Posts Tagged ‘OTTER’

Today I visited our OSTRICH partners at Derby with my colleague, Media Zookeeper at Beyond Distance, Simon Kear. We had a very stimulating and inspiring session with Phill Gagen, Sam O’Neill and Linda Swanson. The Derby OSTRICH team is now in full swing with the gathering, screening, copyright clearance, transformation and formatting of OERs, and they’re building up a great bank of materials on subjects from Algebra through Hairdressing and Prenatal Development, to Quarrying. Many of these materials are filling gaps in the OER landscape, potentially meeting needs in specialist subject areas. (I was particularly interested in one of the Law OERs – on Law in the Music Industry – which is bound to be of interest to a wide range of people, not just Law students.)

Apart from looking over all the great OERs-in-progress, we also discussed how the CORRE workflow and evaluation model, which was developed in the OTTER project at Leicester, is being implemented at Derby. It seems that the model has transferred more or less seamlessly to the Derby context – the only major difference being that, since the Derby team is creating most of its OERs from scratch, as opposed to ‘OER-ing’ existing teaching materials, they are working much more closely with the academics than we were able to do in the OTTER project. This is likely to help lay the foundation for integrating OERs into learning design as a matter of course in future.

As a post-script, I was delighted to hear from our OER colleagues at Nottingham today that “It turns out that OER do save time and students do use them“!


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At yesterday’s workshop with OER contributors in Derby, we brainstormed the questions they would ask themselves at each stage in the process of creating an OER, with reference to the CORRE framework generated during the OTTER project. What follows is the ‘raw’ list of what was generated – this will be compared to the indicative questions in the CORRE Tracking Sheets to ultimately inform Derby’s own version of the CORRE process.

A) Gathering/selecting an item of teaching material to be converted into an OER

  1. Is the item cohesive? i.e. Can it stand alone?
  2. Is the content accurate?
  3. Is it current and correct?
  4. Would I want my mother to see it? (Or: Am I happy to be associated with this in the public domain?)
  5. Do we have a sufficiently collegiate approach to feedback? (Thinking ahead to the validation stage…)
  6. Does the resource comply with university’s regulations and requirements?
  7. Does the university have commercial ambitions with this material that I need to consider before deciding on turning it into an OER?
  8. Does it contradict or duplicate other materials?
  9. Have I identified the metadata? (Tags for searchability, as well as an abstract and information for potential users about the context for which this resource was designed)

B) IPR and copyright (Questions to be applied to the resource as a whole as well as all its separate sections)

  1. Where does this originate from?
  2. Who is the rights holder?
  3. What, if any, existing licence, has this been published under?
  4. Is this fair use?
  5. Can we contact the rights holder if needed?
  6. What is the risk?
  7. Do we have permission from people included in the images/ videos/ audio files? (Written consent forms)
  8. How long is it going to take to get copyright clearance? Can we afford the time?
  9. If clearing copyright is going to be difficult or too time-consuming, can we recreate or replace this material instead?

C) Transformation for reuse

  1. How much work is required to transform the materials so that they can stand alone? (E.g. removing references to resources that are not openly available)
  2. If we take anything out, do we need to replace it with something else to keep up the coherence?
  3. Do the materials need much work to make sense outside of context that they were delivered in?
  4. What transformation is needed as a result of IPR issues?
  5. How much of the transformation is the author’s responsibility as opposed to OSTRICH team responsibility?
  6. Granularity – what will be the ‘chunk size’ of the things we are publishing?

D) Formatting/ digitisation for reuse (choosing the file format and executing it)

  1. Corporate image (Branding – Derby formats and logos etc.? Policy decision needed)
  2. Most suitable formats/ uses to allow it to be accessible to global market? (Can we produce it in a range of formats? Including mobile platforms?)
  3. Do all the materials have to be DDA compliant?
  4. Could the resource be altered for DDA purposes (by another user) if needed?
  5. Language and dialects – e.g. will international users understand the accents in audio files?
  6. Can I do it? Are the resources available to support me?
  7. Does it require complicated technology (either for the author or for the end user)?
  8. Will it work? (e.g. if we put it in a new format)

E. Validation

  1. Which groups need to validate the resource, and at which stages? Project team? Contributors? Students? Colleagues/ other educators? School/department head/ other senior managers? Are any sign-offs needed?
  2. What criteria will be used for validation at each stage? (E.g. fit-for-purpose, accessibility, scholarship – is it good enough?)
  3. Do we need to bring in “media experts” to check quality of products (e.g. videos (Bearing in mind that students don’t necessarily want “BBC-style” perfection)
  4. How do we get people to engage in the validation?
  5. How to process the data and what will be done with it?
  6. Granularity – when to validate?

F. Tracking

  1. What resources are being viewed – any stats on what’s popular, what’s not (e.g. using Google Analytics)? Can this information enable us to make decisions about what kind of new resources to bring in?
  2. Where are the users?
  3. Are there any significant trends?
  4. Timing – e.g. is it busier towards the end of the semester?
  5. What to do with resources that are never/ have not yet been used?
  6. How can we best use the stats in reports to senior management? (Qualified by a statement from the project team explaining what the stats mean)

I’m looking forward to seeing those old OTTER checklists being revised for Derby’s context in the light of these discussions.

Gabi Witthaus, 4 Nov 2010


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Yesterday we had our kickoff meeting with the Derby project team for the OSTRICH project. Ale, Tania and I were the Leicester contingent, and Derby was represented by Rene, Linda, Pete, Sam and Simon.

Ale and Rene consider their dreams for the OSTRICH project

Ale and Rene consider their dreams for the OSTRICH project

We started by (literally) laying all our dreams and nightmares about the OSTRICH project on the table. This is what came up:


  1. ‘WHAT did you say you wanted to do with my materials??!!’
  2. ‘Easier to start from scratch than to repurpose this rubbish!’
  3. Formalised bureaucratic process stifling creativity and engagement
  4. People in the project team working on the wrong version of an item duringt the CORRE process
  5. Not enough time
  6. Insecurity – my stuff is not that good. I’d rather not share it.
  7. Legal issues – finding a host of unattributed images in materials; not being able to clear a large set of materials (for IPR); no knowledge of where third party materials were sourced
  8. Getting into trouble with a rights holder or being sued
  9. Copyright legislation made tighter and more restrictive
  10. Empty or fragmented repositories or low quality
  11. Will the OERs get used by other people once they are published?
  12. Lack of engagement at faculty level. Cultural shift may be needed to persuade academic staff.
  13. Lack of understanding about OERs and Creative Commons licences by academics
  14. Academic disconnection because of job concerns
  15. Losing the ‘context’ (pedagogical, for instance) – in an attempt to make the OERs ‘generic’ and reusable by others
  16. No policies created for continuing/ sustaining gains made after OSTRICH project
  17. Metadata!


  1. Delivery on time and successful outcomes for Derby staff
  2. Culture of openly critiquing; learning from each other’s practice
  3. Personal ‘promotion’ within the academic community: ‘If my stuff gets used, I’m good!’
  4. Much improved institutional visibility worldwide and potential to create some material to market and promote the institution: prospective students will look at OERs rather than glossy brochures
  5. Is seen as a good thing to be involved in (CSR issues)
  6. This will reinforce that content is not the most important element. The lecturer/ tutor is!
  7. Cross sector funding for shared resources
  8. More time for teaching!
  9. Increasing the pool of excellent quality, reusable OERs available on the Web: there will be one big, searchable repository, which is a sustainable knowledge base
  10. A big stock of copyright-cleared video educational material
  11. Releasing good quality OERs which are reusable and repurposable
  12. Quality: academics will think twice about the materials they offer to their students; equal level of quality across subjects
  13. OER will be developed with the dynamism of Wikipedia and YouTube
  14. Reversioning made easy
  15. Realisation of all the wonderful ‘free’ stuff already produced – less duplication. Increased awareness, ability and willingness to reuse OERs from other sources before developing from scratch.
  16. Thinking about using 3rd party materials before sourcing – and getting permission or working within licences
  17. All third party rights holders allowing reuse of their materials for free!
  18. Clear intellectual property rights (IPR) policy for Derby
  19. Trigger sustained and substantial adoption of OER at UD
  20. The CORRE model is adapted so that it works within the Derby way of doing things
  21. Simple mashup tools for direct academic use
  22. Easily cascaded knowledge and good networking between Leicester, Derby and Bath. Good practice shared by all OSTRICH members.
  23. Having enthusiastic and cooperative contributors of materials
  24. Encourage cross-departmental working for new Dept (LEI) at Derby

We are confident that, by drawing on the experience of the OTTER project, and the collective experience of the OSTRICH team, we will be able to avoid (or minimize) the nightmares – and live the dreams!

Gabi Witthaus, 29 Oct 2010

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The University of Bath has rolled up its sleeves in preparation for the creation and release of at least 100 credits’ worth of teaching materials as open educational resources (OERs). A workshop led by members of the OSTRICH project team from Leicester (Ale, Tania and myself), with the project team and academic contributors from Bath, marked a milestone in the startup of the project. The main aim was for the Leicester group to share knowledge based on our experiences of the OTTER project.

Yesterday morning’s session involved the core project team members from Bath (Andy, Vic and Julian), along with members of staff responsible for all matters related to intellectual property rights (IPR) and copyright in the institution (Kerena, Phil and Cara). Tania, Leicester’s copyright administrator, gave a summary of the IPR issues that had been encountered in the OTTER project, and a comprehensive account of how we had dealt with the challenges that had arisen. It was clear that Bath intends to take a rigorous approach to copyright management in the project.

The afternoon involved just the core project team, with the addition of Marie, who is planning to produce OERs in collaboration with a number of Bath’s partner institutions. This session focused on the workflow templates and spreadsheets that we had devised during the course of the OTTER project, which the Bath team will enhance and adapt to suit their own context. We also had an in-depth discussion on our respective responsibilities and commitments to one another and to the project.

This morning we met with the academics who have committed themselves to, or are considering, contributing OERs to the project. We started by eliciting everybody’s dreams and nightmares about OERs, which generated some interesting discussions on the purpose of OERs, the business model for producing and using OERs, the benefits for institutions and academics in producing OERs, and the challenges involved in incorporating other people’s OERs into our own teaching materials. The dreams and nightmares fed nicely into Ale’s presentation on FAQs (what our ex-colleague Sahm used to call ‘Frequently Avoided Questions’) about OERs. Ale and I were excited about the high level of enthusiasm for the project and the commitment to designing for openness that was evident.

This afternoon we had a ‘debriefing’ session amongst the core project team members, in which we discussed the next steps, mainly around liaising with academic contributors to help them implement the CORRE OER framework and processes. We rounded off the two days by developing a plan for internal, stakeholder-driven evaluation, which will complement and feed into the summative external evaluation at the end of the project.

Arising out of all these discussions, it is already clear that OSTRICH will go beyond the OTTER project outcomes by addressing the following challenges:

  • Managing workflow and information sharing in a virtual team – we will experiment with a Moodle space, to be created by Julian.
  • Implementing a more systematic approach to creating metadata for OERs
  • Gathering and collating data from key stakeholders at Bath (academic contributors, senior management, Directors of Studies, Students’ Union) about perceptions on OERs, as well as feedback on the cascade process and the quality of OERs released, as part of the internal evaluation process
  • Trialling a version of the CORRE framework in which contributors have more ownership of the process, as opposed to the original version of CORRE as piloted in the OTTER project, in which responsibility for all processes leading up to release of the OER rested with a centralised team. The new model has been nicknamed D-CORRE, the D standing for ‘devolved’.

I’m looking forward to seeing this all unfold.

Gabi Witthaus, 15 Oct 2010

(Edited 18 Oct)

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Today was the first programme meeting for the ‘cascade’ strand of the Phase 2 open educational resource (OER) projects, including OSTRICH. OSTRICH stands for OER Sustainability through Teaching & Research Innovation: Cascading across HEIs. It is a one-year project funded by JISC and the HE Academy, led by the University of Leicester and with the universities of Bath and Derby as project partners. OSTRICH will cascade the knowledge, lessons learned and models developed as part of the OTTER OER project at Leicester and will enable partners to develop and release 100 credits’ worth of OERs. In doing so, OSTRICH hopes to put Bath and Derby firmly on the national and global OER map. We are very proud to have an ostrich in the Media Zoo!

At today’s meeting in London, I had the opportunity to meet OSTRICH’s sister projects, as well as colleagues from the funders and OER projects funded under other strands – including TIGER. We’re all set for a great year of OER collaboration, development and growth. Let the fun (and the work!) begin.

Dr A Armellini
Beyond Distance Research Alliance
University of Leicester

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