Open Educational Resources conference

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Wikimedia UK volunteers have a recurring presence at the annual Open Educational Resources conference.

The conference is not just focused on resources, but on open educational practices and their pedagogical, legal, and cultural significance. It also discusses overlapping topics such as open access to research. The conference is a focus for the free-and-open education movement in the UK, attended by academics, managers, learning technologists, project holders, staff developers, software developers, and others from across the education sectors.


The 2019 Open Education Resources conference was held in Galway on the 10th & 11th April, with a number of members of the UK Wikimedia community in attendance, including Dr Sara Thomas and Dr Martin Poulter. Sara performed a storytelling session in the alt-formats section of the conference, with a piece called Once Upon An Open, drawing on work that’s been done in Scotland over the past year to add women’s biographies to Wikpedia, in this case, Marie Lamont and Lady Catherine Bruce of Clackmannan. A version of the story is available to listen again, through the FemEdTech OpenSpace site. You can also read Wikimedia UK trustee Lorna Campbell's OER reflections on her blog here. Martin gave a training workshop on using Wikidata to explore issues of representation in online spaces such as Google Doodles or Project Gutenberg, with ideas from Dr Alice White.


OER18 was held at The Watershed, Bristol on the 18th and 19th April, with the theme of "Open to All". There were multiple sessions by people connected to Wikimedia UK and other Wikimedians.


OER17 was held at Resource for London on the 5th and 6th April, with the theme of "The Politics of Open". Once again, there was a strong presence of people associated with Wikimedia UK, as well as other Wikimedians.

  • The conference was co-chaired by Wikimedia UK trustee Josie Fraser and Creative Commons Poland co-founder Alek Tarkowski.
  • Wikimedia UK Chief Executive Lucy Crompton-Reid was one of the keynote speakers. (YouTube link) (Storify of live Twitter reactions to the presentation)
  • Sara Mörtsell, Education Manager of WikimediaSE, presented on "How openness in mainstream K-12 education can advance with Wikimedia and GLAMs in Sweden"
  • Stefan Lutschinger, an academic and Wikipedia Campus Ambassador at Middlesex University, presented on "Open Pedagogy and Student Wellbeing: Academic Confidence Building with Wikipedia Assignments"
  • Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian In Residence at the University of Edinburgh, delivered a presentation on "Lo and Behold: Reveries of a Connected Campus: Reflections from the Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh" and gave a lightning talk on "Building bridges not walls – Wikipedia’s new Content Translation tool". (Slides on SlideShare) (YouTube link)
  • Martin Poulter, Wikimedian In Residence at the University of Oxford, gave a presentation on "Putting Wikipedia and Open Practice into the mainstream in a University" (Slides on SlideShare) (Video at University of Edinburgh)
  • Ewan and Martin jointly gave a lightning talk on "Citation Needed: Digital Provenance in the era of Post-Truth Politics" (YouTube link) and ran a workshop on "Gamifying Wikimedia – Learning through Play" with support from Navino Evans.
  • Wikimedia UK volunteer Navino Evans gave a workshop on "Histropedia – Building an open interactive history of everything with Wikimedia content"
  • Alice White, Wikimedian In Residence at the Wellcome Library, ran a drop-in session for attendees to learn more about Wikipedia, sister projects and Wikimedians In Residence
Feedback from participants

In the final plenary session of the conference, participants were invited to put anonymous comments on an electronic wall, to answer "What has been the: Most unexpected thing you learned at the conference? Most important/useful thing you learned at the conference? Most important question/issue to take forward from the conference (for you / for all)?" These are all the Wikimedia-related comments (out of just over 100 total):

  • Most useful: how cool Wikipedia is and could be used for educational goals
  • Most unexpected thing: Wikimedia as an interactive learning object
  • Unexpected: how games can spark conversation about OER. Taking several game ideas home! {There was a board game jam session as well as a session on Wikimedia games, so this may or may not be relevant to us.}
  • Wikimedia games, really enjoyed that!
  • How data from Wikipedia can do an amazing things and can add value to learning in ways we had not thought of
  • Most import{sic} Most fun was the Wiki media games
  • the world of wikimedia: to be able to contribute
  • Unexpected: Wikipedia IS an education tool
  • Hasn't seemed to be much disagreement on any topic. (E.g. It surprised me that no-one challenged the Wikipedia 'love' especially given Maha's keynote)

Also in the final session, attendees were asked to tweet what they will do next as a result of attending the conference. The Wikimedia-related tweets have been collected on Storify.

Blog post by Sheila MacNeil: "What is sure is that we need to keep extended the conversations, sharing our research, our practice, working with organisations like wikimedia to extend open knowledge creation and sharing, and seriously think about more creative forms of activism [...]"

Blog post by Kate Green: "The notion of the ‘gift’ and ‘giving’ was a powerful thread that ran through the conference. I heard about projects that were supporting students to give back to Wikipedia (through language translations) and to the local community."

Blog post by Kelly Terrell: "Wikipedia featured prominently through the conference"

Tweet by Jeffrey Keefer: "I attended my first @WikimediaNYC #WikiWednesday #NYC event tonight after being inspired by #OER17 @emcandre @WikiEducation"


OER16 was held at the University of Edinburgh. This had by far the strongest Wikimedia presence yet. In addition to the Wikimedia-related sessions listed below, many of the other sessions referred to Wikipedia and related projects as examples of success.

  • In advance of the conference, University of Edinburgh Wikimedian In Residence, Ewan McAndrew, wrote a guest blog post for the OER16 site
  • Conference co-chair Lorna Campbell highlighted the Wikimedia-related sessions in her opening presentation (slide 9) and allocated a room in the conference centre for Wikimedia-related sessions. Thanks, Lorna!
  • Lucy Crompton-Reid and Josie Fraser gave a presentation on "Wikimedia UK, Cultural Heritage and Education".
  • Sara Thomas presented on "Opening Scotland: Museums Galleries Scotland’s Wikimedian in Residence & the diversification of engagement".
  • Melissa Highton (University of Edinburgh) and Allison Littlejohn (The Open University) presented on "Improving social capital for learning: the Edinburgh Editathon" (Video on YouTube, starts at 21:45), reporting how they had studied the outcomes of an editathon and used this to build a case for employing a Wikimedian In Residence.
  • Ewan McAndrew led an introductory session on Wikipedia editing.
  • Martin Poulter presented on "Open education on Wikipedia's sister projects", using Wikisource and Wikibooks as examples. (Video on YouTube)
  • Martin, along with Simon Thomson (Leeds Beckett University), took part in a discussion for Radio Edutalk (audio, 11 mins) about Wikimedia as the utopia towards which open education is aiming.
  • Ewan, Sara, Jason, and Martin hosted an "Ask a Wikimedian" lunchtime drop-in session.
  • Martin Poulter gave a 30-minute overview of Wikisource, including describing the Oxford Transcribe-a-thon.
  • Jason Evans gave a 30-minute introduction to Wikipedia editing.


Martin Poulter and Simon Knight attended, thanks to financial support from Wikimedia UK as part of its education outreach. Wikimedia UK were listed as a sponsor of the conference, which was hosted by the University of Newcastle.

As well as running three sessions described below, we used the conference to renew our contact with partners such as the Open Scotland consortium and to pose Wikimedia-related questions in other sessions. We distributed dozens of education booklets and also some Welcome to Wikipedia booklets. Yimei Zhu of the University of Manchester blogged "[I] received a booklet called ‘Case studies: how universities are teaching with Wikipedia’ which I found very interesting and may try to do something similar in my own teaching in the future."

Simon has blogged about the conference and his presence. Martin wrote a guest blog post about the conference for the Wikimedia UK blog.

Analysing learning through Mediawiki

Simon gave a talk on "Analysing Learning Through Mediawiki". This was attended by about 30 people.

Editing Wikipedia

Martin explaining Wikipedia's 'Contributors' tool in the Wikimedia Ecosystem workshop

Simon, Martin, and Sara Frank Bristow took part in "Citation needed: Editing Wikipedia, a hands on fringe event" which took place during a lunch hour. This was a free-for-all where anyone could turn up and ask us anything. Fourteen people asked questions, on topics from Wikipedia education assignments to the effect of gender imbalance to the nature of reliable sourcing. On the latter, we were asked when Wikipedia requires peer-reviewed sources, and if Wikipedia would accept Private Eye as a source for political facts.

The Wikimedia Ecosystem

Martin ran a 1.5 hour workshop on "The Wikimedia Ecosystem- where do you fit in?". This was designed for an audience of about twenty, though only five turned up. These included representatives of the Open Knowledge Foundation and the HE Academy.

Since a couple of the audience were people I am friendly with, it would have been dishonest to pass out evaluation forms. The live Twitter reactions to the workshop, which were very positive, have been captured with Storify. All present said they had learnt new things about Wikimedia, even if they were already informed about it at the start. In particular, the projects Wikisource, Wikibooks and Wikiversity were new to at least some attendees.

The workshop has been openly documented at Wikimedia partnership workshop in case anyone else wants to repeat it with a different audience.

Why do people contribute (or not) to Wikipedia?

Not formally supported by Wikimedia UK, but worth a mention, was a conference session delivered by Terese Bird of the University of Leicester and Wikipedian Sara Frank Bristow: "Labour of love: why do people contribute (or not contribute) to Wikipedia articles about OER?" looked at the experiences of the School Of Open course on editing Wikipedia ("WIKISOO").


Martin Poulter attended OER '13 in the University of Nottingham. He gave a presentation titled "The Wikipedia Education Program: open educational practice on a global scale", ran a stall and distributed education brochures. This was made possible by financial support from Wikimedia UK as part of its education outreach. Other Wikipedians were at the conference, including the UK-based academic Phil Wane who gave two posters.

The event was written up on the Wikimedia UK blog. The Wikipedia Education Program session was blogged about by Terese Bird of the University of Leicester and video is available through the University of Nottingham. Live tweets from Martin's talk have been archived on Storify.


As well as hugely successful global sources of openly licensed content, Wikipedia and its sister projects are prime examples of open practice. The development of a Wikipedia article is an open, transparent, community-driven process that is shaped by policies and guidelines that are in turn built by a similar process. Writing a good article involves learning about reliable sourcing, neutral tone, accessible language and other good scholarly habits. Wikipedia articles that are absent, biased or in a crude state may be poor when viewed as resources, but they are a great opportunity to involve learners in the process of improving the article during their module. In the Wikipedia Education Program, students adopt or create an article and improve its quality, while being mentored both by teaching staff and experienced Wikipedians. This program has been piloted extensively in the US and is now in use in many institutions across several countries. There have been many successes in motivating students to produce work that seen by a vast readership. There have also been problems where learners have been inadequately prepared for the distinct culture of Wikipedia. Involvement in Wikipedia assignments needs to be planned and structured, and expectations of all parties need to be realistic.



Martin Poulter attended OER11 in Manchester to give a presentation titled "Wikipedia and Higher Education: beat them or join them?"

Slides have been uploaded to this wiki


The presenter works on OER projects in Higher Education, and also in a voluntary capacity for Wikipedia, which aims to bring the world's knowledge to all of humanity. Both efforts are worthwhile, but their reach and impact is very different. I will argue that Wikipedia and its related projects have achieved enormous impact due to cultural factors that are only evident "behind the scenes". These cultural factors, including very high degrees of risk tolerance and individual empowerment, are largely alien to present-day Higher Education and become more so as universities become increasingly managerial. Some attempts to improve on the Wikipedia model, such as Citizendium, lack this special ingredient and enjoy considerably less impact. Universities have entirely different strengths from Wikipedia, but cannot put off the decision of whether they will try to compete with it, work with it for the common good, or work in a complementary way. If they want to be more wiki-like, they need to realise that this is not a matter of mere technological change, or even of individual practice.

Postscript: The cultural factors that enable the success of Wikipedia, and the risk of institutions preventing innovation by taking too much control of their content, are explained in much greater detail in the Crowdsourcing infoKit, published in 2014.