OCWC Global 2009

Swine flu wasn’t the only thing happening last week in Mexcio. Along with about 150 others, I attended the OCWC (Open Course Ware Consortium) Global conference in Monterrey (OCWCglobal2009).

I travelled there as part of the OLNet project (many thanks to Patrick McAndrew and colleagues for providing the opportunity) and during the conference help to set up and use the OU’s Cloudworks system to help amplify and share conference sessions and discussions. This was my first time attending an OCWC event, and I have to say that overall I found it a really interesting, diverse and open conference with a truly global range of participants.

During the opening session, the Board shared their vision for the three main aims of the consortium, namely to:

*increase number of members and diversity of high quality courses
*enhance value of OCW courses to all types of users
*build and nurture a vibrant, culturally diverse OCW community that is connected to the OER movement

The consortium has been supported since its inception by the Hewlett Foundation and the Board were able to confirm continued funding from the foundation for the next three years which will allow the board time to fully develop its overall strategic plan and post foundation funding business model. Currently the consortium has 194 members who have contributed approximately 8557 published open courses (the numbers are increasing almost daily). During the week there was discussion about membership, subscription rates etc. It looks likely that a nominal membership fee will be introduced (c 500 dollars per institution) as well as the development of structures for affiliate membership. A UK affiliation is something that may well have some traction and is something that CETIS and the OU UK will be discussing further.

Over the course of the week a number of common areas appeared during most of the sessions I attended including: search and discovery of open course ware, use of RSS and what metadata and content to include in feeds, and of course copyright and licencing. Another underlying theme was granularity of content. The OCWC mainly deals with complete courses, however it was acknowledged that many people don’t really want to search or use a whole course rather just parts of it. So how can they easily find the piece of content that they really want? What is the best format to offer content in? The OpenLearn project is one which is leading the way technically here by offering content in multiple formats including print, RSS, moodle packages, IMC CP and CC. There was considerable interest in the content transcoder project CETIS and KI have been working on.

So a raft of common issues for the just starting JISC OER programme and hopefully as the programme develops we will be able to share our experiences with this wider community.

Another view of my conference “story” is available here.

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