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Amy with pots 1

The project is now drawing to a close but we hope this will actually be the beginning of the exploration of the new resources by students, teachers and the public at large.
About 6,500 objects and archive documents have been digitised and put with already digitised sources to create a source base of about 150,000 digital assets. Seventeen open access e-learning resources based on these were developed.

Images and documents digitised as part of the project can be found on Culture Grid here:


Learning and teaching resources created as part of the project can be found on JORUM here:


Resources using UCL collections include Vertebrate Diversity for Life Sciences students, Portrait Highlights taken from the Art collections, and E-Catalogue, which uses 3D technologies to help Artefact Studies postgraduates research material culture.

They can be found here:

University of Reading resources can be found via the project page here:


Thanks to all involved for contributing to a successful, smooth and enjoyable project. Thanks also to the funders, JISC, for making it possible for more people to access the amazing collections in these universities.

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Project resources were launched at UCL’s Grant Museum this week. People who came had the chance to try out the resources, chat with the project team and generally catch up with each other.
Thanks to everyone who came along.

The project resources can now be found on Culture Grid here:



This is the title of a talk I gave at the MERL lunchtime network last week. Thanks to everyone who attended and for making it such an interesting session. Discussions arising: does it make sense to talk about object ‘literacy’ (in the sense of being able to understand objects) or is this an inappropriately textual term? Can objects on the Museum’s database be found on Google, and should they be available there? Should museums put resources into making high quality images of objects available online, given the cost and copyright implications?

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The evaluation of the Reading OERs with students is now finished and can be found here: response to educational resources 2

Here are recommendations and the conclusion:

1. Structure online resources pedagogically
2. Offer online resources as back-up for live sessions, not as replacements for them
3. Involve students in the design and testing of online resources

The two rounds of evaluation presented in this report show that students were clear about their preferences for online learning both in terms of content and format, and about their reasons for these preferences. They preferred online materials to be structured to encourage interactivity, for example by including questions. They did not think online lectures could or should replace live lectures, which had interactive and affective aspects not replicable online. Despite being part of a ‘digital native’ generation, the students show a clear appreciation of the value of learning through contact with real people and objects, and of the place of digital materials within such learning.

Also, thanks to JORUM for putting the behind the scenes OER on their homepage this month!

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… the online learning resource repository, which I have never explored in detail before. I thought it surprisingly user-friendly and found an excellently produced OU resource on the Louvre museum which could be useful for Museum Studies students, here:


I have been modifying the Reading resources for the site – this mainly involves making disparate photos and text into worksheets so they don’t arrive as disconnected files when users try to download them. These have been uploaded by Danni Mills, who joined the project last month and who has quickly got to grips with the site.


Two people involved in the project have kindly consented to be in the Reading side of the OBL4HE dissemination film – Emily Mattock, who has used the display ethics OER in her final year dissertation, and Greta Bertram, who scanned many of the documents. We will be making the film next Wednesday with the help of Hannah Mendelsohn and Leah Gouget-Levy, two UCL students.

All scripts and audios have now been modified to include appropriate copyright information.

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So What?

This feels like the question of the moment. As we near the end of our project and draw together the sum of the material we have digitised and created as e-resources – why does it matter and what good will it do? Probably the best way to start to answer these questions is to think back to what our intentions were at the start of the project and our sense then of the pressing need for e-resources based on the collections of university museums.
In the summer of 2011, UCL’s Museums and Collections had been consistently promoting the use of museum objects in learning for some time and museum staff were heavily involved in helping to design and teach courses which used their collections. Also, my post had been created a few months earlier: ‘Teaching Fellow in Object Based Learning’ and I was in the process of generating new opportunities, across academic departments, to use museum objects in teaching. Exciting interdisciplinary collaborations were emerging and the power of objects to convey meaning and to encourage meaning-making amongst students was being seen in a wide range of different academic disciplines. However, obstacles remained. For one, object based learning was considered by many lecturers as taking too much effort to arrange and the logistical difficulties of getting students and objects in the same room created barriers to participation. For us in museums, it seemed clear that giving teaching staff access to our collections digitally and in formats that were tailor-made to their teaching needs, could break down these barriers. The ability to use object-based e-resources at any time and from anywhere was compelling. Furthermore, digital resources could support the hands-on object based learning taking place in museums and classrooms – giving students longer-term access to collections for further research, learning, or revision. Moreover, by providing Open Educational Resources based around our collections, teachers and students in a much wider range of institutions could use the material in ways that suited them. This alone was an attractive prospect, but a helpful side effect was anticipated in the new audiences these resources might reach.
By teaming up with the University of Reading, this project forged in the first instance a fruitful relationship of knowledge sharing and – through joint staff events – we familiarised ourselves with each other’s museum collections. This process was a good example of one major impact of the project as a whole – we gained new knowledge and skills through undertaking the work of the project itself. Even more so by working collaboratively across institutions.
So, what have we produced? As planned a large source base of digital objects will be submitted to Culture Grid early next year – by current estimates we seem to have exceeded our target figure of 150,000 digital assets, which is great news. In terms of the e-resources, we have created 20, which again exceeds our initial plans. We hope to convert them all into Open Educational Resources in the next two months. The e-resources range from collections of associated images and contextual information, to resources embedded in VLEs and tailor made to the learning outcomes of particular courses. This variety should offer other teachers in the field different pluses and minuses. For example, the image collections effectively provide the raw material, ripe for adaptation to particular teaching needs, but also with sufficient contextual information that they do not lose touch with their collections of origin and historical specificity. The more tailor-made resources point to ways in which teaching can be done with museum collections, providing both the images of objects themselves, their associated information, and also well constructed ideas for use.
Any reservations? Well, naturally, yes. Until the process of conversion to OER has been completed it will be difficult to ultimately assess the value of these resources to the wider teaching and learning community. Also, the path to resource creation was littered with difficulties in terms of gaining the time and commitment of teaching staff to help develop and, subsequently, use the e-learning resources. Of course, we benefitted a great deal from much enthusiasm and specialist input, but ultimately – as Museums staff at UCL we could not closely control the level of support we would receive from lecturers at the University. At Reading things were a little more straightforward, in as much as our OER Coordinator, Rebecca, was also teaching on the courses for which the resources were designed – making the process much neater and more predictable. Still, these challenges have helped us learn about how to create successful e-resources in the future.
Scope: the project set out to create a varied group of e-resources, spanning around 10 distinct academic disciplines and that has certainly been achieved. However, the scope in terms of different fields created challenges around the sheer number of working relationships required across the universities. On the whole, we have been lucky with maintaining these working relationships amongst Museums staff external project officers, and a wide range of teaching staff and students at UCL and Reading. Moreover, through our processes of development, user testing, evaluation, and dissemination – the student input has been invaluable.
Sustainability: in terms of the future – things look bright. For one, key project officers remain in post at their respective institutions after January 2013 and are, therefore, in a position to sustain and develop the work started under this project. Moreover, from the beginning – we had the support of our institutions in this endeavour and object based learning and e-learning are still priorities for our universities’ teaching and learning strategies.
So, to sum up – I think the project was ambitious and there were risks in its reliance on such a far-flung and diverse team of people. On the other hand, the enthusiasm and commitment of so many of these people has largely secured the success of the project aims. Moreover, the creation of specifically object-based e-resources is still not usual within the Higher Education sector and, through opening these resources to wider audiences, we hope that the real value of museum collections for learning across a wide range of disciplines, will become visible to more people. We also hope that, through this process, we are able to share the particular value of UCL and Reading museum and archive collections and attract new audiences for both research and teaching.

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I’m now writing up the evaluation report on the OERs, collating and analysing student feedback on both the content and web interfaces. A comment on the display ethics resource:

‘It was particularly interesting to hear from a museum’s point of view the reasons why they display both human and animal remains. This is because we usually only hear about the beliefs of the public and their consensus on what should or should not be displayed.’

And a comment on the web interface in the display design resource:

‘What really helped was when I found I was able to enlarge the pictures in the worksheet; this gave a lot better feel for the current display and the effect that had gone into its design; and thereby made it a whole lot more interesting. Suggest a bigger picture or maybe make the one on the web page enlargeable (possibly magnified when hovering over bits of it).’

Thanks to all students who took part.



We are now onto planning dissemination and publicity for the project, and tying up loose ends such as making sure copyright acknowledgements are in place. I am modifying audio files, worksheets and typescripts to minimise the chance of them being used without attribution. It turns out I need to include the Creative Commons license and at least 3 logos on each document, as well as copyright declarations for the logos. At first I feared a Borgesian infinite labyrinth in which product outputs need a copyright declaration with logos, the logos themselves need a copyright declaration, and then the copyright declarations need a copyright declaration and so on. However, help was at hand with some very useful advice and examples from JISC of properly copyrighted work, such as this from © Leicester College below (please do not use without attribution)!

example copyrighted OER from Leicester College

and a useful blog entry here:


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This week OBL4HE welcomes two new members to the team – Krisztina Lackoi and Christina Vona, who will be undertaking the evaluation of a range of our object-based e-learning resources. Krisztina has already been involved in the content development of resources based on UCL’s Art Collections and will be gathering student and staff feedback as she finalises their content. She is particularly interested in the different ways academics and researchers from across the disciplines engage with digital resources. For example, the differences between an artist’s use of digital images as compared with an historian’s. A series of focus groups with users will begin to reveal answers to her questions. Meanwhile, Christina will be evaluating the rest of our e-resources, from those using zoological specimens to archaeological artefacts. Her specialism in documentation of museum collections and her interest in evaluation as a research tool will both be great assets to the OBL4HE project. We are all excited to find out how lecturers and university students react to the resources created for their courses.

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