Give me an OER every time!

Jisc Digifest 2014WOW! The highlight of open education week for me undoubtably was Jisc Digifest 2014.

It was so packed with festival goodies that it was difficult to chose which sessions to attend, and then what highlights to write about. So here are a few, and some additional blogs for extra reading.

 

Jisc Digital Festival 2014

A rather shaky start!

The festival kicked off with a number of excellent speakers including Diana Oblinger from Educause. Along with the Jisc executive, I was soon launched into a rather unexpected and terrifying commercial world, with language including “service users”, “consumers”, with educational goals including “margins” and “metrics”. I did start to wonder what on earth had I attended this for.

Whether this was the intention of Jisc, along with the rather lovely but somewhat incongruous technology companies and suppliers in the main auditorium, to be moving toward a more corporate purpose I’m not sure? This was alongside one of the opening speakers talking about educational delivery (deliverology aggh), 3 month degrees, and I was beginning to think this all just reeked like the onion rings of the “Macdonaldisation” of education. I must say I entered the coffee break very depressed. But from that point on, it was clear that the conference delegates were having none of it! None of it I say!

The festival was about people!

I was rather thinking that a digital festival would be very technology-centric and all about the tools, but I was completely wrong. The next two days without exception, it was all about the people. The users, students, educators, technologists, librarians, members of museum staff, geologists and a wide range of delegates in attendance. And a few students but not enough. The festival attracted a diverse group of people which was refreshing and provided rich discussions in the workshops. For the win!

And Jisc is about people!

Each session was led by a member of the various Jisc teams, and I hope that Jisc in its corporate reshaping, does not forget to cherish their most valuable asset. Any company is only as good as its staff, and Jisc is about expertise, collegiality, enthusiasm and support. They are some of the most talented individuals I have ever worked with across any organisation.

OK. Now for the highlights.

Wikipedia: a platform for learners as producers.

Martin Poulter from Bristol University talked about a series of case studies that had involved students in Wikipedia writing and editing. Unbeknownst to most people I suspect including me – and I’m just doing a Wikipedia course myself – is that the level of writing, the need for accuracy, the need for good evidence and referencing, the need to work as part of a community – are all adopted to a very high standard. As Martin said:

Wikipedia values are scholarly values.

What a great thing for transferable skills and allowing students to be part of global communities and the knowledge economy. And it is open of course.

Open access monograph publishing

Amazing stories by Brian hole (Ubiquity Press, UCL), Rupert Gatti (Open Book Publishers Cambridge) and Martin Paul Eve (Open Library of Humanities, Lincoln). Each had a similar tale, naffed-off by the publishing industry so decided to set up themselves. Their books are free to access online, often openly licensed, and are certainly putting valuable subjects back on the map that publishers had little commercial interest in. They claimed that their websites were easily pulled together using Scribd online reader, Google books and Lighteningsource electronic printing solutions. I did struggle with the CC BY license, so yes, if I was savvy, I would set up a publishers in China, take the content, repackage and sell. As they pointed out, all the good for the distribution. Well, actually, yes! Genius.

My lasting concern though still of the CC BY license was how to preserve the quality and authenticity of the work. But knowing these guys, they’ll come up with a solution to that.

Digital content sustainability and entrepreneurship

Naomi Korn ( Naomi Korn Consulting ) and Stuart Dempster, Jisc. Well this was just too good to miss. How many conference workshops can you say were so good that you stole the flip charts afterwards? *confession*.

This was particularly pertinent to me because I run three open education websites which I financially maintain, albeit for the cost of probably a bottle of wine a week, it is certainly worth it. This session gave me the structure of a business model to consider based around the overall goals of the site – to maintain or to grow. Well grow I say!!! There are only so many hours in my days I can sit around my kitchen table supporting VAL, SCOOTER and BIOLOGY COURSES, and I now have a plan. Things to consider:

  • Institutional ownership – far to many projects are pioneered by individuals and are never preserved by their institutions. A must for sustainability.
  • Digital preservation – we can’t future-proof everything, but releasing materials openly licensed, using open source and not locked in behind proprietary software. Multiple file formats please.
  • Existing and “outside of the box” revenue streams, or crowdsourcing a bit of money to pay the costs.

For more information, the Jisc Strategic Content Alliance has a heap of resources on this very subject, and I’ll be delving in very shortly.

The future of research – are you ready?

By Jeremy Frey and other contributors. I’m waiting for the Digifest site to publish the content and full list of contributors.

This was a mind blowing session. There is a rapid move toward publicly funded research in the UK making it mandatory to openly share all research data. The pain of the learning curve for open educational resources I remember was quite significant but achievable with the right support. The pain of this I feel will be much greater. It will require huge cultural changes to ways of working.

But new technology is helping – digital notebooks, data companies, increased collaboration between laboratories and transparency. Of course there are massive implications for individuals, departments and universities and much pain to go through before amazing benefits can be achieved.

I’m thinking – hurrah – the honest publication of research data that will at last overcome the bias of publication where mostly only POSITIVE findings are revealed. But would I want to reveal my scruffy notebooks to the world? And again, although it wasn’t clear if this would be openly licensed, but how would you prevent plagiarism, or even define it, if any researcher could pool data from a number of researchers, and republish? I guess that is the process of meta-analysis, so there would need to be assurances that the originator would be fully attributed. Fine, but not sure how you would police that.

Whatever happened to the MOOC?

Of course I’m going to pick this panel session because I was very kindly invited to participate, and what a mind-blowing panel talking about global open education in terms of history, university policy, activity in Scotland, applications to post-graduate teaching certificates, open educational science resources, and university courses that have gone totally and mindblowingly open.

It was quite telling, that during the entire course of the conference, MOOCs were barely mentioned. In fact I only recall one reference by Diana Oblinger in her keynote questions:

I would suggest that even though quite a lot of people are excited about MOOCs, …. they are a form of brand extension. It is not designed to be a course. They are hugely expensive and their audience is not traditional students.

Enough of silly MOOCs. The session was led by the irrepressible, irresponsible, unbelievable David Kernohan in his Chas n Dave t-shirt.

Digifest Lineup
(Me), Antonio Arboleda, Lou McGill, David Kernohan, Lorna Campbell, George Roberts, Jonathon Worth.

And if that wasn’t enough of a panel, on video was: Audrey Watters, David Wiley and Jim Groom.

Some wonderful examples of the power of opening up classrooms were told and have been written about elsewhere today:

http://followersoftheapocalyp.se/digifest14-session-on-moocs/,

http://lornamcampbell.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/open-scotland-at-jisc-digifest/

http://loumcgill.co.uk/open-learning-has-a-past/

Futurelols

And finally, futurology?

 

The final conference speaker was Ray Hammond, a futurologist. Ray spoke about many things and how they will affect us. He missed out one very important thing though.

 

The future is absolutely and most definitely OPEN!

 

 

It feels only right to finish on a song!