Dev8ed – building, sharing and learning cool stuff in education

Dev8eD is a new event for developers, educational technologists and users working throughout education on the development of tools, widgets, apps and resources aimed at staff in education and enhancing the student learning experience, taking place in Birmingham on 29 – 30 May.

The event will will include training sessions led by experts, lightning presentations and developer challenges.

Confirmed sessions include:
*Understanding and implementing the IMS Learning Tools Interoperability specification
*Exploring and sharing tool for learning design through a number of design challenges
*Widget store: Sharing widgets and tools to help you design, build and publish your own widgets
*Mashing coursedata xcri -cap feeds
*Node js
*Human Computation related to teaching and learning

All participants will be able to share their own examples, expertise and opinions via lightning sessions, workshops and informal networking opportunities. So, if you have an idea or something you’d like to share, then sign up!

The event (including overnight accommodation) is free to all participants and is being organised by DevCSI and supported by the JISC e-learning, course information, open educational resources programmes and CETIS.

We hope to see many of you in Birmingham in May.

My open education week

As you are now doubt aware, this week is Open Education Week. I’ve been enjoying following various activities, including some great contributions and thoughts from JISC colleagues. But on a more personal level, I was delighted to get an confirmation email yesterday that the Stanford open course on Natural Language Processing is starting next week.

I signed up for this course, as I thought their first course on AI (see Adam’s interview with Seb Schmoller for more details ) would be beyond my capabilities. I’m also becoming more and more interested in NPL, through conversations with my David Sherlock around techniques for getting more analysis and visualisations from the data in our PROD database; and also from Adam’s recent presentation and blog post around his experiments with Cetis staff blogs.

I’ve just watched the introductory video, which simultaneously excited and slightly scared me as there are weekly programme tasks – looks like I’ll need to catch up on my open code academy lessons too.

Summary of technologies in use in the JISC Developing Digital Literacies Programme

The JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme is now well underway. As I reported from the programme start up meeting last October , the aim of this 2 year programme is too

” . . .promote the development of coherent, inclusive and holistic institutional strategies and organisational approaches for developing digital literacies for all staff and students in UK further and higher education.”

with projects:

” . . .working across the following stakeholder groupings in their plans for developing digital literacies: students, academic staff, research staff, librarians and learning resources and support staff, administrators and managers and institutional support staff . . .”

As part of the programme support project, over the last couple of months I’ve conducting our usual technical audits with the projects to get a picture of what technologies and standards they are using/considering to use at this stage. The results of these conversations are recorded in our PROD database.

The projects are due to complete their baselining phase at the end of January, so it has been timely to discuss some of the wider issues around using various technologies with each of the projects. The rest of this post gives a snap shot of the range of technologies the projects are currently using. NB Unfortunately I haven’t been able to speak with the UCL team, but once they have completed their baseline report we will be meeting and I’ll update the data, however don’t expect the general trends outlined in this post to change much.

The map shows the locations of the 12 projects, with links to the prod entry for each. As the programme progresses, I’ll be adding a links to the design studio pages for each project too.

Map showing locations of DDL projects

Map showing locations of DDL projects

The mindmap below gives an alternative view of the data entries for each project (if you click on the picture it will take you to a live version, NB the mind map will be open so you may find it easier to close nodes before exploring it in full).

Mind map of PROD entries for DDL programme

Mind map of PROD entries for DDL programme

The focus of the programme is more on the effective use of technology rather than as with other JISC funded work, the development of technology. On saying that, there are a couple of projects who are planning to develop some mobile applications and there are strong links between the work of the W2C project at MMU in relation the provision of mobile services, particularly with the SEEDPod project, University of Plymouth who have been working with MMU in conducting surveys of students uses of mobile devices. There are a number of approaches to mobile provision. The Developing Digital Literacy as a Post Graduate Attribute project is providing students with ipods to record and share their learning journeys, and to some extent leaving it to the students to find what works/doesn’t work for them. Whereas other projects (SEEDPod, InStePP) are developing more holistic, device and location agnostic approaches to provision of services/content.

So far we have 94 individual technologies and standards. The wordle below gives an overview.

Wordle of technologies & Standards in DDL progamme (Jan '12)

Wordle of technologies & Standards in DDL progamme (Jan '12)

This bubblegram gives another view of the range and instances of technologies and standards. Again if you click on the picture you’ll go to a larger, interactive version.

Bubblegram of technologies and standards in DDL, Jan 2012 (v4) Many Eyes

The projects area all blogging (you can access aggregated feeds here) and WordPress is top of our chart with 8 projects using it, the majority of these are also using institutionally hosted versions. What is also noticeable, is the (relatively) high instances of non- institutionally based services such a social networking sites – particularly twitter and Facebook. At the moment the main (and anticipated) use of both is for general project dissemination, however a number of projects are both to communicate with staff/students e.g. to get people involved in focus groups. The PADDLE project are planning to use existing facebook groups as collaboration/communication point with some of their focus groups.

Other external services such as drop-box (for document sharing), doodle for arranging meetings and a range of google apps (docs, calendar etc) are also being widely used. For the later there is a mix of institutional provision and more general use of, for example google docs for sharing project team related information. As with other programmes and the following a general sector wide trend, Moodle comes out as the most common VLE across the programme.

In terms of standards, the main focus was on packing formats with IMS CP, IMS CC and SCORM all getting one mention each. As we are still in early days, most projects haven’t got a clear idea of what format they will release any content in, however there was an overall interest in, and indeed knowledge of OER (i.e. the DIAL project is building on experiences from a previous UK OER project) and most projects expressed an desire to release any relevant content as OERs.

A number of projects (e.g. The Exeter Cascade Project, InStePP) are looking at greater integration of digital literacies into wider competency frameworks through for example making more explicit curriculum links to institutional graduate attributes; and also through working with other wider programme related stakeholders such as SCOUNL and ALT.

As mentioned earlier, projects are just coming to the end of their baselining work, and at this stage they are keen not to be prescriptive about the technologies they will be using, as they want to be as flexible as possible. Also, key to number of the projects is the exploration of the how, what, where and why of technology use (both hardware and software) of staff and students and then making appropriate interventions/recommendations for wider institutional policies.

When I repeat this exercise next year, I have a suspicion that there may be a subtle shift to more institutionally based services as more content will have been created and being used/shared within VLEs/repositories. As any changes to curriculum provision, and institutional policies, if not in place, will be fairly well scoped by then too. I am wondering if we will see, similar to the Curriculum Design programme, an increase in the use of Sharepoint for more formal documentation and a decrease in use of more informal sharing services such as drop box. At the moment there the project teams are using drop box primarily for the convenience of any time/where/device access.

One of the things I was curious about was if these projects would be more “literate” in their choices of technologies to use, and what would be the balance between use of institutionally based services and more general web based services. I don’t think I have an answer to the question, but I have seen a healthy sense of pragmatism displayed by all the projects in terms of their approaches.

I’ve had some really interesting discussions with projects (particularly Digitally Ready) around the definition of technology and what it was I really wanted to record i.e. everyday /commonplace technologies like email, calendars etc; was I interested in what the project team were using for project management or more what they were using for stakeholder engagement? In fact it’s all of the above – which probably goes some way to explaining the number of different technologies recorded to date. I feel it’s also worthwhile every now and again just stepping back and reflecting on how our expectations of peoples and projects use of technologies (JISC programme digital literacy perhaps?) have evolved. A few years ago, we’d be lucky if we got all projects to have a blog with more than 2 or 3 entries by the end of a programme – now, it’s one of the first things on a projects to do list, and most institutions provide some kind of hosted blogging service.

When we were developing PROD originally it was to record the tools, standards outputs and development processes of very technically focused projects. However as we’ve started to use it more widely across the JISC elearning programme, we’ve used it not just to record what projects are building, but the what, how and when of technologies projects are actually using. In the not so development focused projects such as DDL this is central. I think that this is starting to give us some real evidence of the diversity and commonality of approaches within and across programmes, and give us greater understanding of how actual use of technologies is being enabled and embedded both from the bottom up and top down.

As they move into the next phase of the programme it will be fascinating to see how the projects start to use the findings from their baselining and how that will impact on their next phase of development.

(Open) Educational practice and (digital) literacy

I’ve been dipping in and out of the JISC online conference this week. As usual, there has been a great mix of live presentations and asynchronous discussion. Two themes have risen to the top of my mind, (open) educational practice and (digital) literacy. I also recently attended the Mainstreaming Open Educational Practices Forum co-hosted by the OPAL and Concede projects and UNESCO. So this post is a sort of summary of my reaction and reflections to issues raised during both these events. Apologies, this maybe a bit of rambling rant!

When working in any new or niche area, terminology and or jargon is always an issue. I’ve always disliked the term “e-learning”, and prefer to talk about “learning”. However I do realise that there are valid reasons for using the term, not least political ones. During both events, the disconnect between practitioners knowledge and understanding of both OER and Open Practice was “openly” recognised ad and discussed. Both terms have meaning in the research world, and in funded projects (such as UKOER, OPAL etc) but for the average teacher in FE/HE they’re pretty meaningless. So, how do we move into mainstream practice? Answers on a postcard, or tweet please :-) The work being done by the UK OER synthesis team on Open Practice is one way of trying to address some of these issues, and sharing experiences of developing practice and use of open, or indeed any, content in teaching and learning.

I was somewhat surprised at the UNESCO event that an assertion was made that open educational practice is mainstream, and I was equally reassured via my twitter network that it isn’t. Marion Manton made a really good point “I think it is like the OER use, aspects have always happened but not necessarily called OEP”. This distinction obvious and is crucial as it’s often forgotten. I think we in the educational research and development field too often alienate ourselves from reality by our insistence on using unfamiliar acronyms, jargon etc, and looking at small parts of the picture. Instead of focusing on “open” educational practice, why aren’t we looking at general “educational” practice? “Again, I know there are reasons for doing this, and there a lots of people (and projects) doing excellent staff development work to try and close the gaps. But I keep coming back to questions around why we continue to need to have these false constructs to allow us to get funding to investigate teaching and learning practice.

During the discussion session on digital literacies at the online conference, the notion of empowerment was raised. Increased digital literacy skills were recognised as a key tool to empower staff and students (and indeed everyone in our society). At the open education practice session this morning, the notion of OER literacy was raised. Now this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this and I have to say I kind of feel the same about OER literacy as I do about e-learning. I see the literacies needed for using/creating/sharing OERs as being part of a wider set of digital literacies, which have much wider application and longevity.

Learning objects also came up during today’s discussion, in the context of “does anyone use the term anymore ?” Now, I’m not going to open up that particular can of worms here, but actually the fundamental issues of sharing and re-use haven’t changed since the those heady days. I think the work done by the open community not only has made great developments around licencing materials but has allowed us to look again at the core sharing/reuse issues and, more importantly engage (and re-engage) with these more challenging issues of educational practice.

On reflection, I think my attitudes and leanings towards the wider, general use of terms such as practice and literacy, are really down to my own development and practice. I am an unashamed generalist, and not an academic specialist. When I actually created educational content it was always openly (in one form or another) available. When I’ve been involved in staff development it has always been centred around sharing and (hopefully) improving practice and enabling teachers to use technology more effectively. And I hope that through my blogging and twittering I am continuing to develop my open practice. I do feel though that right now it would be timely to step back and take a look a the bigger picture of educational practice and literacies, not least so we can truly engage with the people we ultimately want to benefit from all this work.

Exploring learning in transition, latest JISC Radio Show

In the run up to this years JISC online conference, a selection of the key note speakers have contributed to the latest JISC radio show, JISC Online Conference explores learning in transition. As well as giving some insights into their views on some of the key topics the conference, during the show keynotes also share some of their experiences of being a participant in an online conference.

Touching on topics from open education and the use and development of OERs to curriculum design to increasing learner engagement, the podcast gives a tantalising taster of some of the issues these keynote speakers will be raising. For example, Ewan MacIntosh poses the challenge to universities and colleges of providing learning maps, compasses or ulitmately GPSs for students for their learning journeys, whilst Mike Sharples highlights the importance of the “co-evolution of learning and technology” to create truly engaging and effective learning experiences. All in all a great way to warm up and get thinking about the discussions and debates which will take place during the conference week.

The podcast (and transcript) is available from the JISC website, and it’s not too late to register for the conference itself, more information is again available from the JISC website. If you’re still in two minds about participating in an online conference, there’s also a nice little video from past participants sharing their experiences at the bottom of the main conference page.

Design bash 11 post event ponderings and questions

Following on from my pre event ponderings and questions , this post reflects on some of the outcomes from our recent Design Bash in Oxford. A quick summary post based on tweets from the day is also available.

Below is an updated potential workflow(s) diagram which I created to encourage discussion around potential workflows for some of the systems represented at the event.

Potential learning design workflows

Potential learning design workflows

As I pointed out in my earlier post, this is not a definitive view, rather a starting point for discussion and there are obvious and quite deliberate gaps, not least the omission of content sources. As learning design is primarily about structure, process and sequencing of activities not just content, I didn’t want to make it explicit and add yet another layer of complexity to an already crowded picture. What I was keen to see was some more investigation of the links between the more staff development, face to face processes and various systems, to quote myself:

“starting from some initial face to face activities such as the workshops being so successfully developed by the Viewpoints project or the Accreditation! game from the SRC project at MMU, or the various OULDI activities, what would be the next step? Could you then transform the mostly paper based information into a set of learning outcomes using the Co-genT tool? Could the file produced there then be imported into a learning design tool such as LAMS or LDSE or Compendium LD? And/ or could the file be imported to the MUSKET tool and transformed into XCRI CAP – which could then be used for marketing purposes? Can the finished design then be imported into a or a course database and/or a runtime environment such as a VLE or LAMS? “

Well we maybe didn’t get to quite as long a chain as that, however one of the several break-out groups did identify an alternative workflow

potential workflow tweet

potential workflow tweet

During the lightening presentation session Alejandro Armellini (University of Leicester) gave an overview of the Carpe Diem learning design process they have developed. Ale outlined how learning design had provided a backbone for their OER work. More information on the process is available in this post.

In the afternoon James Dalziel demo’d another workflow, where he took a pattern from the LDSE Learning Designer (a “predict, observe, explain” pattern shown in the lightening session by Diana Laurillard) converted it into a LAMS sequence, shared it in the LAMS community and embedded it into Cloudworks. A full overview of how James went about this, with reflections on the process and a powerpoint walkthrough is available on Cloudworks. The recent sharing and embedding features of LAMS are another key development in re-use.

Although technical interoperability is a key driver for integrating systems, with learning design pedagogical interoperability is just as important. Sharing (and shareable) designs is akin to the holy grail for learning design research, but there is always an element of human translation needed.

thoughts on design process

thoughts on design process

However James’ demo did show how much closer we are now to being able to effectively and easily share design patterns. You can see another example of an embedded LAMS sequence here.

The day generated a lot of discussion and hopefully stimulated some new workflows for participants to work on. In terms of issues coming out of the discussions, below is a list of some of the common themes which emerged from the feedback session:

*how to effectively combine f2f activities with more formal institutional processes
*useful to see connections between module and course level designs being articulated more
*emerging interoperability of systems
*looking at potential integrations has raised even more questions
*links to OER
*capturing commonalities and mapping of vocabularies and tools, role of semantic technologies and linked data approaches
*sufacing elements of course, module, activity design and the potential impact on learners as well as teachers
*what are “good enough” descriptions/ representations of designs to allow real teachers to use them

So, plenty of food for thought. Over the coming months I’ll be working on a mapping of the process/tools/guides etc we know of in this space. I’ll initially focus on JISC funded work, so if you know of other learning design tools, or have a shareable workflow, then please let me know.

PRODing around Curriculum Design – what happened to content packaging?

This is part of a post that’s been sitting on my desktop for sometime, however I’ve been spurned onto publishing it by the recent posts from my colleague John Robertson about the use of IMS Content Packaging and QTI in the current UK OER programme.

Part of the support function we at CETIS offer to a number of JISC programmes evolves around our project database PROD. We have (and continue to) developed PROD as a means of capturing information around the technical approaches, standards and technologies projects are using. This enables us to get a programme level overview of activity, what’s hot/what’s not in terms of “things” (standards/technologies) projects are using and identifying potential development areas. Wilbert Kraan has also recently blogged about his experiments around a linked data approach to information stored in PROD giving an overview of JISC activity.

John reflected that “In comparison to many e-learning development projects few projects in the UK OER programme are using elearning specific technology (more on this in a future post) and as a result out-of-the-box support for CP is not prevalent in the programme. There is also only limited use of VLEs in the programme”. In contrast projects in the current JISC Curriculum Delivery programme quite unsurprisingly as the programme is about course delivery, make substantial use of VLEs. In fact of the almost 60 different types of technologies and standards identified in use throughout the programme, the most prevalent is VLEs, with Moodle being used by half of the projects. But like the OER programme few of the projects are packaging their courses. In fact only 3 projects are using IMS CP and 3 SCORM. And in some ways that is probably down to the default export functions on tools rather than a considered approach to packaging material.

Now in many ways this doesn’t really matter. The world has moved on, we’re all working the cloud, linked data with relate everything to everything when, where and how we want it . . . So, has the content interoperability within VLEs exercise failed? Do the real users, and not those of use at the cutting edge of development, just not need to think about it? Are there enough, workable alternatives?

However I do think it is interesting that there seems to be some kind of gap around content packaging. Maybe this is due to a mix of bias and guilt. I have spent vast chunks of time in IMS meetings trying to improve the spec. Was it all just a waste of time? Should I really just go and open my shoe shop? Is IMS CC doomed to the same fate as CP? Well actually Warwick Bailey, ICODEON, gave a presentation at our distributed learning environments meeting last week which provides a pretty compelling case for use standards based structured content.

With the OER programme we’ve had a number of discussions in the office around people looking for ways to essentially wrap their content and CP just doesn’t seem to feature in their radar. I know that there are other ways of pushing out content but in terms of archiving and allowing people to download content CP is actually a pretty good option – particularly for learning resources. John also commented that another reason for not choosing CP could be that “detailed structuring seen as superfluous?” Well maybe, but actually, having structuring is really useful for end users. And for archiving purposes CP does have its merits too.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that sometimes we don’t always have to look for the shiny and new, sometimes there are things out there that are maybe a little less shiny but functional nonetheless.

UKOER session at LAMS 2009 Conference

The 2009 International LAMS Conference is being held today in Sydney. The focus of the conference is on Open Education, “looking at technologies, applications and approaches that support sharing, collaboration and open access to knowledge and resources. What are the differing implications for individuals and organisations?”.

Although very tempting, going to Sydney for a day wasn’t really possible. However the conference organisers have kindly allowed David Kernohan (JISC Programme Manager) and me to do a remote presentation on the current UKOER programme. The presentation gives an overview of the programme, some of the emerging issues (tecnhnical and cultural) which are coming through now projects are at the halfway point of this funding cycle. The presentation can be viewed here.

OER Road trip

I’ve just returned from a fascinating fact-finding mission to the US on OER and online/distance learning. Spending time with colleagues from MIT, CMU, NSF and University of Maryland University College gave us an invaluable opportunity to gain insights into their experiences, attitudes and business/educational models for distance/online learning and their experiences of being involved with the OER movement. I travelled with David Kernonhan (programme manager for the current JISC OER programme) and we joined Malcolm Read ( Chief Executive of JISC) later in the week. I’m not sure if it was just a happy co-incidence, but during the week the Obama administration also announced a $50 million programme to create open resources for community colleges.

One of our first meetings was with Candace Thille of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Candace has been instrumental in setting up and managing their Open Learning Initiative (OLI). This programme has been running since 2002 and as with many other open initiatives received funding from the Hewlett Foundation. The main premise for the programme is to create new learning environments for individual/self study purposes. The overarching goal is to facilitate a “change of knowledge state” of the individual so measurable, student centred outcomes have been a key part of the design and development of the materials.

When developing the materials a rigorous design process is adhered too. Broadly speaking this encompasses a literature review the subject area, identification of available materials, and then research in the given subject area of both the expert and student views. This allows the design team (who include teachers/subject experts) to build a “big picture” view and identify the gaps between the expert view and the actual student experience. The results are then used as the basis to create materials which concentrate on the key areas of misunderstanding and provide self-paced study activities. Although originally seen as an open self study resource, the courses are increasingly being used by on-campus students and tutors alike . As students work through material feedback is automatically generated and so tutors are able to structure their f2f teaching time to better accommodate the actual learning needs of the whole class. The data is also used to refine/develop the courses as part of an iterative design process.

The “learning environments” are openly available on the web, but are not strictly speaking OERs, as you can’t download them and re-use/re-mix. The key to this programme is gathering feedback and using that to refine the materials. However they are exploring some models to allow some customisation of the materials which include a small fee to become part of their “academic community” and providing fee based assessments. Candace is also a partner with the OU here in the UK of the OLNet project which is looking at the issues surrounding community take up and use of OERs. Extending the design of the environments to include collaborative learning opportunities is also part of their development plans.

Our next meeting was with Steve Carson (External Relations Officer of the MIT OWC project and Mary Lou Forward new CEO of the OCWC. MIT is probably the most famous single OER project. However it was interesting to discover a bit more of the history of the project. MIT had been investigating the possibilities of distance learning. However after extensive investigations came to the conclusion that their wasn’t a viable business model for the MIT experience as an online experience. However the institution had publicly committed to having some kind of online experience and so the concept of allowing their materials to be openly available gained ground as a way of meeting that commitment and also resonated with the more public spirited philanthropic ethos of the institution.

Like all OER projects (and I know this is a key concern for the current JISC funded project) copyright and IPR was something that needed to be addressed at the outset. It was decided that the best model for MIT to adopt was that faculty owned their content, but they would licence it to the OCW project who could then make it open. Initially faculty members were paid a small fee to engage with the project and licence their materials to the project, but as it has grown this payment is no longer necessary.

Currency of materials is an ongoing issue, and at the moment the review period for a course is seven years – however depending on subject area this is flexible. The general ethos now is that the materials give a “snap shot” view of the course. The development team try to make the process of putting teaching materials online as easy as possible for faculty and the average minimum time spent by a faculty member is around 5 hours. Of course this is mainly to produce print based materials.

There have been a number of unexpected benefits to the institution including reported improvements in teaching and learning from on-campus staff and students; increased lifelong connections between students and the institution ( the class of 2008 donated around $50,00 to the project ) and the one I found most interesting – particularly given the standing of MIT as a research institituion – is the fact that faculty members involved in OCW have reported reputational benefits from releasing their teaching materials. The team are currently involved in evaluating the programme and hope to produce an extensive evaluation report later this year.

In terms of sustainability the programme is looking at various models. In costs c.$3.3 million a year to run and will soon have to become self sustaining. Substantial cost reductions have been made through savings in technology use such as outsourcing hosting services e.g. video on youtube which can them be embedded back into the site. The model the team described as being most close to their ideal would be one similar to the public broadcasting service in the US. That is a model which would allow for major gifts, some corporate sponsorship and some advertising/underwriting etc.

The OCW infrastructure is now been seen as having considerable leverage within the institution. Nearly every grant proposal has an OCW element built into it so that material can be released. Various outreach projects such as “Highlights for High School” are based on the basic material but customised for a specific target audience. The Board is also looking at ways of generating income from additional elements to the materials such as assessment and more interactive services. However no decisions have been made and their is a commitment to making sure that any such services would be consistent with the open ethos.

In contrast to these open initiative, our final visit was to University of Maryland University College where we met Nic Allen (Provost Emeritus) and Mark Parker (Assistant Provost, Academic Affairs). The student profile of UMUC is radically different to both MIT and CMU with many of it students being part-time and also from under-represented communities. Although a part of the public university system of Maryland, UMUC receives only just over 6% of its budget from public funding. So, it is very business orientated and relies on fees to generate revenue. A “lean and mean” philosophy which has at its core leveraging technology use has proved successful. Although currently the institution is not involved in developing OERs, it does see the open movement – including open accesss journals, as having a role to play in future developments. UMUC has an extensive portfolio of online courses from high school to doctoral level and has c.100,000 students worldwide. Since its inception UMUC has also been the provider of overseas education to the US forces and families. This traditionally has involved f2f teaching however this model – particularly with regards to provision to service personnel- is changing more and more to online delivery.

UMUC has developed a “students come first” culture in respect to all aspects development and running of courses. 24/7 being support is available for all aspects of online provision – from technical, library and tutor. Since 1992, the institution has developed and used its own LMS – Tycho (the current version being webTycho). In part this decision was made as at the time there was no off the shelf product that met their requirements and also they are in control of its development. Although not an open-source product, its currently development cycle can utilise web 2 technologies and use web-services to integrate with the usual suspects of facebook, youtube etc. There was also interest in the widget development work that Scott Wilson has been spearheading. All staff undergo a 5 week training course which a focus on pedagogy before teaching “live”. There is also a network of faculty communities of practice to support staff in developing their online teaching habits.

Mike explained that a key factor to their success has been that their model of online provision has been an integral part of the institutions’ course provision and has had to be self sustaining from the outset. It has never been seen a separate division, and so faculty buy-in has been there from day one. In terms of service provision some of the lower level technical support has now been contracted out to private companies but key services will always be provided by in-house staff.

So a wide range of projects and models however there were a number of key similarities that struck me including:

Seed funding: For OER in particular, seed funding from large foundations such as Hewlett has, and continues to be key for starting initiatives. JISC is now playing a similar role in the UK and hopefully current economic circumstances aside, will be able to continue to support an ethos of openness.

Production processes: Although CMU, MIT and UMUC have very different business models they do all have a basic production process. In the main this is quite similar to a print based editorial/publishing system. However, even more importantly they all have a dedicated team of staff to “put stuff online” – it’s not just left to academics. It will be interesting to see if similar teams are developed/utilised in the JISC OER pilot projects or if viable alternatives emerge.

Evaluation:Evaluation of OER is very complex and even MIT find it hard to track who/where and how their resources are being used. Unless you take a very diagnostic approach from the outset as OLI have, it is difficult to get accurate information on how your resources are being used. This is where perhaps community based projects such as OLNet can help the community come to some consensus about best practice around use of OER and help develop common evaluation strategies. In some ways the JISC one year pilot programme is almost too short to evaluate within its lifecyle, however the fact that projects have been asked to look at tracking their resources should in itself provide some useful data.

Enhancement: it may seem a bit of a “no brainer” to some of us who have been involved in online learning for a while, but the simple act of getting materials ready to put online does provide a valuable opportunity for reflection and refinement for teaching staff and so help to improve and refine the teaching and learning process. Both MIT and CMU did not realise just how much use their on-campus students would make of their open materials and the subsequent impact they would have on on-campus based teaching. As I mentioned earlier, MIT OCW now has anecdotal evidence that faculty can have unexpected increased reputational standing by being involved in the OER movement.

Sustainability: Although seed funding is key to getting things started, it can’t be relied on forever. Hewlett have already announced that they will stop funding OER projects in the near future and so sustainability needs to be considered from the outset. Perhaps a case of “an OER isn’t just for a JISC project but for life . . .” mentality is needed to be developed. Of course, JISC too should be extending the open ethos by ensuring that all outputs of its funded projects are openly available through creative commons licencing. Certainly from the experience of a successful online learning institution such as UMUC, making any online provision part of a central process and/or central to core business models and not a peripheral unit/practice would seem to be essential. Again it will be interesting to see what sustainability models/issues emerge from all three strands of the JISC pilot programme.