OER in action, no limit

I attended the Open Learning conference held by Nottingham University last week. It was a really impressive event which brought together presenters and academics from the University of Nottingham, OER Africa and the JISC UK OER programme. The key note speaker Catherine Ngugi, project Director of OER Africa, gave an inspirational talk about “Open Educational Resources in Developing Countries”. She reflected their experiences in supporting institutions in Africa and other countries to create effective collaboration partnerships for developing OERs on health education. She also outlined how the concept of OER could benefit higher education systems, institutions, academics and students on the continent and around the world. Luke Mckend from Google introduced Google’s YouTube Edu initiative and demonstrated how to use Google data analytic tools to gather useful information for educational usage and how to track where the users come from and how they interact with YouTube’s hosted videos, which I found to be very interesting and useful.

One of the themes of the conference was open learning at the University of Nottingham. Professor Christine Ennew, Pro Vice Chancellor for Internationalisation and Dr Wyn Morgan, Director of Teaching and Learning from the University shared their vision and strategy for making learning materials available openly. A number of academics from Nottingham university also reported the progress and actions on provision of OERs in the University, including The JISC funded BERLiN project, Nottingham’s OER repository “u-Now” and technologies used to support Open Learning at the university, such as “Xerte Online Toolkits”, a tool for creating rich interactivity and “XPERT” for sharing and discovering of OER via RSS. The conference also provided opportunities for a number of other JISC UK OER projects to showcase their work, share ideas and discuss some common issues across different institutions. Jackie Milne from JISC Legal provided advice on IPR and considerations for making material available openly.

It is clear that more and more institutions in the UK and worldwide are joining the OER movement and more and more academics are publishing their course materials on the web for people to use freely anywhere in the world. However, to me, the most inspiring thought from the conference was how we should think about OER beyond resources, institutions and nations. Professor Andy Lane from Open University in his presentation pointed out that designing for Open Learning needed to consider that learners want whole courses with pay as you go and on – demand accreditation. Neil Butcher, Strategist for OER Africa, introduced two OER-related innovative programmes from African universities. One of the universities is developing an entire online distance learning programme based on high quality OERs available worldwide and all learning materials will be delivered to learners’ mobile devices. The university expects the programme to be self-sustaining in 4 years. He suggested that the UK OER community should engage with this demand and build partnerships and networks to make best use of the potential of OERs. I came away thinking that for OER the potential seems boundless and with no limit.