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

Summary of the morning precoffee sessions of day one of #oer14

Students from both Newcastle, Wendy Carr, and Leeds Met, Tim Slatford, gave a considered and thought provoking opening speech and warm welcome to the conference, held this year at Newcastle Upon Tyne’s Centre For Life, on 28 and 29 April 2014.

The keynote speech from Catherine Ngugi of OER Africa gave a different perspective to approaches to OER – must be of utility, fulfil a function, and couldn’t just be ‘something nice to do’. Open licenses are critical in places with little money for textbooks, where didactic practices are often the only way to pass on knowledge.

Skills acquisition around content delivery, curriculum design and skills to guide students rather than replying on the lecture, yet they are the skills expected of faculty worldwide in an increasingly networked world. This proved an effective way to develop curriculum and delivery innovative content.

Centre for Life in cake. By scienceatlife CC-BY-SA via Flickr at

Centre for Life in cake. By scienceatlife CC-BY-SA via Flickr at

Catherine went on to talk enthusiastically about what might be in it for them – often the question asked. If we share our things then other people will share and criticise, and we will learn from that.

She asked ‘Does OER = open practice?’ I think not, but you may have your own opinion….

And highlighted the

You can find abstracts, presentations and papers (where they have been uploaded) for each session, and a timetable/programme for the conference on the #oer14 website.

Tweets from the morning precoffee/opening sessions have been storified.

Arriving in Newcastle early? There’s LOADS to do!

Newcastle u tyne milleniumbrueckenpanorama.jpg CC-BY-SA Photographer: Hans Peter Schaefer,

Newcastle u tyne milleniumbrueckenpanorama.jpg CC-BY-SA Photographer: Hans Peter Schaefer,

Newcastle upon Tyne is a beautiful city, rich in heritage, and compact, easy and safe to walk around. If you get here early for OER14, there is plenty in and around the city to keep you busy, and there is also a plethora of great places to eat, drink and snack in the city centre.

If you arrive by train, you will arrive into Central Station, a mere hop, skip and a jump away from the conference venue and hotel – you can walk in two minutes….

If arriving by plane, you will come into Newcastle Airport, and the best way to get to the venue and hotel is by taking the Metro from right inside the airport, to Central Station (journey time approx 30 minutes, cost about £4). From there it really is only two minutes to the venue/hotel. A taxi from the airport will cost around £20 and could take longer depending on traffic.

The city centre is small – you can walk from one end to the other in less than 20 minutes – but our Metro system is an easy way to get around if you want to get out of the city centre. 

The coast is within in easy travelling distance and we have beautiful beaches including the Longsands and King Edwards Bay at Tynemouth (head to the Metro, recognisable by bright yellow M signs, and get a ticket to …. Tynemouth!). There you can get a lungful of sea air, grab a delicious hot cup of tea and stroll along clean sandy shores. You might even be lucky enough to surf, if the waves are in your favour. Careful though, its a bit chilly in the North Sea….  In Tynemouth Village, you can visit the picturesque Tynemouth Priory, and nearby the hot chocolate is to die for. One stop further on at Cullercoats and you can hire sea kayaks and bikes to explore further. Tynemouth also has a market in its victorian station (the Metro stop) every Saturday and Sunday where you can pick up bric a brac, local craft and homemade cakes.

Back in the city, the OER14 conference venue, the Centre for Life, plays host to Maker Faire on Saturday and Sunday immediately before the conference. You could also stroll along the Tyne and nose around the Sunday Market on the Quayside in the morning. You will find loads of places en route to linger for a drink or something to eat, including the Bridge Tavern, which has its own microbrewery inside, and serves great food. Right opposite is the legendary Crown Posada, and just around the corner from there you will find a fine example of a Jacobean house at Bessie Surtees House. Up the hill there is the Castle Keep and Black Gate founded in 1168. 

If you are interested in churches, we have some very old ones like St Andrews, dating back to the 12th century, and two cathedrals, The Cathedral Church of St Nicholas and The Cathedral Church of St Mary – a fine example of the work of AW Pugin, who also designed the Houses of Parliament. Both have fine stained glass collections.

Hidden away in the city centre you can also find Blackfriars, originally established in 1239 as a Dominican Friary, and now home to craft shops and a good restaurant (aim for Saturday to visit as most shops are closed on Sunday).

If you like looking at art, there are the Hatton Gallery, and Laing Art Gallery, for more traditional art, and BALTIC (fantastic views down the Tyne from here, and worth a walk over the award winning Gateshead Millennium Bridge to get to it) and the Globe Gallery for contemporary art.

If you are interested in even more ancient history and archaeology, Hadrian’s Wall is easy to get to and a designated World Heritage Site. Building began in AD122 and there are Roman forts easily reachable by Metro including Segedunum at Wallsend (where the Metro signs are in Latin!), Arbeia at South Shields.

Other places to wander to include the Quadrangle at Newcastle University, St James Park (Newcastle United football ground right in the middle of the city), and a worthwhile 12 minute train journey to the beautiful medieval city of Durham (and another World Heritage site) – where the magnificent Castle and Cathedral (built in 1093 to house the shrine of St Cuthbert) are well worth a trip to see.

You will have to come back at a later date to take full advantage of the Northumberland coast, where you will need to make time to see places like Bamburgh Castle, Alnwick Castle, The Farne Islands and Lindisfarne as well as the Northumberland National Park and Kielder Observatory.

Take a walk around our city, its worth exploring, and generally safe to wander around at night – and well known for its lively nightlife!

The Publishers are coming!

I bring you this blog live from the “London Book Fair”, one of the largest gatherings of publishers (of all persuasions) in the world. I’ve been invited to speak about open education – in particular MOOCs and OER, in a mixed panel drawing on publishers and consultants. 

I’m very interested to be invited, and I’m looking forward to presenting to an audience of publishers and other “traditional learning media” specialists.  But a quick stroll around the enormous exhibition space suggests that something very interesting is happening.

Many publishers are moving into digital publication and distribution – there’s a huge area devoted to technology and services around ebooks. And a number of larger publishers are moving directly (via their own ventures or acquisitions) into online learning.

Publishers worked with a number of UKOER projects, most memorably in the amazing Newcastle-based “PublishOER” project, where staff connected to the old LTSN Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine Centre worked with Elsevier. And it is notable that Torie Eva from Pearson will be on our closing panel at OER14.

For all the talk of technology disrupting education, the effect of technology is far, far greater for publishers. So it is unsurprising that the audience at the book fair want to hear about open education, and are involved in education technology. It is a new marketplace – a chance to capitalise on new ways of delivering and using content.

PublishOER investigated new ways of using and sharing paid-for content. This is clearly not “open education”, but it is a step in that direction. Publishers are also investing in platforms, tools and marketplaces – often in surprisingly content-agnostic ways. For example, Pearson (a content publisher, primarily) explicitly encourages the use of OER (alongside commercial resources) as a a component of “Project Blue Sky” – an open content search engine to compete with Solvonauts and Xpert.

The publishing industry is reaching up to meet the Open Education movement, and it will be interesting to see how the interface plays out. There’s so much good stuff at OER14, but the way publishers engage with us -and how we engage with them- will be one of the key things I will be watching out for in Newcastle this April.

Information has been sent to presenters

We have sent out the presenter information for OER14. Please let us know if there is anything else that you need, if you are bringing a presentation, workshop, poster or fringe. We are in the process of finalising print. See the recently uploaded gallery of images of the venue for details of the equipment available in rooms. Presenters are asked to please use the equipment provided, so that we can record the presentations. Technical support staff (Toby, Joel and Sophie) have agreed to help with anything you may need. If you want to use your own equipment for your presentation please let us know, as we would like to video it (if it is not possible to use lecture capture). 

An artist, Ellie Livermore, will be in residence in the Mezzanine area. 

Image ©Newcastle University Megan Quentin-Baxter, cc-by

Image ©Newcastle University Megan Quentin-Baxter, cc-by

Unfortunately the toys showing in this pic are not part of our package! But there will be a lot taking place, including posters, fringe, exhibition and a drinks reception prior to the Gala dinner. 

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:

Updated list of keynotes and panel members

We are awaiting details of one other keynote, representing the NUS, otherwise the list of confirmed keynotes and panel members now appears here:

Thanks to everyone who has agreed to speak, and all the authors who hit the deadline for papers for possible inclusion in JIME. These are being circulated to the Scientific/Programme Committee today with a view to starting to shortlist the best, according to the most promising theme.