OERu/Planning/Technology working group/2015 Technology annual report

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Report of the Technology working group

There has been an impressive boost to the capacity of the OERu Technical Group, as Dave Lane has joined OERF, working with Jim Tittsler to provide dedicated technology development and support. The past year has seen significant advances in developing and deploying more attractive interfaces for OERu Courses (significantly, via an adaptable WordPress theme). We also deployed significantly improved online discussion and planning spaces. All this while maintaining OERu's open source values.

A vast array of potential initiatives encompassing content management, publishing, communication between OERu partners (and with learners) are under consideration. Thorough consultation to understand partner needs will be crucial to set priorities and to ensure that the products are useful.

Summary of main outputs of the working group

  • Group commenced meeting fortnightly and has been meeting monthly since March 2015.
  • Launch of WordPress OERu theme https://github.com/oeru/wordpress-oeru_theme; the OER Foundation is now hosting a number of WordPress instances in Docker containers (including a test network AKA multisite)
  • Launch of groups.oeru.org as primary email-focused communication tool for members of active working groups - the underlying open source GroupServer platform, hosted in this case by its authors OnlineGroups.Net as a commercial service, combines pure email-interaction with a rich, searchable web archive to provide institutional "memory".
  • Discourse discussion space community.oeru.org being tested as the main community site - the widely used open source platfom, Discourse, is a new take on online forums which makes it easy for ad hoc communities of interest and practice to form spontaneously around interesting discussion threads. It uses a clever set of participation-based self-moderation mechanisms to ensure a reasonable signal-to-noise ratio. Thus far, feedback has been strongly favourable.
  • Incorporated a few technology related questions in the Input evaluation survey to gauge technology considerations and issues in the network.

Initial KPIs from the strategic plan and 2015 outputs

  1. 100% of OERu partners assign an administrator for their pages on the Content Management System: 72% of OERu partners have designated a CMS Administrator. (Shared KPI with Partner engagement).
  2. Develop recommendations for system to coordinate and communicate credit transfer and articulation pathways to OERu learners: Work has not commenced - dependent on adoption of the credit transfer guidelines.(Shared KPI with Standing committee for credit transfer and Curriculum and programme of study).
  3. Develop recommendations for system to communicate degree pathways and pricing models for services (summative assessment and other value-added partner services.): Work has not commenced as this is dependent on achieving a minimum viable product of courses. However, the Input evaluation has gathered information on partner preferences for determining prices and technology working group has endorsed this as a priority area of work.(Shared KPI with Curriculum and programme of study).
  4. 0.5 FTE contribution in kind to OERu community source technology innovation (i.e. 10 working days per month spread across the network): Exceeded. Platinum partners (OER Foundation, Otago Polytechnic, Kwantlen Polytechnic Univeristy, University of the Highlands and Islands and University of Southern Queensland) are contributing financially towards a shared 1.0 FTE position.
  5. 30% of OERu partners with membership on the OERu technology email list: Achieved. 31% of partners have assigned a representative for the Technology Working group and have joined the Technology group on groups.oeru.org.
  6. Develop recommendations for tracking learners accessing OERu course materials. Not started. Dependent on technical solutions for user access management and open values associated with OER that no learner should be required to register in order to access course materials.
Status Against KPIs
  • Reviewed the 2015 KPI allocations for the technology group
  • Referenced the recommendation to call for volunteers to assist OERu partners with uploading content to the CMS from the previous OERuMC meeting.
  • Acknowledged the need for a few training resources to show OERu CMS administrators how to upload their content in the CMS.
  • Agreed that these were appropriate noting that the KPI outputs may need to be amended with the adoption of the new communication technology tools
  • Stressed that the development of recommendations for the OERu systems to communicate degree pathways and pricing models for services (summative assessment and other value-added partner services.) is a productive area of work.
Shared KPIs
  1. 150 participants on the OERu partners planning list by 31 December 2015 (i.e. approximately 4 members per partner institution). (Primary focus of Partner engagement but shared with Technology).
  2. 350 participants on the open OERu community list (Primary focus of Partner engagement but shared with Technology).
  3. AVI Process design framework to communicate activities where volunteer help is needed and to coordinate volunteers (Primary focus of Partner engagement but shared with Technology).

Recommendations for 2016 and the future

Some potential activities for the coming year:

  • Develop recommendations and design system to pathways of study, assessment options and pricing models for minimum viable product to be implemented in 2016.
  • Solidify understanding of Partners’ technology needs.
  • Continue to evolve and enhance course creation and publishing approaches, promoting a "mobile first" approach given the increasing prevalence of learners primarily browsing with mobile devices.
  • Review Central Authentication Service approaches like the open source CAS to allow access to all OERF hosted technologies supporting OERu learners via a single login. After a single login, an OERu learners and partner representatives will be able to access all OERF services transparently without further logins. This would remove the need to create separate user accounts for each system, reducing the perceived barriers for using these systems.
  • Review centralised management of digital media artefacts, either via MediaWiki media asset library, or another archival approach, which makes licence and reuse status of each work immediately obvious.
  • Continue to assess and respond to Partners’ process and communication challenges
  • Model and potentially support communication with distance learners:
    • Big Blue Button and other open source live discussion spaces built around the WebRTC secure and open web communication standard
    • Open Source version of “Slack” communication aggregation and collaboration platform, “Mattermost
  • Develop introductory tutorial materials for Partners to use OERu Content Management System
  • Develop a course on web communication techniques, protocols, semantic content, accessibility, and other practical considerations, like recognising that people use different types of devices which place different constraints on their ability to interact with content.