January 18, 2006

Blogging in the OU...

I think that over the last couple of days, institutional blogging has been encouraged by our VC....

The setting was a two day internal conference at the OU on Curriculum Innovation Across Boundaries (I couldn't find a public link so if you are outside the OU firewall, I apologise...) Although I missed the VC's keynote (I'm hoping it will be made available as a webcast replay - OU internal again, I'm afraid...), I did catch her comments at the closing event; and unless I completely misunderstood her message, I think there was, in part, a call to arms with respect to institutional blogging.

Now, I don't know if the the call-to-blogging referred to internal blogs (two of which are claimed on this tutor site, though neither are blogs really in any sense other than they are easy news publishing sites with comment support), or public blogs (such as this one), but I think in general that this could be a Good Thing.

The Conference covered 4 main areas - errr.... I think I can blog these without giving too much away. As everything else to do with the conference is Intranetted, though, I'm not sure how much I can say... there is, as far as I know, no institutional blogging policy yet to cover my blogging behaviour, except perhaps general guidelines in my Terms and Conditions (err, can I give away intranetted URLs on a public page???), or the Computing Code of Conduct... Hmm - perhaps I should read them before going any further....

...or perhaps not... (Do you ever get one of those reckless moments...? ;-)

Anyway, the Conference covered 4 main areas - Working across boundaries, Research and Curriculum Initiatives, Blue skies thinking: the Curriculum portfolio - 2010, Matching Curriculum to teaching technologies.

One of the most notable things about the Conference for me was the majority of things that were reported (and there were 4 parallel sessions running 3 or 4 times a day) were new to most people. This meant there was a lot of good feeling about all the neat stuff that's going on here, as well as a lot of networking between people who wanted to make use of each others' stuff (in the technology led themes, at least) which people didn't know existed before the conference...)

And that's where I'm a bit concerned... lots of people were asking questions in sessions along the lines of "that thing you did/are doing is really neat. Would it be possible for us to do something similar/use that approach/software in our course?"

Which means that our internal comms, by and large, are typically broken on an everyday basis... (I knew that anyway - I'm sure it's the same in any large organisation... you know the story - you have to go to an international conference half way round the world to find people from your own institution who have similar interests!)

I'm not sure how it would work, though - I spend a lot of midnight oil blogging, and I don't tend to touch on a lot of the 'pedagogical' stuff I could, such as the presentation I gave at the conference on a project we are running with NAGTY (the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth) involving a couple of online academic study groups (I'll will actually blog about that -along with a copy of the presentation, when I next have a spare hour; I just wish I had recorded the talk then I could have started to podcast too!;-)

One area where it would seem to make sense is in the CETLs, particularly the Open CETL.

The Open CETL is a collaboration between the OUís three single-institution Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and the collaborative Centre which it leads. The Centres will shortly share the Open CETL Suite. They are already working together to avoid overlaps, share good practice and achieve efficiencies. The Open CETL is not then, a distinct set of staff, nor a formal organisation; rather, it is a way of working and sharing.

Furthermore, each centre has simalar interests and objectives, including this one ( number three on a list of four): "Each is committed to engaging and sharing its expertise with the wider Open University community, as well as with colleagues outside the Open University."

What better way than a team blog? Or a set of individual blogs aggregated through a SuprGlu equivalent such as Stephen's MyGlu?

Now - if you're new to blogging, you perhaps won't know why - or how - this may be interesting. Hmm, where to start? Let's start in a non-obvious way - if the CETLers are blogging (and I think all the CETL Teaching Fellows should be required to blog about their projects as a condition fo their fellowship....;-) then those blogposts can be fed as news stories (in summarised/first sentence form) to the Intranet, which is the homepage for a reasonable number of staff, or the OU Screensaver using a 'News from the CETLs' page added tho the screensaver carousel (perhaps limited to internal users if the screensaver can distinguish internal and external use?)

How can this happen? - by the magic of something call RSS, that 's how - a format for syndicating stories and news to other websites (I Googled that link on the earch terms 'rss' and 'bbc'; I'm still waiting to be able to do a federated search over all our current online courses, so I could post a link (at least for internal readers) to some OU course material on the subject...if we have any... the OU archive is slowly becoming keyword searchable, and I hope that soon OUpedia will be a reaility, behind the firewall at least...).

I don't have any examples of RSS being consumed (i.e. used to display information on this page, but if you look at this site you'll see links to news stories from other sites down the left and right hand sides - syndication in action... There is an RSS feed from this page of course (look on the left hand side of the main page for a link that says Syndicate this site (XML) - the results may look horrible to you, but machines love it...

We're also exploring the use of RSS to syndicate OU Course News (or how about course content etc. etc.). There are other sources of RSS in the OU too, such as described on this list and increasingly as provided by the OU Library.

Anyway, anyway - it probably makes sense to finish off with a list of OU bloggers that I've come across so far. If you're an OU blogger not on the list (and I'm not counting OU student bloggers blogging offsite, though I'd love to hear from you, 'cos I know you're out there...), please mail me and I'll add you to the list:

PS as the above list is explicitly coded, it is likely to date as I fail to maintain it... However, I will try to keep my subscriptions to OU bloggers up to date on this Bloglines blogroll - here's the current public membership (NB some blogs I've marked as private because they seem particulalry directed to an OU audience - mail me from an @open.ac.uk email address if you want the full list).

If you want an OU blog (this blog, for example, is hosted on the OU's student blog server, although the permissions have been tweaked a bit, I think :-) just hassle LTS, though it looks as though if you're in Systems you already have access to one of your own...

PS I did a quick search to see if any UK HEI VC's had a blog (like some corporate CEO's do), but couldn't find any to date. I wonder who the first will be...? ;-)

PPS if this blog is taken off air, you'll know I said something that didn't go down too well...perhaps I ought to do a backup...?;-)

Posted by ajh59 at January 18, 2006 07:47 PM

Tnx; Naughton's RSS feed was correct in my aggregator, but main URL was wrong - now fixed! Couldn't blog live in the end because I got frustrated with tablet-tweaking; may add some post-conf notes;

also Peter Scott's home page has a blog feed and a FlashVlog feed;

finally, note there are a lot of del.icio.us users even if not necessarily providing frequent blog updates; will send you a separate list of those - worth subscribing to some of their feeds;

Posted by: Marc Eisenstadt at January 18, 2006 08:23 PM

Hi Marc - I thanks for pointing out the social bookmarking thing - perhaps it would be useful for to set up delicious tags for OUsocialBookmarkers, and OUbloggers?


Posted by: Tony Hirst at January 19, 2006 09:27 AM