Invitation to our dScribe program, winter 2011

As a new semester begins, it also brings opportunities to openly publish more content as Open Educational Resources at the University of Michigan. Several people are involved in obtaining permissions, creating and maintaining relationships and doing the clearance work that creates our U-M OER. Often students or faculty will express an interest to clear a course and our staff works to pair our student volunteers with faculty members to continue this process. Creating U-M published OER is truly a community effort and if you’re somehow a part of the U-M community or an interested local, we invite you to get in touch to learn more or get involved.

Open.Michigan winter 2011 dScribe Training

Monday, February 7

11:30-1:30 pm

Turkish American Friendship Room,  Shapiro Library

(that’s room 4004 in the Undergraduate Library)

Lunch will be served!

In this training session we’ll be covering basic information about copyright, intellectual property law, identifying common copyright issues in traditional course materials and also how to use our content clearance application, OERca. Please RSVP at:

dScribe in a Nutshell

dScribe, short for “digital and distributed scribes,” is a participatory and collaborative model for creating open content. It brings together enrolled students, staff, faculty, and self-motivated learners to work together toward the common goal of creating content that is openly licensed and available to people throughout the world.

The dScribe process is very iterative and collaborative and basically involves these elements: connect and collaborate (with Open.Michigan staff, with interested students, staff or faculty members at U-M); learn the basics (training); gather and license your materials; assess the materials; clear them of copyright issues; edit the work to prepare it for publication; Open.Michigan staff will review the material for final publication.

You’ll be getting training on February 7 but if you can’t attend, don’t let this stop you. Open.Michigan staff can set up a time with you to teach you how to work through this process.

Get Involved!

Faculty, students and staff: if you are interested in getting involved, please contact us! You can use the Open.Michigan contact form, email open.michigan [at] or email me directly at epuckett [at]

Catalyst Series

If you have a project that doesn’t quite fit this publication model, Open.Michigan would still like to help you out. Apply to partner with us in our Catalyst series. This series has been created to support local projects and teach people how to make them openly licensed. Open.Michigan staff provide food, space and promotional materials for your project as well as consult with you to openly license your project or concept.

Co-Developing Health OER in Ghana, South Africa, and the U.S.

When U-M began its international health OER activities in late 2008, one of the goals was to determine if institutions could collaborate on OER production.  Faculty from each institution contribute specialized knowledge based on their experiences and geographic locations. How does one facilitate information exchange among these universities to efficiently produce contextually appropriate educational materials?

Between October and December 2009, researchers Airong Luo (U-M), Dick Ng’ambi (UCT), and Ted Hanss (U-M) interviewed 52 participants involved in various roles related to health OER from five universities: U-M, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, University of Ghana, University of Cape Town, and University of the Western Cape. The aim of their study was to investigate the sustainability of OER based on possible cross-institutional collaboration as well as to explore social and technical challenges in creating and sharing OER materials. The researchers found that individuals were interested in collaborating to learn more about diseases common to a specific geographical area, to connect with specialists in their field, to develop curricula, and to share best practices for OER production. They also identified challenges to collaboration, such as network connectivity constraints, competition between institutions, and lack of awareness of potential collaborators in their field. The report concludes with a proposed collaboration model for OER and specific recommendations for the next phase of the African Health OER Network, such as forming interest groups at the institutional level for various aspects of OER production (i.e. educators, learning technologists, instructional designers, researchers, subject experts, and learners) to devise shared OER goals.

Read the full report.

What problem is OER supposed to solve?

I’ve been reckoning with the costs and existence of OER programs for a few months now with little concrete product to show. But I’ve come to what I think is an important and straightforward question: what problem is OER supposed to solve? As the Dutch might say, did we put “het paard achter de wagen spannen?” or put “the cart before the horse?” In other words, how can we justify the costs of large-scale OER programs if OER is a proposed solution that came before any proposed problem?

The OCW and OER movement came out of a desire to take advantage of new technologies that enabled easy distribution of educational materials. The initial goal was to share with the world content that had been created by educators for their own students. Why? First, ‘it was easy’ – all one needed to do was put that material online. Second, ‘it was the right thing to do’ – if one can easily share knowledge with others, isn’t it one’s moral responsibility to do so? Over time, other rationale developed: textbooks are too costly for students; sharing resources means teachers spend less time reinventing the wheel and have more time to teach; students need external resources to aid their learning; etc. These are mostly very legitimate reasons to contribute learning materials to the growing OER collection. However, many of these reasons are not strong enough to garner institutional support for large-scale OER development and publishing. Higher education institutions, such as public universities, exist to create and share knowledge with the world and while this seems directly in line with the initial goals of OER, the rationale lines have become a bit fuzzy when real dollars in a resource-scarce environment are at stake.

With an overarching goal of creating and sharing knowledge with the world, the sub-goals of a public university are to support the faculty and researchers that build its academic reputation and prestige. Balanced with this is a dedication to teaching and equipping students with the knowledge they need to make positive impacts in society. These are the goals that challenge large-scale OER facilities and questions inevitably emerge – how does OER production help existing problems in teaching and learning and research? If we are unsure, are the costs of OER production justified? How can one answer that question without a clear understanding of how OER actually benefits the educators, students, and institutions that create and distribute them?

Looking back a few years – OCW and OER did not seem to be solutions to a problem. They were an idea that crystallized out of available technology, infrastructure, and good will. I don’t argue against the premise of the open movement, but I do question the sustainability of institutional implementation of programs that are not designed to rectify identified and objectified problems. This does not mean I think institutional OER programs should be shut down or discarded or avoided. This means I think we need to first identify the real problems in teaching and learning (“het paard”) and then see if components of OER can be built into solutions (“de wagen”) for these problems.

Design the Medical Textbook of the Future

You’re invited!

Open.Michigan, the Medical School’s Learning Resources Center Multimedia Development team and Dr. Maya Hammoud, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology invite you to join us to design a medical digital textbook of the future. Students, faculty and staff input are welcome and valued. Bring your perspective, expertise, and interests to shaping this project as we address the educational opportunities of the 21st century. We will host two design sessions with the goal of transforming this idea into a reality.

What would a medical digital textbook of the future look like? What kinds of information would it have? How would you interact with it? When would you use it?

We will be providing dinner at both design sessions! Please RSVP if you are able to attend one or both sessions:

Design Session I:
January 13, 5:30-8 pm
Identify opportunities and begin designing the textbook.
Design Session II:
January 20, 5:30-8pm
Focus on prototyping the textbook and brainstorming ways to scale the project.


Both sessions will take place at the Learning Resource Center, 3rd floor of the Taubman Medical Library, Room 3901 (1135 E. Catherine Street):

More information:

This event is part of our Catalyst series, winter 2011. For more information about our Catalyst series or to partner with us, please visit:

Introducing our Catalyst series

The Open.Michigan initiative facilitates opportunities to exchange knowledge, innovate and connect with likeminded people through projects and ideas that are shared across the world.  Are you working on a project you would like to share with others? Could you use some extra hands or expertise to make your ideas become reality? Are you interested in brainstorming your ideas with others?

In thinking about ways we can connect to the learning and teaching communities around campus, we’ve decided this term to focus on supporting existing projects and activities through our Catalyst series. By supporting the interests and activities of our community, we not only promote the success of initiatives, ideas and projects at U-M but we also help to educate our community about the benefits of openness and transparency.

This event series is built upon your interests, ideas and initiatives. We would like to help you make these become reality.

Once a month we will host a student or a community group that needs some extra space, expertise or people power to bring an idea to fruition. Basically, you provide the idea and we provide the logistics. We will provide you with the space, food and publicity you need to help you complete your ideas or projects. We’ll invite members of the community to come out and help you complete these ideas, allowing you to promote your group, your idea or get your work published quickly and easily. Our only requirement is that you make your project open. By applying an open license to your work others may share and adapt your ideas to create new ones. We will either host your work on our website or link to it, promoting it and archiving for future use.

If you’re interested in working with Open.Michigan, please fill out the online form.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact open.michigan[at]