The glorious North!

Ali Dickens and I had a great trip to Newcastle last week, to give some training and information to language tutors at Newcastle University for the FAVOR project.

The weather in Southampton was cold and drizzly, but the sun shone on us in Newcastle as we met with about 14 tutors of different languages. We started out talking about the project and why (we think) it is ‘good to share.’ The tutors had lots of concerns to raise about quality control, copyright and IPR, abuse of the comment/review system, and losing ownership of their works – and we did our best to answer them and communicate the excitement of the project.

Our experience using the repositories LanguageBox and HumBox, has been that quality is initially a big concern for teachers: quality of the materials on the site (are they interesting enough for me?) and quality of their own deposits (will people think they are good enough?). LanguageBox and HumBox are sites which have a particular take on this because they are avowedly practitioner sites to improve practice and encourage collaboration, not (necessarily) institutional/departmental showcases. We have found through user-testing that it is impossible to predict the value that OER users will find in a resource – it may be the content, it may be the pedagogical approach that the author has used, it may be an image on page 4 or a link on slide 6, or it may simply spark an idea which leads a user to create an entirely new work. All this really means that we can reassure our users: if your resources are good enough for your students (even in a partially finished form), then they are good enough for the community – and you’ll be surprised and pleased at where others’ perceive the ‘value’ of your teaching work. On a more practical note, both LanguageBox and HumBox are self-regulating communities and so there are no official moderators involved (although for FAVOR, we will check all of our resources for rights issues/clarity of metadata etc). A take-down policy, comments feature and clear preview screen all contribute to effective use and regulation of what you see on those sites.

Concerns about copyright and IPR are ever present with OER and we advise tutors how to reduce risks. Our advice is based on the excellent information in the OER infokit and on some work we did for a copyright helper on the Humbox site. As far as ownership of the materials goes, we emphasise that ‘archiving in plain view’ via open access actually preserves your link to the material and marks your ownership. And you don’t have to share EVERYTHING…a selection of work can speak, well, volumes! Lastly…abuse of comments? Our users are more interested in leaving and receiving constructive comments (where they are interested in leaving comments at all!) which is about right for a practitioner site of professionals sharing good practice and ideas…

We ended the day at Greggs, at the airport – a Greggs, at the airport!- buying Stotties to take home. Hmmm…

Kate B

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