Open Education

How to create, curate and share open educational resources

Update to our SCOOTER ( OER production pipeline. Bringing in latest checklists, information on creating health and medical OER from the Medev HEA Subject Centre, and lots of other goodies from OU Score, OU OER Research Hub and the RLO CETL.



Blog Open Education Presentations

Open education: sustainability versus vulnerability #oer15

Just returned from an outstanding two days at OER15 in Cardiff (Tues 14 – Wed 15th April 2015). The theme was ‘mainstreaming’ OER and one of my talks looked at the sustainability and impact of the open education projects I was involved in as part of the HEFCE-funded UKOER programme (2009 – 2012). Six years on, where are these projects?

OER Impact

My video shows the main points of the above image.

1) The impact of projects continues to grow and sustained some 6 years after the launch of the initial project (which was VAL in 2008/9. SCOOTER followed and then did BIOLOGY COURSES).

2) Staff practice has dramatically changed – for those originally involved, open is part of what they do, and open practices and use of resources has crept across the faculty and is adopted by new staff coming in.

3) The void is around institutional practices. Circumstances were such that two project champions (myself and another) left the university. Change in senior management and other reorganisation probably has resulted in some of the loss of traction of these initial conversations.

4) ‘Open’ was embedded within learning and teaching strategy, but the question is, how to make this real? How to turn words into action for institutions?

OER sustainability versus vulnerability.

I suppose this goes for any innovation or new practice, it takes time, investment, enthusiasm and effort to embed and sustain. However this can quickly become vulnerable for the reasons in the next image.

OER sustainability

What next?

I liked the ideas presented by Martin Weller in his keynote (see YouTube video). Martin was talking about mainstreaming OER, and that we are almost on the verge of victory. But progress is not about the big event and initial victory. History is made, or innovations embed and sustain only following a series of events and victories. That is what I see in our UKOER projects at De Montfort University. Yes, it was all about the big events – we had so much fun, students had fun, we made new collaborations – but the subsequent victories are contributing to what is becoming a changed faculty.

I’ve left the conference with growing concerns regarding the roles of ‘champions’ and will seek to explore this in a future blog.



Open Education

Adopting Open Textbooks with BCU

One week into the BC “Adopting Open Text Books” course.

I’m embarking on the BC course and in the first week we are provided with a series of videos including David Wiley talking about ‘open’, and we were given the question “What does open education mean to you?” I am now sitting here wondering why after ten years producing OERs and free materials, why I’m embarking on yet another course? Why am I still involved in this field of work that is nothing to do with my day-job?




David hits the nail on the head for me – it is all about the idea of sharing.

Or not.



In the comments on the page Cristina notes:

One thing that really struck me in both the video and the article is the idea of education as sharing, already, in its essence. If you are helping someone to learn something, or develop a new skill, you are sharing something of yourself.

(Christina’s comment).

What do we know about faculty sharing behaviour? 

I think in many people, the desire to share and help others is just their nature. So what do we know about academic / faculty sharing behaviours? When some of us embarked on the UK OER programme in 2009 we looked at attitudes to sharing within our universities.

We found that academics were happy to share within localised subject groups but not more widely, and at that time in 2009, certainly weren’t keen to move beyond the institution (Rolfe 2012, Staff Attitudes to OER). In Peter Reed’s similar study at the same time, staff were naturally sharing locally but in his institution were happy to think about sharing beyond the institution, perhaps reflecting a more advanced awareness and experience of open practices? (Reed 2012, Awareness, attitudes to OER).

In Libor Hurt’s MSc dissertation looking at openness and student perceptions, it was clear that their propensity to share and support fellow students was hugely strong (Download Libor’s dissertation from this page: When asked why, to many it was quite natural to help others, even beyond their university:

“Because not everyone gets the same opportunities do they?”


So in this snapshot of staff and student perceptions, the willingness to share was entrenched within people’s practices even without attempts to influence it. So this leads me to ask how has sharing fared through the history of education? I’m thinking at what point did it/we stop sharing?



I am no educational historian, but I know the teaching practices of the ancient philosophers very much involved the selfless passing on of ideas and knowledge, and the scholar was advised to then go and pass-forward and teach someone else. That was an essential part of the educational process. I love Thomas Wright’s book “Circulation: William Harvey’s Revolutionary Idea” and the recollections of the teaching of surgical practices.

Anatomies were made free of charge according to university statutes, ‘in order that everyone may come’ to enjoy what were civic as well as scholarly spectacles.

The public would pile into the steep-walled anatomical theatres with a dissection table in the middle and railings to stop queasy spectators falling in and spoiling the show. (The musicians were the last to enter and take their place around the dissecting table!) These were open festivals of learning! Harvey’s manuscript outlining his discoveries of the circulation system “De Motu Cordis” further benefited from printing technology and was able to share his theories to the science community and wider public (although they ridiculed him “he was crack-brained”). So returning to thoughts about SHARING, printing clearly led to the wider distribution of knowledge but with it came the bravery and confidence to go forth with your theories and ideas. Also the ‘asset’ started to be a thing of power, and religious differences often resulted in the burning of books, and we begin to see how wielding this power could exclude groups from gaining knowledge and education.

Where are we today?

I get a sense that today in our modern-day education systems that the ‘asset’ and information is still viewed as a powerful commodity to be acquired. Students clamour for PowerPoint slides and lecture notes to be placed on learning management systems. “Are you going to put your slides on Blackboard” must be the most common question in the entire education system. So over the centuries what may well have shifted is the sharing of the understanding of a topic or idea, toward the sharing of information assets?

I think there are also some deeper changes in our attitudes also. What about the desire to help ourselves and our own careers over helping others?

I’ve referred to open education in being in the terrible teens in a recent paper in press and I do believe in the UK anyway we’ve hit a wall. I think our current education system breeds a strong incliniation to help ourselves and our own careers that outweighs what might be our natural motivation to help others. Our education delivery systems reward us on our personal teaching and research achievements, with the overarching obsession about positions in league tables.

So what does open education mean to me?

For me, and many others like me I am guessing, ‘open’ means being able to participate in the education that I want, beyond my institution. I work in my own time using technology that works. I can use the tech I want to create the materials that I think are valuable for my subject. I can distribute them where and when I like on the internet. I pay small annual fees to maintain blogs that amounts to the cost of a few bottles of wine a year.

What roles do you think digital technologies and the internet have played in making open education possible?

Digital technology and social media have enabled educators to move beyond university systems and have been KEY to open education possibilities. I can work immediately and do not have to wait 3 days for administrator to give me access to software, or using learning management systems that can only cope with certain types of files or file sizes.

I can use social media to distribute my resources, where many universities are still trembling at the thought of academics on Twitter, and accounts having to be vetoed by marketing departments worried about what academics might say. Make some resources, place them on YouTube, Flicker, Twitter, Blogs and slap a Creative Commons licence on and away you go. These resources are my own content, artistry and copyright. I know I am working under contracts that permit me to OWN my ‘learning resources’ and to therefore do with as I please.

So how can we help OER through the terrible teens?

Clearly people like me working in their own time is not a sustainable solution and we need to continue to influence the next generation of acadmics and university staff. I think we need to reinvigorate universities as sharing spaces rather than places were education is delivered. Mike Neary and Joss Winn talked about this beautifully in 2009 (The Student as Producer)

Through these efforts, the organizing principle is being redressed creating a teaching, learning and research environment which promotes the values of openness and creativity, engenders equity among academics and students and thereby offers an opportunity to reconstruct the student as producer and academic as collaborator. In an environment where knowledge is free, the roles of the educator and the institution necessarily change.


Blog Open Education Presentations

OpenEd14 Socio-ethical stances of MOOCs

Here are my slides from 2014 OpenEd Conference, Washington, Nov 2014.

What a great conference so far! My talk followed on from my OpenEd13 presentation at Utah last year, and really builds on the bee I’ve had in my bonnet about massive open online learning for some time. I had some great questions today that I hope I made some vague attempt at answering:

1) How would my delineation of ‘ethical’ dimensions of MOOCs be different from a look at on-campus learning? Many of the dimensions around pedagogy, quality and addressing learner diversity are core academic values, but I would argue do not translate easily online. We are talking about diversity on an unprecedented scale. Also, there are dimensions around intellectual property and data privacy, and the changing role of the tutor / teacher, that simply don’t feature on-campus, or that might do, but are swept under the carpet. In my talk I described a book chapter in press that extends Khan’s 2003 ‘eLearning framework’ to open, online learning.

2) How can we influence ethics, research and practice in order to make the changes we are all seeking? What an impossible question that I’m sure I did not answer well. For a start, we are all at OpenEd14! We are all championing good quality research and open initiatives, and all we can do is go back and keep influencing our colleagues and institutions. We should never lose sight of how far we have come!

I thought back to Larry Lessig’s opening keynote, it is not enough just to talk about change, we have to oil the wheels to make change possible.

 “Fight to make your sensible idea possible.”



Blog Education Research Open Education

Ethical dimensions of MOOCs

Just completing a research marathon that started last summer looking into open online courses and both the social and ethical considerations for learners.

The work has included:
A systematic review of literature up to 2013 and a subsequent update to June 2014.
Narrative synthesis of opinion articles in the area of study.
Deeper exploration of opinions through a series of interviews.

Some of this work has been presented at conference, including OpenEd13, Utah and OER14, Newcastle with co-author David Kernohan.

I’ve just produced a diagram to summarise the findings to date. I’ve used some of the dimensions of Khan’s 2003 eLearning Framework which preceded open courses in the form we know then today. Many of the original dimensions are still relevant, some need extending, and other new areas for ethical consideration emerge from the results of my work. I hope this gives communities, institutions and those involved with open education on the web some ideas for the types of discussions that are worthy of having, if we are truly going to contribute to open education globally in an equitable and fair way.

Ethical considerations in MOOCs
Ethical considerations in MOOCs

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Ethical Dimensions of MOOCs by Vivien Rolfe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at