The temptation within an innovative organisation like Jisc is to concentrate on talking about what is new. But a chance conversation on twitter with Alex Di Savoia at University College Falmouth (UCF), holder of one of our early Jisc/Higher Education Academy Open Educational Resources phase one projects, brought home to me just how much added value can be traced back to a small grant nearly three years ago. Alex sent me a few notes regarding some of the amazing things that have been happening at UCF OpenSpace...
“So there I was, with a 100 page screenplay that seemed so close to being finished; but I just couldn't seem to do it. Something just wasn't working; or it hadn't turned out how I'd envisaged it. But I couldn't figure out what to do to fix it.
Then I came across the Screenwriting Unit by Jane Pugh at the OpenSpace Project, hosted by the University College Falmouth, UK… I listened to the second unit ("The Principles of Screenwriting") and it was a revelation! Suddenly knew what was wrong with my screenplay, and why it wasn't working for me!”
Ed from Notes on Video: A blog about video equipment and video production
Quotes like the one above made University College Falmouth’s journey into open education a rewarding experience. Rewarding , however, doesn’t do the experience suitable justice. It’s something fundamentally intangible. We gave without expectation and what this institution gained is something quite profound. We hoped our pilot project would inspire. That it achieved this objective turned out to be as humbling as it was exciting…and transformative.
UCF’s geographical isolation presents challenges in building tangible networks nationally, much less internationally. Our non-STEM subject portfolio also presents challenges within Higher Education. "openSpace", our HEFCE-funded and Jisc managed creative subject open education repository, has proven to be an excellent bridge and an effective calling card. This bespoke repository allows UCF to share its expertise, knowledge and pedagogic approaches in an organic and transparent manner.
The success of openSpace has had a direct impact on UCF, resulting in:
· A new institutional Intellectual Property Rights policy
· An interest in open education from other UCF courses
· The widening of technology applications in teaching, learning and innovative approaches to teaching practice
· Discussions around a paid assessment model and certificate model - a sustainable UCF open education model
· A positive impact on applications to UCF’s MA Professional Writing course.
“But what’s so special about this [Screenwriting] course is it gives long distance learners an opportunity to learn and gain peer feedback on work. This is a pioneering new scheme and well worth a look.” – Helen Murphy, Step2InspireTV
The secret of success is straightforward. We took our open educational resources (OERs) to the people rather than trying to entice them to come to us. We uploaded our OERs on established, familiar and popular online platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Podomatic, Scribd and Twitter. People felt free to engage with the OERs, experiment with them, play with them….and then follow the links to the relevant courses on openSpace.
We also made our OERs, and our open education courses, easy to find online. The use of standard search engine optimisation best practice and meta tagging protocols ensured the OERs and courses appear at the top of search engine results against common search phrases.
The respected film makers' website filmmakeriq.com and Celtx, the all-in-one open source media pre-production system, found the YouTube hosted Screenwriting OERs and featured them on their respective blogs. Their Tweets about the free screenwriting course resulted in a flurry of re-tweets and postings to Facebook, Digg and other leading social networking sites.
The result of these word of mouth online coverage was 1,000 people a day accessing the course in the two days following Celtx and Film Makers IQ’s first Tweets. That number rose to 1,700 people a day as social network users continued to spread the word. While they are no longer viral, these OERs remain widely accessed and commented upon. As late as November 2001, they were referenced in the Guardian Careers Blog post Live Q&A: Thinking about a career in screenwriting? by OER user Michelle Goode
The project used Podomatic to host a variety of screenwriting lectures, which have been popular internationally.
Our OERs were always geared towards and pitched to the general public. Comparatively speaking, there are few global institutions with similar degrees. Our OERs were always going to have an appeal to a specific and discrete audience within Higher Education. Understanding who our primary audience was informed our approach to online dissemination and promotion.
Other OER related activity at Falmouth includes the IPR for Educational Environments (IPR4EE) project supported within phase 3 of the UKOER programme, and the new Blogging for Educational Environments project, funded solely by UCF.
Is open education a transformative process? Absolutely. Through means both predictable and unpredictable. Open education influences institutions, academics and the general public. Has the journey been an easy and straightforward one? No. Has it been rewarding? Most definitely. It continues to enlighten and inform us as UCF plans the release of further OER courses.
Further reading: You can read more about how other institutions have reaped the benefits of open practice in a series of case studies, and find out more about the work of our current crop of OER projects.
For a deeper analysis of Open Educational Practice, the UKOER Evaluation and Synthesis project have produced an online briefing paper.