Rich sharing at Open Education Week webinars

Posted on March 7, 2012

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The Open Education Week webinars that we hosted yesterday and today (event details in my earlier post) were absolutely bursting with exciting thoughts and interesting exchanges of ideas. I’m going to try to capture a highlight from each of the nine presentations in one sentence below:

Grainne Conole (link to slides) spoke about linking research to policy and practice. A key message for me was that open, participatory and social media can provide mechanisms for us to share and discuss teaching and research ideas in new ways.

Jim Taylor (link to video) made the challenging statement that “It is now entirely feasible to design courses based entirely on OER”, and described how the University of Southern Queensland is planning to do exactly that under the umbrella of the OER university (OERu). (For background info on the OERu, see Five things you should know about the OER university network plan.)

Vasi Doncheva (Link to slides) gave further concrete information about how her institution, Northtec Polytechnic in New Zealand, is planning to offer accreditation to students on the basis of OER study, and spoke about the anticipated return on investment for Northtec in terms of staff development and resources gained through collaboration with other institutions.

I (Gabi Witthaus) (link to slides) shared some insights from my TOUCANS research, including some evidence from interviews with OERu anchor partners that the participating institutions are fairly confident that the business model of offering low-cost assessment and accreditation services to self-study students is likely to be successful and self-sustaining.

Anthony Camilleri (link to slides) discussed the importance of all stakeholders engaged in Open Educational Practices (OEP) working together to create an integrated, seamless set of services and resources that makes sense to learners, employers and the senior leadership of our institutions. He gave some examples of how this is beginning to happen within Europe.

George Siemens (Link to slides to be added) exhorted us all to be public scholars, and clarified that what he meant was not “experts” broadcasting our knowledge for the world’s passive consumption, but scholars grappling with issues and collaboratively constructing knowledge in the open.

Sandra Wills (Link to slides) talked about what participation in the OERu means for the University of Wollongong in Australia, which offers blended learning to students on campus, rather than distance learning. (But not before first making us all jealous by showing pictures of beautiful Wollongong beaches…)

Patrick McAndrew (Link to slides) then introduced the concept of “big OER”, giving examples of a range of open courses and open platforms (such as the OERu, MITx, and OpenLearn at the Open University in the UK) that enabled learners to receive guidance and structure as they worked through a set of learning materials.

Martin Weller (Link to slides) concluded the final webinar by “standing up for little OER”, noting that “little OER” are more easily remixed and reused, as well as more easily distributable by individual authors, and that “big OER” can appear rigid to learners, imposing a series of topics and a sequence of learning that is not necessarily aligned to learners’ needs.

Links and follow-up

The links that were shared in the chat box during the first webinar were all captured by Michele Drechsler here.

Some of the presentations are still being uploaded to public spaces – I’ll be updating this blog post as and when this is done.

I have the awful job of telling you  that the Adobe Connect recordings for both the sessions on 6 March are full of bugs. We are hoping our IT Services department will be able to solve these problems, and I will update this post with the links to the recordings if and when they become available. In the meantime, here is the link to the Adobe Connect recording for the session on 7 March (Sandra Wills, Patrick McAndrew and Martin Weller).

If anyone wants me to send them an email alert whenever I update this post, please just drop me a line at grw8@le.ac.uk. Apologies again to anyone who was hoping to view the recordings immediately.

If you attended the webinars and would like to share your thoughts on any of the issues discussed, please comment below. It would be great to take the discussions further.

In conclusion

I would like to thank all the speakers for their very inspiring and thought-provoking presentations, and all the participants for raising so many interesting issues in the chat box.  I’d also like to apologise on behalf of all of us at Leicester for the technical glitches during the webinars, and to congratulate all the speakers for keeping their cool when the slides skipped joyfully ahead and refused to be brought back under control. The art of the seamless webinar remains frustratingly elusive, and seems destined to be part of our ongoing learning curve, but will not deter us from continuing to grapple with bigger issues such as universal access to higher education!

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