The look of the Irish

Last week I was fortunate to be invited to the Society for General Microbiology spring conference in Dublin to present in the e-learning strand – I rather cheekily expanded the original brief to ‘Open Educational Practice with Accessible Open Education resources – from Wikis to Webconferences’. This gave me the opportunity to migrate for Subject Centre for Bioscience work to my role in TechDis. I described some of our phase 1 and 2 OER projects from the Subject Centre, and how Open Educational Practice could develop from more release of suitably licenced materials (using some of our OER microbiology examples), and how the simple step of seeking to apply Creative Commons licences on appropriate learning and teaching material could gradually change the landscape. This would lead to a better learning experience for the students but not without proper recognition for those tutors who ‘play the game’ more effectively.

Awareness of the Creative Commons movement for sharing learning and teaching resources was far less than I anticipated, although I did not suspect it would be high. Obviously the focus of the SGM is towards research, where ‘Open’ tends to mean ‘Open Access’ journal publishing to maximise the potential audience for research to circulate output further and faster – but I did expect more familiarity with repositories like JORUM, XPERT the NDLR and Merlot. The advantages of circulation through the repositories network and thereby attracting more partners for constructing learning materials in the same discipline are not obvious – it appears there is more concern over the time it takes to embed another’s material and the lack of credit for doing so. Awareness of repositories exchanging metadata automatically was apparently non-existent, so depositors are not aware of the potential audience they could be syndicated to.  If the design of the resources also optimises accessibility then the resource can travel far further and persist in the community much longer.

I followed two presenters (Brian Rash a.k.a @drbrianrash and Peter Miller – see blog link) who illustrated the potential for virtual worlds (SecondLife and OpenSim).

Brian Rash showed how students with little or no previous Microbiology experience could obtain a realistic lab session which not only saved lab facilities but also was far more convenient for students to attend. There are concerns over providing virtual worlds alone for students with disabilities but there are also advantages – a blend and balance needs to be planned though, rather than on a case by case basis.

Peter Miller guided us through the advantages of the open-source OpenSim environment and the ‘steampunk’ worlds which provide a rich experience which may be equivalent for all students. His blog tells far more: http://tidalblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/dublin-talk-and-possible-new-build.html

Finally, I met with Michelle Garvey and Declan Treanor to hear about the Inclusive Curriculum developments at Trinity College Dublin. Their ‘Towards the Inclusive Curriculum’ (a.k.a Trinity Inclusive Curriculum – http://www.tcd.ie/CAPSL/TIC/ ) site offers tools, guidelines and templates to create an inclusive academic environment, help follow good practice when planning teaching and assessment, and provides advice on developing information resources benefits all students. This merits a separate blog post itself in the very near future.

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About Terry

Techdis advisor interested in the realistic, sensible and pragmatic application of IT in education to improve the accessible learning experience.
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