H818- Comparing multimedia tools

Over the past week I have been trying out some new multimedia tools for my practical project as part of H818 – The networked practitioner. The tools I opted to try included Microsoft Sway and Adobe Spark, due to the features available and their usability. As part of the activity we were also asked to peer review the tools used by other students and their trial outputs.

Microsoft Sway


Adobe Spark

Introducing Adobe Spark

How did I find the two tools?

Although both tools offer very similar functionality i.e. the ability to embed a wide range of multimedia, as well as the creation of animated HTML5 web pages, I found Adobe Spark more intuitive to use and the output seemed more refined than the Sway offering. What I also liked about Adobe Spark is that it is actually a suite of three of tools, furthering the usefulness of the tool.

One of the stand out features of Microsoft Sway is the built-in accessibility checker. The tool also offers an accessible view. This is great for ensuring the creation of accessible resources, particularly as my project is focusing on the topic of inclusion! I just wish that Adobe Spark offered such functionality.

Final tool choice


In addition to trialling the aforementioned tools, I also took the opportunity to peer review a number of tools trialled by fellow students which included:

From reviewing and comparing the outputs created using these tools, I have opted to produce my multimedia presentation using a combination of Adobe Spark and Biteable. I feel that these tools offer a good combination of creative control, whilst remaining usable. I also value the ability to mix a range of multimedia from different sources. Both tools are free to use and even where a ‘fremium’ model is offered in the case of Biteable, the restrictions on the free account do not prevent me from achieving what I want to do i.e. sharing the video online etc.


Creative Commons: Choosing a licence


Creative Commons – cc stickers” by Kristina Alexanderson. Creative Commons licence (CC BY)

Creative Commons licensing provides a simpler way for content creators to licence the sharing of their work; whether a photograph, video or blog, all are covered under the Creative Commons licence system. There are many ‘flavours’ of the licence, allowing authors to specify explicit restrictions and avoiding the need for users to contact the owner each time they wish to use the original work.

The following video provides an overview of the Creative Commons licensing system:

A useful wizard is also provided on the Creative Commons website to help authors to determine the correct licence for their works.

Licence choice

For this blog and my Flickr account, I have chosen to licence my content using the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence:


Having regularly benefited from the use of openly licenced content (such as the photos used on this blog), I wanted to give something back to the community by openly licensing my own content. By doing this, I hope that others can not only benefit from my outputs, but also to share and build upon these, thus helping to further the reach and impact of my work.

In addition, I find that by publishing my content openly and attracting viewers from afar provides me with increased motivation to maintain blogs such as this. If however, my published works received little attention, I would question whether it was worth the time and effort…

When first choosing my Creative Commons licence I opted for non-commercial use, as I did not want my original work to be re-used commercially and sold for profit.  However, since reading Moller’s (2005) ‘The Case for Free Use: Reasons Not to Use a Creative Commons – NC License‘ I am wondering whether I should change my chosen licence to increase the exposure/usage of my work…? By using the Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) licence, this would allow anyone (even commercially) to remix, tweak and build upon my work, whilst still ensuring that I was credited and that any new creations were licenced under identical terms, thus preventing corporate exploitation.

OER – What’s the issue?


Dialing the right mix…” by opensource.com. Creative Commons licence (CC BY-SA)

This week, we are continuing our exploration of open education & OER by reviewing some of the published research in this area and also considering the key challenges faced by the OER movement.

Before exploring the key challenges, let’s consider some of the perceived benefits of OER. According to JISC (2014) the release of OER can help meet a number of strategic goals, including:

  • Engagement with a wider community
  • Engagement with employers
  • Sustaining vulnerable subjects
  • Enhancing marketing and engagement of prospective students worldwide
  • Brokering collaborations and partnerships

Additionally, JISC (2014) state that the release of OER can also benefit a number of stakeholder groups including:

Learners – benefit from:

  • Seeing/applying knowledge in a wider context than their course would otherwise allow, eg international dimension
  • Support for learner-centred, self-directed, peer-to-peer and social/informal learning approaches
  • The opportunity to test out course materials before enrolling – and compare with other similar courses

Discover more here

The OER originator – benefit from:

  • Student/user feedback and open peer review
  • Opportunities to work across sectors, institutions and subject disciplines
  • Increased digital literacies (particularly around IPR)

Discover more here

Educational institutions – benefit from:

  • Wider availability of their academic content and focus on the learning experience (linking to widening participation agenda)
  • Increased capacity to support remote students
  • Increased sharing of ideas and practice within the institution, including greater role for support services

Discover more here

Despite the number of benefits associated with the release of OER there are still a number of issues, which must be overcome before institutions and individuals can fully ‘buy-into’ the OER movement. From my reading of de los Arcos et al. (2014) & McGill et al. (2013), I perceive the following three key issues of OER:

ISSUE 1: Availability of re-usable OERs and licensing

Although there is growing awareness of OER and Creative Commons licensing among educators, de los Arcos et al. (2014) report that knowledge of, and usage of OER repositories remains relatively low. Instead, such repositories are overshadowed by sites such as YouTube, Khan Academy and TED, who enjoy a global presence and reputation.

This issue is further compounded by low levels of educators creating resources and publishing them using a Creative Commons licence. In the survey conducted by de los Arcos et al. (2014), only 12.4% (n=80) of educators (n=644) did this, despite 86.3% of educators (n=556) stating that they had adapted resources previously.

This finding was also highlighted as a challenge within the McGill et al. (2013) report, who report that many of the existing ‘open’ resources could not be re-purposed either due to them not being published under a Creative Commons licence and/or not being technically or pedagogically re-purposable. Therefore, creating a new issue of ‘closed openness’. The McGill et al. (2013) report also found that it was more cost efficient to release new materials, rather than re-purpose existing materials due to the time taken to track provenance and clear copyright for open release.

Despite this, recent technological and legal developments such as the ‘Hargreaves Review of IP‘, ‘Digital Copyright Exchange (DCE), now known as the Copyright Hub‘ and increased availability of tools to understand the different Creative Commons licences, have made it easier not only for OER creators to licence their resources, but also to locate rights holders to seek permission to use their works.

ISSUE 2: Institutional awareness of OER and the development of open education practice (OEP)

Since 2001, educational resources have been made available for free from reputable Universities such as MIT and The Open University. Despite this, many university leaders have overlooked this development, focusing instead on other agendas such as research activity and more recently, the launch of massive open online courses (MOOCs) to attract/target new student markets. This has not only slowed the potential growth of the OER movement, but has potentially resulted in institutions missing out on opportunities to collaborate and form partnerships with other institutions (both nationally and internationally).

Institutional uptake of OEP has been further hindered by current UK government policy encouraging competition between HEIs, which in turn mitigates against a culture of open sharing (McGill et al., 2013). Previous aspirations of providing universal access to knowledge may conflict with new strategies around commercial practice, therefore requiring changes in practice and possibly the culture of the institution (McGill et al., 2013).

Research reports such as those written by de los Arcos et al. (2014) & McGill et al. (2013) are helping HEIs to understand not only the benefits and business case for OEP and the production of OERs, but also to learn from the ‘lessons learnt’ from previously funded projects, thereby reducing the risk for individual institutions.

To further encourage the development OEP, institutions should also consider how existing institutional barriers such as: risk management, technical limitations, hosting etc. (McGill et al., 2013) can be overcome to allow staff to further explore the usage of, and development of OERs.

ISSUE 3: Funding and OER sustainability

The third issue affecting the viability and sustainability of OER is funding. The development, hosting and maintenance of OER materials can cost thousands of pounds. Because of this, institutions may be reluctant to invest resources (time and money) into OER projects, which cannot provide a clear return on investment (ROI). Instead, the offering of OER ‘taster’ courses, can not only help to attract students to specific courses of study, but can also improve general institutional recognition (McGill et al., 2013).

With this in mind, McGill et al. (2013) report that there is a growing acknowledgement of the need to ‘build and support open and sustainable communities to share practice and resources’. This can range from teachers, as well as learners contributing to OER repositories through to collaborative approaches to tackle ongoing challenges such as: awareness raising, licensing and trust issues, development of ‘open’ standards and technologies.

Furthermore, HE institutions must be enabled through government policy and new/existing funding streams to create policies and practices, which support staff to ‘accelerate the transformations required to contribute and benefit from this global movement’.


Developments within the field of OER and OEP have the power to benefit society as a whole, rather than just individual institutions and should be favourably supported! However, in order for the various aspirations to be met, further work must be undertaken by all, especially HEIs and global governments to break down the current barriers preventing the use and re-use of OER including technical and legal aspects.


JISC (2014) Open educational resources (OERs) [Online]. Available at: https://jisc.ac.uk/guides/open-educational-resources (Accessed 29 March 2016).

de los Arcos, B., Farrow, R., Perryman, L.-A., Pitt, R. and Weller, M. (2014) OER Evidence Report 2013-2014 [Online]. Available at: https://oerresearchhub.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/oerrh-evidence-report-2014.pdf (Accessed 27 March 2016).

McGill, L., Falconer, I., Dempster, J. A., Littlejohn, A. and Beetham, H. (2013) Journeys to Open Educational Practice: UKOER/SCORE Review Final Report, Jisc [Online]. Available at: https://oersynth.pbworks.com/w/page/60338879/HEFCE-OER-Review-Final-Report (Accessed 27 March 2016).

Jelly beans

My experience with open education resources

Jelly beans

Jellybean” by maria. Creative Commons licence (CC BY-NC-ND)

Although I have been aware of the existence and availability of open education resources I have never really engaged with these; partly due to lack of time and partly due to a lack of motivation/desire to do so. My experience of open education resources goes as far as ‘lurking’ within a couple of TEL-related MOOCs and accessing the odd open access publication when researching a particular topic.

Before registering for, and starting H817 I took the opportunity to access the sample module content on the OU’s OpenLearn platform, which I found useful to give me a flavour of what the module consisted of and also to help me get back into the ‘swing’ of studying following the completion of H800 in October 2015.

When I have explored open education resources either as part of H800 or H817, I have found that I face a similar challenge to what I faced when exploring the lynda.com online learning platform; the issue of too much choice. With what appears like an abundance of learning opportunities covering virtually any subject you can think of, you can soon become like a child in a sweetshop. Due to this, I found that I spent more time jumping between courses because something of interest caught my eye, rather than actually studying the material being presented!

Although it is great to have so much content freely available, without an appropriate structure/delivery method and clear learning objectives, I find this can quickly lead to information overload and more ‘flicking’ than learning.

Exploring the OpenLearn Works Platform


Freer than free, opener than open..” by opensource.com. Creative Commons licence (CC BY-SA)

What is it?

OpenLearn Works (formally OpenLearn Lab Space) is an open educational platform supported by The Open University ‘where individuals and organisations can publish their open content, open courses and resources for others to study’ (OpenLearn Works, 2015). Using the Moodle platform, it provides tools for collaboration, reuse and remixing, whilst also supporting Open Badges.

OpenLearn Works not only hosts OU content provided by OpenLearn, but is also home to wide range of projects, content, courses and resources from a range of providers, providing users with access to rich and varied content that can be studied, reused and remixed.

According to the OpenLearn Works website, the site offers the following benefits:

  • personalisation of material
  • low barrier to collaborative development of learning materials
  • a space to experiment with new technologies and ways of working
  • community building around OER
  • a home for research projects that trial new educational technologies and practice
  • a lower cost solution for projects wanting to deliver OER

Why is this innovative?

Unlike other OER platforms such as FutureLearn, which focus primarily on the hosting of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from highly reputable  universities, OpenLearn Works provides a complete low cost solution for anyone looking to develop and deliver OER. As well as providing the tools to create and publish their resources or open courses, the platform also addresses a number of the challenges identified by the Open Learning network (OLnet) including:

  • Assessment and Evaluation – The platform provides access to the assessment tools available within Moodle, as well as supporting Open Badges.
  • Technology and Infrastructure – Users of the platform are provided with free access to the Moodle VLE, hosted by the Open University. Therefore, eliminating the need for individuals or organisations to provide their own technology and infrastructure to host OER and the costs associated with this.
  • Promotes use and re-use of OER – Users of the platform are actively encouraged to use and remix the OERs provided on the platform within their own projects, therefore increasing the use and visibility of materials produced by a variety of contributors.
  • Copyright and licensing  – By using the platform all contributors are asked, where possible, for content to be released under the Creative Commons licence cc BY-NC-SA 4.0 UK. The platform also provides guidance for contributors regarding copyright issues and regulations.
  • Improving access to OER – By submitting OER content and courses to a repository such as OpenLearn Works, this enables others to easily discover the material by using the site’s inbuilt search functionality. Furthermore, as the site encourages remixing of materials, this increases exposure of the OER and the possibility for its inclusion within bigger/wider projects.

As well as offering a free, non-supported OER space, the platform also offers a paid for version, which enables the hosting of Open Education Projects supported by a team ‘of world class Open Educational specialists’ to assist with the provision of innovative solutions for the project (OpenLearn Works, 2015). This paid for consultancy enables smaller organisations to benefit from the expertise of world class specialists, who they may not have had access to before.