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.

Examples of structured and un-structured data

Here are some examples of structured and unstructured data projects and services (which at times overlap). And remember that data is almost always wrong but sometimes it is useful!

Structured data (Pre-defined and machine-readable, is locatable and usually has a relational ‘data model’ and usually is about real-world objects)

  • What is meta-data? (Australian National Data Service) http://www.ands.org.au/
  • Library Catalogues (date, author, place, subject, etc)
  • Census records (birth, income, employment, place etc.)
  • Federal and State Hansard http://www.openaustralia.org/
  • Legal records: Old Bailey Online (1674-1913) http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/
  • Economic data (GDP, PPI, ASX etc.)
  • FaceBook like button (big-data collection!)
  • Phone numbers (and the phone book)
  • Databases (structuring fields)
  • XML-TEI (bringing structure to the text through tagging particular elements like versions of the word ”canal’ in 17th C Dutch.

Un-structured data (no pre-defined data model, usually text. But there is always some structure)

The techniques for dealing with unstructured data usually involve text-analysis (sometimes statistical) to look for patterns (semantic, linguistic, historical ‘dates, numbers, facts’ etc), to aid in search and discovery (not analysis, that involved critical humanities scholars). The patterns can be small (ie a single author) or large-scale (ie. a newspaper corpus), but sometimes so large scale that results may lack meaning.


New Book: Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Practices, Principles and Politics

DigitalHumantitesPedagogyAcademic institutions are starting to recognize the growing public interest in digital humanities research, and there is an increasing demand from students for formal training in its methods. Despite the pressure on practitioners to develop innovative courses, scholarship in this area has tended to focus on research methods, theories and results rather than critical pedagogy and the actual practice of teaching.

 The essays in this collection offer a timely intervention in digital humanities scholarship, bringing together established and emerging scholars from a variety of humanities disciplines across the world. The first section offers views on the practical realities of teaching digital humanities at undergraduate and graduate levels, presenting case studies and snapshots of the authors’ experiences alongside models for future courses and reflections on pedagogical successes and failures. The next section proposes strategies for teaching foundational digital humanities methods across a variety of scholarly disciplines, and the book concludes with wider debates about the place of digital humanities in the academy, from the field’s cultural assumptions and social obligations to its political visions. Digital Humanities Pedagogy broadens the ways in which both scholars and practitioners can think about this emerging discipline, ensuring its ongoing development, vitality and long-term sustainability (link)

Teaching Digital Humanties: Digital methods elective: Ph.D. Coursework Subject

I have started teaching in a Ph.D. coursework subject at the University of Melbourne; the first year that this type of guided professional development has been offered in Ph.D. research at the institution. Our contribution is the first Digital Humanities subject in the faculty; a lot of fun to design and teach, but somewhat experimental. There are five of us teaching the subject (and about twenty Ph.D. students). The instructors have many years teaching, research, and computing experience and ways of applying computing to teaching and research problems. We have put together our syllabus from many sources and thanks to the University of Victoria in Canada and especially Brett Hirsch of UWA for blazing a path for us. It is only a five-week course of two hours sessions, so we are barely getting our feet wet in such a large and vibrant field.

And sorry, but some of the links may not work as appropriate University log-in credentials are needed to access them.

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