Over the course of three weeks during late August and early September we had the pleasure of Dani Nicolson and Daniel Williamson of project collaborators OpenStax (US based providers of more than 20 open textbooks in high enrolment subjects) visiting the UK as part of their month-long #EurOpenStax tour. Their visit kicked off with several days in York at Variety in Chemistry Education and Physics Higher Education Conference, or #VICEPHEC17.
There were some fascinating insights into innovative practices in the Chemistry and Physics communities, with a wide variety of UK HEIs represented, in addition to attendees from Europe and beyond. As Dani notes in the video below there is an array of open pedagogy and practice going on, but with few people actually labelling it as such. There was a keen interest in flipping classrooms, some attendees release recordings of lecturers publicly on YouTube whilst other participants I spoke with were actively considering how to develop open courses, MOOC and open educational resources (OER) within their own contexts.
There were also interesting case study examples presented including the use of tools such as Mentimeter to gather student feedback and opinions in realtime during lectures. The Oral Bytes sessions provided a fast paced introduction to research and practice: particular highlights including presentations on making lectures more inclusive, how lecturers could relate STEM to real world scenarios and make it accessible and inclusive to learners at all levels, and much more. Another highlight was the first day of the conference which kicked off with a Labsolutely Fabulous afternoon session where you could don your safety goggles and head into the labs to check out projects on Virtual Reality (VR), the analysis of bog persons and more. The conference dinner the following day was held in the fabulous National Railway Museum in the centre of town. Many people we spoke to both in person and during the poster session were keen to find out more about open textbooks and saw a clear need for this type of resource.
Since VICEPHEC17 Dani and Daniel have been traversing the UK visiting some current HE users of OpenStax before spending some time with us on 1 September at the OU offices in Camden, London. I spoke to them about their impressions of the UK so far and what they found to be the main differences between the UK and US contexts:
Next stop was Liverpool for ALT-C (where OpenStax were one of the event sponsors). You may have had the opportunity to speak with Dani, Daniel or Rob (or even caught the project’s presentation with Viv and David Empowering Staff and Students through the Use of Open Textbooks – if not you can catch up with the recording starting at 54:22) or reviewed a textbook for yourself at the OpenStax stand. We’d love to hear what you think the potential for open textbooks are… let’s continue the conversation!