Riding without stabilisers on the OER-cycle

18 09 2011

I came across the concept of Open Educational Resources a couple of years ago, really via fringe involvement with the Wikivet project. Wikivet is as open source (tho you need a password as there is some sensitive content) learning tool for vet students and graduates. It started as a wiki, it’s now a whole heap of eLearning content – a really rich resource and a great example of collaboration between several UK vet schools. Where was I? Ah yes, well Wikivet started in 2006 I think, and I wasn’t properly involved until a couple of years ago when I joined the steering group as Nottingham’s representative along with my colleague Zoe. At the same time, I’d been approached by ¬†MEDEV about being involved in the OOER project, which was about consent and copyright issues. The next year was something of a conversion really – I’ve always been very open about sharing material I develop but all of a sudden, here was a way of doing it with a much bigger audience. Nottingham has of course been a real pathfinder when it comes to OER, and so unlike others, I felt fully supported as I endeavoured with various projects. WikiVet then had another JISC bid funded – the OVAL project, which has worked successfully with two publishers encouraging them to release content openly as part of WikiVet. It’s been a learning curve for the whole team, especially for the publishers who hadn’t even heard of Creative Commons licenses when we started!

A sample screen shot of a veterinary virtual patient

The virtual veterinary hospital...coming soon...

Anyway back to my personal OER story…despite being involved with these projects, I didn’t really have one of my own until Zoe and I decided we wanted to create a suite of open source veterinary virtual patients. The VP concept had not really been explored in any depth until Nottingham and RVC started to think about what a great learning tool they are, and we had some Open Source software which lent itself very well to what we wanted to do (thanks Julian and the Xerte team!) Despite not getting funding, we have persevered with this project which has included creating an open source image/video bank on Flickr (and yes, consent for veterinary images is just as tricky as consent for medical images, so thanks MEDEV for helping with this!), and several VPs which will eventually be released in our Virtual Veterinary Hospital on Wikivet (opening soon…!)

When I went to a JISC/OER conference about a year ago, all the talk was about users vs creators, and I had to agree with it – I was a creator rather than a user, and I hadn’t really explored resources other than those I knew of. People were using ours (Flickr gets about 40ish hits per day ) but other than the projects we had on the radar through WikiVet, I didn’t really know of others. However, a few weeks ago, I was contacted by someone asking us if they could our images in a vet ed resource (very polite, if unecessary as all are C-C licensed). So of course I responded, asking if we could link to the resources from WIkiVet and they said yes – they will make them C-C! So a great example of OER creating further OER, and I actually felt I had contributed and moved from something of a novice, to my first wobbly attempt at riding solo. Plus this is likely to lead to further collaborations with this team, who are keen on eLearning resources.

In many ways this is what OER should achieve – it’s not just about great content for students, it’s as much about linking institutions – as we are all aiming at a common cause. I liked Amber Thomas’ recent blog post¬†talking about visible and invisible reuse using the analogy of an iceberg from some speakers from Oxford (see pic).

A lot of reuse is indeed hidden, but perhaps we (as in “local” user like me, not the JISC who already do a lot) should work more at encouraging others to centrally deposit resources, so that the exposed iceberg becomes bigger. One would assume some cumulative effects may occur!

I will keep you posted on developments, meanwhile please follow my Twitter for links to some of our OER content from the OVAL project.