Friday, May 28, 2010

Official OER's

While reading the material for this week I was particularly intrueged by the inhibiting factors for reuse. As you know I also come from a third world- or developing country, South Africa. I can totaly identify with these factors as we deal with them every day.

The factor that is most prominent in my country is probably the one of access, and by this I mean internet and computer access. Looking at the teacher profile in our country you will find that the large majority of teachers teach in rural areas. Now you can imagine that teaching in a rural area in a third world country, you'd more than likely never seen a computer before, much less surfed the internet. This by extention relates to the average student coming to study at our University. This factor then obviously relates back to the issue of computer literacy. In my estimation Id say that les than 15% of South African people are computer literate. If you cannot operate a PC and the internet you are never going to be able to make use of OER's. It is also important to point out that teaching traditions in South Africa has for the most part remained the same. Teachers (even at higher education institutions) have remained very faithfull to the textbook. Many many courses are tought out of a textbook and there are only a few course utilising OER's to a very small degree.

In conclusion Ill have to say that OER's in third world countries will not work untill these problems are adressed. We at the dividion E-Learning at the Unversity Of The Free State are trying to adress these issues. A wonderfull oppertunity has come our way, where we are going to start a community service program in conjuction with the department of education, to start giving computer literacy classes to teachers of disadvantaged communities. The idea is that we provide them with the skills to teach their students in turn. Our goal here is to indirectly influence the quality of students that will attend our University.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Library website critique

For this weeks blog post I chose our institution's library website. This was a logical choice for me having worked in the library for two years prior to my current position at the division E-Learning at the University of the Free State. While working at the library I had to help students navigate the webpage and the online repositories. Lets have a look at some screen shots of the pages and decide wether this library page is a repository or referactory site.

On this page we can see the resources available online. There is a search engine that looks like this:

The search paramaters are narrow but effective in findinhg what you want. As in the blog post ( we find that there are no mention of teaching materials or open educational resources.

Next we have a look at the terms and conditions of use of content. These T & C are obviously influenced by copyright rules and as you can see limits you greatly in the use of the content.

Once one agrees to the T & C you are taken to a page where databases and online journals repositories are housed. This means that this specific library website is indeed a referactory site that guides users to learning repositories like EBSCO Host and the like.

In my opinion the website is satisfactory to the level of online and computer skills the average student on our campus posess. Looking out of a lecturer's point of view who needs to create course material it is a different story. The copyright restrictions placed on the materials found through this refractory site virtually prohibits lecturers from re-using the content in their course material.

Friday, May 14, 2010


In my readings for this week I became aware of the reuse of learning objects or content for learning. This is not somthing entirely new to me. As some of the readings suggested, this reuse or mashing up of content originally began in music. Being a dj myself, I have over the years also made my fair share of mashups. I would take a song with no vocal and layer an accapella over the top (my newest one here: )This ofcourse brings up licensing and trademark issues, but my argument is that I am not making any money out of this and do it purely for my enjoyment.

As far a s reuseabilty in my own institution goes, it could be better. As we read this week, the reuse of objects depend to a large extent on the file type of the content. this means that the file should in a sense be "open" in nature to allow maximum reuse. At my institution all files uploaded on the lerning management system are pdf's. The reason being that not all computers on campus has the same version of Microsoft Office installed and this means that the file will open on one PC, but not on the next one. This obviously has huge implications for reuseability as we all know that one can not alter a pdf document.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Learning Objects

In the readings for this week I noticed that Open Educational Resources and Learning Objects are very similar. Both are intangible electronic documents (videos, pdf, audio recordings) that can be accessed to facilitate learning. What became apparent is, the difference between the two lies in the copyright or licences that protect them.

These copyrights and licences in my opinion is the reason behind the downfall of Learning Objects. It became clear to me that educators/students who were interested in using these learning objects had to go through quite a lot of trouble to actually acquire the rights to use the learning object in question. This in turn made people negative toward the use there off and it slowly died out.

OER's differ in this instance where they are protected under different sub-divisions of the creative commons license and is infinately easier to use and use legally. One may even change and add to the work as long as there is no financial gain (fair use).

Another area that is of particular interest to me was the part on sustainability. For me a part of the downfall of Learning Objects was the difficult meta data technique of organising material in the repositories. With OER things are easier. Every person in the world is able to tag an object. After writing this post I will also tag it, making it easier for someone interested in OER to find it and use it. Sites like Diigo, Delicious and more are all based on the principle of social bookmarking. These types of sites are extremely valuable in OER as they replace the need for complex meta data organisation of content and in my opinion raises the sustainability of OER.

That's my two cents and understanding, please feel free to correct me or comment!

Have a cracking weekend!


Friday, April 30, 2010

Copyrighted work and OER

After reading this weeks material it has become clear to me that there is two sides to these different licenses. One might even say that it is a necesary evil

On the one hand I can see the value of the creative commons licences in freeing up the material for people right accross the globe to use and re-use. It also places some restrictions on how, where and when one might use the material. This is were the two sides I mentioned earlier comes in.

On the one hand it protects the author or creator of the material to some extent, for example fair use of material. On the other hand it might place undue and confusing restrictions on the work (I know I was initially very confused)and some individuals might think it easier just to copyright the work and be done with it.

In my opinion these licenses are a good thing, if they are used in the right instances and do not work against the ideal they are trying to uphold

Friday, April 23, 2010

My take on Open Educational Resources (Definitions)

In this post I will give a short overview of what I believe to be the definitions for the terms Open, Education and Resource in the context of this module.

In my readings I have come to understand that the term "open" has a lot of sides to it. For me, in my context, it boils down to two major aspects that influence the degree of openness; namely technical characteristics and social characteristics.
In the first instance, technical constraints such as inter-operability of networks, uncompatible formats of documents and unavailability of technical specifications will limit the degree of openness. I've found that in our South African context the state of our hardware availability (eg. computer access and slow bandwidth) also play a role in the openness of content. For example, slow bandwidth will prohibit a student from watching a video. For all intensive purposes the video will be posted by its creator to be open and freely available to everyone accross the globe, but due to technical constraints it will not be available to some who live in countries like ours.
In the second instance, social characteristics, refers to the limitations that society has placed on the content. There may be various copyright laws placed on reproduction of the content. As I learned from the video of David Wiley there are numerous variants of the constraints placed on "open" content as well. Ultimately for something to be classified as truly open it must also be free. These types of content or works, according to Hill and Möller, allow users the freedom to study the works and apply knowledge gained from it, redistribute copies (in whole or parts)and to make improvements and release the new copies.

The term Educational in OER is at this stage problematic for me. As argued in the readings, is only content generated in educational settings like schools and universities educational resources or is any content no matter its origin a educational resource if someone learns something from it? I am confident that I will have a better understanding of this as the course progress.

The term resource is less problematic at this stage. Any material that a person draws on for whatever reason can be classified as a resource. Therefore we can group photos, documents, videos, sound files, networks and the like together under the communal banner of resources.

I hope I made sense in this post and please comment if you disagree or have anything to add.

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cape Town and Budapest initiatives

I am in agreement with the ideas behind the initiatives and thus I have signed both. In an ever more globalized world it seems to me to be next step in effective education. Making information freely available will in the long run educate more peolpe around the world and that is the goal right? It sure is, but does these initiatives create more problems than it answers?

Like I said at the begining I am in agreement with the ideas behind these initiatives, but what will be the cost of initiating them? In one of these initiatives they state that they need publishers and corporartions to make their publications freely available. This is a neat idea but will this not mean the end for those publishing houses? Where will the revenue come from to pay the author? Lets face it no one will work for free. The other probhlem is the fact that not all people that this information will be available to will have the academic state of mind and integraty to treat the information as the intelectual property of the author, thus not giving the proper recognition.

The last point that I want to raise is the one of the technological constraints of the initiatives. These initiatives are completely reliant on the availability of appropriate and up to date technology (computers, bandwidth, 3G connections etc). In developed countries this might not be a problem, but in countires like South Africa where less than half the population has an PC in the house much less an connection to the internet, this is a problem. This problem excludes poor / underpriviliged people from the initiatives and these are exactly the people that would benifit most.

These are my initial thoughts after reading week 1 materials. Heres hoping that we can find answers together for these and other issues that might arise during the course.

All the best