I spent part of last week in Birmingham at the JISC CETIS Conference 2008. See my live-blogging for day 1 and day 2 for details, covering the introductions by CETIS staff, the opening keynote by Andrew Feenberg, the Learning Content Management Repository Virtual Environment system 2.0 and its future session on the first afternoon, the OER Programme Scoping session on the second morning and the closing keynote by Stuart Lee.
All good stuff.
I enjoyed both keynotes though I confess to finding parts of the first one difficult to keep up with while live-blogging. I don't know if anyone else felt the same way but I found there to be something of a discord between Andrew Feenberg's promotion of the value of face-to-face lecturer/student contact in the form of the traditional lecture (as opposed to textual renditions of the same, e.g. a streamed video) somewhat at odds with his own delivery style - which was basically to read out a written paper, a style that I find quite difficult to properly engage with. I also felt he underplayed the kind of collaborative learning that can take place, facilitated by social networks and/or virtual worlds, around streamed media. That said, his introduction of the "city vs. factory" metaphor for learning was genuinely valuable and the fact that his talk was constantly referenced during the two days undoubtedly shows the mark of a good keynote.
Stuart Lee was also thoroughly entertaining and thought provoking at the conference close.
I will also briefly mention the OER Programme Scoping session on the second morning which, for me, was probably the most interesting and useful part of the conference. OER stands for Open Educational Resources, a joint UK programme being run by the JISC and the HEA, and is described by John Selby of HEFCE as follows:
Significant investment has already been made in making educational resources widely available by digitising collections of materials and enabling people to reuse and adapt existing content to support teaching and learning.
This new initiative will test whether this can be done much more generally across higher education. If the pilots are successful, we will have demonstrated that we could significantly expand the open availability and use of free, high quality online educational content in the UK and around the world. This will give further evidence of the high quality of UK education and make it more widely accessible.
This, it seems to me, is a programme with huge potential to really change our cultural attitudes to the sharing of educational resources. However, doing so will not be easy. We've seen significant activities like this in the past, the NOF-digi programme for example, that did not really succeed in bringing about such changes. What's different now? Well, we have a more mature attitude to open content and the licences that go with it - Creative Commons in particular - so, undoubtedly, we are better placed now than we were then. On the other hand, we've been talking about the sharing of learning objects for some time with precious little success at anything other than the very granular level of individual images, videos and so on. So I think we've got to be realistic about what kind of content people want to share and re-use - we certainly don't want to be thinking about things like content packages for example - and you'll see from my live-blogged notes that I think such realism is having an impact.
Anyway, suffice to say that the OER Programme Scoping session was very informative and interesting with a good level of debate that could have gone on significantly longer than the time allowed. It seemed to me to have a buzz of excitement around it that I've not seen for a while.
Overall then... a very useful conference and I'm looking forward to next year's.