What are Open Educational Resources?

As the name suggests, Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely available resources for learning and teaching; such as documents, videos, syllabi, software, and images. The advantage for educators is that these resources may be deposited, shared and re-used thus saving time in creating new courses or updating existing courses (also the promotion of the particular institution or field and peer support for others in the same subject area is an advantage of sharing teaching materials). OER’s may be available as individual objects or bundled together as a package. They are most likely ‘open licensed’ through licenses such as Creative Commons or GNU and are made available either on the open web or within institutions. Also, the term ‘Open CourseWare is often used.





What types of materials?
The types of materials that are distributed as Open Educational Resources are usually those that have been previously used in a class-room setting, or designed for a purely online or in a blended learning context. They may be materials for activities or labs, full courses, games, lecture notes, lesson plans, teaching and learning strategies, video recorded lectures, or images and illustrations. The audience for these materials may be lecturers (which is primarily the case) or may be students or even parents or administrators.
What type of licences?
Open Educational Resources are usually licenced so that they may be easily re-used within a non-commercial educational content (ie not re-sold). Many licences allow for ‘re-mixing’ which means that they may be adapted and enhanced to suit differing institutional contexts and student cohorts. Some licences only allow for sharing and re-use and no major revision (ie. ‘read the fine print’) and many are available within the certain educational copyright regime of the particular country (ie. ‘educational use of copyrighted material’ provisions). Attribution is always an important consideration, meaning that the materials taken from OER repositories must be acknowledged so that the original creators of the work are credited.
Where are OER found?
Many OER repositories are available on the open web, such as the OER Commons project or Connexions. The repositories may be run by volunteers or through paid employees on project funding provided by a university or funding agency. Although projects such as OER Commons and Connexions were designed specifically for OER, broader definitions of the term may include projects such as the Internet Archive or even Wikipedia. OER repositories may also exist at a university level to be maintained either by the university library or through the team responsible for the university Leaning Management System (LMS). Leaner Management Systems such as Desire2Learn have inbuilt repositories so that course content may be deposited and shared at a school, faculty, or institutional level (or open to the broader community).
What are the archival (technical) standards?
When OER materials are places into a repository, metadata and archival standards need to be associated with them so that they may be easily located, archived and shared in a meaningful way. SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) is a common way in which objects may be described, zipped-up into a package and re-used by different Learner Management Systems (LMS). Succinctly, SCORM is a ‘package of lessons’ that are bundled together so as to be understood by the LMS. What this means for educators, is that when placing OER materials into a repository, the correct ‘meta-data’ (data about data) is required about the material; usually inputted through a form to demarcate the type of materials and subjects addressed.
What are the archival (teaching) standards?
Many OER resources are likewise aligned with the teaching standards that may exist in different institutions or jurisdictions. The resources available are often aligned through a peer-assessment of the OER’s utility, quality of explanation, or quality of technical interactivity. The value of this for educators is the certainty that OER resources are of high quality and currency and purposefully meet teaching challenges.

UCL Centre for Digital Humanities

This is a very progressive course in Digital Humanities and I would highly recommend it to students who want to study outside of Australia (well, there is no real option in Australia yet anyhow). And Simon and Melissa are really nice. Check them out!

Review: Seminar, Training, and Large Collaborative Projects, Lynne and Ray Siemens

I recently attended a seminar at UWS on Friday 26 April, 2013 led by Lynne and Ray Siemens of the University of Victoria in Canada. The theme of the event was collaboration in the humanities and in particular; how digital humanities projects exemplify effective collaboration in the broader humanities. This is because digital humanities projects often cross-disciplines and geography and the often more demanding collaborative terrain of computer science, computational methods and the humanities.

Lynne Siemens, specialises in project management and team building. She stated that people aren’t always well-trained to work together and outlined some of the positives and negatives of working in teams. She claimed that some people are better able to collaborate than others, often because they have developed skills of listening, are flexible, can negotiate, and can compromise.  Lynne described these as the ‘soft skills’ of effective collaborative teams. A team approach often produces more diverse and possibly higher quality ideas (and is a good way to learn new skills and perspectives), but some projects are better done as an individual (but of course, some projects are beyond the scope and skills-sets of individuals).

Lynne outlined some of successful team interactions she had observed, partly through research she had undertaken through case –studies.  Good communication skills are vital, as is project management, and the ability to think across technology and the humanities and indeed, culture and language. Also the objectives of the team, the outcomes, and the individual tasks need to be clearly described with not too many grey areas that may be potential areas of conflict. And teams operate within institutional contexts so there are certain contingencies to negotiate either within or between institutions.  Still, one of the best ways to build teams is through casual conversations, lots of face-to-face meetings, and large bottles of rum (I put in the last one).

Ray Siemans is a Professor of Humanities Computing at the University of Victoria in Victoria, Canada and is well known for his work in the Digital Humanities and in particular, through the founding of the annual Digital Humanities Summer Institute (that I attended 2 years ago and now attracts around 500 participants).  He discussed the important work of the digital humanities, particularly around content modelling and computational analysis of content (a core form of scholarship within the field). He also discussed the typology of curriculum development in the digital humanities either through stand-alone degrees or through digital humanities inflicted programs and in particular, the highly successful Summer Institute model.


DHSI (Digital Humanities Summer Institute) http://www.dhsi.org/

ETCL (Electronic Textual Culture Lab) http://etcl.uvic.ca/

Fitzroy, Melbourne, November, 2001: oral history archive

Milkbar:The Everyday City and Globalisation was a project that sought to uncover some of the stories and concerns of some of the local residents of Fitzroy; an inner city Australian community. The videos assembled here are part of a larger project on the subject completed in October 2002 (more details below).

Forty four people within the suburb were interviewed with a video camera with the purpose of creating a record of a local, inner-city community in a significant period of change and to try and understand much of this change. It is an attempt to critically objectify historical change at a local level through an online oral history.
(This video is all the interviews stitched together. The individual videos with some contextual information are also on YouTube).

Continue reading “Fitzroy, Melbourne, November, 2001: oral history archive”

The Author of History in the Age of Electronic Reproduction: Hypertext and the Historian

This is Ted Nelson demonstrating Project Xanadu. Nelson first coined the phrase 'hypertext' in this article: Nelson, Theodore.H. A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing and the Intermediate Proceedings, Association for Computing Machinery,1965.

This is my 1998 Masters thesis completed at the University of Melbourne in 1998.  This was my first serious inroads into the ‘digital humanities’ and some of the language within it now seems very dated (ie CD ROM). I was reflecting upon how I entered the digital humanities after being prompted in a stimulating article by Johanna Drucker in a book (Debates in the Digital Humanities) that I am reviewing. This was perhaps my most personally-extending work as many of the individuals in the bibliography I have since met and many have become colleagues and even friends.

I am not sure how mature my thinking was about the humanities and the digital was at the time; I was certainly a lot less mentally traveled. Still, I stand by its central concepts and I later went on to apply a prototype system to explicate the ‘history and hypertext’ thesis. And hypertext became normal to be usurped by data! I think I like hypertext better than data. I wish we has an Australian National Hypertext Service than a Australian national data service…

The objective of this thesis is to investigate critically some of the recent developments in information technology within the discipline of history. In particular, I will focus upon hypertext and how it is being used within the World Wide Web and CD-ROM (Compact Disk Read Only Memory) environments. By applying recent hypertext theory (that is both book and author centred) to the practical adaptations of historians, I hope to offer some insight on where these projects stand in relation to the book. The printed and published codex with its idea of the author has been the stalwart of humanist intellectual culture in the Western world for many centuries. Its understandings, both in a physical and intellectual sense, offer an excellent position to illuminate some of the central issues that hypertext raises for our discipline. The historical record makes clear that the most distinctive features of the printing revolution were to stabilise written culture into a canon of authored texts, to create the notion of the book as property, and to envision the author as creator. In a hypertext environment, the physical manifestation of the book and the institutions that support it do not exist; thus the framework of what we understand as an author is altered considerably. The questions that I wish to address in this thesis are: what is a hypertext history author in both the CD-ROM and World Wide Web environments or in place of the author what structure does one use to determine if hypertext can successfully communicate the knowledge of our craft? To explore these questions I have surveyed a number of web based and CD-ROM hypertext history projects that were mainly produced by professional academic historians within Australia. The development of hypertext, both technologically and as a means of communicating history, is decentralised and patchy. This is a reflection of the multiplicity of use of these new mediums, as opposed to the somewhat established authorial practices of the standardised modern book. This thesis seeks to define hypertext history authorship, discuss how this is different to a book, and hopefully in doing so, reveal some of the best practices. Will hypertext produce simplistic catalogues of empirical facts or uninterpreted primary sources, or will hypertext with its combination of image text and sound, offer the historian fresh scope for authorship? (link to .pdf)

Materials Library @ King’s

One of the more interesting research groups here at King’s. They do research into the materiality of flesh!

Materials Library is an interdisciplinary collaborative team that make objects, events and exhibitions that foreground materiality. We are also engaged in both scientific research and artistic practices that explore the senso-aesthetics of materials.

At the heart of all we do is the creation, curation and development of the physical space that is The Materials Library; a resource, laboratory, studio, workshop, and play pen for the material minded. A home to some of the most wondrous matter on earth, The Materials Library contains an ongoing collection of material-objects that foreground the materiality of stuff (link).