Opal case study 01 open learn uk


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Opal case study 01 open learn uk

  1. 1. Authored by Andreia Inamorato dos Santos for OPAL OPENLEARN The Open Educational Resources Initiative of the Open University United Kingdom 1. Summary OpenLearn is the name given to the open educational resources (from now on OER) initiative of the Open University of the United Kingdom. The initiative was generously supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which since 2005 has been investing in supporting the dissemination and implementation of the OER movement around the world. Hewlett Foundation’s funding of $10 million (US dollars) was provided to fund 2 years of the project (2006-2008). OpenLearn was launched in October 2006 as an Action Research Project, with the aim to provide free of charge access to university level content. The OpenLearn initiative was very much in line with the Open University (abbreviated OU) mission of being open as to people, places, methods and ideas. By making available high quality content online, the University would be widening the access to its content by people all over the world, with different motivations to using OER. OpenLearn committed to make available 5% of the OU content by the end of the second year of funding. It meant that more than 4000 study hours were made available in OpenLearn, in 11 subject areas and at different levels (entry level, undergraduate and masters’ levels). The funding period provided by Hewlett Foundation has now come to and, but the OpenLearn activities continue. The OU has decided to feed part of its course production directly into OpenLearn, which means that content in OpenLearn is constantly uploaded. Besides incorporating OpenLearn to the main activities of the University, the OU has also applied for funding to UK funding bodies, which now support specific activities in the platform. An OpenLearn-related initiative is SCORE (Support Centre for Open Resources in Education), which aims to support open educational resources activities in the UK. 2. The learning environment 1
  2. 2. Authored by Andreia Inamorato dos Santos for OPAL OpenLearn is based on Moodle, the virtual learning environment (VLE) the OU adopts for its online courses. Moodle is open source, so it is in line with the philosophy supporting OER, which is open access. OpenLearn was created so that it would provide 2 twin websites: The Learning Space and the LabSpace. They are twin websites because the content made available as OER by the OU is reproduced in both sites. However, the websites were thought as to serve specific audiences. 2.1 The LearningSpace Figure 1: OpenLearn’s LearningSpace The Learning Space is a space primarily designed for learners. In there the learner can find OU content in different subject areas, and they can also create a profile and join a unit (word for ‘course’ in OpenLearn). The content can be downloaded, saved and printed if the learner prefers to read away from the computer screen. It is also possible to keep a learning journal and to take part in discussion forums related to 2
  3. 3. Authored by Andreia Inamorato dos Santos for OPAL the unit they are studying or more broad discussion forums in their subject area of interest. Learners can also personalise their learning environment by using the MyLearningSpace tool, which enables them to organise the units they are registered in and to keep up-to-date with the discussion forums they joined, all through a learning toolkit provided. In the Learning Space the learners also have access to tools that support learning, such as Compendium, a mind mapping software, and FM (previously known as Flashmeeting), a web-based video conference tool all for free. These are tools developed by the OU itself. Learners can also create Learning Clubs, and develop their own community of peer virtual learners, interested in similar subject areas. 2.2 The LabSpace Figure 2: OpenLearn’s LabSpace 3
  4. 4. Authored by Andreia Inamorato dos Santos for OPAL The LabSpace aims primarily at practitioners: teachers, lecturers and researchers. As its name suggests, it is an experimental place where users can ‘play’ with the content and tools. In the LabSpace users can also make their own content available, or can repurpose existing OpenLearn content. The idea behind repurposing content in the LabSpace is that any new content produced or repurposed would be made available as an OER, contributing to the organically growth of the repository. 2. Innovation OpenLearn has many innovative aspects: • It is a web 2.0 platform, enabling user engagement • It provides tools (e.g. Compendium and FM) that enable learners to create support groups and to build on a culture of peer learning • It offers mechanisms for users to upload their own content into the platform, serving as a repository that can be used worldwide in different contexts • It enables content to be shared cross-culturally (in different languages, such as existing content in Portuguese, Spanish etc) • It enables users to have their own ‘collaboration area’, in which they can build experimental OER activities and host community of practices 3. Quality Quality in OpenLearn was controlled in a very fluid way, mostly because the OU content available had already been quality-controlled previously to be offered in OpenLearn. The control was fluid because it was the faculty members who decided what content to offer to OpenLearn (quality controlled by academics) but then there was an academic team and editorial team working for OpenLearn, who would make recommendations in terms of suitability of the content for online delivery (not in relation to the content itself, e.g. pictures, sequence of passages etc). It is important to note that OpenLearn does not provide ‘full courses’ but stand-alone course extracts in varied lengths (from 4-15 study hours each, approximately). Distance learning teaching pedagogy was already embedded in the original content. 4
  5. 5. Authored by Andreia Inamorato dos Santos for OPAL 4. OEP practices in OpenLearn OpenLearn is pushing boundaries both in terms of OER provision and OER use. In this sense, it opens up a new perspective for open educational practices. It is forefront in terms of OER provision but also in terms of opportunities and innovative academic practices. It allows both learners and educators to interact with the website in different ways, and to use its resources for their own purposes, be it for learning or teaching. 5. Final considerations At the moment of writing this report OpenLearn is going through strategic changes. It may be that the LearningSpace will be enhanced with content of the BBC/OU open2.net website, but it has not been formalised or confirmed. Likewise, the LabSpace may go through some changes, mostly due to the work carried out by SCORE. For further information on the OpenLearn initiative of the Open University, the OpenLearn Research Report 2006-2008 covers a variety of aspects, such as: research methods, types of users, designing for open content, and modes of use. References: McAndrew, P. and Santos, A.I. et al (2009) OpenLearn Research Report 2006-2009, available at http://aisantos.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/openlearn-reserach-report.pdf. Last accessed 31st March 2010. 5