#OUConf10,  conference,  content

Some thoughts on open conference contributions

Over the next few posts I'll be commenting on aspects of the Open University conference which I've just finished running. You can view the playback of all sessions from here.

 I'll cover reflections on the conference and what we did in separate posts. In this one I wanted to look at some of the contributions we got from people in Cloudworks. We had a fixed agenda of speakers (I thought multiple strands would be too confusing in Elluminate), but asked for multi-media contributions from anyone, highlighting their project. You can see all the contributions here

To be honest I don't think we used these as well as we could have in the main sessions, and I'd need to think about how we get better engagement around them for any future conferences, because many of them are excellent. But what I wanted to do in this post was pull in a few of them and what thoughts they had given rise to. What is key in this is that the format really helps. It's almost like, erm, the medium is the message.

First up is something very simple, but it made me reflect on how important personal contact is. Heather Richardson, a tutor on the creative writing course, created a short hello video for her students and showed them around some of the course materials.

During the conference a number of people said how good it was when the speaker put up a photo of themselves, just so they could make that human connection. I think Heather's video is a good example of this. It is also important that it isn't a course team video, but that it comes from the tutor as this is the student's point of contact. I think it's also significant in that it isn't high quality video production – the implicit message in this video is that I'm one of you, and also, you could do this too. I'd like to see more tutors doing this sort of thing.

The second video is from Janet Haresnape which sets out an activity for demonstrating genetic drift in evolution. The audio quality isn't great, but I think it's a really good experiment. With a day's recording effort and input from one AV professional I reckon we'd have a useful learning resource that many others could use. And there must be many more examples like this around. What we need is for people like Janet to have a go at creating something and then the OU can pick some to add a bit more gloss to and you'd have more 'learning objects' than we ever got from learning object approaches.

In the next clip Jennefer Hart asks 'What is  design atelier?'. This is part of a research project, and what I like about this short movie is that it isn't telling you about the project but rather prompting you to think about it. One could imagine taking this to the next step and asking people to respond with a YouTube clip and then you'd have a nice playlist, which becomes a meaningful resource.

Creating adverts or promotional videos for courses is something we'll see more of (both Tony Hirst and Alec Couros have started doing really good ones). This one from Giselle Ferreira is exactly the sort of thing I have in mind.

And lastly, mainly to wind up AJ Cann, here is an excellent video about the Second Life activity for postgrad students:

Now I could have got all this from traditional papers, but I think asking for multimedia content had two key benefits for me: firstly it encouraged some people to produce content when they hadn't before; secondly seeing the content made me think about how the OU can use and generate digital artefacts in different ways.

I've only picked out a few contributions here to make some more general points, they're all worth looking at.


  • AJ Cann

    Sorry I couldn’t contribute to the conference, I wanted to but this is such as busy time for me. The Elluminate sessions I watched were very good – Elluminate is *almost* the perfect online conference tool – just a little further to go. Maybe you should hold the conference in Second Life next year!

  • Giselle Ferreira

    Using YouTube was the original suggestion I had for the course, but this was met with various objections within the course team. I’m not so bothered about the stuff related to ‘logistics’ (I’m a bit ‘dumb’ in this way :-), but I can’t quite make up my mind on some ethical hurdles … For example: if I have my own reservations with ‘terms and conditions’ of YouTube, should I be expecting students to have to accept them as integral part of their studying the course, no option? Though I’m still hoping that (at least) some students will put their stuff up there, I find this one (and a few others) quite tricky: is ‘imposed openness’ ‘openness’ at all?

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