OER13 Lightning Talks

Writing in Booksprints

Presenter and authors: Phil Barker, Lorna M. Campbell, Martin Hawksey, CETIS and Amber Thomas, University of Warwick.
Session: LT50, #abs50

A booksprint is a facilitated, highly structured intensive writing process.  This booksprint ran for two and a half days, involved four people and was facilitated by Adam Hyde.  The aim of the sprint was to produce a synthesis and summary of the technical outputs of the UKOER Programmes  Once a chapter is written it’s passed on to another author, not for editing but co-creation.  The initial author does not “own” the chapter.  During this sprint each chapter was re-written by three authors.  The team used Booki.cc open source authoring platform to facilitate the collaborative writing. Booki is much like other collaborative writing applications but incorporates additional tools for ebook creation.   By the end of the two and a half day sprint the team had written a 22,000 word book.  Some of the authors were concerned that the quality of the writing would be compromised but this does not seem to have been the case. Colleagues who have read and reviewed the book have all responded positively to it.

Phil Barker - Writing in Booksprints

Booksprints are ideal for people who have a shared conception of a topic and want to present it together, or alternatively want to present different aspect of a topic.  The content has to be material that is already known to the authors. This is not unlike the situation lecturers are in when they are producing course materials.  Booksprints could be an excellent way to produce educational resources as it’s an inherently open approach to content production.  We talk a lot about sharing educational resources but we don’t talk nearly enough about sharing the effort of creating those resources.  In order to produce really high quality resources we need to share the task of content creation

Into the Wild – Technology for Open Educational Resources can be downloaded free from CETIS Publications.  A print on demand edition is available from Lulu.

For further information on booksprints, see booksprints.net

Libraries, OA research and OER: towards symbiosis?

Presenter: Nick Sheppard, Leeds Metropolitan University
Session: LT73, #abs73

Leeds Metropolitan University have established a blended repository to manage both their research and teaching and learning resources, including OERs. They have been involved in a number of JISC funded projects including the Unicycle UKOER project.  The blended repository was originally based on Intralibrary and they have now implemented Symplectic.  There has been considerable emphasis on developing research management workflows.

Open access to research is changing dramatically in light of Finch and role of institutional repositories and there are synergies with Creative Commons potentially being mandated by Research Councils UK.  Nick also referred to Lorcan Dempsey’s recent posts on “Inside Out” libraries, which focus on the changing role of institutional repositories and libraries.

Nick Sheppard - Closing the institutional UKOER circle

Leeds Met have worked closely with Jorum and Nick said that he believed that the new Jorum API is a game changer which will allow them to close the institutional OER circle.

Why bother with open education?

Presenter and authors: Viv Rolfe & Mark Fowler, De Montfort University
Session: LT77, #abs77

De Montfort have undertake a huge body of OER work since 2009.  OER is incorporated into the institutional strategy for teaching an learning and OER is also is part of  the De Montfort PG cert course.

Despite this, when the team interviewed senior executives about OER, none could name any major institutional projects.  They saw the marketing potential of OER but didn’t appreciate the potential of OERs to enhance learning.  There is a distinct lack of buy in from senior staff and a lot of work is needed to change their mindsets.

Viv Rolfe

Student researcher Libor Hurt undertook a student survey on attitudes to OER.  28% had heard of OERs. OERs are used to supplement lectures and for informal learning.  They are seen as being good for catching up with complex subjects but are less used to study for assessments. Students overwhelmingly share stuff with each other, usually through facebook and e-mail. This is naturally how students work now and could have a major impact on OER down the line.  Students also loved producing OERs, lab videos and quiz MCQs.  However while students are happy to share within the university, they are less happy about sharing their OERs with the public, or those that are not paying fees.  Institutional strategies need to be mindful of this and need to communicate that universities are not giving away whole courses, they are just sharing some of the best bits.  Only a few students cited plagiarism concerns as a reason not to share.  From a student perspective, there is a real tension between paying fees and sharing OERs

It doesn’t matter if everyone in the institution isn’t sharing, as long as there are enough to get momentum going.  However it is important to get senior managers on board, OERs need to be enshrined in institutional  policy.

Taking care of business: OER and the bottom line

Presenters and authors: By John Casey, University of the Arts, Jonathan Shaw & Shaun Hides Coventry School of Art and Design, Coventry University.
Session: LT112, #abs112

Talking about open in a closed education system is a lightening conductor for many thorny issues – power, control, ownership, identity, pedagogy, technical infrastructure, cultures, policy, strategy and business models.   The OER space is a very productive but scary space.

Media is about coproduction and teaching is itself a form of media production.  Coventry fell into open learning with the #Phonar and Creative Activism #creativact courses which opened up their classes.  Rather than having courses led by individuals, they now have teams of people all thinking and operating in different ways. Professional partners have also shown an interest in participating in these courses.   They are thinking about how they conceive the design process of teaching, and are working with students and professional partners to let content evolve.

Shaun Hides - consequences of oer

OER is a political problem, you need to lobby senior management. OERs don’t just open up content, they change institutional practice.  There are many unintended consequences and we need to deal with new educational and economic models of co-production.


I was really encouraged to hear from our CETIS13 keynote speaker Patrick McAndrew that next week’s OER13 conference in Nottingham is shaping up to be the biggest yet. In our Open Practice and OER Sustainability session Patrick mentioned that the organising committee had expected numbers to be down from last year as the 2012 conference had been run in conjunction with OCWC and attracted a considerable number of international delegates and UKOER funding has come to an end. In actually fact numbers have risen significantly. I can’t remember the exact figure Patrick quoted but I’m sure he said that over 200 delegates were expected to attend this year. This is good news as it does rather suggest that the UKOER programmes have had some success in developing and embedding open educational practice. It’s also good new for us because CETIS are presenting three (count ‘em!) presentations at this year’s conference :}

The Learning Registry: social networking for open educational resources?
Authors: Lorna M. Campbell, Phil Barker, CETIS; Sarah Currier, Nick Syrotiuk, Mimas,
Presenters: Lorna M. Campbell, Sarah Currier
Tuesday 26 March, 14:00-14:30, Room: B52
Full abstract here.

This presentation will reflect on CETIS’ involvement with the Learning Registry, JISC’s Learning Registry Node Experiment at Mimas (The JLeRN Experiment), and their potential application to OER initiatives. Initially funded by the US Departments of Education and Defense, the Learning Registry (LR) is an open source network for storing and distributing metadata and curriculum, activity and social usage data about learning resources across diverse educational systems. The JLeRN Experiment was commissioned by JISC to explore the affordances of the Learning Registry for the UK F/HE community within the context of the HEFCE funded UKOER programmes.

An overview of approaches to the description and discovery of Open Educational Resources
Authors: Phil Barker, Lorna M. Campbell and Martin Hawksey, CETIS
Presenter: Phil Barker
Tuesday 26 March, 14:30-15:00, Room: B52
Full abstract here.

This presentation will report and reflect on the innovative technical approaches adopted by UKOER projects to resource description, search engine optimisation and resource discovery. The HEFCE UKOER programmes ran for three years from 2009 – 2012 and funded a large number and variety of projects focused on releasing OERs and embedding open practice. The CETIS Innovation Support Centre was tasked by JISC with providing strategic advice, technical support and direction throughout the programme. One constant across the diverse UKOER projects was their desire to ensure the resources they released could be discovered by people who might benefit from them -i f no one can find an OER no one will use it. This presentation will focus on three specific approaches with potential to achieve this aim: search engine optimisation, embedding metadata in the form of schema.org microdata, and sharing “paradata” information about how resources are used.

Writing in Book Sprints
Authors: Phil Barker, Lorna M Campbell, Martin Hawksey, CETIS; Amber Thomas, University of Warwick.
Presenter: Phil Barker
Wednesday 27 March, 11:00-11:15, Room: A25
Full abstract here.

This lightning talk will outline a novel approach taken by JISC and CETIS to synthesise and disseminate the technical outputs and findings of three years of HEFCE funded UK OER Programmes. Rather than employing a consultant to produce a final synthesis report, the authors decided to undertake the task themselves by participating in a three-day book sprint facilitated by Adam Hyde of booksprints.net. Over the course of the three days the authors wrote and edited a complete draft of a 21,000 word book titled “Technology for Open Educational Resources: Into the Wild – Reflections of three years of the UK OER programmes”. While the authors all had considerable experience of the technical issues and challenges surfaced by the UK OER programmes, and had blogged extensively about these topics, it was a challenge to write a large coherent volume of text in such a short period. By employing the book sprint methodology and the Booktype open source book authoring platform the editorial team were able to rise to this challenge.

OER Technology Into the Wild – Call for Comments

The OER technology directions book that Amber, Phil, Martin and I drafted during a book sprint at the end of August is now almost complete. We even have a title!

Technology for Open Educational Resources – Into The Wild. Reflections on three years of the UK OER Programmes

We’ve spent the last few weeks, polishing, editing and amending the text and we would now like to invite colleagues who have an interest in technology and digital infrastructure for open educational resources to review and comment on the open draft.

We’re looking for short commentaries and feedback, either on the whole book, or on individual chapters. These commentaries will form the final chapter of the book. We want to know what rings true and what doesn’t. Have we missed any important technical directions that you think should be included? What do you think the future technical directions are for OER?

Note that the focus of this book is as much on real world current practice as on recommended or best practice. This book is not intended as a beginners guide or a technical manual, instead it is a synthesis of the key technical issues arising from three years of the UK OER Programmes. It is intended for people working with technology to support the creation, management, dissemination and tracking of open educational resources, and particularly those who design digital infrastructure and services at institutional and national level.

The chapters cover:

UK OER projects from all phases of the Programme are encouraged to comment, and we would particularly welcome feedback from colleagues that are grounded in experience of designing and running OER services.

There are three ways to comment on the book:

  1. Email your comments either to Lorna at lmc@strath.ac.uk or Amber at a.thomas@jisc.ac.uk
  2. Create a booki.cc account here, and then add your comments directly to the “Contributed Comments and Feedback” chapter here www.booki.cc/oer-tech/contributed-comments-and-feedback/
  3. Post your comments to you own blog and send a link to Amber or I, or add it to the chapter page above.

Please note your name and affiliation, clearly with a url to your blog or online profile if possible. All feedback and commentaries will be credited to the original authors. The deadline for comments and feedback is the 31st October.

We currently have a designer working on the text and once we have received and collated the commentaries we will publish the book as a free to download ebook under CC BY licence. There will also be an option to purchase a print-on-demand hard copy of the book.

Into the Wild

Into the Wild

If you are interested on commenting or providing feedback, but would like further information, please don’t hesitate to contact Lorna at lmc@strath.ac.uk. We look forward to hearing your thoughts!

OER Booksprint Reflections

Earlier this week Amber Thomas, Phil Barker, Martin Hawksey and I had the interesting and rewarding experience of participating in an OER booksprint. A booksprint is essentially an accelerated facilitated writing retreat, and in this case our facilitator was the endlessly patient and encouraging Adam Hyde of booksprints.net and Sourcefabric’s Booktype team. Adam has previously facilitated booksprints for a diverse range of initiatives including FLOSS Manuals and Google Summer of Code.

The aim of a booksprint is to produce a book from scratch in five intensive days. That may sound challenging enough, however we only had two and a half days to produce our book and, just to add to the challenge, the Scottish Legal system conspired against us to haul Martin off to do his civic duty by citing him for jury service. Luckily Martin didn’t get selected for the jury, which is just as well, as we wouldn’t have been able to complete our book without him.

The task we set for our sprint was to draw together some of the significant technical outputs of the three JISC / HEA Open Educational Resources Programmes, reflect on issues that arose and identify future directions. I think its fair to say that we all approached the task with some trepidation and perhaps even a little scepticism. Could we really write a book in two and a half days? Right from the outset Adam was realistic about what we could reasonably achieve. Given our small team and the shorter then normal timescale, he suggested that a 15,000 work booklet would be an achievable goal. We rather surprised ourselves by exceeding these expectations with a final count of 21,000 words.

We used a combination of high and lo tech to facilitate the writing process, i.e. collaborative authoring software and post-it notes :}

We began with a brain storming session to identify the audience for the book, scope the content, construct the table of contents and discuss individual chapters. Although separate authors were allocated to each individual chapter, the content of each chapter was scoped by the whole group. Phil proved to be particularly adept at managing this process. As Adam explained on his blog:

To structure these (chapters) we are working on a nice big wooden table in the lounge and writing ideas onto post-it notes. Everyone can participate with contributions on what should be in the chapter, and the person taking responsibility for starting the chapter writes these ideas down on post-it notes and orders them according to the structure we created yesterday.

It’s a great process and very good for getting the wide range of knowledge available on a subject into the chapter, and its easy to see how this content can fit together as a readable structure.

Structuring chapters
In order to structure and manage the collaborative writing process we used Booktype’s booki collaborative authoring software which stood up to the task very well.


Booki also includes some interesting analytics tools that allow users to visualise the writing process.

Booki analytics

Once a chapter was completed it was passed on to another member of the group for editing, with the aim that by the end of the sprint each chapter would have been reviewed and edited twice. As we had written considerably more than we originally envisaged we were slightly pushed for time when it came to the editing stage. So we have a considerably longer book than we expected but it still needs a little polishing.

On reflection I think it’s fair to say that we all found the book sprint to be a challenging, but very positive and productive experience. Phil commented that he found it interesting to “flip” our normal process of collaborating. As we all work remotely and tend to only come together and meet face to face when we are scoping and planning a piece of work. We then go back to our respective institutions to get on with our tasks, using tools such as Skype, Google docs, email and twitter to facilitate remote collaboration. This time however we did all the planning and orchestration remotely, and used the face time to do the collaborative work. It was certainly a different, and very productive, way for us to work. In fact Phil went so far as to comment that this was the closest he had ever come to an enjoyable writing experience! Adam also kept a blog of progress and reflections, which you can read here .

The next stage of the process is to tie up some loose ends and then invite other members of the OER community to comment on the text. Hopefully these commentaries will be incorporated into the books as concluding reflections. In the meantime the draft of our book is openly available here, so feel free to read and comment.