moocs, oer, open access and badges

badgeCelebrate the  3rd annual Open Education Week 10-15 March, 2014.

The purpose of Open Education Week is raise the profile of open educational resources (OER) and the global movement of people and organisations behind them. It is also a time to highlight the crucial role that Creative Commons licenses play in making OER possible.

This is something I am always happy to do.

And so are two of our Pro-Vice Chancellors:

 “We have not adopted Massive Open Online Courses but, again, our own ambition is greater…. visit the University’s site on iTunesU and download one of the free podcasts covering courses from all our academic divisions…..– the site has attracted more than 21.5m downloads from 185 countries. We license thousands of lectures and other resources for reuse through Creative Commons.”
“Sally Mapstone, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) and Ian Walmsley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) in the FT

The relationship between MOOCs and OER was something I explored with a group of Oxford colleagues (teaching staff, librarians and postgraduates) at the Radcliffe Science Library last week.

In his October Oration 2013 the Vice Chancellor mentioned that Oxford University was keeping a watching eye on the emerging global phenomenon of massive open online courses (MOOCs). In this session Melissa Highton, Director of Academic IT, will give an overview of MOOCs: What they are; why they may be of interest; how they relate to what we already do at Oxford and opportunities they offer with regard to openness.
Open Access: MOOCS and Open Educational Resources (Thu 6 Mar)

We explored the various interpretations of the letters in both acronyms and wondered whether they were mutually exclusive or a subset of one another. For me, and at Oxford, the distinction is in the terminal letter: courses and resources. Courses for study, resources for (re-)use. We have led the way in publishing open resources, we have shied away from massive courses*.

We talked about the drivers and motivations for  universities in becoming involved in MOOCs and OER. We talked about ‘disruptive technology’, ‘killer apps’, ‘tipping points’ and ‘technology hype cycles’.


We talked about the ‘scary monster’ representations of MOOCs and considered the nature of threat.

“Just the latest to exercise those in the upper echelons of the University are MOOCs, which sound like some primeval megalosaurus whiffling though the tulgy wood, but are actually Massive Open Online Courses. The question, which I leave to wiser heads, is whether MOOCs are manxome foes to be sought out vorpal sword in hand, or opportunities to be embraced as a beamish boy.” Proctors, 2013

To compare and contrast we considered the ‘serious and worthy’ language around OERs such as the Capetown Declaration of 2007.

“Educators worldwide are developing a vast pool of educational resources on the Internet, open and free for all to use. These educators are creating a world where each and every person on earth can access and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge. They are also planting the seeds of a new pedagogy where educators and learners create, shape and evolve knowledge together, deepening their skills and understanding as they go.”

I wondered what it would mean to ‘disrupt’ Oxford and the audience in the room enjoyed this quote from C.S Lewis:

“People talk about the Oxford manner and the Oxford life and the Oxford god knows what else, as though the undergraduates had anything to do with it.  The real Oxford is a close corporation of jolly untidy, lazy, good for nothing, humorous old men who have been electing their successors ever since the world began and who intend to go on with it. They’ll squeeze under the revolution or leap over it when the time comes, don’t you worry.”

I touted a couple of truisms to see how they would be accepted:

  • The more we remove barriers to access, the more open a thing becomes.
  • The more open a thing is, the more it is used.

johnson40-dur-0001-0I offered my audience  a pod of  Seven Ps to judge qualities of openness.**

  • Price
  • Pace
  • Place
  • Prerequisites
  • Permissions (legal and moral)
  • Proprietariness
  • Power

The latter part of the session was spent considering the opportunities which the proliferation of MOOCs offer to us in our work as practitioners engaged in open practice.

“Oxford’s restless spirit of inquiry and exploration that explains the longevity of the institution and of its pre-eminence. So the new can hold few fears for us, especially when, as with the digital revolution, it is viewed not as the enemy of what has gone before but its ally and partner.” VC Oration 2013

We discussed how we can take advantage of MOOCs  in staff development, student development, language development, supplements and bridging, and re-use of our collections.

This, I think, is the really interesting challenge. At Oxford we are happy to publish our own materials for re-use by others. Now that others are offering whole courses to us, what use will we make of them?

*There is plenty of ongoing activity in small group and targeted online learning at Oxford  particularly in areas of continuing education and bridging.

**I have since added another one, but that can wait for my next presentation. Angela did say I would be invited back.

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