Thursday, 16 December 2010

E-Learning Forum - December 2010

On Monday morning I attended our E-learning forum here at LJMU, the theme of which was "the BIG share" Open Learning Resources. The first speaker was David Kernohan talking about OER (Open educational resources) in a time of change. He was with us using the power of technology, which for the most part seems to work but I did find him quite hard to hear and I kind of wished there was a web cam so we could see who was speaking. It's funny because up until then I didn't think it was important to see the person, having sat in online sessions before where the speakers did have webcams but it seemed something was missing on Monday.

His talk was a bit depressing for a Monday morning when we looked at the implications for any new funding model we might be faced with. Funding is more likely to become variable and it's very hard to plan an institutional budget a year in advance with variable funding. By the same token it impossible to guarantee staffing and he raised the possibility of whether we would see more of a move to atypical staff contracts. He also pointed out that if we chose to move around from place to place we aren't free to take our materials with us as the employer owns the copyright. Open licenses can help with this, it allows you to take your materials with you if you move. So what do we need to do within our institution:
  • Convince the institution to get involved in OER and that means talking to your marketing people - you need show the benefits in student recruitment and retention - using OER you can show the students what to expect before they arrive. We need to use it as a marketing tool to recruit.
  • We need to get our stuff out there, but only things we own - use references rather than long quotes, select images from sites were you can use materials under a creative commons licence (like Flickr, Xpert - which has automatic attributer)
  • Use others OER to build on
  • Host it somewhere safe

He directed us to have a look at Leeds Met and University of Nottingham to see what they are doing with OER. There is also an OER infoKit which is a good starting point to explore what OER can do.

This was an interesting presentation and given the email sent out to staff by the VC later that same day talking about the competitive market we are finding ourselves in and how we need to make dramatic changes. Maybe this is one way forward for us as an institution to compete - we can give students a better taster of what to expect at LJMU by using resource they can access before they even choose to study here.

Next up was Ruth Nagus talking about how she uses OER resources within her own modules to provide richer content for students. She uses images in Blackboard to help students identify the folders they need to access for particular subject areas - really simple but really effective. She uses which can be used in an educational environment, you can download and edit to fit your purposes. These are just a couple of examples of things she does. Ruth uses resources and activities to make the students think and she does this in a multimedia environment.

We then heard from Neil Grant from our corporate communications department talking about LJMU TV. Corporate communications are looking at marketing through different channels. They want to gather original audio and video content and distribute this through different channels. The two things he talked about were YouTube and iTunesU. He said this was about recruitment but also about teaching and learning. We need to raise the profile of the university.

YouTube EDU is an area specifically for education - you upload upto 30 mins of video and this area gets a lot of traffic as it's seen a "quality" content. It's possible to brand your own channel and you can embed videos into your own pages. LJMU has it's own YouTube channel LJMU TV

iTunesU is similar to YouTube EDU page but is better for delivering audio content and users can can download that content to their devices. You can also link back to the university content from the iTunesU page. So Neil is looking for content to go into YouTube and iTunesU - a lot of the content so far is promotional, he needs more educational content - lectures, practicals, content that would be of interest to those within or without LJMU to help raise the profile.

Finally we heard from Katherine Harbord talking about the benefits of using OER both for your students and for yourself as staff. Katherine was very positive about the use of OER. She is new to LJMU but has used OER in previous posts and found it to be very advantageous. As well as providing richer more varied resources for students, as staff it actually saves you time as you are not reinventing the wheel. You can adapt work others have done to apply to your own courses.

All in all an interesting morning, which did stimulate quite a bit of discussion. There was questions about whether putting all our stuff out there is a positive step or whether it leads us to being replaced more easily. It was acknowledged that whilst making resources available more widely was useful it still needs the expertise of staff behind it to put it into context and that contact with academic staff, whether actual or virtual is still incredibly valuable.

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