Learners and other stakeholders

Individual Strand synthesis – Isobel Falconer and Karen Smith


Many of the individual strand projects have been engaging directly with learners, either for testing prior to wider release, to build communities, or as producers of OERs.Learners have been drawn from within the institution, or from the wider public informal learners. At least half the projects have found students buying in to the concept of OER, and releasing materials themselves.

Under a marketisation model, where one of the main purposes of OER is to attract students to the institution, learner behaviour has significantly affected project social networking behaviour, as well as the content of the OERs. Countering the marketisation model, ChemistryFM promotes the idea of a “common space” (physical and virtual) in which to share equally with all varieties of users; they have engaged with their local community through community radio

A range of other stakeholders is emerging, from those within the institution (eg. careers service, disability service, other academic departments, IT services, quality enhancement groups, institutional research repositories), to local authorities, subject communities, professional and business organisations. They have generally been engaged with through formal and informal discussions with the project team and, in some cases, agreement to collaborate in ongoing work. Two projects are beginning to work with international collaborators.

Web analytics and statistics provided by many third party public sites are being used by several of the projects to track users and surface emergent stakeholder groups; openSpace have classified their learners as CPD; Lifelong Learning; Prospective Students; HE Institutions

Detailed questions and evidence

What role have learners played in shaping the programme outcomes? How have projects engaged learners, if at all?

There is evidence of students buying in to the concept of OER: eg.

The student usage of the material has been of interest with a proportion buying into the general aims of the project without being requested to do so. Students used the materials for their revision and then, perhaps surprisingly released the revision notes to the rest of the group for comment.(BROME final report)

Under a marketisation model, where one of the main purposes of OER is to attract students to the institution, learner behaviour has significantly affected project social networking behaviour, though not the content of the OERs: eg.

We produced a paper questionnaire about the quality of the videos, 2 on-line surveys about the impact on MMTV.com on student’s decisions to come to the school. We also conducted individual student interviews to gather more qualitative data about their perception of the course and how it was impacted by the MMTV.com ….nearly everyone who sees MMTV.com is influenced by it or at the least we can say that it is having a positive effect on people’s decisions to study on the course… This fact was paramount in many of the decisions we have since made. Firstly it is vital that students applying to the course are directed to the MMTV.com website as it seems to be a key factor in influencing their decision. So we have now set up a system with the admissions office and they immediately send me e-mails of any students who apply or inquire about the course. A special e-mail has been produced which I send to the students and gives them lots of information about MMTV.com as well as the course. The same has also been done on the website , where there is now well highlighted information about MMTV.com…. Students on the course do seem to be engaging with the content. In the surveys of 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 all the students surveyed said they used the videos at some time. In 2008/2009 more than 90% said they wanted to see more videos and would prefer more videos than more lecture notes. (MMTV final report)

The public (learners) have also been involved in user testing: eg.

The formative assessment period (primarily Alpha Testing) provided positive feedback. However, it did point to some instances where the information and structure of the VLE was ‘academic-centred’ and not ‘user-centred’. This covered instances of terminology that the general public with little to no exposure of higher education would find unfamiliar (i.e. ‘pedagogy’)… An additional point was ensuring the consistent use of terms (i.e. not interchanging words like ‘session’ and ‘unit’ when describing the context of a lesson’s materials) to minimise user confusion. (openSpace final report)

What role have stakeholders such as professional bodies and employers played in shaping the programme outcomes?

Projects show evidence of engagement with a range of stakeholders, eg.

This project has advanced OER by raising the profile of this area within the university and the wider legal sector. This influence has expanded to the local councils where advice has been provided relating to the creation of new e-learning materials. This advice forwarded the use and benefits of OER and was subsequently modified to suit the various stake holders involved. These stakeholders have included: Academic staff at the University of Bradford and partner organisations, members of the Teaching Quality Enhancement Group, Disability Service and Information Services departments at Bradford University, students studying at Bradford University and the related overseas franchise provision and the Law and Management Schools. (BROME final report)

Other staff, and the institution, are stakeholders too, and their engagement may be critical: eg.

The critical success factor has been communication with stakeholders. There are many academics who are not familiar with OERs and have not considered their use. Our strategy of talking face-to-face where possible and leafleting to provide details of the OERs and the resources was instrumental in gaining so many registered users. (EVOLUTION final report)

The institution as a stakeholder:

As this was an individual strand project it was important to tie in the OER requirements into the existing corporate plan of the university and it is pleasing to see that this approach has been on the whole successful. One of the advantages of the project call was that the bid demanded a Pro Vice Chancellor of Learning and Teaching to sign the bid off. This certainly gave the project an immediate institutional standing. (BROME final report)

An institutional research repository may be a stakeholder, and the repository broadened out to include OERs. eg.

The project director joined clok, the UCLan institutional repository project team, to ensure the clok team considered the release of OERs as well as research outputs. (EVOLUTION final report)

Institutional careers service as a stakeholder: eg.

The team also worked with future, UCLan’s employability and careers service to ensure the employability OERs were accessible to students developing their employability. The team also worked with the Centre for Employability Through the Humanities (CETH) to embed the OERs in different subject areas. (EVOLUTION final report)

Usability,academic quality, and relevance to professional practice are concerns where the model is self-directed learning: eg.

openSpace Beta Testers include: UCF staff, external academics, OE practitioners, Subject Academies, other UKOER projects, creative practitioners and professionals and invited members of the general public… Beta testing feedback will allow the team to determine if there are any issues which will need to be addressed (openSpace final report)

Drawing on the experience of partners in developing countries

Internationalisation is another important outcome. Our OE course materials create opportunities for international partnerships with institutions where a traditional relationship wouldn’t ordinarily be possible. These partnerships are mutually advantageous. While our open education partners benefit from the sharing of our course materials, UCF gains access to thinking and experiences not available in the UK. We’ve already had interest from the Brazilian OER project which can be formalised post launch. Such partnerships are one measure of success in the international arena. With additional courses, there is scope for creating online collaborative partnerships with courses from non-UK institutions where formal student exchanges are either impossible or impractical due to term times, dates or lack of credit transferability (openSpace final report)

Involving business and professional communities

Members from other external institutions have made enquires about the open release of materials, the pre mentioned Centre for Education in the Built Environment CEBE linked second phase bid will hopefully capitalise on these enquires from members from The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in regard to the release of architectural and construction based OER materials in the area of sustainable construction, project management and law. (BROME final report)

What other stakeholders are emerging with an interest in this area?

Web analytics are being used to track users and surface stakeholder groups, eg.

We tracked several things
1. The number of followers on Twitter and the number of those users that click through to MMTV
2. The number of “plays” on Vimeo and YouTube and the number of users that then click through to MMTV
3. The number of users signed up to Facebook
4. The number of users signed up to the newsletter
5. Information about hits to MMTV, where the users came from, where they clicked through from etc
Many of the social networking tools have their own “tracking” systems that allow you to view channel hits, plays etc. We also set up and worked with Google Analytics…. The number of hits to MMTV has been steadily growing. Numbers have grown to around 2500 unique visitors a month. We do not have precise figures before January 2010 as we had problems when MMTV.com resided on the University of Westminster Website. However Google Analytics to the home page showed we were averaging around a 1000 unique users in the period October to November…. How we moved from 1000 to 2500 users is unclear as we began to do large amounts of work on various social networking sites from around the December 2009 period. However it would seem that Twitter has played a key role. Because of the shortening of the URLs, they actually show up on the stats as coming from other links. However if we look at the data more carefully you can see that large numbers are coming through from our work in Twitter… We chose to use Google Ads as we felt that it was a quick way of targeting potential users as many students tend to use Google for their searches. We were able to track the hits to the site and choose the exact search terms that returned out ad to the top of the page.
 (MMTV final report)

User tracking in conjunction with analysis of user groups, eg.

The use of Google Analytics and other metrics (i.e. Kaltura’s user dashboard and Feedcat metrics) provided will allow us to determine the success in our promotion of openSpace – as well as the ease in which web users can find our resources and site through search engine results. Metrics quantifies the discovery of and access to our OERs… Advance used of Google’s search functions will allow us to monitor who has embedded each multimedia player through the html embed code – and where it has been embedded. Remixed media can also be uploaded through the individual Kaltura players, enabling remixed media to appear alongside the original material… Kaltura provides metrics on the remixed media as well as the original files…. Google Analytics will enable us to monitor the number of times our MS Word and PDF documents have been downloaded. Google’s search engine will enable us to see who has linked to our document resources…We identified specific user groups and research indicated why they would engage with online learning… Our initial position: CPD; Lifelong Learning; Prospective Students; HE Institutions….This position remains unchanged (openSpace final report)

Involving local communities e.g. through local radio The “Teaching in Public Framework” carries with it a view of who the stakeholders in OER are, the ways they may be engaged, and their role in the engagement:

The original aims and objectives of the ChemistryFM project were based around the Teaching in Public Framework:

Students as ‘first public’: The Student as Producer: We will provide bursaries to students to enable them to work with teachers, collaborating in the critical development and production of learning resources

Teaching as Public Space: Learning Landscapes: We will work with community radio to extend the learning landscape into the online broadcasting space, therefore reaching a broader and less traditional audience of HE learners beyond the university.
Teaching as a Public Good: The Lincoln Academic Commons: We will use the Lincoln Academic Commons website, Open Journal Systems and the University of Lincoln Repository to enhance both the discovery and re-use of the OERs. We will extend the Lincoln Academic commons to third-party web 2.0 services through the use of RSS feeds, widgets and embedded media.
Teachers as Public Intellectuals: We will seek opportunities to present papers and publish on how the development and provision of OERs can be a way for teachers to critically engage with the marketisation of higher education through their teaching practice.
Teaching in Public – Education as basic human right: We will demonstrate the impact of OER through the use of web analytics and online feedback mechanisms. We will report on how an OER module may also be exploited for formal distance learning and accreditation.
 (Chemistry FM final report)

Engaging with the public via community radio, and via a “common space”

The use of the campus-based community radio, SirenFM, was intended to reach a new and more diverse audience and to extend the ‘learning landscape’ beyond the confines of the campus into the local community. Although broadcasting was scheduled for Science week (March 2010), podcasts of the radio programmes would be available as course resources and effectively ‘broadcast’ online following Science week….In terms of ‘Teaching as Public Space’, the idea of an ‘Academic Commons’ is being further developed through the work of CERD’s Learning Landscapes project,12 specifically around the idea of ‘common space’, both physical and virtual. The idea behind this is to examine new spacial models for sharing teaching and learning facilities that might better integrate the university into its surrounding educational community. This emphasis on community outreach and sharing of resources will be extended to teaching and learning materials, as it is already being extended to research outputs. (ChemistryFM final report)
Learning landscapes blog

Summary of external organisations projects have contact with

Brome: Centre for Education in Built Environment; Royal Institute of British Architects; Local authority; HEA subject centre
OpenSpace: Brazilian OER project; HEA subject centres
Evolution: Centre for Employability through the Humanities; HEA subject centres
MMTV: British Council; Beijing Central Normal University