Science teaching resources at OER 12 Cambridge

In April the Biology Courses team presented their work about openly sharing science teaching resources at UK conferences. Following the STEM Annual Conference at Imperial College in London in April, the team then went to Cambridge for OER12 from 16th – 18th April 2012.

OER (Open Educational Resources) is an annual event and this year was co-organised with OCW (Open CourseWare Consortium) and SCORE (Support Centre for Open Resources in Education run by the Open University). This was an amazing event with delegates from all around the globe talking about open education in India, Indonesia, Africa and Brazil. Of course being held in the beautiful location of Cambridge in the UK was just a bonus.

What is Open CourseWare?

OpenCourseWare or OCW is a phrase used globally along with OER to represent the sharing of course materials on the internet. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US were the first institution to really support the wholesale release of their learning materials, and now the OCW consortium is an established organisation comprising of hundreds of schools, colleges and universities around the world.

What is SCORE?

SCORE is a support centre for open education in the UK based at the Open University. The centre offers training and support, and has funded a number of fellowships that have enabled individuals to become specialist and informed about open education. Of course, this also provides a great networking opportunity to share ideas about open education with others from all over the UK.

In the Cambridge talk, Dr Viv Rolfe spoke about the “Biology Courses” project which is releasing and openly sharing a wide range of science teaching resources. Our approach is to share our OER on specially designed websites – like the one you are on now in fact! We use on-line marketing techniques called search engine optimisation (SEO) to help our websites rank highly in Google and therefore attract visitors to the site. The talk explained our SEO strategy and how we are monitoring progress and visitor numbers. SEO is a huge technical task, and Dr Rolfe is not an expert, but in the talk summarised the main points which are of interest to the educational community.

Our websites receive thousands of visitors and from our feedback surveys it is interesting to see that our learners come in all shapes and sizes. In fact it is dangerous to assume ever who might want to view your learning materials. We reach learners of all backgrounds and ages. However, it also makes sense to target our science materials to the best audiences and we do this using social networking. We send information to Twitter groups and also have a Facebook page where particularly we link into university students and local colleges who have an interest in studying biology at university and the use of science teaching resources.

To view the slides from the Cambridge OER12 OCW Conference on 16-18th April 2012, go to Slideshare:

Open Education Research from the HALS Team

The HALS OER team have had several recent successes in sharing their work on open education to national and international communities. This includes the publishing of research articles and the acceptance of abstracts for international conferences.

Open education paper

Viv Rolfe has had a paper accepted to the journal Research in Learning Technology which describes staff perceptions of open education, and their thoughts about sharing and using materials within subject teams, across university facilities and beyond institutional walls. The paper has just been published under an open licence (Creative Commons BY 3.0). When the staff survey was conducted, open education was new at De Montfort so it will be interesting to measure changes in awareness and attitudes that have occurred since the start of our OER Projects (2009, 2010 and 2011).

V Rolfe (2012). Open educational resources: staff attitudes and awareness. Research in Learning Technology, Volume 20, 2012. Available:

Viv Rolfe and Mark Fowler have had papers accepted for OER12 – the annual open education conference to be held in Cambridge in April 2012. Viv and Mark will talk about how to establish working relationships with external partners. Masters student Libor Hurt will talk about student involvement in OER use and production. Jackie Williams will talk about midwifery open educational resources. This years Open Education conference is to be held jointly with the OpenCourseWare Consortium and is attracting international audiences.

Mark and Viv have just received funding to produce a case study describing how to establish institutional policies to promote sustainable open education practices. Their work will involve interviewing senior institutional stakeholders to establish a vision for open education within the university. Through this we will continue to promote awareness of the practice of open education, and put measures in place to provide staff training and in particular how to overcome copyright and technological barriers.