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Friday 27th, Oct 2017 (Published on Friday 25th, Aug 2017)

edShare@GCU: Advocacy for sharing in the open

edShare@GCU is Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) repository of educational resources. Its origins can be traced back to the Spoken Word Project, which ran from 2003 to 2008, led by GCU in collaboration with BBC Information and Archives, and a number of universities in the US. “The idea was to take television and radio broadcasts from the BBC and make them available so that they could be used for classroom teaching” says Marion Kelt (@mugpunter7), Research and Open Access Librarian at GCU. 

Glasgow Caledonian University Campus

“As time went on and the project wound down, we accumulated a lot of broadcast and multimedia output from the university but it was running on pretty much out dated equipment and software, so we approached university management with a proposal for new upgraded servers, to give [our content] a new home and to share it with colleagues through the educational sector”.

The institutional repository currently holds over 1800 permanent resources created by members of the GCU community. Toby Hanning (@tobhan), Systems Librarian at GCU explains what they mean by permanent:

"The repository is not for things that have a definitive timescale, so for instance, things like assessments which are only kept for three years after the assessment and then need to be removed; edShare is not the place for them, they should be living in a document management system somewhere. The idea is that once you make something open, you are committing to making it open in perpetuity, so that’s what the system does. If you make something available and then after three years you want to delete it, then edShare is not the right place for it”.

edShare does not contain published research, which belongs in a research repository; it doesn’t hold scanned book chapters or digitised articles because of their licence: 

“The vast majority of what’s in there is learning and teaching materials, so it could be video of lectures or slides with the lecturer talking over the top; it could be podcasts; there’s a lot of interactive html resources created by our learning technologists. As long as the resources are permanent, then essentially people can put in anything”.

EdShare@GCU: Facilitating and Supporting Sharing  

According to Marion, edShare serves three main purposes. It keeps resources safe, it facilitates sharing and it showcases the work of teaching staff at GCU. 

Glasgow Caledonian University logo

"We thought that within the university people who were primarily educators as opposed to researchers didn’t have somewhere to showcase their really good work developing multimedia teaching resources. The edShare system actually gives them that opportunity because you can go in and put in a personal profile which allows you to say ‘This is me, you can contact me here, I’m interested in these subject areas, these are my qualifications and here are all the resources that I have created, let’s talk’. The other good thing about edShare is that it is indexed in Google; if you were doing a Creative Commons search, you would come up with a lot of these resources, so it is really a big window in the world. The idea is that it is promoting the whole open education agenda so you got your stuff out there, you are saying ‘I wrote it’, and you are offering to share it with the world”.

Browsing resources in the repository it is noticeable that a lot of them are shared openly in the sense that they can be accessed by anyone outside GCU. However it is not often that resources come with an open licence. Marion justifies this as part of the on-going advocacy work of the edShare team:

Marion Kelt
“What we are trying to do is hook people in and trying to get them into the idea of sharing. A lot don’t quite understand what a Creative Commons licence is, but we don’t want that to prevent them from sharing. So I go out to them and try to explain what an open educational resource is, what CC licences are, why it is a good thing to share… but we wanted them to get in there and start using it. We purposefully made it very easy to [upload resources] and share them, so the licence field is not compulsory to fill in. We don’t want to have this prohibitive approach to going in and sharing”.  

Policing a repository to make sure that all uploaded resources conform to the rules is seldom an option; for the edShare team being approachable and identifying where training is needed is just as important. Toby expands on this:

“I tend to go in on a daily basis and look at the latest additions. At the moment that’s manageable because there are maybe five or ten resources on average being uploaded a day. Obviously if there was a lot more I wouldn’t be able to do this, but if you go through, you can see instantly whether someone is a regular user of the service or someone is a new user. If they are a regular user chances are they’ve already had some advocacy, they’ve already had a training session, they’ve had copyright information… It tends to be that once they’ve been in contact with us, they’ll come and ask us questions before uploading. When there are people who are new to the service, who haven’t been in contact, it’s quite easy to identify them via their latest additions; they’ll be the people we’ll be targeting for basic cold calling and saying “Would you like some advocacy?” or ‘We noticed that you had a problem uploading this resource, do you want us to come and give you help? Usually they are very receptive”.

“It’s trying to fit into what people need and understanding the pressures they are working on”, adds Marion. Other repositories, for instance Klascement in Belgium, are exploring the incorporation of gamification and social network features to drive user engagement, and create a community that interacts within the repository rather than around it. As Toby points out, the problem with opening comments to the public, as is the case on YouTube for instance, is that you also leave yourself open to abuse.

“When we originally got the software built, there was a bit of concern [in relation to including comments, likes and that sort of things], would that be a turn off? We were trying to encourage [GCU staff] to make their resources open, to share with the world, which quite a lot of them are quite adverse to anyway, and then we’d say ‘and people can openly comment on your resources’… It seemed to be another potential barrier to people making things open and another excuse they would have to not make things open”.

Toby Hanning

Marion agrees:

“What I found when I’ve been talking to people about OER and CC is that people have a fear of being judged, they are afraid to share their stuff because they think people will look at you and judge you and be really harsh. You have to say to them “I shared all my stuff and nobody has given me a hard time over it, in fact a whole load of people have reused it’, but you have to take away that scary element, the judgement element and say ‘Look, just put it out there and you might find that the feedback you’ll get will be nice’.

Identifying Barriers and Challenges

Is this fear of being judged the biggest challenge to getting people to use edShare? Toby thinks the idea of getting educators to make things open and share is an obvious challenge, but also surmountable. In his opinion, there are other barriers they have come across:

“One is getting staff to take responsibility for their own resources; the whole point of edShare is that people upload their own resources, they curate their own resources, they share their own resources and take responsibility for that, but a lot of our staff are used to passing that on to learning technologists in their department, and having learning technologist curate and manage resources on their behalf. (…) And a lot of the resources that you see have closed access could be open access, but they are being uploaded by one or two learning technologists in the school who may be quite adverse to open access and therefore make everything closed. If the resources went back to being owned by the person who created them and were responsible for them, that is the lecturers, most of these could be and probably would be open access”.

He continues:

“The other problem is embedding the repository into the community. At the moment edShare sits separate to other systems, and to use it is additional work, it’s additional time. (…) The way you actually get people using a system in bulk is to embed it with the other systems in your institution, and to give them a reason to use it. So obviously with research repositories, it’s now mandated that academics have to make their research open access, and they have to deposit in their institutional repositories, and that’s where the critical mass has come from. Really what we need to find is a way to do this with open education as well.”

Measuring the Impact of edShare@GCU 

What do they think has been the impact of edShare so far?

“You can’t really measure the impact. Well, you can measure how many resources have gone into edShare, how many are open and things like that, but the actual impact within teaching practice, you have to give that a chance to get rolling and for people to talk within their own departments”, says Marion. Toby adds: “Just looking at the variety of resources that have been added to the repository, there has to be an impact area in terms of blended learning, because we had a blended learning strategy before, it was something that everyone was supposed to be taking part in but they weren’t, because they clearly didn’t have an enabler for it and now they do. And the types of resources that are being uploaded, especially interactive learning resources… [Staff] had nowhere to put these resources before so they simply weren’t creating them. Now they have a place to put them, they are creating interactive learning resources that simply didn’t exist before.”

Next Steps 

When asked about their vision for edShare in the next few years, for Toby, it comes back to embedding it with the day to day running of the university. “I don’t want to see edShare as something that sits as a separate system, that people say “Ah it’s a nice thing to do but I don’t really have the time’. I want to see it as part of the integral workflow of the learning and teaching practice of GCU. So the first thing you do when you create resources is put them in edShare, and then you can automatically populate the VLE or website or wherever else from there, then I think maybe that’s the route to go. For me I’d like in two or three years time to see that it really is an embedded part of the learning and teaching process of the university and for it to be used by the majority of staff rather than a minority, which unfortunately at the moment is still the case”. “I’m seeing it the same only bigger and better and more people coming on board with it”, adds Marion.

Lessons Learnt 

Inevitably, the last minutes of our conversation are spent talking about the advice they might like to offer to any institution thinking of setting up a repository of teaching resources. “Listen to the needs of your users, because if you don’t build the system for the needs of your users, they won’t use it, because it simply won’t be fit for purpose. (…) This is a resource for an institution not for a select few individuals. It’s really about building it to the spec that the whole institution requires, and if that means having a very broad scope, then so be it. But if you build it to just the needs of a few, it might be used by those select few, but won’t be used by the rest of the institution”. Marion adds a cautionary note: “Check out the landscape of your institution. Try and figure out if there are relevant policies and things like that in place. If there aren’t, try and get someone else to develop them. (…) You need the policies, you need to have the framework because people need support and they need to know where they stand”.

Originally published on 19 July 2017 - 2:46pm by Beck Pitt

Further Reading 

Marion Kelt on Glasgow Caledonian University's OER Policy 

Marion and Toby were interviewed by researcher Bea de los Arcos


Picture credits: Glasgow Caledonian University Campus by Volker Hohl [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, GCUlogo_251px.jpg is licensed Public Domain and available via Wikimedia Commons. Pictures of Marion via edShare@GCU and Toby via edShare@GCU. 

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