Monday, 21 March 2011

Open Educational Resources: the Slick and the Scruffy

My colleague Gabi Witthaus (who works on another Beyond Distance project having to do with Open Educational Resources - OSTRICH) recently showed me a chart she was trying to develop, of various repositories and channels of open educational resources (OER), placing them on a scale showing whether they are focused more on marketing of the institution or focused more on being a source of learning resources.

Who's scruffy-lookin?  (Photo courtesy of ChrisM70 on Flickr)
In the case of iTunes U sites, which I am researching in the SPIDER project, this tension is even more pronounced. There is no doubt that having an iTunes U site is great for marketing an institution. The combination of "Apple gloss" and being listed with the best institutions such as Harvard, Oxbridge, and the Open University makes for a great profile. Some institutions' iTunes U offerings are extremely slick and serve as excellent marketing tools. And yet, iTunes U should benefit the current students as well. Maybe recorded lectures are not favoured by everyone, but many students find them very helpful, and they don't have to be BBC-quality in order to facilitate learning. Other kinds of recordings and publications can be very nicely downloaded and kept organised on the learner's computer or handheld device by iTunes U -- this should be exploited for current students in the institution.

Of course, slick iTunes U offerings can also be very good for learning. Slick is good. If OER is too scruffy it may not be usable. But I would argue that too much "slick consciousness" can hold back the release of OER which may very well serve a variety of learners. The learning purpose should not be lost to the marketing purpose.

Terese Bird
SCORE Fellow, Learning Technologist, and Assistant Keeper of the Media Zoo

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Positives and Negatives of iTunes U

In a recent presentation to partners working on another open educational resources (OER) project, TIGER, I presented my first draft of a list of positives and negatives of  iTunes U as a channel of free educational resources.This is a work in progress and I would like your opinion -- please comment.

iTunes U Positives
Excellent profile for institution
Standard formats (mp3, mp4, pdf, epub)
Downloading to Apple mobile devices is excellent
Constant internet unnecessary to use files
Very good search and keyword use
Reaches places YouTube cannot (China, Turkey, others)
Pushes OER agenda and brings university together in discussion
Run by a corporation - sustainable

iTunes U Negatives
Not browser-based
Issues with iTunes on public lab computers
Material not easily accessed on nonApple mobile devices
Not very good for conversation with learners
Run by a corporation - learning second to making money on tunes

What have I missed?

Terese Bird
Learning Technologist and SCORE Fellow
University of Leicester Beyond Distance Research Alliance