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Yes, as promised, I have confirmed that Milton Keynes has plenty of roundabouts, but more importantly, I am here as a (brief) fellow at the Open University, for the OER Research Hub project. I had some grandiose plans of daily blogging, let’s see how the first day goes.

Today was getting to meet the team, as they were all reconvening after many of them double presented/attended the OCWC conference and the OER14 conference (which I attended).

It was with some irony I realized this was the first face to face meeting I have participated in since 2011. And it was a fine experience today. It was a lot of getting to know my way around, getting on the wireless network, and getting to know folks. The Jennie Lee building is a fascinating open space, fitting with the way things seem to be done here

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What I hope to do while here is to try and provide some ideas for their web presence; especially the amazing work Martin Hawksey has done with the OER Impact Map.

But what I am mostly trying to do is assist in any way to connect the Research Hub here with new OER activity back where I got started, at the Maricopa Community Colleges. They are running a system wide effort called Maricopa Millions aimed at saving students $5 million over 5 years by adopting free (OER) and low cost course materials:

The goal of the Maricopa Millions project is to radically decrease student costs by offering LOW COST or NO COST options for course materials. Courses designated as NO COST will have no additional cost to the student beyond fees associated with tuition. These might include OER, licensed online resources purchased by the MCCCD for student access, etc.

Courses designated as LOW COST will have required course materials that are under $40. These costs may be associated with copyrights for textbooks, printing of required materials, online homework/quizzing systems, etc.

Led by pioneering work already underway at the Scottsdale Community College Math Department where, as a department, they have developed and adopted textbooks authored by SCC faculty as well as implementing the open source IMathAS an “Internet Mathematics Assessment System”:

It is primarily a web-based math assessment tool for delivery and automatic grading of math homework and tests. Questions are algorithmically generated and numerical and math expression answers can be computer graded. Beyond that, IMathAS includes learning management tools, including posting of announcements, text files, and attachments, as well as discussion forums and a full gradebook. In postings and assessments, IMathAS allows accurate display of math and graphs, with simple calculator-style math entry and point-and-click graph creation. It is most similar to (and inspired by) WebWork and WIMS, and similar to commercial and publisher-produced systems like WebAssign, MyMathLab, etc.

If I read the web site information correctly, from a pilot in Fall 2013, the project saved students $665,175 and another $818,000 in the Spring of 2014. It is also funding development of new OER based courses.

Listen to some Maricopa students describe their experience in the pilot OER courses

I am hoping to connect these projects so perhaps the rollout of IER based courses at Maricopa can feed data for the OER Research Hub and so that the Hub project in return can help Maricopa look systematically at the measures that can indicate the success of the project beyond the cost savings (aka learning).

I am not sure I can do that in 4 days, but the reason to be hear is to start the connecting. As a small contribution, before IN left Arizona, I conducted Skype interviews with 6 Maricopa faculty involved with using/creating/teaching with OERs.

Even in this not very scientific sampling, what becomes obvious is that as one gets closer to the details, the nuances of trying to find data of impact gets more layered. And what can be measured beyond surveys is still an open question- retention? persistence? I am a bit more interested in the case studies of what the process of teaching via OERs means for faculty and they way they go about their work.

I have 3 days left!

A big thanks to Martin Weller for helping make this happen.

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He has told me repeatedly what a terrific team he has here, and already I can confirm that bit of data,