Digitisation of selected archives begins at the Record Office

Following a delay caused by some teething problems with the collection management software and the County Council’s firewall, I’m pleased to report that the digitisation of Record Office material is now underway. We’ve started with items for the ‘Social Life of the Factory’ OER, which centres on Corah, the former Leicester hosiery manufacturing business.

I was aware that some records had been deposited in the Record Office on the closure of the business, but that only a small quantity had survived – six shelves of documents is not much to show for one of Leicester’s most significant businesses, established in the early 19th century. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the range of material which has been available to select for use in the project. The collection is not yet catalogued, so it became a voyage of discovery through this untapped resource, as I stood on a ladder in the strongroom, opening up some 30 or so boxes. The next day, Professor Simon Gunn was able to choose records to digitise, ranging from staff and factory photographs and handbooks to company minutes, reports and brochures. These could be supplemented by council building plans, Ordnance Survey maps and a selection of company magazines – it was especially pleasing to find that our library contains an almost complete set of wonderfully detailed Corah magazines from 1949 to 1986.

It seems very topical, in the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the recent Royal Visit to Leicester, that one of the first items to be digitised is this special edition of ‘Encore News’ from 1958:

Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland

Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland

The Record Office is delighted to be part of this project which will provide better access, for academic and local history researchers alike, to a wide range of under-exploited business archives. The digitisation of Corah material is expected to be completed by the end of April and will be closely followed by items for the ‘Conservation and Regeneration’ OER, based on the Liberty Shoe Works.

Adam Goodwin, Archivist, Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland.

Bias in learning materials: reflection on Manufacturing Pasts in Follow the Sun conference

Two weeks ago, Simon Gunn, Tania Rowlett and I presented the Manufacturing Pasts history OER project in an online learning innovations conference, Follow the Sun 2012. The conference took place in a webinar environment, and was attended online by delegates from all over the world. Tania and i presented together, though we were physically on opposite sides of campus from each other. Simon, knowing he would not be available during the scheduled time slot, prerecorded his presentation on the scholarly case for the Manufacturing Pasts project, including some samples of newly-digitized artifacts, which I’ve posted on YouTube here. We also created an e-poster for the project.

This was the first conference presentation of this project, and I was pleased that it was done in an innovative setting. We received several interested comments, particularly from a delegate from Australia and one from South Africa. The Australian delegate mentioned that he had worked on an oeR project with some similar aims, digitizing artifacts pertinent to native Australian culture. When Tania described the unexpected twists and turns of seeking permission for material created in a corporate setting, our delegate friend described an unexpected requirement in his project to request permission from the local leader who interestingly was usually (maybe always?) female. The South African delegate raised the issue of educators bringing their own views into historical presentations. I wholeheartedly agreed with him that this is a danger. I’m creating some learning materials now, and I admit I’m struggling. I have some long interviews which we will make available in their pure, long form (one is over 4 hours long). But I also want to cut them down and marry them to digitized photographs to create a short video. I think I am editing to simply create a resource that is engaging and easier to digest than a 4-hour interview. But maybe I am unconsciously bringing in my own judgements and views in the way I edit and mash up.

We are now aiming to have several good OERs ready for students to use and evaluate in early May. Perhaps one thing to evaluate is whether any particular bias is introduced into the material, in the process of turning it into easily-digestible chunks of learning.

Terese Bird, CMALT

Learning Technologist & SCORE Research Fellow, University of Leicester

OER3 Programme Meeting – Part II

Following on from my last post – OER3 Programme Meeting – Part I – in this blog I cover the afternoons events, where we discussed the issues and benefits of projects partnerships. 

Having split into three groups, each discussing one of three predetermined questions, our group focussed on Collaboration and Partnerships relating to OERs: what types of partnerships we had, what they brought to the project in relation to the different OER work packages (creation of and providing content, evaluation, re-use, dissemination) and how they impacted on academic practice. 

In our group we had partnerships with a variety of public and private organisations, who each had perhaps differing perspectives on our projects, as well as ideas about how the outputs would best benefit their audiences.  We discussed ways of managing their expectations by drawing up a design brief of our OERs and asking partners to sign it off, as well as our expectations on the input we could expect from them (e.g. accessing niche communities).  

Other issues raised by collaboration included the difficulties (but the necessity) of putting in place partnership agreements, tackling copyright concerns, increasing understanding of the goals of open educational resources and embedding openness in reward structures to encourage academic buy-in.

We all agreed that to engage appropriate partners we needed to sell the mutual benefits of a project, such as making their resources more open, providing a sustainable platform for them to be housed on, and enabling them to get evaluation feedback and reuse information, as well as ensuring that they remained an integral part of the project development.

It was good to meet people from other projects and find out what they were up, as well as discover that we were all dealing with similar issues, although I’m not sure we exactly cracked how to deal with them all! It also made me realise not only that we should value our project partnerships, but that our projects can only benefit if we ensure we get the most out our collaborations.

OER3 Programme Meeting – Part I

The recent JISC OER3 programme meeting brought together people from four different project strands (HEA/OER Themes, Rapid innovation, and Content). 

Following introductions by the Programme Managers of their programmes, David Mossley hosted my first ‘open space activity’.  Essentially we were asked to discuss our projects with people from other strands and identify similar themes in the various issues we were encountering.  Formats, testing & evaluation of outputs, IPR, sustainability, and overall time constraints were the main things we drew together.

The following session then asked us to discuss one of these challenges in greater depth, and identify ways of resolving them.  We then proceeded to tease out the main areas of contention relating to evaluation:

  • what are we evaluating (the content, the format, the learning opportunities presented by our outputs)?
  • what standards should we use – do JISC give any guidance?
  • How long do you need to continue evaluation (all the way through the project, at the end, after the project)?
  • Should we be drawing up an evaluation plan, and if so when?

In addressing these issues, we agreed it would be a good idea:

  • for JISC to provide some standard criteria against which we can evaluate resources
  •  to draw up an evaluation plan as early as possible in the project
  • to engage our partners and steering group members in the evaluation process and to draw on their communities for participation of a range of users
  • to attempt to gain both quantitative and qualitative data through web analytics, surveys, benchmarking and focus groups

On the first point, I should mention that JISC did go on to show us their OER evaluation toolkit which details useful evaluation resources, the kind of evidence they look for, and the benefits of having an ‘evaluation buddy’ (teaming up with another project, enabling you to discuss ideas and strategies). 

We are starting to think about evaluation in the project, and hoping to get some preliminary feedback on our digitised content and OERs before the summer, to enable us to incorporate it into our subsequent outputs.  If anyone reading this blog would like to participate in this evaluation process then please drop us a line.

A further blog on the afternoons events will follow shortly: OER3 Programme Meeting – Part II