OER15 at Cardiff

Last week, the OER15 conference (https://oer15.oerconf.org ) took place at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama at Cardiff. It was a fine venue for two days’ discussion of Open Educational Resources (OER), and the conference theme of ‘Mainstreaming Open Education’ (see Twitter hashtag #oer15 ).
The event began with a keynote from Cable Green, Director of Global Learning (the slides used in his presentation can be found at: http://www.slideshare.net/cgreen/keynote-oer15-wales) . He raised some key points about current and future use of OER, and posed an important question: “What is the evidence that OER are useful?” A key source of answers comes from a Review by John Hilton of the Open Education Group. This review found that both leanrer and teacher perceptions of open resources was positive, particularly in the US where textbooks can be very expensive. However, the studies reviewed did not show that OER had any significant effect on learning. This key aspect of efficacy is very important to educators, as Cable Green mentioned, and any lack of obvious efficacy may be limiting OER uptake in HE and other educational sectors. It is likely that more research in this area is required, along with awareness-raising of the need for educators and learners to create and share high quality resources. ‘High quality’ is important, and quality assurance is an issue which needs to be addressed in appropriate ways at the points of production, usage, and curation, eg.within OER in repositories such as JORUM and XPERT.
Repositories weren’t mentioned a great deal at the conference, presumably because they are no longer the main sites for open resources. JORUM had a presence at the event, and also CADARN (http://www.cadarn.ac.uk/), a Wales-specific HE repository, though to date it has involved only certain Welsh HEIs (not UWTSD!), and requires a login (also the case for the resources held online by the Coleg Cenedlaethol Cymru). Actual resources didn’t figure very prominently, either, and those highlighted in presentations were mainly MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). My presentation bucked the trend, as I was discussing Xerte learning objects (xerte.org.uk). As I stated in my presentation (which can be viewed at : http://www.slideshare.net/cpdavies1/xerte-oer15) , I find that Xerte software provides the means to produce interesting, interactive, accessible ‘bites’ of learning that are highly useful within a blended provision, though it is important to ensure that they interface effectively with their host VLE. The XPERT repository has some good Xerte learning objects focussing on research methods and statistical techniques, and I have been developing others in this subject area.
An example of a page from an University of Nottingham Xerte learning object showing alternative colour options

Apps got a mention, too, and Chris Rowell’s 12 apps of Christmas CPD activity was very intriguing (http://blog.ericsilva.me/edtech/12-apps-of-christmas-via-regents-university-london/). The poster I exhibited at OER15 focussed on an app to assist with the assessment of science skills for learners in schools in Wales, and a presentation describing the project involved can be viewed at: http://www.slideshare.net/cpdavies1/equipping-the-mobile-teacher

The Open University (OU) received a great deal of attention, partly because they were supporting the event, but also because they have been highly active in the world of open resources. OpenLearn Cymru ( http://www.open.edu/openlearnworks/course/index.php?categoryid=27) is a relatively new initiative which gathers together bilingual resources about Wales, and/or useful to Welsh learners, and also has a ‘pathways’ scheme to guide learners through the resources, and to encourage them to undertake the journey from informal to formal learning.
Other parts of the world are also highly active in the field of OER as in indicated by projects such as eMundus ( http://www.emundus-project.eu ) as outlined by Terese Bird, and POERUP (poerup.referata.com ).
Lastly, the keynote by Josie Fraser highlighted OER Guidance produced for schools in Leicester which is available online (http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/ls/open-education/) and in booklet format. In addition to listing some OER repositories suitable for schoolteachers, this resource also provides very useful guidance about Creative Commons licenses and how to use them in the context of authoring, and also when searching for suitable resources (eg. using Flickr to search for Creative Commons images.)

Hilton, J. (2015) The Review Project. Open Education Group [online] Available at: http://openedgroup.org/review(accessed 20.4.15)
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