CC-By Bea de los Arcos

CC-By Bea de los Arcos

The month of March has been a memorable one for our project – it was all about celebration!

Like the rest of the OER community we joined in the fun of Open Education Week to help raise awareness of the global Open Education movement and its impact on teaching and learning. The OER Research Hub has worked with various projects worldwide and we have been lucky to gain deep insight into issues in the OER field, and were only too happy to share this insight with the rest of the OER community. For each day of Open Education Week, we featured a key project resource, including our OER Impact Map and various survey results, and hosted two webinars: one on Accessibility and OER and another on the Battle for Open.

A review of the Open Education Week’s Twitter analytics, using Brandwatch , to assist us in assessing the reach and  impact of our Open Ed Week campaign helped us gain some insight into who we have been communicating with. Hopefully, we’ll one day be able to identify, among other things, which types of Twitter users are most likely to mention or engage with different strands of our project.

The month of March kicked off with International Women’s Day, which got me thinking about gender. For Open Education Week (March 10-15), the gender split for our Twitter activity showed slightly more women, than men engaging with us (53% Vs 48%) – no biggie.

However, for some reason there was a significant spike in interest among our male tweeters on 13th March (the day our campaign shone the spotlight on the OER Impact Map). Okay, okay this may be totally trivial but I am tempted to think that this radical spike in the male category perhaps reveals their fascination with technology. It could even be tempting to go as far as concluding that the reverse of that is true: that women are slightly more hesitant to engage with technology rich tools. I don’t think there is enough information here to support that sort of claim, but it does make me wonder, especially when I use myself as a measuring stick.  Thinking back to when the Impact Map was first unveiled to the team, I was very apprehensive to ‘play’ with the Map – at first glance it looked like something for the ‘Techies’ – all the diagrams; the range of interactive maps and other visualisation tools to display and retrieve research data just didn’t seem like my kind of thing – in fact, it was daunting! But being a member of the project team, who would have to showcase it at various conferences and other events, I had little or no choice but to snap out of that apprehensive mode and embrace it. Then I realised it was actually quite simple to navigate and proved to be a neat but powerful tool for gaining quick overview of global impact data, and for also sharing data.

If there isn’t a  gender divide around educational technology and OER, or technology in general, then what accounts for that spike? There must be an explanation. Can someone help me here? It may just be a case of ‘Techies’ versus ‘non-Techies’, in which case I’ll have to join with OERRH fellow (and Techie!) Sheila McNeil, who blogged : as technology becomes easier to use and more embedded into all aspects of our lives,  we need to encourage people to have a “let’s have a go” mind set, than “let’s ask the techies”. Read Sheila’s post here.

To encourage further engagement among possibly alienated groups, we will soon post a video to help guide the ‘non-techies’, like me, through making the most of our Impact Map. But even without a video, I can assure you it’s pretty intuitive to work with.

OERRH Twitter Trend Analysis

OERRH Twitter Trend Analysis

But I digress. Back to what the OER Research Hub got up to in March. Rob and Beck travelled to Birmingham in the midlands of the UK to attend a BERA/Wiley workshop on technologies and ethics in educational research.  Our project has encountered a series of ethical challenges raised by openness and we are now in the process of redrafting our Ethics Manual  to reflect some of the issues we have encountered, so this workshop was an ideal forum to learn from and share with other researchers. Rob has summarised a few of the presentations here.

Martin and Rob participated in  ELESIG Guerrilla Research Event held here at The Open University. These ELSIG events are hosted by learner experience researchers at their own institutions, and are workshop style sessions designed to help researchers start or move forward their research ideas. In his presentation, Martin outlined the kind of work that goes into preparing unsuccessful research proposals.  Using figures from the UK research councils he estimates that the ESRC alone attracts bids (which it does not fund) equivalent to 65 work years every year (2000 failed bids x 12 days per bid). Read more in Rob’s blog post here.

On the networking front, we have been building connections with South African project ROER4D– an OER research project that bears some similarities to our own project. While our focus has been, in the main, across North America, they have been working across South America, Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia to curate and build a knowledge base on OER impact. So, with our focus on the global north and their focus on the global south, we look forward to working with them on building evidence on a wider geographical scale.

In March we also managed to make some significant progress on our forthcoming School of Open Course on Conducting Open Research, which launches in June. In this 4-week course we will look specifically at where openness makes a difference to the research process. As part of this process, we’ve looked at our own practices, reflecting on what impact ‘open’ has had. Rob has been sharing his reflections and thoughts on the Ethics section of this course. Get a taste of that here.

If you’ve managed to reach the end of this post, then congratulations – you now get the rare privilege to post an OER project on our Impact Map…See guidance for doing that here.

Catch up with you again in May!