Open Education Initiatives

In a year in which there has been much discussion of how Oxford might respond to global phenomenon of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), it is wonderful to see so many thriving open education initiatives which continue to push at the boundaries and innovate in their approaches to openness online.

Sophie Kershaw, Department of Computer Science for The Open Science Training Initiative

The Open Science Training Initiative (OSTI) is a dynamic new educational scheme devised and piloted this year at the University of Oxford. It aims to address the problem of reproducibility in modern scientific research, by training upcoming young researchers in the integrated use of concepts and techniques such as digital awareness, data management, version control systems and the role of the publisher. The goal, as Sophie Kershaw explained, is to train graduate students not just to be research producers, but to be research users as well.

OSTI achieves this aim through a combination of first-hand learning and mini-lectures. The course is designed to be highly portable and adaptable, with its 20-30 minute “lightning lectures” designed to slot into any existing course in the sciences. The learning process adopts a novel, rotation-based structure, in which small groups of students work in isolation on separate scientific problems. Groups must fully document their findings through releasing code, data and a written report online before handing over the problem to a successor group who must build on their work. This approach is designed to provide a simulated research environment at a pre-doctoral stage, enabling students to encounter the challenges of modern collaborative research and hence understand the need to provide the scientific community with a coherent research story that provides a sound basis for further scientific investigation.

OSTI is the first scheme of its kind in offering fully integrated training in open science as part of a subject-specific taught course and is helping Oxford to lead the way in educational provision in the field. Course materials are being released under a CC-BY (Attribution) licence as open educational resources for other institutions to use, develop and benefit from.

The course has drawn great interest from the Open community and is poised for its official launch outside Oxford in early May 2013. It has also been showcased at the following universities in California: UC Berkeley, Stanford, San Francisco State, UC San Francisco, and UC Davis.

Cleo Hanaway, Humanities Division: OpenJoyce

OpenJoyce is a collection of resources and a community around the author James Joyce. It began in Oxford and grew out of the successful Great Writers Inspire project. Cleo Hanaway is a former student ambassador on Great Writers who has recently been appointed Knowledge Exchange Officer for the Humanities Division at the University. She explained:

Our title quotation is taken from James Joyce’s 1922 novel, Ulysses: ‘A great field was to be opened up in the line of opening up.’ Following Joyce’s lead, our OpenJoyce project  is geared towards ‘opening up’ all things Joycean. Thus, being open is inherent to our development process.

Cleo combined her research on Joyce with open education and worked with programming experts to create a series of striking visualisations of Ulysses, based on word patterns, line length, and so forth. The visualisations have captured the imagination of the James Joyce community and are now being used in research and teaching across the globe.

Continuing Education Tutors Dr Steve Kershaw, Dr Pete Wyss and Dr Kate Watson: Sesame

The part-time tutors who teach on the Weekly Classes Programme of the Department for Continuing Education have been working to identify and create open educational resources (OER).

This initiative has produced a rich and sustainable collection of OER and other online resources. These are primarily aimed at adult learners and their tutors, but may also be of use to anyone who wishes to use high quality internet-based scholarly resources across a wide range of disciplines.

The work by Steve, Pete, and Kate supports the under-represented group of part-time sessional tutors in their engagement with open educational practices, and the project saw over 150 part-time tutors learn about OER for teaching and learning. However, the Department would particularly like to recognise the ongoing engagement of its weekly class tutors in creating and curating materials. The site continues to grow and now includes over 2,000 resources associated with 50 courses and 25 subject collections. Even more pleasing is the growth of the number of unique visitors to the site, which more than trebled from 4,700 in October 2012 to 16,300 in May 2013.

Other OxTALENT awards in other categories also recognised projects which produce explicitly open educational resources (OER):

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