Monday, July 30, 2012

Digital scholarship

AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by btobetun
One of the barriers to the adoption of open educational resources in mainstream higher education has been the question of quality assurance. Academics are often wary of any material not published by established reputable academic publishers and so OER get dismissed or overlooked. However there are now many important initiatives that are providing access to quality OER with reliable search facilities.

One of the most promising I've seen is the result of a major project by Open University along with the universities of Leicester, Nottingham and Manchester. They have launched two sites offering a vast amount of information, guides and access to assessed OER: Digital scholarship and Ready to research. The OER that are linked to from these sites have all been approved by the developers and users are encouraged also to rate each resource and add comments, thus adding a crowd-sourcing element to quality assurance. In many ways this is similar to the OpenScout initiative I wrote about a few weeks ago. The key element is that all the resources are genuinely open.

"The site is a portal to a collection of Open Educational Resources (OERs) accessed from repositories and institutions around the world. All these resources have been provided free by their authors under Creative Commons or other licence for anyone who wishes to use them for educational purposes. 
The OU Digital Scholarship team, and our partners in Nottingham, Leicester, and Manchester, have reviewed and selected every resource listed on this site in order to ensure that it is a genuinely open access and high quality item of self-study material appropriate for students in the UK and elsewhere who wish to prepare themselves to study on research degrees in UK universities."

The Digital Scholarship site focuses on using digital resources in university studies in general, with self-learning material on issues such as digital literacies, using multimedia material, collaborative learning, plagiarism, information retrieval, social media and ethics, rights and intellectual property issues. Ready to research focuses on academic writing, research methods, online academic identity and  the use of technology for dissemination and publication.

You can access material by choosing topics or by using the tag cloud. Each resource has information about how much time is required to work through the material, what kind of media are used, who has produced it and what you are allowed to do with it. This can then of course be complemented by users own comments and recommendations.

It will be interesting to see how these sites are used by other universities and whether OER can finally become an accepted part of academic study. The skeptics had valid arguments against OER but they are now being dealt with. It's time to stop the arguing and work together to build sound digital scholarship.

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