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 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 ( ) 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 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 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’ ( 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]
Twitter: @yimeizhu

OER14 will live on.

So OER 14 might be over, physically, but it lives on in our virtual and local communities. Here’s what our online social experience looks like – extending our community beyond the physical conference.

Please note these are static images showing data as of 10pm 29th April 2014 and not live data so clicking on links will not work!

Reach Stats

Reach Stats

Where and Who?

Where and Who?

Demographics, Topics & Sources

Demographics, Topics & Sources

MOOC approaches and impact on those beyond the reach of formal education

So I read this morning that Tony Bates, speaker and consultant on all things related to online learning, is retiring. As part of his blog post announcing his retirement, Tony takes aim at MOOCs as he sees them in the largely North American model of EdX and Coursera: “Lastly, I am concerned that the computer scientists seem to be taking over online education. Ivy League MOOCs are being driven mainly by computer scientists, not educators. Politicians are looking to computer science to automate learning in order to save money. Computer scientists have much to offer, but they need more humility and a greater willingness to work with other professionals, such as psychologists and teachers, who understand better how learning operates. This is a battle that has always existed in educational technology, but it’s one I fear the educators are losing. The result could be disastrous, … .”

Tony raises excellent points. It is true that computer scientists have been the power behind the really big MOOCs, the predominant features of which are recorded lectures and machine-marked assessments. This was how they could handle 100,000 students. For teaching artificial intelligence, this may have been an ok way to do it. But is it ok for other subjects, other purposes?

In the UK, we have FutureLearn, which is strongly influenced by the BBC. Overall, I would say the FutureLearn MOOCs lean more toward edutainment. Which approach is better for learning? Which approach is better for marketing purposes, one of the crystal-clear purposes of MOOCs? There are new platforms in Europe which bear watching: Iversity from Germany and a new platform coming out of the EMMA project. It will be interesting to see whether these new platforms present opportunity for new teaching and learning approaches.

Are any of these approaches likely to benefit those beyond the reach of formal education, the original ideal of the open educational movement? To my eyes, the main ‘gap’ is technological — those beyond the reach of formal education are often also beyond the reach of the internet and computerised learning materials which require a certain amount of computer power. The lowest hanging fruit at the moment may be offered by mobile-friendly solutions such as FutureLearn and possibly iTunesU. As smartphones come down in price, it may be that the gap will narrow just enough for new communities to take advantage of MOOCs and other free (hopefully open) educational opportunities. It will then be incumbent upon those creating such materials to be offering good teaching which will be of real benefit. As I am privileged enough to be able to join both the upcoming OCWC Global Conference in Ljubljana and OER14 Conference in Newcastle (there’s still room for you at both of these conferences if you haven’t registered yet!), I’m hoping to learn at the conferences some answers and ways forward on these issues.

Terese Bird, University of Leicester

My open education week experience

With only a few weeks before the start of OER14 I thought I would get into the OER mood by engaging in the Open Education Week. This is my experience of that week:

March 10-15 2014 was a significant week for me. It is the only week of the year where I don’t have to keep promoting Open Education.

This may seem odd, particularly because that week was Open Education Week, but i spend most of the year promoting open education and this is the week where I get to watch others promoting it too!!

For this years activities I decided to join up with other open enthusiasts through the nwoer group. Although I am not strictly in the North West I am only just the otherside of the Pennines so consider that to just about being eligible!

The group decided to support learners in the non facilitated P2PU Intro to Openness course developed by David Wiley:

Original P2P Course

Original P2P Course

This course is designed as a “self” facilitated learning experience where you support yourself through the learning journey. (image above) The intention of the NWOER group was to offer facilitation of this learning via OER experts and enthusiasts during Open Education Week. (image below)

NWOER Facilitated Course

NWOER Facilitated Course

The suggested resources were made available form the NWOER site and activities identified for a particular day of the 5 day experience. This was then facilitated through a range of network activity, including a Facebook Group, a Google Community and twitter chats using #nwoerchat as the hashtag.

Text from the NWOER site reads:

“From Monday 10th to Friday 14th March, 2014, our team will provide daily facilitated sessions, expert advice, video lectures, resources and questions to debate. Each evening between 8-9pm London time we will be hosting Tweet chats and webinars. We will also be on Facebook and Google around the clock, so please feel free to get involved, comment, join the community and learn with us. All the links to the resources and each days class can be found in the menu on the right.”

So, what happened? Well it’s difficult to capture all of the activity but it was clear that the highly active text chats were a resounding hit. Very fulfilling and clearly a great way to engage with a broad range of people who are new and established OER users. The facilitators led the conversations by posing  questions. The discussions were very rich, but rarely referenced the P2P course material (not that it was meant to but it was just an observation I made).

The important thing is that it got people talking about OER & connecting. Also strange things can happen in twitter chats, not least the emergence of food & education related analogies which has culminated in a collated set of education/food related analogies which you can add to here:

The week was bookended with 2 Google Hangouts, the latter was a Hangout on Air and I was keen to  join the hangout but would be on my evening cycle commute home. However I realised that I had all the tools needed to join the Hangout whilst mobile and this was the result:

So that was my brief perspective on the weeks events, but I highly recommend the reading of these related blog posts too:

Welcome to the blog

Well it’s here and it’s live. The OER14 blog & website lives and breathes. 

For anyone new to the OERxx (thanks David Kernohan for the OERxx concept) then please start by taking a look at the previous conference site:

For an even more personal experience then take a look at the conference blog: where you can read personal perspectives from our guest bloggers on their OER13 experiences. 

Finally, keep an eye on the OER14 site: which we will be updating over the next few weeks and keep an eye out for the call for papers – if you love open practice & open education, you do not want to miss this conference.