OER18 First round of sessions

April 18, 2018 Off By JR

I think largely the posts I make for now after the conference will be piece meal ideas that I need to come back to. This first block of sessions I thought were going to be quite divergent, but as luck would have it, they all went together really well.

Virtual reality implications for open

The speakers presented a couple of projects from Bournemouth U: Archeology, and Healthcare VR simulations.


This VR resource they created (using ‘kilee?’) took students back to Avery Henge(?) as it would have been about 4000 years ago. Many of the stones that had been at the henge have been moved and a town has popped up there so the space looks quite different today than it once did. During the course, after having access to this resource, students take a field trip and are able to observe the current live space and then pop their VR headwear on and look around at the simulation to experience the space in a new and different way than they had previously.

They spoke a bit about the process of creating the space. As I understood it the two major elements were the terra form and then the objects (stones). As these elements are created there are a lot of things at play which make the open aspect(s) of this project complicated. Working with third party developers and IP agreements (asset ownership). Files for objects and terra form (objects vs platforms). Server space. The right stack to run the server. They seemed to use a number of different softwares, some proprietary and some open (kallado I think they used for rendering objects). Sustainability in such cases can be really challenging as well, because the server space is often rented for these kinds of projects, so if that stops, you get the infamous 404 (access to platforms).


As I wrote that a brief conversation I had with Alan Levine and Doug Belshaw popped into my head again. The topic of 404 page not found and the wayback machine came up. Considering that many sites are archived, it is a little surprising that we even still see 404 pages and are not simply redirected to the last available version of that page (addendum, it would be cool if I had a browser plug-in where I could use a slider to view previous versions of pages). I forget who mentioned it, but there might be a beta add-on for Firefox that does this redirecting.


The second case was in Virtual Healthcare. One of the key problems they identified in their context: it’s impractical to run in skills labs only due to space and prop limitations. Their solution for this was to create a virtual environment where students could simulate a patient encounter(s). In the simulation there is not only the space and avatars, but also rich media embedded at different stages of patient encounter: quizzing, video, images, etc. They seemed to also include branching decision making a key staple in any of these types of simulations IMO. (JR’s thoughts but didn’t ask at the time, when it comes to patient encounters, supplied dialogue vs a real life encounter where they come up with their own words, how different is the final outcome? As in, what are the difference in learning if I went through this simulation SELECTING choices instead of creating the choices myself?)

One of the questions from the crowd was how easily CC licenses map onto this kind of project. In a few more words, Yes and no. the landscapes and objects are not independent objects in their own right.

Ghost in a Shell, beyond LAMP

Based on the title and the description of this presentation I was pretty sure I was jumping in way over my head (mostly because at a previous OpenEd conference I ended up in an LTI session somehow and could not understand hardly anything the presenter was saying). So kudos to the Reclaim Hosting Folks for breaking this one down for folks like me and really tying it to applications educators might need.

So here is was I could get. LAMP is the stuff of the server we need to run a whole bunch of applications we use regularly in open ed (e.g. WordPress, Omeka, etc). But there are limitations to that. Applications that need ruby or nodejs won’t run on the LAMP structure. As soon as nodejs was mentioned it took me back to 2015 when I enrolled (and became one of those infamous early open course drop-outs) in Mike Caulfields The Happening 2: Teaching Machines. At the time he was really into FedWiki, and if I recall correctly it was run on nodejs. I’ve always been fascinated by how that course was structured so hey, maybe this is a new opportunity coming down the pike.

A few other notes I took about what else this might entail includes:

  • CloubLinux, runs ontop of cpanel: enables additional technologies (e.g. python, ruby, php editors and managers, nodejs) note: Ghost runs on nodejs
  • Cloudron – docker (container) – useful for running own install of Canvas, setting up multi tools that run on LAMP or beyond LAMP
  • Open source ‘slack’ (maderhost?) app can be mapped to your reclaim domain

Remember how I mentioned these three sessions tied together? Well, after the introduction and sample applications we moved onto use cases, and wouldn’t you know it these ideas tie back to the previous presentation – as infracture that’s shareable like virtual worlds or pressbooks. It depends on the stack. So back to our virtual worlds example, this new alternative (e.g. Cloudron) “it doesn’t share the resources within the environment, it shares the environment”. The kind of replication that is available completely changes.

You could also use this to run a backup and map it to a different domain. Good for a conference website that moves around from authoring group to authoring group, or for SPLOTS to push out what’s already been made. Rather than just copying pages you can grab the entire environment.

David Wiley was in the room and pointed out it would also be useful for teaching analytics because tenserflow or rstudio can be hard setup initially and to use. You can set up a one-click analytics infrastructure, including the data sets.

Other random notes;

  • Cloudron does single sign-on between applications
  • BCCampus: Sandstorm is a cloudron instsall

Openness, Objects and Perception

This presentation seemed like it would not be at all related to the previous two, but there is a thread to be explored here.

The presenter opened with the example of how the Catholic church used the printing press to reinforce current structures and argued that the agenda of open resources is a reflection of this – maintaining current structures of higher ed.

We then dove into this video articulating perceptions

During this session the speaker brought out a device to measure the spectrum of audio frequencies and asked the audience to sing a note along with him. We could see that although we sang at the same time there were obvious synchronous events happening, but there was also diversity. The speaker used this analogy for the rest of the presentation to illustrate points of perception and lenses of essence. Ultimately, this reminded me a lot of Michael Caulfield’s work on choral explanations. A pretty interesting session overall from a discipline very far away from what I’m used to, but I think I still got quite a bit from it, especially in the context of the previous two.