Multi-million pound project pushes boundaries in online learning

05 March 2010

Multi-million pound project pushes boundaries in online learning

GCU will examine online learning

GLASGOW Caledonian University is leading a project, as part of a major, UK-wide programme, to explore how the sharing of online educational resources will maximise learning opportunities.

The Open Educational Resources (OER) Programme, a multi-million pound initiative funded by the UK Joint Information Systems Committees (JISC), Higher Education funding council HEFCE and the UK Higher Education Academy, aims to make a wide range of on-line learning resources freely available, easily discovered and routinely re-used by both educators and learners.

By releasing new course materials including complete modules, notes, videos, assessments, tests, simulations, worked examples, software, and other tools, and by exploring the lessons learned, the programme aims to discover what approaches to resource sharing are successful and sustainable long-term.

Glasgow Caledonian University was selected to lead the evaluation and synthesis of the programme through The Caledonian Academy which specialises in the research and development of innovative forms of learning and teaching for a wide range of students. In 2003 Academy Director and technology enhanced learning expert Professor Allison Littlejohn published the first international text on Reusing Online Resources  and has since led a range of national and international projects in this area.

She said: “The concept of Open Educational Resources isn’t new – learning and teaching has always involved practitioners sharing resources, but growing access to freely available Web2.0 technologies such as Facebook and YouTube means we can now share information in ways that were not previously possible, breaking barriers to access and enabling people to adapt, reuse and ‘mash up’ existing course content with all sorts of other resources, including student generated materials.”

“GCU’s role in the OER Programme is to identify barriers and enablers to effective release and reuse of materials, aiming towards significant amounts of high quality resources being openly released and effectively used in the long term.”

“The ultimate goal is to kick-start a change in the way we all think about educational resources. In the future we hope students and lecturers will play an equal part in the creation and sharing of learning resources. Universities such as MIT and the UK Open University have already invested time and funding into making their resources freely available to anyone in the world who wants to use them and there are benefits for every university – and for society – in doing so”.

“GCU has just released a range of open educational resources for mathematics. The resources were released under an intellectual property license, called Creative Commons, which permits open use and adaptation. This move has been viewed by colleagues in the maths community as a milestone in moving forward how students and lecturers access and use maths resources.”

David Kernohan of JISC said: “The Funding Councils have identified the innovative use of digital technologies to maintain the UK's position as a global leader in education as having high importance and this is the first time a single country has taken forward OER release on this scale. GCU's role is analysing how the information can be released in the most helpful, user-friendly and sustainable way so is absolutely key to our success. If we get this right, the impact it can have is potentially phenomenal”.

The JISC OER programme comprises 29 projects, most based at universities and colleges in institutions across England and Wales, some involving the Higher Education Academy subject centres, all working towards open content release. Central to the programme is achieving sustainable change in educational culture, moving away from a focus on content ownership and towards openly shared content. Learning resources created by the programme will be released into Jorum Open (JISC supported national repository), using the Creative Commons licence.

The final evaluation and synthesis report will be available by June 2010.

For more information on OER, please see http://www.jisc.ac.uk/oer

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