commons in a Box work. Proposals are welcome to enhance platforms for open content. Bidders may wish to create enhancements to existing release, aggregation and remix platforms to improve the transfer of open content for educational purposes. Projects may wish to combine existing tools to provide enhanced functionality. The outcomes of these projects should be a richer exchange of metadata between publishing platforms, aggregators and other services used in the sharing of openly licensed content.


The opportunities and challenges above are only indicative and not exhaustive.

Please read the full Call for further understanding of what the requirements are for projects.

Bidders are welcome to use the oer-discuss mailing list to refine ideas and identify potential collaborators. JISC will not provide a matchmaking service, but commercial and overseas experts are welcome to use the mailing list to express an interest in collaborating.


I hope you find this useful. Comments very welcome.


Amber Thomas

JISC Programme Manager: digital infrastructure for learning and teaching materials

Addendum

Enhancing platforms for open content: the project cited is from City University New York not State University New York (now corrected, thanks to Matthew Gold, CUNY for spotting the error)

OER Rapid Innovation Call

***THIS CALL FOR PROPOSALS CLOSED ON 27TH JANUARY 2012 and this blog post will no longer be updated***

The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA) invites institutions to submit funding proposals for projects to enhance digital infrastructure to support open content for education.

Read the Call for Proposals.

Supplementary Information

IMPORTANT!: AMENDMENT TO THE CALL DOCUMENT: BIDS SHOULD BE SUBMITTED TO OER@JISC.AC.UK (NOT OER@JISCMAIL.AC.UK AS IT SAID IN THE ORIGINAL CALL)

CLARIFICATION: Proposals can be up to 6 pages long, the coversheet does not count as part of the 6 pages and the Use Case does not count as part of the 6 pages either.

REMINDER: Bidders are strongly advised to ask a peer with “fresh eyes” to read through the Call and Proposal before submission.

An online briefing session was held on Friday 9th December 2011, 10:00-11:00.  A recording of the briefing and the Slides are available. I also ran a skype surgery on Wednesday 11th January 2012. Further queries are very welcome.

An extract of the Call is available: Digital Infrastructure to Support Open Content for Education

Further information on Use Case Requirement is available.

Summary of the Call

Eligible institutions (HEFCE capital) may request between £10,000 and £25,000 per project.  A total of £200,000 is available for this strand. Between 10 and 18 projects are likely to be funded.

I previewed the Call earlier in November 2011.

wordcloud of scope of the Call

www.wordle.net of OER RI Call

The OLnet initiative has recently identified Key Challenges for the OER Movement. These challenges include:

It is these global challenges that underpin this Call for projects to enhance the digital infrastructure to support open content. The Call outlines some of the opportunities and challenges that have been identified in this space, proposals are welcome that meets these, or more generally the main aims of the Call.

Intended benefits of these projects are:

These are Rapid Innovation projects.  In keeping with the size of the grants and short duration of the projects, the bidding process is lightweight and the reporting process will be blog-based.

Bidders are welcome to use the oer-discuss mailing list to refine ideas and identify potential collaborators. JISC will not provide a matchmaking service, but commercial and overseas experts are welcome to use the mailing list to express an interest in collaborating.

The outputs of these projects will be made available open access and open source.

Key Dates

Please do post questions as comments to this blog post, join oer-discuss, or contact me direct.

Amber Thomas

JISC Programme Manager: digital infrastructure for learning and teaching materials (CONTACT INFO)

OER Rapid Innovation Call: Preview

Released later this month, with a deadline of mid January, this Call will be for short (max 6 month) projects to develop solutions to enhance the digital infrastructure to support the use of open content in education.

Eligible institutions (HEFCE capital) can bid for between £10,000 and £25,000. Technical staff should already be in place. Existing partnerships with commercial and overseas organisations is welcome. Proposals should be focussed on a clear use case and have user involvement build it. In keeping with the relatively small grants and tight timeframe, there will be a lightweight reporting process based on blog posts.

Open Education, open academic practice, open scholarship and open content all need digital infrastructure to thrive. The emphasis in this Call is on making use of existing tools, services and standards, to meet clearly articulated use cases.

Areas to bid to will include:

A: Open content and academic profiles

B: Enhancing platforms for open content

C: Enhancing tools and services for open e-books

D: Search log analysis

E: SEO of common platforms and format types for OER

F: Open Call, including:

As you can see, the scope is broad. It includes discovery, analytics, social web and platform work, so don’t be put off if you haven’t been involved in the OER Programme so far. Read my latest programme update, join oer-discuss mailing list, follow #ukoer on twitter, check out the work of the programme and start making connections. Bidders are welcome to use the oer-discuss mailing list to refine ideas and identify potential collaborators. JISC will not provide a matchmaking service, but commercial and overseas experts are welcome to use the mailing list to express an interest in collaborating.

We have high hopes for the technical outputs of his strand. The CETIS OER mini projects call, which this supersedes, funded the CaPRet project for £10k, which may now become a core part of Creative Commons licensing technology. The SWORD protocol was originally funded in this way, and is now used all over the world. Great solutions can come from humble beginnings.

Get your thinking caps on and watch this space!

Amber Thomas

Programme Manager, JISC

@ambrouk

OER Update November 2011

Phase Three of the JISC/Academy Open Educational Resources Programme is now well underway and I’m pleased to report plenty of news since my last update.


We had our start up meeting on 14th November, where new projects met in Birmingham to learn about each other. We explored the existing resources in the OER infokit (which was recently enhanced with a new section for senior managers). It was good to see that at least two of the delegates are also involved in the digitisation for OER strand of the JISC eContent team too. I suspect plenty of links with the JISC digital literacies programme too.


We got a sneak preview of the OER Phase Two Evaluation and Synthesis report. Phil Barker shared technical trends that OER projects should be aware of, including aggregation, developments in machine- readable metadata, and the concepts around the Learning Registry. Jason Miles-Campbell shared his IPR and Licensing top tips.

Current Highlights

We have more work underway too.

  • The Academy have issued Funding Calls for OER
  • We’re working with the OU SCORE project to ensure a good range of training opportunities are available. There is already a good flow of ideas between the SCORE Fellowship Scheme and projects in the OER Programme.
  • I have been contacting a selection of OER projects to submit information about their collections to a prototype UKOER showcase, based on the JISC content portal. The prototype will be ready in the spring 2012. If you are a UKOER-funded project and want to be part of it, please contact me!
  • We are also hoping to fund some work to visualise the activities and outputs of the UKOER programme so far, to help the synthesis of understanding practices. This will complement the global mapping work being done by OLnet.
  • The OER Programme is also funding an experimental involvement with the Learning Registry. We are scoping out how this R&D project will run, but it will definitely involve a Task Group. Thanks to everyone who has contacted me about that so far. You should hear more by the end of the month.
  • We (myself, JISC CETIS and others) are also scoping out a developer challenge. So many ideas on what to focus on, we’re in brainstorm mode. Ideas include building content related services/interfaces around a course data aggregation, looking at widgets for open content / open practice, bringing together ideas for distributed VLE and curriculum design and development with open content.

On a broader note I have also been commissioning JISC-funded case studies on open institutional approaches. Part of a larger JISC focus on “open” (-access, -science, -source, -innovation) so far we have published University of Southampton and University of Salford, but there are more to follow soon and they will include OER approaches.

OER Funding Opportunities

I’d like to particularly draw you attention to the HE Academy’s new call for case studies on:

  • OER and student as producer
  • OER and student satisfaction
  • OER and staff development
  • OER and teaching quality
  • OER and distance learning
  • OER and public engagement
  • Changing the OER culture of your institution
  • Barriers to OER

The deadline is 9th December 2011.

We have chosen these as topics that have emerged from the evaluation and synthesis of project experiences, and from global work. We hope that this Call will result in a bank of evidence of how people are using open educational resources approaches to support those key objectives.

In parallel I am preparing a new funding opportunity: a Call for Rapid Innovation projects.

Amber Thomas

Programme Manager JISC

@ambrouk

The OER Turn

At ALT- C I participated in several discussions around open content, and then this week we ran the closing programme meeting for Phase Two of the HEA/JISC OER programme.  I feel that a new perspective on academic-created open content is emerging.

I think it’s sometimes useful to think in terms of foreground and background: most of the elements are there and have been there all along, but some take centre stage. It’s a question of weight and attention given to the different activities, a question of where the discussions happen.

2009 Foreground 2011 Foreground
Focus on provision Focus on use
Focus on educator as provider and user Focus on non-educators as users
Open courseware, the course online Rich media, beyond text
Embedding in courses or free searching online Tutor or peer or social recommendation
CC BY NC ND  for editing by educators CC BY for remixing by anyone
Focus on licensing is key Focus on licensing might be distracting
Institutional workflows Institutional support for open practice
Storage and presentation services Brokerage services
OERs Open content

Just to stress, all of these views are evident in part in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and even before that. My interest is just in what is shifting in the foreground. This is just my first take and I hope it will stimulate discussion. It would be really interesting for others to write their own lists.

I think that enough of the focus has shifted that the space has changed.  I christen this The OER Turn. The OER Turn is characterised by the working through of the following topics:

Visible and Invisible Use

The Value of Reuse Report by Marion Manton and Dave White of Oxford, produced for the OER programme, uses an iceberg analogy of visible and invisible use. It helpfully guided our discussions at the end of phase two programme meeting. Previous to this, David Wiley’s “toothbrush” post was the example cited of this conundrum. The fact that it was so divisive amongst OER people shows that it hit a nerve (excuse the pun). I think the iceberg diagram draws on this and illustrates the problem of visibility.

The general consensus amongst people involved in UK OER Programme is that reuse of web-based resources does happen, all the time, but it is usually private, mostly invisible to the providers and often not strictly legal. So there is above waterline use and below the waterline use.

The visible use of open content tends to be institutional-level use that is itself more visible because it is openly shared again: it is being relicensed out again. Where institutions want to reuse content in aggregate open resources, it may influence the types of content they reuse, and they way in which they do it.

Messages:

On reflection, perhaps the top of the iceberg fits most closely with 2009 foregrounded conception of OER, the majority of the iceberg is what is being given more attention in the 2011 conception.

The importance of licensing?

Naomi Korn’s video introduction to licensing and IPR issues illustrates the concept of rights in > rights out. The more rights you want to give out to users, the more you have to restrict yourself to content you have obtained broad rights in for. As the risk management calculator illustrates, if you use content licensed as CC BY NC ND, you cannot licence it out as CC BY NC, because that doesn’t not include the ND clause. And CC BY SA can only be licensed out as CC BY SA, so cannot be remixed with anything less than CC BY or more CC BY SA. Share-Alike is quite restrictive. This is counter-intuitive but true. Play with the calculator and find out for yourself.

It may be only when reuse is more visible, such as formal institutional adoption of third party resources (above the waterline) that the risk of reusing un-cleared content is high enough to make the open license a key aspect of OER.Institutions as providers of content may wish to choose different licences to what institutions as  users of content want. They may want to publish content as (c) all rights reserved. If it is a choice between that or nothing, what should they choose?  Note that they could publish something as (c) all rights reserved unless otherwise stated, and have clearly marked CC elements. Polarising a simple open or not open isn’t helpful. As Naomi Korn put it, “what is the opposite of open”? Paid-for? Authenticated? Not editable? Open content needs to be viewed as part of the wider ecosystem of content. What it “affords” will be specific to the use case. Interestingly this is a good parallel with accessibility: “accessible to who to do what?”

Reflecting with Naomi Korn we shifted our recommendation from “whichever CC licence suits” (1) in phase one to “ideally CC BY” in phase two. John Robertson has summarised licensing choices made by the projects.  This is an example of how the programme has pushed forward our understanding of this area, including that of the legal experts. If we knew the answers at the start, it wouldn’t be an innovation programme!

Thinking above to the points about visibility: if the open content is not shared out again under an open licence then it might be being used but not so visibly. It might show up as web stats, but even then, once the content has been copied to another place, as any CC licence lets you do, then the content proliferates, as does the usage. Usage becomes even harder to see.

Another implication of described use as above below the waterline is that the risk is significantly less. The feeling was that this is an appropriate risk evaluation.  So, open licensing does matter for formal institutional use, less so for practice that is “under the waterline”.

Messages:

We are genuinely learning together on this: as open licensing spreads and models of use develop, we will need to be alert to the mechanics of remixing content. And also open to the possibility that the end point of the supply chain need not be open: not all content will be licensed out again.

A great example of the OER Turn is how  OER Commons includes resources described as “read the fine print” licenses. Or Therese Bird’s work on iTunesU.

However … I still want to hear more about the rights that Creative Commons licenses grant to translate and shift formats, for above the waterline activities. Examples please! This could be key.

The role of the university

Alongside the previously dominant narrative of OERs as exchanges between educators and each other, and educators and their learners, there is also the potential for academic open content to connect academics with the public. I explored that a little in a previous post, Tony Hirst further in his post on OERs and public service education, University of Nottingham, Oxford University and other institutions also see their open content as part of their public engagement.

In some scenarios opening up universities through open practice is about OER, in the top of the iceberg sense. But much of the benefits of opening up knowledge to the public can be achieved without open content licensing (unless the brokering services need it). Initiatives like Warwick Knowledge also draw on the notion of the university as a pubic knowledge organisation.

So there is a strong argument for focussing more on the public and global use of open content.

Sidenote: Critics of the toothbrush analogy might say that this is what they meant all along. I’m not sure that is true. If it is, it wasn’t very well articulated. Because we still need to understand the drivers behind provision and how the benefits of public engagement can be articulated.  Academic staff are a university’s most precious resource. The needs of institutions, who pay academic’s wages, need to be factored in to how open practice can be supported.

The pursuit of global knowledge is not owned by universities. Wikipedia, Slideshare, YouTube, Twitter, Delicious have all seen a blossoming of thoughtful quality input from a huge range of sources. The role that academics play in this open content space is as one type of contribution. Learners contribute too. But so do millions who are outside of formal education.

OER is dead. Long live academically-created content appropriately licensed and formatted to support intended users

Not quite as catchy, is it? However I am increasingly hearing suggestions that OER is not a useful term any more, aside from a supply-side term relating to the visible tip of the iceberg. I have recommended for some time that we drop the term and focus instead on open content and open practice.

Having asked a year ago what the “O” in OER means, now I find myself asking what the “Open” in Open Content means. Well, it definitely means free (not paid). And it means easily linkable, which means not authenticated (not closed). However what about near-ubiquitous controlled access through gmail or facebook? Sometimes the format matters, sometimes the licensing matters. Maybe this matters a lot for content to cross language boundaries, maybe it matters a lot for accessibility. In which case do we need to articulate the costs and benefits of open content for those use cases? We don’t want to kill open practice dead by focusing too strictly on definitions of openness any more than we want to kill open content by diluting the promise to users seeking editable re-licensable content. What questions should be asking about open content?

What do you think?

Amber Thomas

Creative Commons Licence
OER Digital Infrastructure Update by Amber Thomas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Fromt infteam.jiscinvolve.org.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/contactus

Footnote (1) The wording was  “Examples of suitable licences include those with the “Attribution” and “Share-Alike” clauses. We would encourage projects not to use the non-free Creative Commons variants (such as “Non Commercial” and “No Derivatives”), as these negatively affect the reusability of resources. However, we do recognise that in some specific circumstances this may not be possible.” (Thanks to David Kernohan for extracting)

OER Digital Infrastructure Update

Back in May 2011 I blogged an update on OER and Jorum, here are some progress updates for readers interested in digital infrastructure issues around online educational resources.

Updates

The OER Phase 3 Call is out (closing date 5th September), and bids for the Digitisation for OER strand of the eContent Call are currently being evaluated.

The Jorum team have been really busy over the summer transferring the service to a new hosting environment.

The OER CETIS mini projects are progressing. OER Bookmarking Project at Newcastle is under way, and the MIT-based CaPRet Project is looking really promising.

Due out imminently is the report on the Value of Re-Use, from the OER Impact study, and we also intend to release the report of the Literature Review of Learners Use of Online Educational Resources shortly. Also . Both reports deepen our understanding of how open educational resources are used, what evidence we have about their use, and recommendations on realising the potential of open content in education.

Personal Reflections

John Robertson wrote in August 2010 about technology and descriptive choices in UKOER, and now a year on he is revisiting these choices in the UKOER technical synthesis.

Looking back at a post I did last August on OER eInfrastructure Update, there were a number of issues I’d raised as being challenges that need to be addressed in the OER space. I think I’m able to say that things have progressed in the last year, so I’ve taken the opportunity to review how my thinking has progressed, but more importantly how the open content world has progressed in the last twelve months.

reflection

“Rights – how effectively are creative commons licenses being used, are they being accompanied by attribution information, are they being used by machine services to help find and filter content?” …. PROGRESS? In a post on choosing open licences I described the range of support available to ensure you choose the right license, and highlighted the importance of embedding licensing metadata. Developers have been busy creating the Creative Commons Open Attribute tool which is the most promising direction I have seen, forming a building block for potential services like CaPRet (mentioned above), and hopefully many more. I hope we can support the implementation of these tools.

“Platforms – what’s the mix of institutionally- JISC- and commercially- managed services that best support the range of OERs produced within the UK FE/HE community?” … PROGRESS?  John Robertson’s post on UKOER 2 Content management platforms explores this. One of the surprises of OER Phase 2 to me has been the importance of the Potential of WordPress blogging platform to developers in this space.  But in the lead, web2.0 services are being used widely. One question here is about which services can be most useful to institutions, and services such as OpenLearn are exploring which the most effective social media platforms are. Another is how these sorts of content can best be managed, for efficient content management in the longer term. That’s something we hope to explore further this year. Its also worth a specific plug for Nick Sheppard’s blog where he is at the sharp end of implementing innovative approaches into institutional services.

“Aggregation – how is the distributed content drawn back together, by who, for what purpose? Will people use search to source content that is then packaged into e-textbooks, courses, journals, wikis and blogs?” … PROGRESS? Well I explored the aggregation question a bit further. We have a project planned to create a prototype of the JISC content portal for OER collections.  The UK Discovery initiative is making progress with agreeing on ways to share open metadata. And in the US the Learning Registry project is tackling the aggregation project in an innovative way and we’ve funded some UK contributions to that.

“Data model – will content be embedded, rendered, mirrored, copied? Do we want or need to track it? Is the virtuous circle of use, reuse, feedback an idealised process rather than a reality?” … PROGRESS? These are explored in the forthcoming report on the Value of Reuse.  As I described in making the most of open content, I think many organisations providing open content will need to understand better the way content is used in order to make effective decisions about provision.I think embedded metadata allowing auto-attribution will really help this become a loop, but we’re still a way off.

“Scope and scale – how far do we need to zoom out to find the most effective points of critical mass for presenting content? Should we only focus on open resources? Is granularity an issue for aggregation and resource discovery?” … PROGRESS? I need to reflect further on this. I tried to explore the supply chain in connecting people through open content, but I am still hearing mixed messages about which points in the discovery of resources the open licensing is a key filter, especially given the issues around the O in OER.

“Curation and sustainability – how do we sustain subject collections not owned by individual institutions? What needs preserving? Who pays for the long-term hosting?” … PROGRESS? Hmmm. There is a lot of thinking about curation, but I’m not sure how sustainable the models are: it feels like the interest is in an ephemeral curation flow, of twitter-overlay services like paper.li and scoop-it. The hard decisions about how we pay for it seem to be happening in a space outside OER and I’m not sure what that means for the sustainability of open practices.

The above isn’t comprehensive but its been useful to reflect on where we have got to in these issues around digital infrastructure for OER.

Next Steps

Trying to see the wood for the trees, I think some paths are emerging.

forest

To move these digital infrastructure issues forward within the OER Programme Phase 3, I have some exciting work planned for this academic year. I am planning a Rapid Innovation Call for November and some kind of developer challenge for the spring 2012.

The issues I think might be worth exploring in small technical projects are:

I’ll be working to develop and refine these targets for small rapid innovation projects, but I hope that sharing these ideas now will help us identify the best candidates for development funding. Details of funding amounts and timescales will be agreed nearer the time.

Amber Thomas

skype: @ambrouk

If you are interested in these sorts of issues please join the oer-discuss mailing list!

Amber Thomas

Creative Commons Licence
OER Digital Infrastructure Update by Amber Thomas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Fromt infteam.jiscinvolve.org.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/contactus

Image Credits: See embedded credits thanks to Xpert Attribution tool

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