It’s time to bridge the divide between digital learning spaces and practices
In November 2014, as part of the Institute for Learning, Innovation and Development Inaugural conference we opened informal discussions to highlight an opportunity to join us on a journey to explore and deliver a new future for open education using EPrints. We hope to enhance and extend the existing platform to provide a truly community-based solution which goes beyond the current method of simply managing and delivering content. A solution which embraces the ethos of openness and challenges current practices to present opportunities to a global community of learners and experts to engage with our institutions in a different way.
How did we get here
Edshare, which was developed as part of the JISC funded OneShare project by the University of Southampton, was designed to create an institutional solution to enable the sharing and re-purposing of educational materials amongst academics. By choosing EPrints, ‘EdShare’ became an open content platform where materials could be made available for anyone in the world to use. By late 2014, EdShare at the University of Southampton hosts nearly 10,000 records and just over 36,000 individual files.
Since 2009 EPrints Services have worked with a number of institutions who have chosen to share their teaching and learning resources openly, as well as many more who have downloaded and run our open source software themselves – this includes many from the JISC UKOER programme and a growing number of institutionally funded platforms.
Open education, in the beginning
If we step back to the beginnings of the movement, in 2001 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) decided that in order to exploit the potential of the internet they would open up access to all their course content for free. They did so to exploit the potential of the web, to “embrace what the web was all about and unleash the creativity of an education community as had been done with other open movements” .
Though the open education field has grown rapidly in the past years with increasing diversity in practices, repository platforms for providing access are still used little more than to manage the content. With its open source approach and ability to add lightweight extensions through an open source app store, EPrints has massive potential to grow from this state and also facilitate how the content is structured, discovered and engaged with.
Digital spaces for learning and engagement
What we have seen with the massive growth of social networking and media sharing sites is how online communities form with an environment where users are empowered to engage and share knowledge and information with one another in an open manner. When it comes to institutional digital spaces there is still a preference for closed systems and to do something innovative will often involve having to find more flexible digital spaces with greater freedoms elsewhere.
We need to bridge this gap and empower individuals to adapt their practices.
Join us to help shape and deliver the future for open education and learning communities.
Please contact Kelly Terrell, Open Education & Services Lead, EPrints Services to find out more. We welcome contributions from individuals, groups, institutions, organisations and from all sectors with an interest in shaping and working together on this exciting community innovation to facilitate openess in higher education.
Original Image (modified): opensource.com via Flickr CC BY-SA
 [The New York Times, 2001]