Open Education Conference OER14

Newcastle upon Tyne’s Centre for Life was the venue for the fifth annual conference on Open Education OER14, which took place in April.

OER14 1Two university students provided a superb welcome to delegates and Catherine Ngugi then provided a stirring keynote presentation which set the tone for the conference.  As Project Director for OER Africa she described how the prohibitive cost of text books has led to the lecture being favoured as a teaching technique.  She gave specific examples of how collaboratively produced OERs were beginning to widen pedagogical approaches as well as encouraging the sharing of practices between institutions.


Several delegates had come straight to Newcastle from the Open Courseware Consortium conference in Ljubliana and were able to share the thinking from that event in the discussion.  The workshop sessions and posters embraced the conference focus of ‘Building Communities of Open Practice’  and the specific themes of:

  • Building and linking communities of open practice
  • MOOCs and open courses
  • Academic practice, development and pedagogy
  • Open policy, research, scholarship and access
  • Students as users and co-creators

Open Education policies were much discussed at national and institutional level with much interest in recent commitments in both Wales and Scotland.

The panel session at the end of Day 1 was chaired by Allison Littlejohn, (Glasgow Caledonian University) and included Jonathan Worth (Coventry University), Mike Sharples (The Open University), Torie Eva (Pearsons) and Alan Levine (Cogdog). The challenge of how (or indeed if) to develop communities of open practice led to lively debate in the room and on the hash tag #OER14.  You really did need to be there to get the full richness of this discussion, but it included references to the potential role of OER in opening up the ‘dark and corrupt’ side of academia and also addressed the risk that Open Ed could actually increase an educational divide.

Higher Education was particularly well represented at the event but there were also contributions from FE and Skills and from Community Learning.

oer3The Centre for Life proved to be a very buzzy venue with plenty of stimulating activity going on. The Motion Ride was not a formal part of the conference but many delegates took advantage of this (and came out a bit damp!) and it was just one of the active and creative activities in and around the Centre for Life. The poster zone had plenty of opportunity for delegates to contribute creativity and ideas and the Gala dinner included a Lego model making exercise.

Conference co-chairs were Simon Thomson from Leeds Metropolitan University and Megan Quentin-Baxter from Newcastle University.

OER15 will take place in Cardiff in April 2015. Meantime ALT actively promotes discussion in the area of Open Education through the Open Education Special Interest Group:

Report coordinated and written by David Kernohan and Alastair Clark. Images from (licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.)

David Kernohan, Senior Co-design Manager,

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member

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