Behind the scenes at #OER16 Open Culture 19th & 20th April 2016

I’m writing a couple of weeks after I had the pleasure of attending the OER16: Open Culture conference.

OER16 Ice breaker postcards

OER16 Ice breaker postcards

This particular conference has been on my mind a great deal longer than most as I volunteered to take part on the conference committee back in August 2015. When I found out that this was to be hosted by the University of Edinburgh in 2016 and chaired by two senior colleagues Melissa Highton and Lorna Campbell, it seemed like a great opportunity to get involved. There are already some excellent blog posts written about the conference itself and I’ve added a few links at the bottom – in this post I want to give a view from ‘behind the scenes’ reflecting on my experience in the committee.

What did being on the conference committee entail?

I joined monthly virtual meetings in Collaborate – and ‘met’ others on the programme committee. I didn’t get very involved in the early discussions but observing kept me thinking about the event in the buildup. It allowed me to see how a large event is brought together and the different stages that need to happen.

One of the ongoing activities of OER16 was to promote the conference at key stages such as the call for submissions and when booking opened. I started tweeting about OER16 early on and ended up tweeting far more than is usual for me, I don’t think I was alone, by the end of the conference there were over 7,700 #OER16 tweets and it added a real buzz to the event to know that we were trending on Twitter.

My OER16 started at the beginning of the year when I reviewed submissions. Then as the conference neared and local knowledge became helpful I joined the site visit to the conference venue – considering logistics of room layouts and how this impacted ultimately on the programme. This turned out to be very helpful on the first day of the conference when I could not only find my way about but also provide directions!

The scale of the conference became apparent on the first day, Lorna Campbell gave the following stats in her opening speech:

It was great to see all those months of planning come together. This conference is supported by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) and I was able to learn a great deal from watching the experienced planning and organisational skills of Anna Davidge, Martin Hawksey & Mareen Deepwell in action.

I volunteered to take part in the social programme – making ice breaker postcards to hand out at the gala dinner on the first day. I’d had fun selecting images for these from the University of Edinburgh Centre for Research Collections (a great suggestion from Stuart Nicol) all of which have creative commons license. My colleague Charlie Farley very kindly did a fantastic job of getting these ready to print.

We handed out 4 copies of each of the 40 images and encouraged delegates to find the people with the matching cards. It was a nice way to encourage mingling and, I hope, give a nice memento. I was pleased to sees people matching their cards at the time and later on social media.

Another aspect of the social programme was an activity in Actionbound organized by Simon Thomson which was great fun and even inspired colleagues and I to write poetry.

My chairing tool - the programme app and time warning cards

My chairing tools – the programme app and time warning cards

I chaired a couple of sessions – assisted by clear guidelines and  some great tips from Lorna Campbell. I made good use of the very handy time warning cards provided! It was hard not to get distracted by the fascinating presentations and to keep my eye on the clock.

I have to admit that I’d not been to a previous OER conference (despite this being its seventh year) – I found it a very friendly conference which was very open to participation. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the level of participation as collaboration is very important to the open educational resources community – they are do-ers. At the end of the conference Lorna Campbell thanked everyone involved and it was fantastic to see just how many people had been involved. This conference drew together a creative bunch of people who share both their enthusiasm for openness and shared their resources and I really enjoyed being able to contribute to and attend the conference. It was an inspiring couple of days.

Next year’s conference OER17: The Politics of open – will be chaired by Josie Fraser and Alek Tarkowski (date and venue still to be announced).

If my post has inspired you, you can get involved in OER17 by joining the conference committee.

If you didn’t get a chance to go to OER16, don’t feel you’ve missed out, there are many great resources available for you to catch up with.

Recordings of the keynotes are available on the OER16 Conference website.

Radio Edutalk were there and captured several interesting conversation.

Maren Deepwell #OER16: Empowered Openness:

Martin Hawksey, Open isn’t free: What are the costs