Looking forward to the ALT 2016 Conference

In a couple of weeks I will be presenting at the ALT Annual Conference: Connect, Collaborate, Create taking place at the University of Warwick.  It’s been 10 years since I last attended an ALT conference, how time flies!  My last ALT conference was in 2006 at the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. I can still recall how impressive the campus was along with some very long walks between workshops and presentations.  The diversity of topics covered still sticks in my mind and this years programme looks just as impressive.

10 years on I’m excited to finally be able to return and this time to contribute as one of the presenters.  I will be talking about the topic of my MSc in Digital Education dissertation “Discoverability Strategies for Open Educational Resources: A Scoping Study” and how this is influencing my work on digital repositories for OERs at the University of Southampton.

The origins of OER repository development at the University of Southampton goes back to 2007 when the research project EdSpace was founded based upon the institutional need for a single, shared, safe, persistent storage location for all manner of educational resources.  This work, partially funded through the Jisc Institutional Exemplars programme, recognised the increasing activity around OERs at that time and technology and design choices made by this team produced an open source open educational content repository that is still going strong today.  It is also now available as a fully supported and developed community solution from EPrints – www.eprints.org/edshare.  Examples include EdShare Soton, Humbox, LanguageBox, LORO, eShare and edShare@GCU.

With the announcement in 2015 from Jisc to retire Jorum there has understandably been concern and questions from the UK HE and FE community of what this means in terms of future support and how OERs should be hosted and shared.  Jisc have since announced their Content and App store where many resources from Jorum will migrate to. The development of this appears to still be in progress at this time.

The ALT Open Education Special Interest Group recently conducted a small survey on the feeling of the future of OERs and OEP (open educational practices) since the announcement from Jisc including whether there was a need for a national OER repository or if OERs should exist elsewhere.  A summary of all the results can be viewed here.

Personally I have my reservations about how successful a single national repository can be – can a one size fits all really ever satisfy the diverse wants and and needs within the UK HE and FE sector?  How responsive can such a solution be to changes where some want to explore and push the boundaries and others simply want security and consistency.  Technology is constantly changing and I strongly believe this is an area where innovation and flexibility is key to its success.  We can of course also share our content via Google sites, Flickr or Slideshare who will take care of hosting and expose content to search engines.  But for how long?  What happens if those sites are taken over or disappear when they are no longer profitable or new user registrations dwindle, who owns the content we have uploaded?

As I work with digital repositories I am a little biased and believe they provide an excellent way of collating, storing, managing and presenting digital content.  At the same time I’m also honest about them and recognise that they need to do a better job to support the wants and needs of open education.  The EdSpace product ‘EdShare‘ made significant gains in turning an standard repository into one which was lightweight and content-central for a variety of education resources.  The focus now needs to turn to how this becomes more than just a management environment which serves up content.

The great part about that is as a community we can have complete control over what that looks like if we want to.  So do we want to?  Or would we prefer to rely on what the big players on the web have to offer instead?

I look forward to sharing more information about this with everyone at this years ALT conference and beyond.

Click here for my ALT2016 Conference Session information



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