OER Tech

Contributed comments and feedback

This chapter is a compilation of comments received from the global OER community. We invited views on individual chapters or the whole book, asking: what rings true? what doesn't? what do you think the technical directions are for OER?  We particularly welcomed comments that were grounded in experience of designing and running OER services.

The comments that we received were a mixture of specific suggestions for alterations to the text, which were considered and lead to many corrections and improvements of what we had written, the remainder were more general reflections or sharing of experience, a selection of which are given below.

Nick Sheppard, Leeds Metropolitan University 

Reading through the draft of "Into the wild", this sentence (from #ukoer Phase 1) resonates... there has been growing awareness of...the web itself as a technical architecture as opposed to a simple interface or delivery platform ... #intothewild Also reminding me that very little of our #ukoer content from Unicycle1 has embedded. 

Obviously I've tried to keep abreast of developments throughout the UK OER programme but as one whose first exposure to the concept of OER was through our Phase 1 project Unicycle in 2009, the historical overview in particular provided an essential context; though aware of the broad picture, the chronology and evolution of the OER space is now much clearer!

I do also still think there are untapped synergies between the two and now the "Open" domain is arguably more homogeneous (or is it?!) than at the beginning of the Programme, particularly I would argue due to the proliferation and mainstream institutional uptake of web 2.0 style technologies, though partly also due to the influence of the programme itself. 

Two of the key points that resonated for me reading the book are the somewhat contradictory facts in that while there undoubtedly has been a recognition that Open Education is "a natural fit to what the web is really all about" and that the web itself is a technical architecture, at the same time the commercial and proprietary components of the web have become ever more significant, both generally and specifically in the context of "Open" education (I’m thinking of Apple in particular of course with its iPad, ebooks, apps, iTunes and the rest) which potentially makes the discussions around open licensing all the more significant, to say nothing of JISC and HEFCE funded technologies like Jorum and Xpert, particularly as the lines of commercialisation are now so blurred within HE as the result of government policy, whether tuition fees or the Finch report. 

I have also recently been struck by the impact that new institutional software can still have on Open; we have a new streaming server, for example, that in theory I should be able to link (unauthenticated) to video but have found various authentication settings mean that only certain browsers and settings work, with many still asking for an institutional log-in. I’ve mitigated this to some extent by embedding video directly in the repository record page but the link (from RSS, OAI) still points to the link that may or may not require authentication. 

I also relate very much to the need to decouple licence assignment from repository deposit and this was (and is) a major problem for us with virtually all of the Unicycle material (being pre-existing resources) merely being assigned CC at the metadata level. The crucial factors, of course, are educational and cultural and we simply didn’t have either at the time (and only pockets even now) such that CC is probably still an afterthought for any newly created resources.

Tracking resources is one rabbit hole I never really ventured down, at least not far, and have software issues even getting basic usage data – in this regard I think IRUS-UK2 has huge potential for COUNTER3 compliant usage data, ostensibly for OA research repositories but also for OER (IRUS-UK is based at Mimas and there is a plug-in for DSpace…not sure how far they have liaised with Jorum?)…then there is the whole Learning Reg / paradata thing which I can see would be hugely beneficial and with a little help from Nick Syrotiuk of JLeRN4 I’m currently having a go at pushing our OAI-PMH to the test node though in the context of paradata my Google Analytics data is of limited use.

I confess that, even now, and though I have found your various posts published recently to be very useful, I still find the Learning Registry conceptually somewhat abstract; I am getting an inkling of the potential of the technology, not least as harvesting Jorum into intraLibrary5 has emphasised the issues around repository interop/metadata idiosyncrasies…but I probably need to see more examples of services built on the architecture to really get it.

I also wonder what potential there might be for research material pushed into the Learning Registry by OAI-PMH as the killer-app for aggregated research repositories still hasn’t materialised…

David Kernohan, JISC

The link between "whole institution" OER approaches and tracking is not simply a maturity one. I'd argue it is a mistake to see whole institution approaches as more mature than the approaches of interest groups. 

Sheila MacNeill, CETIS

I appreciate that this is focused squarely on the technical developments, it is worth making an acknowledgement that this work is informing wider open practice issues too, the technical work is not done is isolation.   Also the approaches from the programmes are filtering into other work where projects have chosen to create open content though OER has not been mandated - JISC programmes and beyond e.g. Curriculum Design and Delivery6, Developing Digital Literacies7.

Dan Rehak, lsal.org

Overall this is great!  It's a really nice concise summary of tons of key issues, and it puts the entire OER programme into context - even helped me understand how some of the pieces fit together.

The biggest omission I see, which I think is intentional, is something more forward looking as conclusions.  The "futures" in the chapters are good, but they seem to be very tactical and not synthesized into a whole.  I'm not sure "what's next" or what's key to continue, but in some form, or some forum, some big picture synthesis and gazing into the crystal ball would be nice - even if it turns out to be wrong.

[The Conclusions chapter was added in response to Dan's comments.]

Peter Robinson, University of Oxford

A key thing historically for me is that the question of what licence (obscure one-off licences) and what conditions (silly geo conditions) has now ended ... Creative Commons has won as we knew it would. 

For me the failure of UKOER is still marketing - to get a really well known directory of UKOER (ignoring Jorum for now) is a regret. HumBox8 seemed to be a really good community repository.

The end of the Higher Education Academy Subject Centres9 seems to be a big gap in getting things out to the community - for the Great Writers Inspire10 project we had to do a lot. 

There is still an easy quick win in UKOER with an aggregator of video - we had a demonstrator alive, Steeple11, in 2009/2010 but there was little vision nationally to push it into a service.

There have been developments in third-party services better supporting CC licences, e.g. Apple iTunesU now supports a licence field that I can fill with our Oxford CC licence. 

Evaluation of usage over the longer term is sorely missing. I know my stuff benefits from a massive long tail effect... This is an area that needs more work, more understanding of logging and tracking feedback mechanisms, better understanding of how to take advantage of Google Analytics and URL builders, etc., etc.  I'm trying to do a lot in this area at Oxford but tool development and analysis of feedback etc. takes up a lot of time.


  1. Unicycle Open Educational Resources, http://unicycle-leedsmet.ning.com/ 
  2. IRUS-UK, http://www.irus.mimas.ac.uk/ 
  3. Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources (COUNTER), http://www.projectcounter.org/ 
  4. The JLeRN Experiment, http://jlernexperiment.wordpress.com/ 
  5. intraLibrary, http://www.intrallect.com/ 
  6. JISC Curriculum Design and Delivery Programmes, http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearning/curriculumdelivery.aspx 
  7. JISC Developing Digital Literacies Programme, http://www.jisc.ac.uk/developingdigitalliteracies
  8. HumBox, http://humbox.ac.uk/ 
  9. The Higher Education Academy Subject Centres closed in 2011. 
  10. Great Writers Inspire, http://writersinspire.org/ 
  11. Steeple Project, http://steeple.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ 

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