Enabling universal access to higher education via openness and collaboration? Open webinars in March

Posted on February 9, 2012


UNESCO has noted that there are approximately 100 million adults in the world, mostly in developing countries, who are eligible to enter higher education, but cannot afford the enrolment fees. As part of our contribution to Open Education Week (5-9 March), we are hostng a series of three Webinars entitled “Enabling universal access to higher education via openness and collaboration?” at the University of Leicester. Speakers will exchange ideas on how the emerging culture of open access, combined with the existence of new collaborative partnerships such as the OERu (Open Educational Resources university), OERtest and others, might enable access to higher education – and accreditation – on a massive scale that would previously have been unthinkable. Initiatives such as the OERu are actively piloting new models for the sharing of resources and expertise in higher education, to enhance the quality of their existing provision and address needs beyond the boundaries of their traditional constituencies. To find out more, see the “Five things you should know about the OERu Network Plan”.

Tues 6 March, 9.30-11am UK time

Prof. James C Taylor AM

(Australian Digital Futures Institute, University of Southern Queensland)

Title: The OER University: Enabling universal access to higher education

Abstract: The need for innovative practices based on open educational resources to improve the productivity of teachers and learners has never been greater.  This presentation will outline current developments associated with the OER university (OERu) project, an international innovation partnership: http://wikieducator.org/OER_university. USQ’s contribution to the OERu 2012 prototype, a course incorporating a learning design based on the “pedagogy of discovery” will also be demonstrated.

Vasi Doncheva

(Flexible Learning Manager, Northtec Polytechnic, New Zealand)

Title: Why OER and OERu?

Abstract: Find out why a regional polytechnic in New Zealand decided to take the path of OER and join OERu as an anchor partner.

Prof. Grainne Conole

(Professor of Learning Innovation and Director, Institute of Learning Innovation, University of Leicester, UK)

Title: Open education: new pedagogies, new opportunities.

Tues 6 March, 3.30-5pm UK time

George Siemens (Athabasca University)

Title: The educator as a public scholar

Abstract: Openness and transparency in teaching and learning changes the relationship between the educator and the student as classroom walls are eliminated. Distributed social and technical networks augment (or even replace) the classroom as spaces of learning. For the educator, open teaching practices can be unnerving and even overwhelming; networks lack the boundaries of classrooms. In spite of apprehensions about the shift to networks as a teaching model, educators who make the transition are rewarded with rich personal learning. This presentation will emphasize open teaching as an instantiation of public scholarship, where the educator serves society rather than only the students in a particular class.

Anthony Camilleri

(Policy Consultant, European Foundation for Quality in e-Learning; OERtest)

Title: Policy Imperatives for OEP Mainstreaming in Europe

Gabi Witthaus

(SCORE Research Fellow, University of Leicester)

Title: A birds-eye view of the OERu: some insights from the TOUCANS project

Abstract: In the TOUCANS project, Gabi Witthaus has had the privilege of interviewing members of the OERu Anchor Partner institutions to find out how they are preparing for the OERu pilot (starting in the second half of 2012), and what the key issues and challenges are that are being discussed within and between these institutions around operationalising the OERu concept. Gabi will report on some of the choices and models that are emerging from these pioneering institutions, which may, in future, provide frameworks for making higher education accessible on a scale never previously imagined.

Wed 7 March, 9.30-11am UK time

Prof. Martin Weller

(Professor of Educational Technology, Open University, UK)

Title: Standing up for little OER

Abstract: Much of the focus in open education is around what we might term ‘Big OER’, ie institutional projects. In this talk I will look at little OER, ie individually produced digital resources. The two are different in nature in a number of ways, and the little OER approach offers a number of advantages over big OER.

Dr Patrick McAndrew 

(OLnet Director, Institute of Educational Technology, Open University, UK)

(OLnet Director, Open University, UK)

Title: The power of BIG  OER

Abstract: In Martin Weller’s book the Digital Scholar he points out the interesting distinction between “BIG OER” and “little oer” (http://tinyurl.com/weller-chapter9). BIG = funded projects, institutions and collaborations, that in turn tend to produce BIG products = modules, learning environments, lectures, textbooks, courses and pilots. These initiatives can have impact in the BIG world of universities, education systems, funding organisations and governments, but openness also means that BIG OER can appear as the ideal solution to the “little” problems for learners and teachers as individuals.

Prof. Sandra Wills

(Executive Director, Learning & Teaching, University of Wollongong)

Title: What does OERu mean for a blended university?


  • Why is Wollongong defined as a blended university?
  • What’s our experience with OERs?
  • What is the OERu?
  • Why is Wollongong an anchor partner?
  • How does collaboration help OER use?
  • What are some of the highlights and challenges at Wollongong in anticipation of the OERu pilot?

The webinars will be jointly hosted by the TOUCANS project and the ELKS community at the Beyond Distance Research Alliance, University of Leicester. Many thanks to the speakers and their institutions for their support in enabling this sharing of knowledge.

This post was updated on 7 March 2012 – registration form removed.