Beyond beyond

This blog was established to support our conference in 2010. There have been no new posts since then and the blog is now archived.

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Thank you for attending


Thank you to all the delegates and speakers who joined us in Oxford on Tuesday- remotely and physically. As you may know we gather here at Oxford, at about this time each year to explore and debate issues of learning technology and how it shapes learning and teaching practice.

Purpose of the event was to present and celebrate the work done this year at Oxford as part of our Open Spires project which has involved colleagues from across the collegiate institution and is part of a national programme of projects sponsored by JISC and the HEA.

Our plan for the day, as you can see from the published programme , involved a number of international speakers to set the scene for discussions about how our Openspires work places us on a global stage.

So, this being a technology conference and a very fine venue we did our best, and three of our speakers were  on video link.The day seemed to go smoothly and we have had many messages of support.

“I was particularly impressed by the professionalism, academic coherence, and superb and appropriate use of technology.  Each year I think this has to be the best so far… ( Director of IT, Oxford University)”

For those people unable to be with us, we had live tweeting and live blogging going on. We have gathered the tweets from the day  below. Recordings of key parts of the event will be made available on our website soon.

The tweets from #beyond2010 have been archived at

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Robin Wilson

beyond 8

Keynote presentation from Robin Wilson, Professor in the Department of Mathematics at the Open University, a Fellow by special election of Keble College at Oxford: communicating mathematics – a historical and personal journey. Robin speaks eloquently, using slide-transparencies on an over-head projector – adding another media to the presentations on show at the Beyond 2010 conference.

Starting from an exam question ‘Describe some of the ways mathematicians have communicated their results to their colleagues’, e.g. the spoken word and the written word – with many examples, Robin covered some 4,000 years of mathematics history. Afraid this blog has suffered as I try to concentrate on the story of mathematics…

Therefore, an audio-visual taste of Robin’s 1,500+ one-off lectures about mathematics to public and other audiences is available:

  • from the Gresham College website
  • and presentations on ‘Lewis Carroll in Numberland: His Fantastical Mathematical Logical Life’ are available in video and in audio on iTunes-U

“It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s worthwhile, you do it well, and all the jobs that have to be done are done!”. Norman Gowar, Royal Holloway University of London.

Session 7 Beyond 2010.

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Challenges Panel

beyond1What happens next, after Oxford’s successful first year producing OER through the OpenSpires project?

Some questions addressed:

  • Re-use: Did the panel consider who was actually the audience for their content? What content did they think would ‘travel’ well? And ‘portability’ – does portability mean what stays intact in your content or how much actiuvity is generated around the re-use your content? Challenge of trying to create a course made up of over 80% pre-existing content? Re-using OERs could be made easier with greater knowledge about licencing and making content more discoverable. If you can’t find OERs through Google they’re not discoverable for most teachers.
  • Sustainability? Models to explore like micro-payments? Must academia face what the music industry faced? JISC Strategic Content Alliance work to demonstrate revenue generation e.g. report: Sustainability and Revenue Models for Online Academic Resources, available as PDF. Research outcome forms should take account of the earlier delivery of media, before the publication of ‘the monograph’. “I wish I had a penny for every download!”, but why not link iTunes-U podcasts for the institutional campaign e.g. “If you have enjoyed this podcast why not donate by clicking here” – but is this a ground-shift for OED… well, it is a voluntary contribution. Sustainability – reward participation?
  • Single major challenge for OER? Answers include:
    • plethora of organisations themselves so issues therefore sustainability, interoperability, platform-agnostic or even platform-allergic, might be aided by a merging at the institutional level;
    • stop talking about educational resources, i.e. talk about how to provide education in more effective ways, OER are just a means to an end so focus on the ‘end’;
    • how to change thinking (i.e. not translate the old to the new media);
    • is my department going to employ a new lecturer when they could just run the podcast series?
  • Licensing: Audio podcast without pictures, video presentations without illustration, because of copyright clearance. Big step forward to get an agreement from the publishers not to charge for non-profit use i.e. non-commercial podcasts.
  • OER is the tool to make the curriculum cross between US states, and between levels of study. Be aware of the impact of OER are as a movement as a driver for change, to take forward a deeper learning agenda, a very important enabler for how people can work together- in the US funding in the region of billions of dollars. Is there a big change coming in the UK? Will the younger generation even understand the questions about creating OER?


  • Dr Peter McDonald, Fellow of St Hugh’s and Tutor in English, University of Oxford
  • Prof. David Robertson, – Professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations , Vice Principal and Tutorial Fellow in Politics at St Hugh’s College, University of Oxford
  • Marianne Talbot, Lecturer in philosophy, Department for Continuing Education, University of Oxford
  • Prof. Andy Lane, OpenLearn, Open University
  • Fred Mednick, TeachersWithoutBorders

Session 6 Beyond 2010.

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Fred Mednick

Connecting Teachers with Content – Fred Mednick, founder of TeachersWithoutBorders, joins the conference through a WebEx connection – with constructive ‘heckling’ from the audience sharing suggestions for how to make his presentation more visible. His slides are available already on SlideShare.

How can we know what the future holds for OER?

How can we know what the future holds for OER?

Session 5 Beyond 2010.

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Tim Unwin

Beyond 9Tim Unwin, UNESCO, is stranded at an airport in Finland, so he has recorded and sent a video to the conference organisers while his slides are presented in the room. Tim is speaking on “Open Educational Resources and ICT for Development” – he examines why are OERs not more widely used by people in Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) when intuitively they should be so valuable? Tim draws on experiences with:

Physical infrastructures are blamed for failure to develop OER, but these are NOT the real issues. There are bigger challenges: changes in personnel (not sustained leadership), diversity of funding mechanisms, time commitments, failure to understand ‘meanings’ e.g. ICT4D more than just computers in labs. Some realities of experiences in Africa include:

  • the structures and financing of African universities including issues surrounding new private universities
  • traditional didactic model of teaching
  • intellectual elitism – is it really serving the development needs of the people?
  • dependent mentailities (‘Where is the next grant coming from?’)
  • HE is based on individual gain and benefits rather than communal good
  • fundamental questions about the quality of the content. Tim challenges the audience to ‘think about what makes good content?’

But the projects have been more succesful in the area of African story-telling – an interactive, shared learning experience. So how do we use collaborative learning resources to share stories?

Some other links from Tim’s presentation: [links to follow]

  • UNESCO OER story providers
    • OER providers
      • BCcampus, Canada (Paul Stacey)
      • Digital Learning Pathway, Italy (Leonardo Tosi)
      • Free Courseware Project, University of the Western Cape, South Africa (Philipp Schmidt)
      • Klagenfurt OpenCourseWare, Austria (Thomas Pfeffer)
      • Knowledge Hub, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico (J. Vladimir Burgos Aguilar)
      • New Zealand OER Project (Richard Wyles)
      • OpenER, Open University of the Netherlands (Robert Schuwer)
      • OpenLearn, The Open University, UK (Laura Dewis)
      • Qedoc (James McCormack)
      • SCOLA pilot, Italy (Giusy Cannella)
      • SLIDESTAR, Europe (Volker Zimmermann)
      • WikiEducator, Commonwealth of Learning (Wayne Mackintosh)
  • Other OER stakeholders
    • African Virtual University (Philise Rasugu)
    • OLCOS, Europe (Ildiko Mazar)
  • Stories of personal OER creation and useConnexions:
    • Kitty Schmidt-Jones, USA
    • National University of Rwanda (Gerald Rwagasana)

“We have much to learn from our African brothers and sisters…”

Session 4 Beyond 2010.

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Oxford OER case studies

beyond4“I’m global NUMBER ONE of the download chart [for the whole of iTunes-U]? How many does that mean – 20 downloads this week, 100? 18,000 a week! Completely humbling! I hope that’s 18,000 people that I’ve turned on to philosphy” Marianne Talbot

In a change from the published programme, the panel of Open Content (OER) Case Studies from Oxford moves to before lunch (to accommodate the video link this afternoon to the US for the stranded speaker).

beyond5The panel is introduced by Peter Robinson (manager of the Oxford OpenSpires project). The University of Oxford speakers are:

  • Marianne Talbot, Lecturer in philosophy, Department for Continuing Education, example iTunes-U link. Marianne reads from her ‘fan-mail’, it is “really rather heartening to get such a broad range of feedback from across the world”.
  • Dr Emma Smith, Lecturer in English, Faculty of English Language and Literature. Recorded lectures on iPod with a microphone, to make available for the University’s undergraduates who were unable to attend her lectures. The secondary (worldwide) audience was not actually considered. The danger for the primary audience is that attendance at lectures may drop – as students listen to the podcasts instead. Link to sample lecture.
  • Dr Tristram Wyatt, Senior Research Associate, Department of Zoology. Tristram speaks about sustainability – about a project coming out of continuing education (‘extension’), online study skills course – and illustrates the difficulties experienced when trying to continue with a podcasting project, rather than an individual recording
  • Professor Martin Kemp – Emeritus Research Professor of the History of Art: Martin was fundamental in developing OpenSpire’s OER licence in order for the academic to retain control of their content. Martin mentions ‘La Bella Principessa’, a profile portrait of a Milanese lady, a newly rediscovered work by Leonardo Da Vinci, in a podcast in which he explains the roles of himself, Pascal Cotte, and others including Paul Biro, in attributing this radiant and exciting picture to Leonardo da Vinci. Link to mp3. Martin also explains about the role of podcasting in profile raising for an academic publishing and trying to attract speaking and other media engagements.

Peter plays a short inspirational video about Oxford University’s involvement in podcasting.

Peter talks about the motivation for Oxford:

  • The University has an impressive track record – OpenSpires builds upon significant investment already made in the creation and publication of digital content like iTunes-U ( and
  • Accessibility and outreach – it improves the accessibility and outreach of the high calibre teaching and research materials available at Oxford
  • A use of technology that reflects what is unique about Oxford, ‘it is a use of technology which reflects the individuality of Oxford – an institution that is research-led and focussed on content creation’
  • High calibre material of global importance
  • Fits with Oxford’s strategic mission, objectives and values e.g. ‘enriching the international, national and regional communities through the fruits of its research, the skills of its alumni, and the publishing of academic and educational materials’.

Some links:

Questions and comments from the floor include that for podcasting to be succesful it must become embedded in institutional practices. It should also be part of the whole raising of the status of teaching and learning in general.

Session 3 Beyond 2010.

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Jan Hylén

Jan Hylén, former OECD analyst (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – a worldwide venture), joins the conference over video link from Sweden – unable to travel to the UK because of the current flight restrictions. Initially there were technical issues with the slides – but Jan could be seen and heard loud and clear in the conference room.

Giving Knowledge for Free – a new culture of openness in HE? Open source, open access, open educational resources.

To survey the OER movement in 2006-7 an email was sent (1,800 in total) to universities around the world. Only 100 responses were received, so a second attempt was made to target the educators themselves “the message spreading on the wind like an ash cloud”, with a much higher response rate: OER growing globally, initiatives and resources increasing, the highest response received from post-secondary instructors (then students and the general public). However poor user data was available because for OER initiatives to work there should not be the obstacle of registration and usernames/passwords.

Report available online: Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources, issued in May 2007.

A follow-up study in 2008 shows an increase in number of resources between 35%-300%, and visitors up between 50%-100%. Earlier, OER were a grass-roots movement, but by 2008 institution-based initiatives were common. Users of MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) are typically: well-educated; self-learners (or professionals – for vocational subjects, medicine etc.); with a significant proportion from North America. Teachers are using OER to supplement their work – its flexibility and quality was a key for this. Teachers were using only part of the learning materials – fitting this into their teaching. Obstacles to use included lack of time/skills, and lack of a reward system for contributing to or making use of these new kinds of resources. Jan outlined the motivations for governments/institutions/individuals producing and sharing resources. E.g. institutional include:

  • academic ethos to share knowledge
  • making better use of taxpayers’ money
  • like the open-source software movement sharing resources can mean another will develop the resource further and then you can make use of that improved resource
  • from a PR perspective, some students chose their institution because they had seen these OER in the ‘shop-window’.

Challenges to the OER movement include quality and time. A caveat re. IPR is that using the Creative Commons non-commercial clause is problematic for the future – e.g. in a mixed environment where OER is trying to be used along with commerical resources may lead to difficulties (e.g. accidental lock-in). Jan’s OER sustainability check-list includes the study of different revenue/cost-recovery models (which must be appropriate to local needs).

Session 2 Beyond 2010.

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Andy Lane

beyond11Andy Lane, Director of OpenLearn, one of the Open University’s major open learning initiatives: speaking about “Content, Collaboration and Innovation: Past, Present and Future”.

Why make educational resources open? Among a range of motivations is that OER can bridge the gap between formal and informal learning – something that the Open University Vice Chancellor, Martin Bean, emphasised at the recent JISC 2010 conference – PDF and video of that keynote available on that conference website. Andy explains that for this to work (to bridge informal and informal learning) the learner must come first. Content is the hook as is flexibility – students can mix and match (e.g. studying modules out of interest, even if it doesn’t fit into their formal timetable), and they can pace their learning.

Other mentions: OpenLearn LearningSpace VLE based on Moodle, with significant Open University investment, with reworking of material delivered to students; Openlearn’s future website architecture involves pulling-in content from itunes-U and YouTube Edu (‘short form’ content) to supplement OpenLearn ‘long form’ content for students and educators. Different parts of Openlearn for each.

Session 1 Beyond 2010.

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Melissa Highton

beyond 6beyond 10

Melissa Highton welcomed everyone to the start of the Beyond 2010 conference.

Melissa is head of the Learning Technologies Group (the LTG), Oxford University Computing Services (OUCS).

The recent events in Iceland has made it impossible for three of our speakers to join us in person. Particularly appropriately for a learning technology conference, the speakers will be able to join us via video link. Melissa said she was grateful to the speakers who have gone ‘the extra mile’ for us, while not being able to go any extra miles. We also have live twitter (‘hash’ tag: #beyond2010) feeds and live blogging.

After some housekeeping, Melissa then introduced the OpenSpires project and the context in which the project has been operating over this last year.

Funding from JISC and HEFCE, has made it possible for the project to work moving the Oxford podcasting activity… which was already public and free… towards being the publication of open educational resources (OER).

Melissa then talked about the open educational resources movement, and about openness and access in Oxford; how a closed physical environment co-exists with a deep commitment to publication, communication and the dissemination of new knowledge.

“And for me, podcasting, by staff and by students is part of the new knowledge creation and publication process and the choices we make about the platforms we use to communicate, to make our content discoverable and the licences we choose is very much apart of being digitally literate.” Melissa Highton

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