As the OpenLives project draws near to a close we are being invited (by the project funders) to consider the value and uniqueness of our project now and in the future. We had a bit of a brainstorm about this and came up with the following thoughts:
Preserving and doing justice to research data
A bank of testimonies has now been created which is making use of data which would otherwise be sitting unused (and unloved) on an office shelf. The people who gave their stories to the researchers were very keen that their experiences should be heard, so in sharing these testimonies as open content we feel we are doing justice to these stories and the people who lived them.
Student-centred teaching resources
In addition to being an archive these oral accounts are now being re-lived through the work that students and teachers are doing with the material in the classroom and beyond. Engaging students with the testimonies has involved classroom-based activities such as creating a magazine article using the data as well as actually helping to prepare the material for publication as OERs, which inlcudes writing summaries in English of the mainly Spanish language material. Indeed, in one case the students have actually had (indirect) contact with one of the people interviewed during the original research project. Students listened to his testimony then drafted questions to be put to him when their tutor met up with him in Barcelona, where he now lives. The resulting video was then subtitled in English by a different set of students to produce an entirely new OER (see http://humbox.ac.uk/3664/).
Curriculum innovation and originality in teaching
This project has also led to innovation in the curriculum with one partner creating a new module based around the material which as been approved and is now in progress. For the project partners, themselves, the sharing of teaching ideas and the opportunity to link research and teaching has been particularly powerful. Talking to each other about the testimonies and how to incorporate them into the classroom has given a whole new lease of life to the research and has inspired some really excellent teaching ideas. Clearly OER does not lead, some might fear, to sameness or lack of originality in teaching as the ways in which the research data is being used and the personal stamp each partner is putting on the material shows how flexible and heterogeneous these OERs can be. They are very much living objects which can be mixed, matched, adapted, expanded, remixed and updated in a wide range of ways, each of which is unique and different.
Out there in the wider world there is the potential for ongoing interaction with a broad audience who might also be interested in, inspired by and active in using the raw data and the OERs created from it. Putting these very personal stories out into the world is reaching out to a range of audiences who, it is hoped will, in their turn tell new stories through their engagement with and use of the material.
Collegiality and trust
In the highly competitive world of higher education this project has clearly shown that when colleagues work together across universities as a community of practice collegiality rather than competition prevails. Rather than giving away their institution’s Crown Jewels participants in this project are showing how their work can contribute more jewels to the crown through their creative use of the source material and indeed of the ideas (OERs) of others. Finally we feel that, thanks to the work of its contributers (including the project partners) the HumBox now becoming a trusted source for the humanities community.