As part of open education week, JISC commissioned a series of case studies on ‘institutional approaches to openness’. For Lincoln, I wrote that our approach to openness can be best understood in relation to our Student as Producer initiative.
Since 2010 a project called Student as Producer has been adopted as the de facto teaching and learning strategy for the University of Lincoln. This is an attempt to engage undergraduate students in research, and to make research part of the teaching process. It is also a vehicle for demonstrating the value of openness – an idea bolstered by the establishment of numerous other open access initiatives at the university.
Read the case study: Hacking the university
Last week, I submitted a bid to JISC’s OER Rapid Innovation programme, proposing some work to turn BuddyPress profiles into both a consumer and producer application of open content. You can read the bid on Github. It’s the first time I’ve written a bid on Github, having previously use Google Docs to write bids that are publicly accessible during the bid writing process. With software development projects such as this latest one, it made sense to use the same source code repository that will be used to manage the project code as the bid writing process is an important part of the project’s history and code benefits from proper documentation, including in this case, a Use Case. With the exception of having to format the text for the final PDF submission, it was a nice way to write the bid, too, working solely with a text editor and knowing that the documents were properly versioned and backed up on Github.
I see no benefit to writing bids such as this in private, other than hiding the process by which I write grant applications. The projects I propose and the outputs they generate are all open source and usually promote some variation of openness (open access/source/education/data), so why not start with the writing of the bid? Perhaps someone will be generous enough to contribute in some way or even learn something from being able to see the bids in their raw state. It also stakes a claim on the nature of the proposal, too and with a CC license, the idea is sufficiently ‘protected’.
Sometimes there is a lot at stake when proposing a project (e.g. people’s jobs) and, I’ll admit, I didn’t share the Orbital project bid as I was writing it. In hindsight, I don’t think it would have changed anything had I opened up the bid writing process on that occasion either.
It would be nice to write a bid using Github with a partner institution. There are tools which allow you to visualise the activity around the Github repository, which might be interesting to look at. Perhaps something might be learned about how academics undertake this part of their work. It is an exercise I seem to undertake several times a year and a reflective part of my work that I actually enjoy. I was also thinking that Etherpad would likewise be a nice tool to use for collaborative bid writing, because you can literally play back the entire authoring of the document. A version of Etherpad was developed at the DevXS conference, which uses Github as a back end, offering us the best of both worlds it seems. We run our own Etherpad-lite server here at Lincoln, so I should look at how we might integrate it with Github.
One aspect of this latest project proposal is that we work with Matt Gold and his team on the CUNY Commons In A Box project. Matt and I have talked in the past about collaborating on an open data project and this will be a nice rehearsal for something bigger that I hope we can work on together. On that occasion, Matt, we should write the bid together over Github 😉