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!