Open Educational Resources e-Infrastructure Update

Back in 2008 I helped define the technical requirements for the UK OER Programme .  We were very keen to have as minimal technical requirements as possible so that we can find out what choices people make, for example, decisions about their metadata, and we wanted to see how people use different platforms, as individuals and within teams.

As we described in the last IE blogpost on OER (May 2010) the non-prescriptive approach has allowed us to monitor organic emerging trends. For example, the Key Lessons of the evaluation and synthesis report states: “There is a clear model emerging of resources being deposited in a local repository (institutional or subject centre) where trust and community engagement can be built, then surfaced through syndication to general open repositories such as JorumOpen, Merlot, and to third-party sites such as iTunesU, YouTube, flickr, scribd, slideshare”

There is much more in the synthesis report section on technical and hosting issues and the detail can be found in John Robertson’s excellent summaries of technology and descriptive choices.

There’s a lot to absorb from the OER Programme Phase 1, and more to explore. Here are some issues that I think might benefit from from further work:

  • Rights – how effectively are creative commons licences being used, are they being accompanied by attribution information, are they being used by machine services to help find and filter content?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • Curation and sustainability – how do we sustain subject collections not owned by individual institutions? What needs preserving? Who pays for the long-term hosting?

These questions are being explored by so many people it’s impossible to summarise in a blog post. There is some really useful work done by Lisa Rogers about discovering OERs through RSS and APIs.  Brian Lamb’s vision for OER, illustrated in his Open Contempt talk (audio available) includes presenting syndicated content in wiki-stype interfaces, blending open assets into more packaged experiences for the end user. Jorum is exploring issues around hosting open collections, such as rss export and import, collections policy and licensing. The OER Phase 2 projects will soon be announced, and particularly relevant to these issues will be the Strand Ci “Thematic Collections” projects, who will be using aggregation approaches to making the most of existing OERs. I’ll be taking a keen interest in how the work of the JISC Resource Discovery Task Force can provide some answers for effective release and sharing of OERs. Licensing and rights are an important part of the jigsaw, and JISC is discussing with Creative Commons where we can usefully collaborate, for example with DiscoverEd search. Meanwhile the Learning Registry project in the US  is exploring similar issues on a large scale, and are using a very open ideas development model which means we’ll be able to learn from and with them.

Over the coming months I’ll be looking at how best to draw together the ideas and activities in this area, and I’m keen to hear from you about what you most want to know or share. Please email me, a.thomas @ jisc.ac.uk , contact me on skype amber_thomas , or talk to me on twitter @ambrouk .

Amber

6 thoughts on “Open Educational Resources e-Infrastructure Update

  1. David K

    Great post Amber! There is so much data that we are gathering from these projects… and it’s pretty clear that we are working within a fairly mature system where simple but effective practices (like LOCKSS and hosting within the social cloud) are really coming into their own.

    I wonder how far there is a discrete e-infrastructure for OER, or if what we are observing is the start of a more general convergence between the academic world and online culture?

  2. David F. Flanders

    For me personally, I’ve gotta go with RSS as the biggest challenge in this space (and indeed the Web space is facing the same challenge): that RSS in it multiple forms (RSS1, ATOM and RSS2) along with how each of these “lists” are generated (e.g. a list of 10 or 20 or whatever) along with what *is* contained in the list (metadata, content, tags, etc) is where the fuzzy areas are that are going to require MORE TECHNOLOGY – just kidding: these are all *HUMAN* issues that require good ole fashion face to face sitting down with the developers, content providers and end users and making some common agreements on these things: use cases and more use cases. No standards please and no mandates just good ole fashion human hand shake agreement. /twoPence

  3. Matt Jukes

    One of the things I’d like to see, and it ties in with Brians keynote at UKOER10 I think as well as DKs comment about a more general convergence of online infrastructure, is thinking about OER in the context of an ‘open web’ and not just a UK (or event worldwide) Higher Ed silo.

    I also remain convinced that the really interesting developments will be around discovery and aggregation and I look forward to checking out the UKOER Collections projects from afar..

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