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Open and Informal: Opening up The Open University
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Open and Informal: Opening up The Open University


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The Open University is exploring the development of pathways between more open and informal learning and formal learning, and is changing the nature of audience and learner interaction and …

The Open University is exploring the development of pathways between more open and informal learning and formal learning, and is changing the nature of audience and learner interaction and participation, through the creative use of open educational resources and different media channels. Developing from the University’s main hosting website for open educational resources (, the OU is extending its reach into Africa, as well as transforming teaching and learning practice in the UK. Other media channels (e.g. YouTube and ITunesU) allow us to explore how to engage different audiences in different ways to bring them into the educational sphere. Within the Institute, we have large projects running which also bring learning to wider audiences, allowing us to understand much more about how learners work with open educational resources, both in terms of consumption and creation, allowing them to cross many apparent boundaries between formal, informal, non-formal content, learner and teacher, guide and mentor, personal and institutional.

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  • Where the OU operates: different audiences, different media This is very challenging
  • We need to be able to make people aware, get them to engage, convert interest to registration, and then retain them as students to achieve their goals
  • To be where people are with appropriate material To understand different audiences To make learning enjoyable For content to be open to view, but also to adapt and share For access to be free So how have we gone about this?
  • BBC has helped in the ‘awareness’ domain. Our 40 year relationship with the BBC is still the foundation stone for providing access to learning in people’s homes . 210 m views of OU programmes in the UK last year across wide range of channels and subjects Working with BBC internationally – especially with BBC World Service – on programmes like Digital Planet in excess of 1bn events where someone sat down and watched or listened to an OU programme. Most of this material is ephemeral
  • With the iPlayer we can provide greater permanence and choice for users – with BBC/OU co-productions available to UK audiences for free for weeks on end. But OU is keen to find ways to reach new learners in new ways on their terms.
  • Last year the OU was one of first UK universities to join iTunesU. Like iPlayer it’s free and provides high quality content – but unlike iPlayer it provides access to an international audience and all the content stays up permanently . We’ve now added many hours of materials– across subjects as diverse as the history of art, cosmology, Buddhism and quantum mechanics. We’re consistently in the top 3 or four download of most subject categories – and nearly always featured in their picks of the day – alongside Yale, Harvard and MIT. We’re just about to pass 10 million downloads – now running at about 376,000 downloads a week – or about one every two seconds. More than 80% of those users are coming to us from outside of the UK.
  • Unlike a lot of other suppliers to iTunesU – we’re not just recording the output of our lectures – most of the our material is adapted from our courses – and we don’t lecture but we do produce extremely well crafted educational ‘TV’. But its not all video - we’re also developing a range of interactive applications – for years we sent out physical microscopes but now we’re developing interactive microscopes – allow users to look at virtual slide samples on their phones – even while out on geology or botany field trips.
  • Not only iTunes, but also our own podcasting site and of course YouTube – where we have our own channel. Largest e-University – and now also largest presence on in Europe. One of our 30 second clips has exceeded 0.5 million views and even made YouTube’s main site pick of the day. Free content – not jot just linear AV media – but text, interactive materials like the microscope and data as well. Interested in data visualisation – several researchers looking at IBM's Collaborative User Experience who explore information visualizations that help people collectively make sense of data. And of course across a series of devices – yes TV, and computers – increasingly mobiles – but also novel devices – currently working With MS labs Cambridge on several projects around new collaborative, multi-touch devices like the surface table.
  • It is key that we get into space and places where people already are - we’ve also been aggregating this free content into one great learning space – called openlearn. OpenLearn one of largest free open educational portals for HE anywhere in the world.. Over the last three years we’ve delivered - over 6000 hours of study materials from our existing course provision Over 6 million visitors , 90% new to the OU , more than 50% international. And we’re now ensuring these course units are enhanced with embedded videos from YouTube – with a new look, more chatty and topical front end to all our free learning materials. BEST of all, like everything we’ve shown – it’s ….
  • And its Free! To use, download, register, comment, rate – for users exploit and share in their own educational context. Our commitment to OERs and supporting networked learning in UK is now an important part of our social mission – but as you’ll have noticed – many of our users are outside of the UK – and one of the areas we’re particularly excited about the impact of OERs through our partnership work in Africa.
  • Deploying a similar approach to OpenLearn –TESSA is a Free and Open Educational Resource Project – aimed at supporting in-service training for teachers across sub Saharan Africa. Developed with the kind support of the The Allan & Nesta Ferguson Trust, Production of original OERs (study units) to support school-based teacher learning With over 1200 teacher educators now familiar with the materials And Over 350,000 students engaging with TESSA materials – being trained through partner institutions.
  • And it couldn’t work without that partnership …. It’s an international consortium of 18 institutions – across 9 countries across SubSaharan Africa participating in production and localisation of the core materials. Together – and its only been possible to do this together – we have jointly made over 2,250 activities to support teacher development. And we have nine country versions of that content translated across 5 languages (Arabic, English, French, isi-Xhosa and Kiswahili).  But also – truly localized to reflect, not just in the language – but in style, examples and illustrations the different national and cultural contexts. 
  • And we now want to start build on our experience of working in collaboration on teacher education but now in the field of health care. Ethiopia’s largely rural population of over 80 million has poor health status relative to other low-income countries Maternal and infant mortality are among the highest in the world Only 6% of births in Ethiopia are attended by a skilled professional – the lowest rate in the world. About 12% of children die of curable and treatable diseases before they are 5. Over the next few years we will be working closely with, initially Ethiopian Government, UNICEF and other health care professionals and partners in the region to develop a range of freely accessible health related training materials. The aim is to help Ethiopia meet the WHO’s Millennium Development Goals to reduce child mortality by two-thirds and maternal mortality by three-quarters by 2015. Perhaps one of the most pressing cases of a need for good access to learning any where in the world? ·        
  • Across many of the social networking applications, we can now support a much wider range of audiences on the long tail – who were increasingly discovering, recommending, and linking the OU on a range of platforms and media outlets. Its not all about what the institution can do by itself…
  • Brilliant example of how we can involve ordinary folk in exciting learning and research But where is this taking us? How are we approaching future development?
  • The organising role for pedagogy has helped us to use media in complementary ways to support learning and teaching. We are always looking for ways of increasing levels of interaction, and raising student autonomy. Bears some relation to Tapscott’s 1998 shift from broadcast to interactive media – but we always made even our broadcast and print media interactive – now we are looking to make them more participative How does this work?
  • This work is very helpful – we have already taken the ecological approach to media use – we have been looking at the cultural communities that grow around them, and observing the activities they support. We have done this extensively for OpenLearn, we are doing it now for ITunesU and UTube
  • Shaping audiences as we go, providing a pathway towards greater participation. What does this mean for learners? These are not only different audiences, they are potentially different cultures.
  • It potentially creates problems for learners From passive consumption to active participation From taking what you’re given to personalising, editing, modifying and creating From closed to open learning From solitary working to sharing From informal to formal learning – or not! From being a learner to being a teacher
  • We are committed to understanding and exploring the relations between people, technology/media and learning. But we are also interested in the emergent second order concepts – we are looking at communities that cohere around different platforms/media Quality community depends on trust – trust is particularly important in distance education And trust supports open sharing which is also very important The confidence to participate depends on all this
  • Transcript

    • 1. Open and Informal: Opening up The Open University Josie Taylor Director Institute of Educational Technology
    • 2. Henry Jenkins
      • "If it were possible to define generally the mission of education, it could be said that its fundamental purpose is to ensure that all students benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully in public, community, [Creative] and economic life." -- New London Group
      • Henry Jenkins’ blog (accessed 21 December 2009)
    • 3. The Open University
    • 4. Challenge for the OU: People
    • 5. Challenge for the OU: Media
    • 6. Science at the OU
    • 7. Science at the OU
    • 8.
    • 9.
    • 11.  
    • 12. Free to browse | Free to register | Free to use | Free to adapt | Free to share
    • 13.  
    • 14.  
    • 15.  
    • 16.  
    • 17. openlearn KNOWLEDGE World Service Global News
    • 18. Where are we going? TV YouTube Facebook Twitter Bloggers o p enlearn iTunesU Podcasting SecondLife iSpot
    • 19. TV YouTube Facebook Twitter Bloggers o p enlearn iTunesU Podcasting SecondLife iSpot
    • 20. TV YouTube Facebook Twitter Bloggers o p enlearn iTunesU Podcasting SecondLife iSpot
    • 21. TV YouTube Facebook Twitter Bloggers o p enlearn iTunesU Podcasting SecondLife iSpot
    • 22. TV YouTube Facebook Twitter Bloggers o p enlearn iTunesU Podcasting SecondLife iSpot
    • 23. TV YouTube Facebook Twitter Bloggers o p enlearn iTunesU Podcasting SecondLife iSpot
    • 24. TV YouTube Facebook Twitter Bloggers o p enlearn iTunesU Podcasting SecondLife iSpot
    • 25. TV YouTube Facebook Twitter Bloggers o p enlearn iTunesU Podcasting SecondLife iSpot
    • 26. … . … to guide media use, development and integration 1970's 1980's 1990's 2000's Broadcast course related Television Interactive Print media Broadcast course related Radio Tutors f2f /phone/ post Broadcast course related Television Interactive Videocassette Broadcast course related Radio Interactive Audiocassette Interactive Print media Interactive Videocassette Interactive Audiocassette Interactive integrated Multimedia Print media Outreach TV A/V digital media social media Web 2.0 Support media conferencing/ email Tutors f2f /phone/ post Tutors f2f /phone/ post Support media conferencing/ email Non course related TV (outreach) Internet/ Web 1.0 On-line and postal delivery Interactive integrated Multimedia Disk-based media and postal delivery Support media conferencing/ email Broadcast and postal delivery Broadcast and postal delivery Print media Tutors f2f /phone/ post Web 3.0 and beyond Virtual Worlds Mobile technology
    • 27. Members feel some connection – they care Contribute when you want
    • 28. Ecological approach
      • interrelationship among all the different communication technologies
      • the cultural communities that grow up around them
      • the activities they support.
      • Interactivity is a property of the technology, while participation is a property of culture.
    • 29. Platform Faculty Other Broadcast BBC UK Research iSpot SecondLife Newton YouTube iTunesU Twitter Facebook Google etc OpenLearn/ SocialLearn [email_address] Retain Convert Aware Engage Courses Intranet, Student & Tutor Home
    • 30. Challenge for learners Personal development or major cultural shift?
    • 31. Informal learning cultures…
      • Why do people learn more, participate more actively, engage more deeply with popular culture than they do with the contents of their textbooks?
      James Paul Gee (2009)
    • 32. Affinity Spaces: James Paul Gee (2009)
    • 33. Gee’s distinctions
      • Formal education system
      • Conservative
      • Static
      • Structures to sustain are institutional
      • Remain little changed over long periods of time
      • Communities are bureaucratic and often national
      • Does not allow for easy movement in and out
      • Informal affinity space
      • Experimental
      • Innovative
      • Structures to sustain are provisional
      • Can respond to short-term needs and temporary interests
      • Communities are ad hoc and localised
      • Allows for easy moves in and out of informal learning communities
    • 34.  
    • 35. SocialLearn
      • This work is at the heart of our SocialLearn project
      • Understanding communities
      • Understanding how to move people along through various culture shifts toward and through higher education
      • Supporting them to achieve their short-term and long-term goals – at a national scale
    • 36. Acknowledgements
      • Henry Jenkins’ blog (accessed 21 December 2009)
      • James Gee, Situated Language and Learning: A Critique of Traditional Schooling . New York: Routledge, 2004.
      • Andrew Law, Peter Scott, Patrick McAndrew, Grainne Conole, The Open University