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Thursday, October 18 • 1:30pm - 2:15pm
Are there technical barriers to open education?

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With an abundance of open educational resources (OER) available from around the globe to use in teaching and learning, a major challenge for those producing materials is to create a healthy OER life-cycle. For open education to flourish, users of OER need to be able to discover them, to be able to use and adapt them, and to share their derivations (Yergler 2010, Hilton III et al 2010). OER are released onto the internet in a scatter-gun approach, some being housed in repositories and others made available thought file sharing websites including YouTube for video or Flickr for photographs, for example. Thus, searching for OERs is time consuming, and additional frustrations also arise because the OER is often in a technical format that cannot be reused or repurposed. OER infrastructure needs to consider technology in terms of hardware, software, connectivity and standards (Downes 2007), and in terms of the ALMS analysis which considers the user’s access to editing tools, technical expertise and whether the original source-files are accessible (Hilton III et al 2010). It is surprising therefore that the literature addressing these questions is sparse. The aim of our research is to explore which OER formats are most open in terms of discover, interoperability, accessibility and adaptability.

We undertook a review of analytical data from three OER project websites the first of which was launched in 2007. Health and life science subject OERs have been shared via the internet by De Montfort University in the UK on a range of subjects including laboratory skills (Virtual Analytical Laboratory) and sickle cell disease (Sickle Cell Open, Online Topics and Educational Resources). Our approach to maximise discovery is to house resources on search engine optimised websites, and to use social networks for distribution. Our approach to providing flexible and editable resources is to publish OER in multiple file formats. For example an Adobe Flash animation “.swf” file are also be published as “.AVI” video file with interactive elements removed. The narrations are released as “.mp3” and transcribed into “.PDF” and “.txt” files, and the whole source code (.fla) is put in a zip file for users who want to repurpose the OER.

By reviewing the website analytical data and social network data we are starting to understand which formats are the most popular for use and re-use, and we can provide technical recommendations to the OER community to ensure the widest audience can benefit from open education and open learning.

Downes S (2006). Models for Sustainable Open Educational Resources. Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects (3), 29-44.

Hilton III, J, Wiley D, Stein J and Johnson A. (2010) The four 'R's of openness and ALMS analysis: Frameworks for open educational resources. Open Learning 25(1), 37–44.

Hylén J (2006). Open educational resources: Opportunities and challenges. Open Education Conference Proceedings. Available: http://www.knowledgeall.com/files/Additional_Readings-Consolidated.pdf

Yergler NR (2010). Search and discovery: OER’s open loop. Open Education Conference Proceedings. Available: http://openaccess.uoc.edu/webapps/o2/bitstream/10609/4852/6/Yergler.pdf

Thursday October 18, 2012 1:30pm - 2:15pm PDT

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