Health OER Network November Design Jams

Here at Open.Michigan, we get to work on some pretty cool projects around open education. One of those fascinating projects is our collaboration with health science institutions in Africa for the African Health OER Network. Our project goal is to advance health care education in Africa by using open educational resources (OER) to share knowledge, address curriculum gaps, and build communities of practice around healthcare education. Through this project, the collaborators work to draft institutional OER policies, develop and implement OER production processes, and co-create health educational materials. We have been working primarily with institutions in Ghana and South Africa but we continue to draw in more African participants.

The challenges in this space are huge; and our group alone can’t do it. As such, we want to bring together people who can help us think about infrastructures that we can use to inspire real change and foster the exchange of valuable ideas and resources. Back in March we held our first design jam. That event was quite fun and the ideas shared were very helpful, so much so that we’ve decided to organize another one for this semester. It’s really quite amazing what practical, innovative ideas a medium-sized group of smart students/alums/staff can come up with in couple hours of focused, collaborative brainstorming!

In November, we will be hosting two sessions to brainstorm answers to the question: How can we engage students around the world as content producers and advocates for health open educational resources? You are welcome to join us for one or both of the sessions.

Session I – African Health OER Network Overview and Discussion
Thursday, 4 November 2010
Media Gateway, North Quad
11:30 am-1:00 pm

Session II – Health OER Network Design Jam
Thursday, 11 November 2010
North Quad 2255
6:00-8:00 pm

View the official event flyer.

We hope to see you there!

Reaching the Heart of the University: Libraries and the Future of OER

Back in May, Molly, Ted and I decided we should look into going to and presenting at the upcoming Open Education Conference in Barcelona. I created a short check-list detailing the important elements to making this happen:

  • Open Ed 2010 Conference proposal written and submitted: check.
  • Proposal accepted: check.
  • Flights and hotel secured: check.
  • Registration obtained: check.
  • Cash advance received: check.
  • Paper written: ?

It appears as though we were supposed to write a paper or something? Right… hot off the digital presses: Reaching the Heart of the University: Libraries and the Future of OER.

Abstract: University libraries are well positioned to run or support OER production and publication operations. Many university libraries already have the technical, service, and policy infrastructure in place that would provide economies of scale for nascent and mature OER projects. Given a number of aligning factors, the University of Michigan (U-M) has an excellent opportunity to integrate Open.Michigan, its OER operation, into the University Library. This paper presents the case for greater university library involvement in OER projects generally, with U-M as a case study.

Comments are welcome – this has been submitted and we’ll be presenting it in Barcelona next week! We’d love feedback.

Learn. Share. Advance.

Last week we told you about some fun events the Library is hosting for Open Access Week 2010. You can visit their list of planned events here (or you can read our blog post Open Access Week at U-M) but we wanted to let you know about other national, international and regional activities that celebrate Open Access Week. We hope these will increase your knowledge of just what Open Access Week is all about.

Why Open Access Week is important

As a world renowned research university, the University of Michigan participates in many academic and scientific efforts that can have tremendous impact on our health and well-being. From researching how students get their homework done to promoting healthy organ transplants, we are leaders in finding solutions to problems.

Open Access Week strives to increase awareness of how knowledge produced in academic and research settings can have an even larger impact if it is shared openly and can be used and distributed openly. It also provides opportunities for practitioners and proponents to come together to discuss these opportunities and share information with each other. This is one of the reasons why Open Access Week is conducted across the world in local settings (in places as close as Minnesota and as far away as Nairobi).

OA and OER

While there are similarities between how Open Access (OA) and Open Educational Resources (OER) operate, there are some important differences between the two terms and the way the two movements interact with each other. While OA means you get unrestricted access to materials you’re interested in, these materials are not always openly licensed so that you can use or re-use the materials for your own education or to educate others. You don’t always have as much decision-making privilege with the information and knowledge produced under OA terms. At Open.Michigan, we believe this privilege is a very important one. It determines how others can build new forms of knowledge and encourages participatory learning. OA opens doors to access and OER opens doors to use.  Ultimately those working in the OA world and those working in the OER world strive to provide concrete opportunities for scholars and students alike to contribute to this growth of the knowledge commons and this is why we think Open Access Week is so important.

Learn More

If you can’t jet across the country (or the world) to attend these events, you can still learn about the importance of open access by checking out these organizations and activities:

  • Watch videos about Open Access Week
  • Check out Open Book Publishers.
  • Read up on PLoS ONE, a peer-reviewed open access journal for scientific and medical research.
  • Read FOIA Friday to learn about local requests for information and how this access can improve our local lives.
  • Participate in Forum discussions about Open Access Week and OA in general.
  • Connect with other members of the Open Access Week movement.
  • Check out what other organizations like EOS are doing to promote open scholarly access.
  • Browse the OA Directory.

Open Access Week at U-M

Our friends at MPublishing are hosting a series of events to celebrate the upcoming Open Access Week at the Library.  Their series of events is posted here, but the big event is a presentation by Dan Cohen and you’re invited:

“Open Access Publishing & Scholarly Values”

A public talk by Dan Cohen, Associate Professor in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University and the Director of the Center for History and New Media

Thursday, October 21, 2010, 10am-12pm

Library Gallery, Hatcher 100

Hosted by MPublishing

Why should scholars care about open access publishing? Dan Cohen explores the ways in which open access, although associated with new media, actually aligns well with traditional scholarly values. Cohen looks at a number of these values, such as impartiality and the advancement of knowledge, as well as the more self-centered values, such as reputation.

Dan Cohen is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University and the Director of the Center for History and New Media. His research is in European and American intellectual history, the history of science (particularly mathematics), and the intersection of history and computing. Dr. Cohen is the co-author of Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), author of Equations from God: Pure Mathematics and Victorian Faith (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), and has published articles and book chapters on the history of mathematics and religion, the teaching of history, and the future of history in a digital age in journals such as the Journal of American History, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Rethinking History. He is also an inaugural recipient of the American Council of Learned Societies’ Digital Innovation Fellowship.

At the Center for History and New Media Dr. Cohen has co-directed, among other projects, the September 11 Digital Archive and Echo, and has  developed software for scholars, teachers, and students, including the popular Zotero research tool.

Open.Michigan’s new Drupal platform

The Open.Michigan site has undergone a series of transformations over the last year (some of them behind the scenes and others right under your nose). First, we’ve reorganized the site making it easier for self-learners and educators to find OER content. Next, we provided helpful resources for content creators who want to openly license and share their learning materials. Finally, our website is now running on Drupal —  we decided that the robust, easy-to-maintain Drupal platform was going to provide the best environment given our needs. “And what were those?” you ask? Well, that would take an entirely different blog post. But for now, a list of the newness that our end users and staff will see:

  1. DIY resources :: We’ve created a number of do-it-yourself resources to help educators and learners share their own materials. Check out our section on sharing and learn how to unlock your ideas.
  2. Improved navigation :: Three cheers for a navigation bar that remains consistent as you move through the site. We put the main site navigation at the top of the content and added the secondary navigation (sub-pages, courses, resources, etc.) on the left. We also have breadcrumbs so you can find your way back through your academic wanderings.
  3. O! E! R! :: We completely rebuilt the component of the site that hosts and publishes our OER. The content now looks better, is easier to navigate, and is easier to search. “What does this all mean?!” I haven’t got a clue, but isn’t it grand? Honestly, this means that users who come to find learning materials on our site will have a much better experience finding them and making use of them.
  4. Search :: The site-wide search is really useful – just try it out in the upper-right corner. It uses Apache SOLR and even handles British English spellings – amazing!
  5. Metadata + RDFa :: Our OER is now easier to find on the Wild Wild Web. For the librarians and web geeks out there, we’ve tried to do a full implementation of RDFa for all of our courses/resources. That means the metadata like the license and title and language of a resource is all embedded in the page code and can be read by machines (as apocalyptic as it sounds, this is actually good). Now we can just point places like OER Commons and DiscoverEd to our site through our RSS feed and they can grab all the information they need.
  6. Contact form :: We have an easier way to contact the team. When was the last time you clicked on a link and it opened Outlook Express or Mac Mail or some odd email application you never use (seriously, don’t we all use the cloud now?)? No more of that quirkiness on our site – we’ve got a handy little form that sends us an email if you have a question. Next up: Olark?
  7. All-in-one :: The majority of the content on Open.Michigan site, excluding our blog and wiki, is now on the same platform. This integration is key for consistency and quick site updates and publishing.
  8. Stability + Performance :: Another critical element of the platform migration: to right the ship and sail her well. With improved software and server performance this upgrade certainly adds robustness to our production-level capabilities. Users will no doubt get a more reliable site. I think this also means certain staff are going to get more sleep at night.
  9. Speedy publishing :: All the end-user features aside, this new platform really helps our publishing process. We’ve managed to cut the publishing effort by 75%! What used to take us 2 hours to publish on our old platform only takes 30 minutes now. This is an incredible time-savings for our staff and means you get to access more content, faster.
  10. Open Source :: Personally, the best part about this platform is that it’s completely open source. We worked with a local development company (Switchback) to create the platform, test it and get it up. Going into the project they understood and supported our motives to make this a product that others in the open education/OER/OCW movement can use and build upon. We’re putting the final touches on the code and then we’ll release it to the public via github (look for an update soon!).

You’ll see more improvements on this Drupal site as time goes on. We already have dreams for content ratings, OpenStudy integration, and social network sharing. If you have other ideas for how the site can be more useful to you, let us know. OER has a lot of possibilities – we just gotta think of ’em >> contact us!

Fall 2010 Event Series

This term we are expanding our activities to include an Open Michigan Event series. We invite you to join us as we explore a variety of issues and projects all dedicated to fostering an open learning environment that embraces the global learning community.

Please join us on Thursday, October 7 from 11:30-1:00 in the North Quad Media Gateway as we host “What is Open?” a mini-unconference. We’ll feature open projects and ideas from U-M community members, including the medical school the law school and our brand new Wikipedians group, and encourage discussion and idea-generation with the audience. Your own project ideas are welcome and encouraged.

Throughout the term we will be hosting Open Workshops (Thursdays 11:30-1:00, North Quad Media Gateway) where dScribes and other members of the University community can come together to work on projects in a collaborative space, gaining valuable feedback from their peers.

We hope you will join us this fall every Thursday from 11:30-1 as we build our community together. All are welcome to these events. Please RSVP to the Open Workshops by emailing me (epuckett[at]

Will you please share these events with others who may be interested in becoming more involved in Open.Michigan and fostering an open global learning environment? Thank you and we hope to see you in the following weeks!