OLnet regular meetings

As well as iSpot, one of my big current projects is OLnet, which aims to research Open Educational Resources (OER) and the OER community, and to support the OER community in developing its research capabilities.

We want to model being open in what we’re doing, so we’ve decided to liveblog our regular team meetings – you can see my notes from our first trial today over on the OLnet site. I probably won’t crosspost everything here and there, so if you’re interested, you’ll need to track the OLnet news as well as my blog!

OLnet: next steps with OER research

I’m involved in the very exciting OLnet project, which is building research infrastructure to understand the Open Educational Resource (OER) world.

The elevator pitch: there’s shedloads of high-quality learning materials available, but not a lot of research in to the entire area, even at a baseline level of project-level evaluation.  The OU’s Open Learn was unusual in having a strong Research and Evaluation strand, led by Patrick McAndrew, and the Hewlett Foundation has now funded OLnet to build research capacity across the OER world.  It’s a partnership between the Open University and Carnegie Mellon, but we’ll be bringing in Fellows from far beyond.

The OLnet project proposal sets out our vision and aims, and the nascent OLnet site itself is the place to go for updates and definitive information.  We had a really successful presence at the OER conference in Monterey last month where we launched the project and captured activity and contacts there using Cloudworks.

We’ve just had another brainstorming activity about what we should be doing (as you do when you’ve been running a project for a couple of months), and here are some desperately rough-and-ready notes I made from my post-its.

NB These are very much drafts: some are silly ideas, and some are in fact things we promised to do in the proposal and are very much still signed up to do and I have merely failed to articulate that here due to cognitive impairment.

So, my notes of Things Wot We Could Do:

Enumerate/map out (dumb and smart – blog post/XML/Cohere map) all known OER projects
Bread-and-butter survey and interviews evaluating all known OER projects. (Have good baseline but not exhaustive; warm contacts for Hewlett-funded projects thanks to Monterey conference last month).

Enumerate/map out (dumb and smart again) all OER bloggers / blog aggregator. Or in fact point to existing authoritative source(s) (Again have good baseline but need to do a little more stuff to span out.)

More active OLnet blog – specified role for OLnet researchers/fellows? Or employ someone for it

Lab/research toolbox – HOWTO – how to research/evaluate your OER project, open-by-default, makes results available in open format instantly, can see how your project compares to others; OR just do the coordinating activity based around microformats/shared practice. Aim to show benefit from researching in open/OER way (see comparison with others)

Tracking package/toolkit – easy drop-in stuff fro tracking learners, tracking re-use. Link to existing Hewlett project trying to integrate Google Analytics across all OER projects; we have close link to it but aren’t part of it at the moment.

Big tech effort to provide automated OER remix/reuse/repost-tracking stuff – like plagiarism detection software. Heavy on the tech stuff but could be very exciting to do in open mode – most plagiarism detection stuff is terribly proprietary.

Working space for researchers – on OLnet site.

Baseline literature review – useful output, good to build on.

Research agenda-setting activity, or research framework setting – meetings, mappings, real, online stuff.   Like Roadmap activities in previous projects but reinvented in OER mode.

Explore impact of licenses on reuse/remix/repost/etc – the David Wiley/Stephen Downes debate about CC-BY (or less!) vs NC-SA – admits of an empirical answer to illuminate the philosophical one?

Explore models of sustainable OER learning. Yet further.

Investigate technologies – scope, pilot new ones – for supporting OER research. E.g. reputation management system, FOAF, SIOC. Cross-site identity management (OpenID vs Facebook Connect vs throwaway logins).

Single sign-on for all ‘our’ stuff – Drupal integration with SAMS (very OU centric but possibly allows us to have single sign-on from Open Learn through to OLnet …)

Researcher 2.0 part 2.0

Further liveblog notes from the Researcher 2.0 event (see also notes on part 1).

(Interesting meta issue about blog vs Cloudworks. I don’t want my notes behind a login/search wall, I want them on Google! But Gráinne is doing an excellent job liveblogging there too. And maybe my notes aren’t so useful on a blog. Comments welcome! UPDATE: I’d got this wrong, it’s due to a bug, Cloudworks is *supposed to be* readable by everyone, indexed, the lot – you only need a login to post. *but at the moment new Cloud/scapes come up login-only.)

(Another meta issue is the multiple channel management.  It seems I can do two, possibly three, but not four and definitely not all five – f2f, Elluminate, blog notes, Twitter, Cloudworks – and still stay sufficiently on top of things to follow it. Especially as Elluminate has the whiteboard, the audio stream, the chat, and the participant list all in one.)

Martyn Cooper – Research bids 2.0

Research bidding support – some same for experience and novice bidders (process support, consortium negotiations, budgets, reviews of drafts, internal sign-off); novice bidders get extra (advice, confidence).

OU process based around the RED form.

Process – idea, workplan, consortium, bid, negotiate roles, set budget (often iteratively), final draft, sign off, submission.

Relationship is formed during the bid process; you will work with these people for years after (if you succeeed.)

Communication types – peer to peer, document/spreadsheet exchange, negotiation, redrafting and commenting, electronic sign-off and submission.

Most researchers could get more successful bids and be able to run more projects if they had more and higher-quality administrative support. Web 2.0 technologies could have a role in providing that support. However to date we under-use them.

At what stage do you make bids open to the world? Is the web 2.0 attitude affecting this? Martyn very happy to do that – he always has ideas in his back pocket. Has seen ideas taken up by others, whether by coincidence or copying is hard to say. Commercial partners keener to protect foreground knowledge and IPR, so perhaps harder.  But would be happy to do whole process on a public wiki.

Shailey Minocha (Shailey Garfield in 2L) – Second life research

3D virtual world – http://gallery.me.com/shailey.minocha#100016

Much more human environment than a 2D one; a real sense of being there. No story to them, there’s not a game, you can design it yourself.

Students found it difficult to critique/peer review each other’s work. Attributed to a lack of socialisation, lack of knowing each other well enough. So decided to get them to use 2L to provide opportunities for that.

Not much about how you should design learning environments in 2L.

2L to support research: meetings, virtual collaborations, seminars, conferences and shared resources

2L as a platform for conducting research: conducting interviews, observations, evaluate prototypes of concepts and designs, bringing in real data and developing simulations.

PhD supervision meetings and research interviews – runs regular meetings in 2L.  Real sense of visual presence and a sense of place. Large pool of participants. Also can keep transcript & audio – no need to do transcription.

Sense of realism in 2L which is hard to match in other environments – BUT steep learning curve (vs Skype, Elluminate, Flash Meeting), and demanding system requirements.

Question: are there extra issues in finding particpants in 2L? Yes. Issues about the avatars; don’t know who is behind them. Let the person fill out a form through normal email process first.

Kim Issroff – Business models for OERs and Researching Web 2.0


Business model – framework for creating value … or, it’s how you can generate revenue.

OSS business models: Chang, Mills & Newhouse, about how to make money. Stephen Downes models for sustainable Open Educational Resources – distinction between free at point of delivery and cost to create/distribute. Models: Endowment, membership, donations, conversion, contributor-pay, sponsorship, institutional, Government, partnerships/exchanges.Clarke 2007 – “not naive gift economies”.

Intuitively, go for resources are free but charge for assessment.

Grant applications increasingly ask for business models/sustainability/how you carry on afterwards.

Implications – for design, how to engage. Differences between OSS and OERs as models. What happens when we get to OER saturation point? (I suspect it doesn’t exist – too much out there already, but also still worth putting new stuff out.) Can we quantify the social value rather than the economic value?

Take a trainful of people, see what each person is doing in terms of access to technology, to get a handle on everyone, rather than a minority we over-research.

Two thoughts: how much difference does the business model make? Is a financial business model appropriate for an educational organisation?

(I see a strong link to Kevin Kelly’s Better Than Free essay: eight things that are ‘better than free’.)

Can free things (end up) more expensive in the end?

Robert Schuwer from OUNL: their experience of subscription models, paying for extra support, books and so on. Inspired by mobile phone world, hope that once they have the payment every month set up, they forget to unsubscribe and keep up year on year – €25 a month.

Chris Pegler – OER beyond the OU

What OER offers: global opportunities, goodwill among researchers, IPR vanquished, unlimited reuse potential. Has highlighted Creative Commons – demolish IPR obstacles. Most funded repository projects flounder – or even fail – at some stage on IPR. But Creative Commons to the rescue!

Li Yuan whitepaper CETIS on OER is key. List of 18 current OER projects ‘out there’, from MIT Open CourseWare, GLOBE (includes MERLOT and ARIADNE etc), JorumOpen, etc. These are not quite what you’d envisage – some are e.g. mainly research-focused.

Interesting HEFCE/HEA/JISC call on OERs  £5.7m pilot, possibly £10m yoy in the future. Chris has £20k individual bid – making a 30pt course using web 2.0 tools around OERs. Also NTFS bid on RLOs and how we embed them in the academic practice courses at three institutions.

Questions around metadata – especially automatic metadata.


Was more presentation-centric than perhaps ideal; but much captured on video, Twitter and Cloudworks. So next: small groups on producing a quick pitch for a bid about Research 2.0.