25 Years of OU: 2015 – GO-GN

I mentioned that the OER Hub was probably the defining research grant of my career, but GO-GN is probably my favourite. It is also the most fortunate to have come my way. It was set up by Fred Mulder from the OU Netherlands. Fred, who sadly passed away in 2018, was an absolute force when it came to pursuing funding for things he deemed good ideas. He had the belief that OER field would benefit from research, but as the field was in its infancy the research community needed support to grow. By establishing a global network of doctoral researchers the reach and impact of OER could be increased.

He got the UNESCO OER chair on the basis of this proposal and acquired funding from the Hewlett Foundation. The main activity was an annual seminar held in conjunction with OE Global. When Fred left the OUNL, they didn’t wish to continue the project and he was seeking a home for it, and contacted us. The reputation we had in OER research and global community projects such as TESSA, made the OU a good fit and after some discussions with Fred and co-founder Robert Schuwer, we took over the funding, which Hewlett have maintained until 2022. The best project you could hope for was gifted to me – try not to hate me too much.

We added to the project, particularly with online activity, through the leadership of Bea de los Arcos and Natalie Eggleston. When Bea and Nats left I took over as Director, and work with Beck Pitt, Rob Farrow, Kylie Matthews and former GO-GN student, Paco Iniesto. Since then we’ve seen a shift to more OEP focused remit and producing outputs for the community as it has reached a level of maturity.

This Monday saw the launch of our annual report which details what we have been doing in this most unusual of years. It continues to be a supportive, caring and, yes, fun community. There is a cost for all this, and what I appreciate about the Hewlett grant is that it acknowledges the value of emotional support. In higher ed we spend a lot of money, a lot of it wasted, on trying to produce products or approaches that operate as businesses and generate revenue, but smaller amounts focused on support can have more lasting impact.

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