Inspired by the Open Educational Resources 2014 (OER14) conference.

OER 14 wanted to encourage and support those who otherwise would not have been able to attend the conference. This year we made available an inclusivity fund through which we were able to select 5 people. In return for access to the fund we asked them to write a short blog post for the OER14 website. We are grateful to Yimei Zhu for starting us off with those blog posts.


Challenges & Inspiration

Challenges & Inspiration

Thanks to the OER14 Inclusivity fund, I attended Open Educational Resources 2014 conference 28-29 April 2014 in Newcastle. My own PhD research is about open science and I’ve participated in an OER project to embed new technology in teaching which I got the funding from the HEA. However, prior to attending the conference, I was largely unaware of the details of OER.

This conference has broadened my view about open science. In my research, I explored open science through open access publishing, sharing research data and posting ongoing research on social media. Now I appreciate how open educational resources are important elements to support open science. One inspiring talk by Ming Nie was about a project called Open Northampton (see http://www.medev.ac.uk/oer14/43/view/). The project team collected teaching and learning materials from Northampton University’s six schools and stored in open repositories. These materials included lecture slides, video clips, assessment activities and so on. One of the main open repositories they used is JORUM (http://www.jorum.ac.uk/ ) which is an open repository to store and share UK Higher Education teaching materials. I first heard of JORUM in March 2013 in a HEA workshop on open educational resources where I gave a talk about open access data (See http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/events/detail/2013/22_March_CLL_Social_Sciences_Manchester). I remember that I searched for teaching materials in my field and found all the files were uploaded by only one user. Thus, it is important to have more people learn about it and share their work to build up a community to keep it running. Of course there will be issues and concerns. For example, if a lecturer used contents from the internet in her slides, could she share the lecture slides without violating the copyright of those contents? Academics will need proper training to guide them how to share educational materials in JORUM. It will be great if other universities can implement this kind of projects to provide necessary training and foster a sharing culture of educational resources.

Another inspiring talk was by Terese Bird and Sara Frank Bristow about Wikipedia articles (See http://www.medev.ac.uk/oer14/82/view/). They conducted a case study to explore why people chose to contribute or not contribute to Wikipedia articles about OER. They discovered that most Wikipedia editors had personal interest and felt a sense of duty to inform the public. My own study found that 16% of UK academics had contributed to public wikis while 77% had read public wikis in their research work. How to encourage those observers to become peer-reviewers of Wikipedia? Pioneer project WIKISOO offered online School of Open classes teaching OER practitioners to contribute to Wikipedia. I also received a booklet called ‘Case studies: how universities are teaching with Wikipedia’ (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/43/Wikipedia_Education_Program_Case_Studies_%28WMUK_version%29.pdf) which I found very interesting and may try to do something similar in my own teaching in the future.

A big thank to Megan Quentin-Baxter who was so supportive with her email correspondence and always answering my many questions so quickly. Also, many thanks to all the organisers and committee members who made my experience so enjoyable and memorable!


Yimei Zhu is a PhD student at University of Manchester researching scholarly communication and academic use of social media in relation to open science. She received MA in Sociology from University of Manchester in 2010. Yimei worked on projects looking at UK universities’ use of Chinese micro-blog Weibo to engage Chinese students. Her research interests include survey methods, social media, open access to publication and data, social capital, trust and online communities. She also teaches various Sociology and statistics courses to UG and PG students.

Email: [email protected]
Blog: http://yimeizhueresearch.wordpress.com
Twitter: @yimeizhu