Gearing up for scalable OERu operations

Posted by Wayne Mackintosh on 6 March 2014

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The OERu is entering the next phase of its development to gear up for scalable operations building on our experiences from the prototype phase during 2012 and 2013. Preparing for this growth requires the development of a number of infrastructure components identified during the second meeting of OERu anchor partners to facilitate smooth planning for OERu operations and delivering on our top priority of developing product for the OERu programme of study.  The OERu favours incremental design where development activities are small enough to fail but when aggregated they inform decision-making for a scalable and adaptive system. For this reason, the OERu continues to incorporate demonstrator projects to inform ongoing development.

OERu Newsletter: March 2014

Building the OERu Infrastructure components
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The OERu is establishing a number of working groups to progress the development of key infrastructure components for our future operations. The conveners of each working group will join the OERu Management Committee who will meet virtually every six weeks.  True to the OER Foundation’s open planning philosophy, the meetings of the OERu Management Committee will be broadcast live using Google Hangouts On Air with a recording for those who are unable to attend synchronously.

These working groups will generate guidelines for the design and development of OERu courses incorporating a streamlined process for course approvals contributing to the OERu programme of study as well as operational guidelines to maximise credit transfer and course articulation within the network. As an open collaboration, we welcome volunteers to assist with these tasks and you can sign up for any of the workgroups in the wiki.

Innovative credit-by-exam demonstrator
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Thomas Edison State College (TESC) is taking a leadership role in developing an end-of-course assessment for the upcoming UNISA OERu course on Critical Reasoning.  Learners will be able to work through the independent study materials as self-paced learners and take the final assessment anticipated to cost just over $100. These learners will earn actual college credit toward their degrees. With this initiative, TESC plan to demonstrate the value proposition of the OERu model by offering a full-tuition version of the OERu course including faculty facilitation hosted on the TESC learning management system (Moodle) on a full-fee basis. Unisa also hosts a full-tuition version of this OERu course for their own learners towards formal degrees, using myUnisa (an implementation of Sakai).

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This demonstrator will establish the foundations to progress a parallel mode implementation where two (or more) OERu partner institutions offer a full-tuition version of an OERu course in parallel with free OERu learners. The technologies for offering an OERu course using this parallel-mode were trialled during the Scenario Planning for Educator’s micro Open Online Course hosted by the University of Canterbury last year. The OER Foundation is discussing opportunities with our OERu partners to expand the demonstrator for parallel-mode delivery.  

The Unisa / TESC initiative is an exemplary model of “South-North” collaboration within the OERu family. Offering courses in parallel mode provides full-tuition students at OERu partners with an intercultural learning experience given the large number of international students from many countries that the open online courses hosted on WikiEducator typically attract. OERu learners will benefit from peer-to-peer learning interactions with students participating in the full-tuition versions of OERu courses.     

Institutional and national OERu meetups
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Coinciding with the 2014 Open Education Week activities, Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) is hosting an OERu event for faculty and staff on 10 March 2014 to discuss new developments in Open Learning, Open Educational Resources and KPU's involvement in the OERu collaboration. Charles Sturt University is convening an implementation planning meeting for the Australian OERu partners scheduled for 11 April 2014. The OER Foundation is also planning an implementation meeting for the New Zealand partners. We will be post summary reports of these meetings.  

Technology
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The OER Foundation was selected as a mentor organisation for this year’s Google Summer of Code (GSoC). This is a commendable achievement for the OERu family, being one of only forty five new mentors selected, taking into account that the world’s leading open source projects are represented as mentor organisations.  Prospective GSoC candidates are submitting proposals for software projects to improve the WikiEducator and OERu delivery technology.  

OER Foundation partners with European eMundus project

The OER Foundation is a contributing partner in the European Commission's eMundus project which aims to explore the potential of open education approaches including OER, MOOCs and virtual mobility.  

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Under the leadership of the MENON European research and innovation network, a consortium of universities from Europe, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia and the OER Foundation based in New Zealand are working to foster the growth of long-term international partnerships where universities cooperate based on their capacity, not only to attract international students, but to collaborate and share experiences with counterpart universities using open approaches. OERu partner institution, Athabasca University is also a contributing partner. This project will be of particular interest to the OERu network by providing opportunities to connect with our European colleagues in finding solutions for learner mobility using open online courses.

Athabasca University is hosting a series of noon webinars (Central European Time) profiling aspects of the eMundus project during Open Education Week 2014. Each day from 10 to 14 March 2014. You can join a free online session at: http://connect.athabascau.ca/oew2014 (Download poster)