Yesterday Jisc announced its intention to retire Jorum in September 2016 and “refresh its open educational resources offer”. I’ve been involved with Jorum, in one capacity or another, since 2002 when Moira Massey and Sarah McConnell at EDINA, started drafting a proposal for a repository as part of the Jisc eXchange for Learning Programme (X4L), and I’ve also been a member of the Jorum Steering group since it was set up in 2005 to help guide Jorum through its transition to service phase.
I’ve seen Jorum develop through many iterations and technical incarnations and it’s been a long and interesting journey. There have been many stumbling blocks along the way, but we’ve seen real progress and have learned a great deal about the practicalities of education resource description, discovery and management. Both the education and technology landscapes have changed fundamentally since Jorum came into being thirteen years ago and it hasn’t always been easy for the service to adapt to those changes as quickly as the sector sometimes expected. Despite these challenges, all members of the Jorum Team, both past and present, always remained fully committed to providing a useful service to the community and have shown huge dedication to supporting their users, so I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank every one of them for their efforts.
That said, I do have some concerns about Jisc’s continued involvement in the open education space. As a result of the Jisc / HEA UKOER Programmes and it’s many precursors, Jisc developed an enviable international reputation for open education innovation. The fact that there is still a lively and active community of practice around UKOER is testament to the success of the programmes in raising awareness of open education and starting to embed open education practice across higher education. There’s sill a long way to go of course, few institutions are actually creating open educational resources in any great volume, evidence of reuse is still slim, and we have so much more to learn about how teachers and learners find, share, and use educational resources. There is also a danger that the open education community is singing to the choir rather than preaching to the masses. (Obligatory religious metaphor; cf John Robertson)
However there does seem to be a resurgence of interest in sharing resources in both the further and higher education sectors over the last year. HE institutions are starting to explore the potential value of developing open education policy and Glasgow Caledonian University recently became the first HEI in Scotland to approve an institutional OER policy, based incidentally on a University of Leeds policy originally created as part of the UKOER programme. GCU also plan to implement their shiny new policy through the creation of an institutional OER repository based on the University of Southampton’s EdShare platform. Leeds are still actively supporting the sharing and discovery of open educational resources through their institutional Jorum Window, a valuable service provided by Jorum that other institutions were beginning to explore. The University of Edinburgh also has an ambitious vision for open education and intends to develop frameworks to enable staff to publish and share their teaching and learning materials as OER in order to enrich the University and the sector. In addition, the OER Conferences, now supported by ALT, continue to go from strength to strength, despite many predicting their demise once the UKOER funding ran out.
There is also increasing interest in sharing resources in the further education sector, partly as a result of the FELTAG recommendations, the full impact of which have yet to be felt. Following an ambitious programme of regionalisation in Scotland, colleges are starting to explore the potential of sharing resources within consortia. This may not be the fully open sharing that many in the sector aspire to, but its a good start. There is some way to go in the FE sector before the culture of competition transforms into a culture of cooperation and collaboration and this is where the support of organisations such as Jisc and the College Development Network is invaluable.
I’m not going to comment too much on the Jisc App and Content Store yet, as it’s clearly very early days and, as with any agile development, I expect it will go through many iterations before it sees the light of day. However I will say that talk of customers and App Stores rather concerns me as it brings to mind commercial associations that sit rather uneasily with my conception of open education.
There is still a huge amount of open education knowledge and expertise within Jisc, not just within the Jorum team, but also across their account managers, subject specialists and senior co-design managers, and I sincerely hope that Jisc will build on the invaluable expertise of their own staff and colleagues across the sector to ensure that their new refreshed approach to open education really does meet the changing digital demands of the Further and Higher Education community.