Digitisation & OER: synthesis report
Lou McGill | Jisc, August 2013
Download full report as a pdf
This report provides a synthesis of findings from Digitisation for Open Educational Resources, a strand of work which built on previous Jisc eContent Programme activities around digitisation within the UK Higher Education community. The nine funded projects were led by Higher Education institutions (HEIs) and included a wide range of partners from other HEIs and sectors, including commercial organisations, archive services and museums and private individual collections. These diverse partners brought different challenges and led to some exciting collaborations. The collections of primary sources were made available as raw assets as well as being embedded into a variety of educational contexts as Open Educational Resources (OER), which resulted in the collections being widely accessible in a range of different formats and with different levels of contextual and pedagogical information. This was a significant strength of the programme which merged digitisation expertise of special collections with learning and teaching needs.
High level motivations of the programme were to integrate primary collections into learning and teaching as well as increasing the corpus of OER to support sharing and accessibility of publically funded resources. Project partners also brought their own motivations for being involved (see section 2. Why OER?) which included widely acknowledged benefits such as cost efficiencies, specific pedagogic requirements, opening access to knowledge and reputation building.
A fascinating range of primary sources held in national, private, commercial and institutional collections were digitised, ranging from slides, fashion garments, historical artefacts, images, architectural plans, interviews and museum specimens. Different kinds of sources bring their own digitisation challenges; from technical issues around large raw file sizes for photographs to the complexity of digitising 3d objects (see section 3.1 Digitisation processes). As with all digitisation projects issues around ownership, permissions and licences can cause problems, particularly where the ultimate intention is to include the raw assets in OER (see section 3.2 Transforming digital assets into OER). Projects had to make a range of technical choices to ensure that the resulting work was accessible, discoverable and usable in a variety of contexts. One of the notable aspects of this programme was the need for projects to consider how to store, manage and make accessible the raw assets and also how to best incorporate these into learning and teaching materials, resulting in projects having to consider very different hosting options (see section 3.3 Embedding OER and digital collections into learning and teaching).
By bringing together skills and expertise in archiving, teaching, research, digitisation and open education projects enjoyed rich collaborative partnerships which they generally anticipate will be taken forward into other areas of work. Of particular interest was the imaginative ways projects involved students as partners. Students were offered opportunities to feed into digitisation activities, evaluation activities and also in the creation of OER during learning and teaching activities. (see section 3.3 New partnerships and approaches).
The impacts of the programme are wide reaching for a range of different stakeholders (see section 4 What we achieved) and can be summarised as:
- increased access to many rare collections, including some designated by HEFCE as ‘strategically important and vulnerable subjects’
- all projects released raw assets of relevance to a wide range of related disciplines making research data and collections usable across a wider number of institutions and countries
- expanded understanding of both digitisation and OER across several partners that will impact on future work
- preserving non digital practices – highlighting the value of traditional craft processes and making these more widely appreciated
- use of assets and OER outside the HE sector – local community groups and schools accessing content
- international interest in the digital collections
- interest from other HEI institutions in the country
- improvements in efficiency for several agencies through some of the technical developments or through shared generic resources
A range of factors have contributed to the success of the projects which may also be of value and relevance to other institutions and organisations wishing to incorporate primary sources into learning and teaching or releasing OER (see section 5 Success factors).
Factor 1. Stimulating and supporting change in practice
- Through engagement and awareness raising
- By challenging and changing perceptions
- By changing pedagogic approaches and practice
Factor 2. Encouraging and supporting institutional change
- Through appropriate technical infrastructure for OER release
- Through changes to institutional processes
- Through partnership/collaborative approaches
Factor 3. Adopting sustainable approaches
- By linking to existing institutional systems, policies and strategies
- By developing sustainable digital assets and OER
- By supporting new open educational practices
- By nurturing new and existing partnerships
Engaging with OER has the potential to change practice. Participants in the project all reported that their professional practice had been changed by working on the project, either in the active implementation of new pedagogical techniques and approaches to content delivery; their understanding of how students can be producers of content and active co-creators of knowledge, or their understanding of how content and language teaching (which is usually taught separately) can be integrated by using original research data in language classes. (OpenLIVES Project)