CALRG Conference: OLnet one year on

(First in a series of liveblog notes from the CALRG Conference 2010, 24-25 May 2010, Jennie Lee Building, The Open University – Conference Programme, Cloudworks discussion)

Patrick presents the background to OLnet, followed by short pieces from many of the researchers.

Current change is a shift to viewing OER (Open Educational Resources) as a catalyst for Deeper Learning – to change (the US schools system in particular) in a positive way to turn around the learning process. Investment in billions of dollars in the US schools system.

Also a focus on the design for open education, and on tools to bring together evidence, research and policy. Exploring accreditation/recognition.

Does OER break down barriers across/between context? Some suggestions it does, but some contra-indicators – cultural outlook embedded deeply in OER. So goal to understand what does transfer across context, including working with international fellowships through OLnet.

Elpida takes over and starts with a link back to Plato’s School in Athens, sharing knowledge, to create social and learning connections. Technological revolution has the same key features, especially in Web 2.0/participatory web tools. How does behaviour change online? What does it mean to participate?

Scanning 3000 sites, then narrow down to 50 that support learning activities; ran study monitoring those sites daily. Key aspect is what activities were allowed. Analysed the activities and they clustered in to four modes – contribution, browse/getting, giving/receiving feedback, sharing control. This was the visible layer of participation, but beneath that was an invisible network of interactions.

Tina and Pauline – looking at other educational contexts. Focus on Turkey, and on Africa – Kenya, Uganda, South Africa.

Kasia – exploring OER potential to address global issues, and the ‘deeper learning’ agenda. Focused on the ‘social learner’ group identified in the OpenLearn study (rather than bounce-visitors and accredited learners).  Purposes of user interaction – mostly around asking and answering questions; also connecting, social/affective/emotional structure on top of the cognitive layer.

Patrick impersonates Giota – interviewing 25 key stakeholders around the world involved in free world of content and the deliberate OER community. Focus on change. Non-interventional approach to observation, makes research ethics interesting challenge. Can see connections happening. Users contribute in new ways.

Also impersonates Andreia – looking at cultural divide crossing. OU content has a lot of British and OU culture embedded in it. Approach perhaps not to neutralise culture, but see OER as a cultural mix; a trigger for collaboration. Makes it easy to arrange collaborative projects since the sharing situation is already clear from the start – you’ve agreed to share things with the world. One example – UnisulVirtual.

Anna – OLnet and collective intelligence. Building a software infrastructure. First prototype is Cohere – semantic connections to help sense-making of complex issues. Explore/filter/makesense lets you browse/explore a semantic network. Working towards a CI-OER socio-technical infrastructure.

Patrick brings it together. After first year report, thought there was easily enough work, just need to collect and disseminate it! But still doing more, completing work. Goals: finding evidence to support OER policy, design support, infrastructure, learning, content, and transfers across contexts.


James Aczel: List of indicators and contra-indicators. At one point listed cultural specificity as a contra-indicator (as Patrick), versus consideration of keeping cultural context (as Andreia)

Patrick: Need Cohere to show that it both supports and neutralises it. It’s appreciated that we have UK content amongst the US – there are pluses and minuses. Own position is now that we shouldn’t be too down on ourselves about it.

Anne Adams: Connection to motivational, cultural factors. The modes, taking perceptions as snippets in time, taking people on a process/journey of collaboration (Jenny Preece), stages.

Patrick: Jenny is an OLnet expert fellow, returning in September

Elpida: Very good point, looking at that in the next phase. Difference from Jenny’s work, building on the stages, some users go straight in to sharing control rather than following the stage process (from browsing and on) – especially with e.g. high-status academics.

Patrick: Interesting to look at these very open sites – stages doesn’t seem the right model; people are experiencing those in different times and places – not necessarily in one individual site.

Anne: Maybe works if you focus on the individual person.

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Author: dougclow

Academic in the Institute of Educational Technology, the Open University, UK. Interested in technology-enhanced learning and learning analytics.