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.

The Repositories Research Team

The completion of the Repositories and Preservation Programme earlier this year also brought an end to what may have been one of JISC’s longest running support projects, the Repositories Research Team (RRT), formerly the Digital Repositories Programme Support Project (DRPSP). DRPSP / RRT, which ran from 2005 – 2009 is notable in that it was the first JIIE support project delivered collaboratively by two JISC services (now innovation support centres): UKOLN and CETIS. Dedicated support staff were funded at both CETIS and UKOLN and the project was managed by UKOLN’s Rachel Heery from 2005 until her retirement in 2007 and by myself and Phil from 2008 – 2009.

Digital Repositories Programme Support Project

In its initial incarnation from 2005 – 2007 DRPSP focused primarily on project support with team members supporting individual projects through thematic clusters. This allowed the team to become familiar with project activities, giving them a detailed overview of the programme as a whole and enabling them to provide advice to projects on relevant related work. In addition to two project support officers at UKOLN a project officer was funded at CETIS to support teaching and learning focused repository projects. This was particularly beneficial in the early stages of the programme as there is a tendency for issues relating specifically to the management of educational resources and the role of repositories in the teaching and learning domain to become subsumed by the open access / scholarly works / institutional repositories agendas.

During this period DRPSP also ran a number of support workshops focused on complex objects, using UML, writing scenarios and usecases and developing service usage models.


The team also played a significant role in incubating a number of high profile technical developments, most notably the Scholarly Works Application Profile (SWAP ) and the Simple Web-service Offering Repository Deposit (SWORD) Protocol. SWORD is particularly interesting as it originated from a discussion on repository service-orientation at the 2005 CETIS Conference. This discussion identified “deposit” as the most important repository function for which there was no single, obvious standard for implementation as a web service. DRPSP carried out introductory research, held a series of meetings and gathered use cases and feedback from the repository development community to help incubate work on a common API for repository deposit. This working group ultimately gave rise to the SWORD project which developed a profile of the Atom Publishing Protocol as a deposit API.

Repositories Research Team

When DRPSP morphed into RRT in 2007 the direct project support and institutional advocacy remit passed to the recently established Repository Support Project. This enabled RRT to concentrate on providing support to JISC at a more strategic level. Notable outputs from this period include the programme level synthesis and the repository ecology work.

Programme Synthesis and Evaluation

The objective of this activity was to identify evidence produced by projects that would be relevant to a planned thematic evaluation and synthesis of the Repositories and Preservation Programme. The actual evaluation and synthesis was undertaken by external consultants and the relevant themes were identified by JISC programme managers. In order to facilitate this work the team used a shared blog where they posted evidence tagged by theme that they had trawled from project outputs. This resulted in a blog that effectively acted as a public annotated index of project outputs tagged against themes. The blog platform provided useful functionality in that it allowed the distributed team to work together on a collection of documents, it provided a useful over-view for the JISC programme managers and a starting point and invaluable programme summary for the consultants commissioned to carry through the evaluation and synthesis.

Repository Ecology

The Repository Ecology activity was originally inspired by Neil Maclean’s EDCL 2004 keynote in The Ecology of Repository Services: A Cosmic View! and evolved into a major initiative to investigate models of repository and service interaction and to consider the strengths and limitations of different approaches to articulating or modelling their relationships. The biological study of ecology examined as a potential metaphor to provide new ways to represent the complex multi-faceted environments in which repositories exist and interact. The report and case studies, which are available from the IE Repository, were highlighted by Dorothea Salo on her Caveat Lector blog in a post entitled “JISC is so much win

On reflection

Running a cross service support project with a significant advisory, synthesis and incubation remit was not without its challenges and it is fitting testament to Rachel Heery’s considerable expertise as a project manager that the team overcame the obstacles of physical and administrative distance to produce such varied and valuable outputs. When Rachel retired her departure had an immediate impact on the team and it’s fair to say that Neil Jacobs of JISC, Phil Barker and I had quite a job picking up where she left off.

Despite the challenges of managing such a long running cross service support project we believe that funding dedicated staff in existing services and innovation support centres and bringing them together to form a coherent project is generally a good model for programme support. This enables the support team to leverage the resources and expertise of the host service or centre. In addition the services and innovation support centres are also in a good position to synthesise issues arising from the programme, relate them to broader strategic issues and feed them back to JISC.

DRSPS / RRT was a relatively long-lived project that spanned a number of programmes and whose remit changed considerably throughout its lifetime. The project was fortunate to employ a number of dedicated and motivated staff who rose to the challenge and who, despite the challenges, viewed their time with the DRSPS / RRT project as being extremely positive and productive both professionally and personally.

In the words of one team member:

“I gained an awful lot. I gained a broad knowledge of repositories and projects and what was going on in repositories area. I gained skills in standards development, application profiling…. I made tons of contacts and had opportunities to travel. It was a fantastic job really.”


We would like to acknowledge the following staff and thank them for their input to DRPSP / RRT: Julie Allinson (formerly UKOLN, now University of York), Sarah Currier (formerly CETIS, now Sarah Currier Consultancy), Michael Day (UKOLN), Mahendra Mahey (UKOLN), R. John Robertson (CETIS), Adrian Stevenson (UKOLN).

A number of JISC programme managers and consultants also made a significant contribution to this project over its lifespan including Neil Jacobs (who stepped into the breach as project manager in 2007), Andy MacGregor, Rachel Bruce, Amber Thomas, Balviar Notay and Tom Franklin.

In particular we would like to acknowledge the invaluable personal and professional contribution made to this and many other projects by Rachel Heery, Assistant Director for Research and Development at UKOLN, until her retirement in 2007.

Phil Barker and Lorna M. Campbell