OERu/Strategic plan 2014 - 2017/Strategic plan 2015 - 2017/Annual report 2014/Technology working group
Report of the Technology working group
Sarah Lambert (University of Wollongong); Wayne Mackintosh (OER Foundation); Jim Tittsler (OER Foundation); Timothy McCallum (University of Southern Queensland); Tim Klapdor (Charles Sturt University); and Brian Lamb (Thompson Rivers University).
- accommodate the needs and desires of the course development workgroup
- maintain scalable, secure, cost-effective infrastructure for collaborative course authoring and delivery
- interoperate with partner institution legacy systems, ideally federating similar systems
- share open data formats, sources, and services to the greatest extent possible
- deliver content in a variety of formats, including mobile (maintain separation between content and rendering)
- implement solutions for customised local branding and theming of shared content resources
- adapt to the increased importance of audio and video
- make significant improvement to the webpages as used for course delivery to OERu students
- develop the OERu delivery platform up to the same professional standard as the OERu public website
- find ways to make it easier for individual designers and non-technical academics to use the OER technologies especially WikiEducator
Summary of main outputs
2014 has seen significant progress in terms of lowering the barriers to participation in WikiEducator for course development, and in professionalising the look of the OERu course delivery websites. Significant progress has been made in enhancing the content development and delivery capacity for OERu, particularly with respect to mobile-friendly, customizable theming and design. A snapshot approach was implemented, in which a bullet-list outline of the course pages in the wiki is used to produce a responsive design course site. USQ developed videos demonstrating how responsive design web sites could be created using Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets and MediaWiki. A professional graphic design team (newSplash) was commissioned to develop responsive CSS look and feel that mirrors the OERu website. This framework will be customisable, so partners could develop their own branding for remix and reuse of any OERu course content for their own full-fee students. The most recent iterations of the framework demonstrate enhanced aesthetic appeal and navigation. (More iterations here.)
The WikiEducator MediaWiki environment was updated to version 1.23, SSL enabled, the discussion software upgraded to be more robust, and the Visual Editor was successfully implemented. This was an important step in getting non-technical users feeling comfortable using the wiki for course development, and equals progress on our objective to lower the barrier of entry for designers getting into the wiki.
The WikiEducator Peer Evaluation extension is a minimalistic tool that lets one use peer evaluation and self evaluation techniques for wiki based content. This project was started as part of Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2014 for the Open Education Resource Foundation supporting the WikiEducator and OERu initiatives.
Recommendations for 2015 and the future
There has been encouraging progress on the technical outputs of the OERu. The next logical step would be to widen participation and input from technically skilled staff in OERu partner organisations. This would enable us to make some progress towards a "community source model" and meeting needs that it is hoped this model could address. It has been a struggle to find any interested developers either within the partner institutions or the wider community. Some of these needs might be partially addressed by an inventory from partners to identify possible existing tools and capacity. In the coming months, there will need to be an appraisal involving the wider OERu partner community to articulate working aims that reflect needs and a realistic appraisal of what is possible.