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Activity 11 – Big OERs v Little OERs

image by Dan Bennett

In Wellers’s the openness-creativity cycle in education he talks about the concept of, and the difference between, little and big OERs.

We have been asked to write a blog post of less than 500 words on the benefits and drawbacks of big and little OER approaches.

So what are they and what is the difference? According to Weller;

Big OERs are institutionally generated ones that arise from projects such as Open Courseware and OpenLearn. These are usually of high quality, contain explicit teaching aims, are presented in a uniform style and form part of a time-limited, focused project with portal and associated research and data.
Little OERs are individually produced, low cost resources. They are produced by anyone, not just educators, may not have explicit educational aims, have low production quality and are shared through a range of third party sites and services.

Having looked at a number of OERs I think that both have their place within the world of open learning.

Big OERs obviously have the full weight and backing from a recognised institution and, in theory, will be of better quality and more likely to be accurate. Little OERs are more likely to be created by an individual so less easy to verify and the quality may be affected.

I have used a number of big and little OERs in my time as a MOOCer and find they are interchangeable. In my philosophy course for example I will use the recommended reading (Big OER) but then dip into individual’s blog (Little OER) to get a summary. The recommended reading is usually dense and complicated so it useful to read others thoughts to gain understanding.

Little OERs can be produced by anyone, academic, student or industry expert and take little or no time to produce. They may be considered “extra accessible” compared to big OERs as they are produced by individuals and perhaps less intimidating to people accessing them. Some may argue that big OERs are more academic and accurate but the little OERs are also produced by academics and experts. In addition, something can be just as valid even if it isn’t produced by an academic.

I also find that the individual can be more creative and are not governed by the same constraints as larger institutions. On the other hand larger institutions are able to produce big and little OERs. Professors and departments within an institution may produce a MOOC (big OER) but within this course lots of little OERs are produced i.e. individual blogs, discussion forums and assignments.

The little OER will continue to increase and proliferate as open learning continues to grow. Learners will also become teachers and teachers will become learners. Old lines of stuffy professor and naive student have become blurred. Social media and blogging have played the biggest role in this as it is so easy for anyone to create and “publish”.

Both types of OERs play a role in open learning and we just need to know when and how to use them.

Activity 10 – Applying sustainability models to OERs


For this activity we were asked to read On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Initiatives in Higher Education by David Wiley.

Then, look at the following open education initiatives, and for each one determine which of Wiley’s three models of sustainability you think they are operating:
Change MOOC

Consider the following:
Was the sustainability model for each OER initiative apparent?
Did Wiley’s models cover all approaches or did you think a different model was operating for one or more of them?

To start, what are the three models of sustainability?

1. The MIT Model summary
The MIT model is big as it’s aim is to publish all of it’s 1,800 courses. New courses are added and old courses are archived. To do this a large organisational structure is required and of course the budget reflects this. The average cost of producing a course is $10,000. Money is obtained via foundation and private donor support and through the creation of partnerships.

2. The USU Model
The aim here is to publish as many courses as possible. Although there are paid staff the number is a lot less than MIT and is heavily supported by student assistants and volunteers. The average cost of producing a course is $5,000 and they have obtained foundation status.

3. The Rice Model
There are no specific objectives set in terms of the amount of courses to be published. Rice Connexions is

a dynamic digital educational ecosystem consisting of an educational content repository and a content management system optimized for the delivery of educational content.

Information in the repository is not just from the host university but authors from anywhere in the world can contribute. Therefore it is simply the facilitator of the website and in a way it’s governed by those that contribute. There are no support staff and as a consequence the budget required to produce a course is low.

The above are just my summary of the models and you can read more by following the link to Wiley’s paper.

Now, which of the models do the following open education initiatives follow?

If the MIT model is based on large budgets, an extensive range of courses and a big organisational structure I would suggest that this is the model Coursera follows. It has a Leadership team, advisory board and about 38 support staff. Like MIT they have staff to work on all aspects of the operation including recruitment, software engineers, business development, and a student support specialist. They have been very successful in creating partnerships and work with over 60 universities around the world offering free courses to anyone who wants to study them. Coursera has been funded by millions of dollars in venture capital, by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers amongst others, and is beginning to look at ways of creating income. This includes career services and adding verified certificates for a fee. Essentially Coursera is a business using business models to sustain and further develop its operations.

Change MOOC
I had trouble understanding this one as it appeared to be just one course but it wasn’t clear. I would suggest this was a low budget and not micro managed. I looked at archived newsletters and there are none for 2013. Four course facilitators are mentioned but no other staff. The course appears to have ended in May 2012. I would say this is the Rice Model in some respects but in others the Rice Model seems to be more dynamic and, so far, sustainable, whereas this one appears to have died a death.

Jorum is a repository for accessing and sharing learning and teaching resources and is run by Mimas at the University of Manchester. They describe themselves as

Mimas is an organisation of experts. Our role is to support the advancement of knowledge, powering world-class research and teaching. Technology is at the heart of everything we do.

As a nationally designated data centre, we host a significant number of the UK’s research information assets. But our core expertise is building applications that enable a wide range of users to make the most of this rich resource – from students and researchers working with census data to investigate social inequalities, to scientists using satellite imagery to survey and protect our environment.

They have a directorate and management team and a large body of staff. They work with a number of partners including, the British Museum, the University of Bonn, other universities and commercial organisations. Mimas has a longstanding relationship with Jisc and together they have created and funded Jorum. Jisc is a registered charity, which works with a number of higher education institutions. Their aim is to promote the use of digital technologies. This is very much a MIT model.

Open Learn (Open University)
The Open University’s contribution to the OER movement was launched in 2006. It receives some of its funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (Hewlett, as in the founder of Hewlett Packard, and also contributed $1million to the start up of the Creative Commons project). Open Learn is essentially another portal of the Open University which is a long established and well organised body. It’s main partner is the BBC but it also has partnerships with the National Health Service, Universities and Colleges Employers Association and Confederation of British Industry. I can’t find any specific information about staffing but there is mention of an “OpenLearn team” and I imagine that with the backing of the Open University’s resources this team would not be insubstantial. Again, I would say OpenLearn follows a MIT model as it has a large staff body, is well organised, well funded and is embedded into the organisation of it’s “parent” the Open University.

I think the examples we looked at were clearly identifiable as one of Wiley’s models. They generally fell into the MIT or the Rice Model. I also believe that his models covered all the approaches. There may be cases where they are interchangeable or they evolve from a Rice to a Connexions, and then a MIT model. However, the three I identified as MIT models seem to have jumped straight to a MIT model, I assume because they are part of a reputable and long standing organisation, or in partnership with one, and because of successful funding models.

On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Initiatives in Higher Education by David Wiley.


Clarity at Last! – Creative Commons


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This week we looked at the issues of reuse in OERs. Activity 9 is;

For your blog content and other material you produce, consider which of the Creative Commons licences you would use, and justify your choice. You can post this in the forum or in your blog, remembering to use the tag #h817open.

I am glad this has come up as a topic as it is something I have been aware of and concerned about for some time. Not necessarily in relation to OERs, as this is a relatively new concept for me, but in terms of reusing things generally. I have probably committed a number of copyright offences over the years, for example by making a poster for work and using an image from Google without attribution.

There are two issues;

1. Not understanding, or knowing where to begin with, copyright laws.
2. Not caring. I don’t mean that in a mercenary way, but there is a mentality of if it’s on the Internet it must be okay as it’s in the open.

I have started to think about this more as I have undertaken MOOCs, added my photos to Flickr, and more recently started writing a blog. I am very grateful to Creative Commons as I can now obtain resources and know how I am allowed to use them and give credit where asked.

The next thing I need to think about is how I mark my work. It’s difficult because I don’t consider myself to be in a league where my “work” should be protected or marked. I am not a professional, I know my photos won’t earn me a living and my writing certainly won’t. So does it matter if people use it without any rules? Probably not, but as I spend more and more time doing something it would be nice for this to be recognised in some way. I would be so ridiculously excited if someone ever used one of my photos that I would sign my soul over to the devil. However, Creative Commons has taken the stress away as I can select the protection I need. A professional photographer can request the work is not distributed with permission and not altered in any way. Whilst I can stipulate that you can do what you like so long I get recognition. I think given the nature of what I do, take photos and write for fun and learning, the attribution license is good enough for me.

As they have made it so simple I think people are more likely to respect and adhere to the rights unlike copyright laws which are seen as faceless, corporate, incomprehensible and not applicable.


Cake = happiness. But not just any cake. As I get older I appreciate the finer things in life. My cake has to be home made (not necessarily by me) or of good quality. Don’t get me wrong I will still eat the occasional cheap mass produced cake, but it’s just not the same. I am also convinced that homemade/good quality cake is “healthier” for you.

Tonight we are having chocolate cake from our local farmer’s market. I only bought it to support local businesses you understand.


10 minute “baking”


Thank you to whoever posted this recipe. Cheap flapjacks in 10 minutes! We don’t have a proper working oven so “baking” in the microwave is ideal. They have become a firm favourite in our house. I add 2 mashed bananas and tell myself they are one of my 5 a day.

Admittedly it doesn’t look like a flapjack but I don’t have a suitable baking tray so it’s more of a flapjack cake.

We are all animals – Freud


Week 4 of Know Thyself focused on Freud and psychoanalysis. The study question I chose was

Freud claims that, “…civilization is to a large extent being constantly created anew.” (p.12 of the Scribed version of his Introductory Lectures). Please explain this remark and its significance for Freud’s view of the unconscious as it relates to human action.

Freud believed that humans are essentially driven by their instincts in particular sexual and violent ones.

Men are more moral than they think and far more immoral than they can imagine

In his book Civilisation and its Discontents (1930), he describes a tension between civilisation and the individual. The individual, left to his own devices, would follow his baser instincts, and civilisation is concerned with curbing and harnessing those instincts, eg creating laws and punishments for when the laws are broken.

He describes an irony, where civilisation is created to ensure the happiness and bringing together of people but by doing this it makes the individuals unhappy because of the rules and restrictions it imposes on them.

In his introductory lecture he goes on to say that civilisation is constantly being renewed as each time a human enters civilisation he is repeating the sacrifices (in terms of human instincts) that his forefathers did. This sacrifice is made for the good of civilisation as a whole.

However, these instincts don’t go away they are simply redirected, or as Freud calls it sublimated.

to divert the expression of (an instinctual desire or impulse) from its unacceptable form to one that is considered more socially or culturally acceptable

The problem with being human is that our impulses (he believed that the sexual impulses were the strongest of the human instincts) can’t be fully repressed and they have a habit of showing themselves through dreams or “Freudian slips” (known as parapraxes by Freud). He understands that some of these mistakes or ‘slips’ are down to genuine reasons, illness or tiredness for example. Maybe we weren’t paying attention and this is the reason for forgetting.

However, it’s not that simple. Freud also argues that we do many things without paying attention, walking or playing the piano, and not make a mistake. Also, when we forget a name, why is it so difficult to remember when we focus all our attention on it, it’s on the tip of our tongue and we remember it as soon as someone says it. We also make the same mistake over and over. In his lecture Freud uses the example of “forgetting” an appointment. Then missing it a second time because you wrote down the wrong time. Freud listed a number of different types of parapraxes, including a mishearing or a misreading. He thought that these slips were some repressed thought, wish or desire rearing its ugly head through the conscious. In his lectures he says that they are not

chance events but serious mental acts

According to Wikipedia

the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the super-ego plays the critical and moralising role; and the ego is the organised, realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego. The super-ego can stop you from doing certain things that your id may want you to do.

If you believe what Freud says it would appear that there is an continuous battle going on in our minds which we are not aware of. Occasionally this spills out in what appear to be innocent “slips” and strange dreams.

I don’t think that Freud had much faith in humanity and seemed to think that we were only a step away from rape and murder. I only hope, based on some of the weird dreams I have, that my super-ego manages to control my id!

Activity 8 -OERs, not as simple as it looks

This week we were asked to devise an outline for a 5 week course. Once the outline was completed we had to look at a selection of OERs to see if any of the available resources could be used as course content. The purpose of the task was to see if a course could be created using existing OERs, and if the resources are already out there, how useful they are. We were asked to rate the resources (G) good, (M) medium and (B) bad.

I decided to design a course on using digital skills in the classroom aimed at secondary (high) school teachers, and here are the results of my evaluation.

1. Week 1 – Introduction to using Digital Skills in a Secondary School Classroom (G) (G) (G) (G)

2. Week 2 – iPads and apps, including Edmodo and Doddle, for learning and revision.

Integrating digital skills in the classroom by Liz Wilkins, (G) (G) (G) (G)

Lots of resources here (g)

3. Week 3 – Social media in the classroom (G)

4. Week 4 – Things to consider when using “digital skills” in the classroom (G) (G)

5. Week 5 – Applying your digital skills in the classroom – practical assignment

Not applicable as this is a practical assignment where teachers write a lesson plan for their subject area. The lesson plan must include at least one digital resource ie video or social media. The plan should include an outline of the learning outcome/s expected, any issues that might arise from using the specified resource and what can be done to overcome it.

Those taking the course may notice that I don’t seem to have used any of the sources given to us, Ariadne, Jorum, Merlot, MIT, OpenLearn and Rice Connections. I became frustrated quite quickly as I couldn’t find anything useful for my course.


I turned to TED to inspire me and came across this talk by Richard Baraniuk, the man behind Connexions which is one of the OERs we were offered as a repository. It was an interesting and inspired talk but didn’t match my experience. Perhaps I was too impatient or maybe the resources for my specific topic just weren’t there.

In the end I got so cross I just searched Google and found a wealth of useful information using the same search terms. So I am afraid I just continued using this method. I had to curb myself as there was so many resources out there.

I am not saying that the repositories we were offered are bad it’s just that in this instance they were not useful to me. Whilst searching them I found a wealth of information, just nothing relevant to My course. Perhaps because they are American and not specific to the UK. Or maybe my course outlines were too specific, or I used the wrong search terms. I will be interested to see what the experiences of other #H817 students are.

In terms of the main objective of this task, can a course be created using existing materials, the answer is yes. You may have to dig around and spend a bit of time researching but this is all part of the learning process so get stuck in!

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