Look out Milton Keynes, here I come! – My OLNet Fellowship on tracking OER Reuse


I’m still not 100% clear on whether I can tell anybody about this, but… too late now. Earlier this year I took a bit of a flyer and submitted an application for an OLNet Fellowship, which offered the chance to work with the folks at the renowned Open University in the UK on issues around Open Education. I am not a full-time Academic and don’t have an enormous publication record, but I’d like to think I’ve paid some dues in the trenches working on, and thinking and writing about, Open Education. Apparently so did they, because much to my pleasant surprise I was awarded an “Expert Fellowship,” a category seemingly designed to suit odd-balls like myself that work in the lofty heights of Academia but ain’t got no papers 😉

But there’s a point to this post apart from saying “wohoo Scott” (wohoo!) Actually 2 points. The first is a shout out to colleagues in the UK that I will be in Milton Keynes from June 23 until July 24th. I am not clear yet the extent of my mobility will be, but I’m certainly hoping that the month offers some opportunities to visit and learn with colleagues in the UK. If you are interested, please do let me know and we’ll try to make it happen.

The second point of the post is to share a bit of what I am going to be working on. As many of you know, I run an “open educational resource” repository (cue loud groan.) In our model, and it seems far from unique, teaching resources aimed primarily at instructors are typically downloaded and reused in some other context. While it is possible to ‘point’ to content hosted in our system, in most cases this is not how it is used.

One of the problems with this model (and sheesh, don’t I wish there were only one) is that the content owners don’t get a good sense of the popularity of their resources and where else they are being used. As a blogger and long time creator of web content that has been reused, I know that getting feedback on how often your stuff is viewed and from where, whether it be in the form of Trackbacks, or services like Google Analytics, can be a big shot in the arm. Sure, it is hopefully not the only thing that motivates you, but it doesn’t hurt.

So my proposal is to research the myriad different ways this kind of usage tracking can be implemented specifically in the context of OER (with a high sensitivity to finding approaches conducive to freedom and not any sense of ‘restriction’), select one and implement it in my real world repository. It is a big fish to fry and I do not think the problem is exclusive to OERs but in general applies to digital media. While I do hope to report on general approaches I also know that having a specific context to work in will be helpful. So expect to hear more (and get more pleas of “help!”) in the coming months.

Anyways, hope I do end up getting to meet some of you conspirators who ’til now have been just URLs or avatars. And I hear the English countryside is lovely that time of year… – SWL