What I didn’t tweet from #OpenN11

For various reasons I didn’t get around to tweeting from the Open Nottingham 2011 seminar last Thursday, but that just gives me the excuse to record my impressions of it here, perhaps not in 140 chars per thought but certainly without much by way of discursive narrative.

Lack of travel options meant that I arrived late and missed the first couple of presentations.

Prof. Wyn Morgan (Director of Learning and Teaching, University of Nottingham): Nottingham started its OER initiative in 2006-7, it launched U-Now about the same time as the OU’s OpenLearn, and well before HEFCE funding. Before that they were “hiding behind passwords and VLEs”. Motivations included: corporate social respinsibility, widening participation, marketing/promotion, sharing materials with over-seas campuses, and cost savings.

Wayne Mackintosh (WikiEducator, OERU). Like many Wayne went into education in order to share knowledge: OER aligns with core values of those in HE. He compared the model of OERU to the University of London external examinations ca. 1850: decoupling learning from accreditation. While the open content is there, open curriculum development is something that needs working on.

Steve Stapleton, (Open Learning Support Officer The University of Nottingham): case studies on re-use. One case study showed that reuse is at micro-level, routine, not distinguished from other stuff on web, hence difficult to see what is being used. The other involved students remixing OERs for the next year of students to use: an example of open licensing enabling pedagogy.

Greg DeKoenigsberg (founder and first chairman of the Fedora Project Board at RedHat, now CTO of ISKME): What I learnt from open source. “People are the way we filter information” but we are interested in “tiny niche domains, the micro communities” which leads to the question “How do I find people like me?” Argued that the driver for open content may be the same as the driver for open source software: it allows you to stop competing on “non-differentiated value” and focus on what you do that is different.

Andy Lane (Director of OpenLearn, Open University): SCORE. Mentioned an interesting idea in passing, ‘born open’: after 5 years open content is becoming mainstream at the OU; they no longer think of releasing existing content as open, rather they are developing open content.

Rob Pearce (HE Academy Engineering Subject Centre) spoke about simple tags (date-of-birth codes) that can be used to track resources by providing text within the resource that can be searched-for on Google.

Nathan Yergler gave his last presentation as CTO of Creative Commons. Key points: discovery on the web works best when it aligns with the the structure of the web, and the structure of the web is the links. Nathan suggested that the most important link for online learning is Attribution. The next step for discovery (he says) is the use of structured data to support search, e.g. RDFa in creative commons licences, and we need to develop practice of linking, attribution and annotation to support this.

Finally, in response to a question from Amber Thomas “what could we do to mess this up?” Nathan answered “check-box openness” that is stuff that was open just because it is a grant requirement, but with no real commitment. Which aligns nicely with an observation from Wyn’s presentation, that although there is support from the top for Open Nottingham, there is no mandate. Individuals get involved if they think it is worthwhile, which many of them do.

Many thanks to those who presented and organised this seminar.