OPEN-i Project Blog

April 12, 2010

More reflections on Wimba connect 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — openinetwork @ 06:46

I presented at 2 sessions at Wimba connect 2010, one about OPEN-i in a joint presentation with Phil O’Hara entitled ‘Reaching over walls’, where we both focused on using Wimba web conferencing to interact with dispersed communities outside of the traditional university. Phil’s project is a continuing professional development program for pharmacists across Canada, and has over 2,000 participants distributed all over the country regularly attending live sessions to maintain the necessary professional qualifications to continue to practice. Our session went well, and there was a good synergy between the presentations, Phil focusing more on the detail of running the web conferences and mine more on the broader picture of how to build and develop a community of practice. There were some good questions, and as I am finding more often at presentations I give, some people who are really engaging with the concepts of communities of practice and many who are not familiar with it at all.

The other session I participated in as a presenter was more informal, there were a group of us who are all on the product advisory board for Wimba and we had been invited to run a session demonstrating good practice in web conferencing. We all met up in Wimbaworld before the conference, and decided – largely at my suggestion – to adopt a more ‘ideas café’ style approach to the session rather than each of us simply talking about our experiences. We therefore chose 4 general questions about the use fo Wimba, with the idea that we would split the audience up into smaller groups and then give them the chance to decide whether to drill down into one topic for the duration of the session or to explore each question in turn. In the end, the vote was for the latter, so we allocated one member of the advisory board to each group, leaving Phil O’Hara and myself to move around from group to group and to keep the flow of discussion going. In the end this really wasn’t necessary, as each group really engaged with the questions. We got some really great user experiences and suggestions out of the session, and some great feedback on the format; people especially liked that as ours was the last session of the day it kept them engaged and awake by forcing them to interact, as opposed to a more traditional approach that may have left some dozing at the back of the room by the end of the day.

As I’m also on the advisory board for Wimba, I get invited to their ‘executive track’ sessions too, which focus on the more strategic use of the technology, with the main focus on collaboration and how to leverage the existing investment made in web conferencing outside of the obvious one of actually teaching students. There was a great line from Mike Scheuermann, AVP, Instructional Technology Support, Drexel University, who talked about the importance of platforms that are ‘LMS agnostic’, i.e. that work with any propriety or open source platform for managing students.

Again, this session had a more ‘ideas café’ format, where we broke up into groups to discuss ways Wimba can be sued across the range of academic and support areas. The big takeaway for me was that there were lots of great examples of how web conferencing is being used across the whole range of university institutions, not just the obvious ones of delivering classes to students. This was the really emerging theme of the conference, how collaboration in real time over distance is enabling all sorts of activities to be engaged in more efficiently, and often in ways that could not be done in a traditional f2f way. One big driver was the environmental impact of web conferencing replacing f2f meetings; there were lots of really clear examples where significant costs were saved in terms of travel. Obviously this was more apparent for US institutions, as many of them are dispersed with large distances between different offices and faculties. Another major influence was the threat of weather extremes and the potential problems of H1N1, in both cases web conferencing was seen as offering the potential to continue to deliver when physical meetings become impossible. Putting back up plans into place seemed to be a big concern for many institutions.

Wimba is being used increasingly to deliver staff development, often in bite sized chunks or for more informal help sessions, the University of Maryland showed a training program they have developed that is very similar to the Learn@Lunch session we initiated at UAL except more focused on e learning and technology than pedagogy.

There were plenty of great ideas about how to use web conferencing creatively as well, especially for things like student recruitment, holding virtual open days and course tours or pre enrolment orientation sessions for example.

Another increasing use that Wimba is being put to is as a simple recording studio for faculty to produce online resources, and from the noises about potential acquisitions of lecture capture and screen capture companies this seems to be a major focus for Wimba in the future.

Wimba also demonstrated their new incarnation of their user interface, which looks like a much slicker and feature rich version of the existing pronto. It was great to sit down with their new head of user engagement and go through some of the wireframes of the new interface and offer advice and ideas. Some great possibilities emerged, including using pronto to automatically reach a help desk operator, or to go straight from pronto to the live classroom.

As with last year, the conference provided lots of great ideas about how to use Wimba and web conferencing more generally, the trick now is to get my own institution to embrace it more fully.

March 31, 2010

Wimba and lecture capture

Filed under: Uncategorized — openinetwork @ 19:36

One of the main themes to emerge from the Wimba connect 2010 conference was using Wimba as a lecture capture system as well as for web conferencing. This seems to be being driven by users as much as by Wimba themselves, but they are now really beginning to realise that they potentially have a good platform for this. The main advantages to Wimba over other systems like echo 360 is that it is already in use, and that it allows the simultaneous collaboration of both real world and online participants in a session. Wimba demonstrated a set up for using the live classroom browser based platform to record a lecture, especially now that the video capture part supports any video camera/device that can be plugged into the computer, including HD video. With a simple switcher box, multiple video inputs can easily be handled, for example a room camera and a document camera, and a DVD input could all be used in turn during a session. Using a simple video camera with an auto pan tilt zoom and an echo cancelling speaker/mic set like the Phoenix Quattro or its smaller version the duet it looks pretty simple to capture all of the action and sound in a reasonably sized room with a kit that would pack into a flight case. Wimba are considering the archiving and streaming end as well, and it looks like they might even be in the mood to acquire one of the existing lecture capture/screen capture companies.

Wimba’s strategic vision

Filed under: Uncategorized — openinetwork @ 14:57

I’ve just returned from the Wimba connect 2010 conference in Orlando. At the Executive Track Session the discussion was about how to plan for the strategic use of technology, seeing it as an enabler of collaboration and communication rather than as an end in itself. Wimba’s CEO Carol Vallone outlined 4 main drivers that they see as key to the intelligent use of technology to support education:

1: Meeting the expectations of today’s students – studnets now expect universities to meet them where they are, rather than having to come into the faculty itself. They are increasingly Digitally literate and want to be productive in the workforce immediately on graduation

2: Increased demands for accountability – to the market, to students and to quality assurance.

3: Strategic use of technology – Successful collaboration means mapping out a strategy for the institution and then mapping collaborations against it, with a context based application of technology for collaboration – looking at costs, efficiency, productivity, and engagement. It’s key to map technology to specific initiatives e.g. retention rather than just randomly training staff in various software packages.

4: Repurposing and leveraging current investments – find ways to use systems already in place in new and innovative ways e.g. for administration and student support as well as for teaching and learning.

January 26, 2010

Purpose driven research for students

Filed under: Uncategorized — openinetwork @ 08:30

Purpose driven research for students

Projects like this have great potential to harness one of the really big untapped resources in practice, the potential of undergrad and graduate students to carry out real world research into key issues facing any given profession. But it has to be handled very carefully to ensure that the various stakeholders and participants in this process all buy into the value of the work that is being done.

There is a danger that the professional community will not see the research as valid as it is carried out by ‘students’, not recognising that these ‘students’ will soon become ‘professionals’ (at least we hope that some of them will); but also that the institution itself will not validate the research done by people who are not far enough up the academic research ‘food chain’ I think this is where Mike Wesch’s work is very interesting, by creating real world artefacts (videos, wikis, rss aggregators etc) that achieve an impact beyond the relatively small world of the university he has found a way to bridge the gap between practice and theory, and between the academic world and the lay world.

We thought a lot about this with OPEN-I, we were very concerned that the whole project didn’t come across to the practice community as a cheap way of the universities getting guest lectures from established professionals; so that is one reason why we haven’t branded the community with any university logo’s etc. Also our initial ‘core membership’ was all either established figures or academic/practitioners; we waited until the membership hit around 50 professionals before we invited any ‘students’ to join (although most of the ‘students’ are professionals anyway, as we were drawing them mostly from masters level courses etc where many of them are already well established as professionals, they just want to enhance their practice)

So an approach where the professional community might initially define the territory of the research, and then the ‘students’ would carry it out could be a good way forward. The other way though is for the students and their tutors to look critically at the practice domain and try to ask some tough questions of it about what it is not dealing with or thinking about, or what key resources it might be lacking, then carry out a project to fill those gaps. I would also suggest starting quite small with a specific topic that can be researched in some depth, and thus claim a certain ‘ownership ‘ of, in order to buy ‘competency’ in the community. (We are currently doing a similar thing with our students, they are all working on a research project on the rise of citizen journalism/photojournalism, each one doing their own small self contained piece of research which we will then present in an edited form as a public facing wiki next year, we are running this with 3 consecutive groups of students so will have about 50 pieces of research by the end.)

I think that using the various concepts around boundary objects and brokership from CoP theory could be a very good way to try to unpack some of these possibilities.

Types of Webinars

Filed under: Uncategorized — openinetwork @ 08:28

We are currently looking at several main types of webinars

1: a themed panel presentation where an invited/volunteer group of 3-4 ‘thought leaders’ in the community (or from outside of it) each present on the same theme/concept, then a q&a with the audience. This is how we plan to initiate each major conversation we want to deal with

2 A follow up, or series of follow up, sessions where a smaller group meet to discuss that topic of the panel presentation in much more detail – a kind of workshop session to actually try and come up with some new ideas/insights

3 more ‘portfolio’ like presentations about geographic or organisational themes e.g. one about what is happening in photojournalism in Africa, or an individual photographer presenting their work

4 presentations linked to events e.g. real world conferences where we put together a panel to engage in a series of questions in a round table discussion

5 seminars based on specific groups within the community e.g. non profits/NGO’s where they would meet to discuss issues specific to them

We would be very interested to get some feedback on this approach, and any other ideas for how to help a community achieve a sense of common purpose

What is the OPEN-i community doing?

Filed under: Uncategorized — openinetwork @ 08:28

What is the OPEN-i community doing?
The community will manifest its value in a sense of both producing something in common, and in engaging in interesting conversations, but the idea is that the interesting conversations will have some form of structure/goal, but that the community itself should produce the agenda for the conversations. we started out with a small ‘editorial board’ who i interviewed, and then we had a couple of group meetings both f2f and via web conferencing. From this we came up with a series of key topics to get the community going, which have formed the basis for the fist series of live webinars. So the overall goal for the first year is to work through this series of topics, probably returning to each of them periodically and in more depth, and then summarising the discussions to try and formulate a sense of where our practice is today and where it might be going in the future, and what we might do to try to effect positive change in that. One thing that has emerged from this is an idea to have a variety of different kinds of webinars to help work things through.

Invitation letter

Filed under: Uncategorized — openinetwork @ 08:28

Here is the letter we use to invite new members to join OPEN-i

Invitation to open-i
if you would like to see what we do, you can sign in at

usename password openiguest

Here is the project description we send out when inviting new members, plus a sign up url if any of you would like to actually join the network to participate


This is to introduce you to OPEN-i, a new online community space for photojournalism, and to invite you to join the debate. You can join the community by following this link

OPEN-i is, a virtual community of practice linking photographers, agencies, publications and educational institutions in an online network with the aim of engendering a debate and discussion about the future of the medium in the world of web 2.0. One need that is absolutely key is to make the forum for debate global, and to involve practitioners from the majority world as well as from the West.

OPEN-i is supported by the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, and the World Press Photo Foundation and is funded by JISC. Initial partners include Getty Images, VII, Noor, Panos, foto8, Tisch NYU, Drik, University of Bolton, University of Westminster, and the University of Berkeley.

How will it work OPEN-I plans a series of live webinars and discussion sessions presented by leading industry professionals to an invited audience of peers, academics involved in the critical debate around images, aspiring photojournalists from the majority world, and masters level students of photography. This will be supported by a blog and a social networking group with discussion forums, homepages etc. Debates will take place monthly over a one-year initial period, and will seek to ask challenging questions about the future development of the industry. All the presentations will be archived and available for later viewing online. Also, as the webinar software is available 24/7, rooms can be easily made available online at short notice for any other debates, discussions or working groups that emerge organically from the network.

Industry Context The exponential rise of social media has created a new landscape of interaction and collaboration where the boundaries between
professional practice, citizen journalism, the subject and the audience are blurring. The practice of professional news photography and photojournalism has been transformed in the last decade by a combination of technological changes, economic developments and ethical challenges, creating an overwhelming need for the industry as a whole to debate, discuss and open dialogue both within itself but also with interested parties who engage with visual news media, a process that is difficult to undertake conventionally because of the disparate nature of the profession, spread out geographically and economically with a large number of freelance practitioners. An engagement between the industry and the academic world is essential to both for critical reflection on the issues facing the media but also to involve those entering photography in debates about its future role in society.

The link to join again

Thanks, and hoping to see you all soon in the network


Project description from Paul Lowe

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — openinetwork @ 08:26

I am the community coordinator for an online network for the photojournalism industry called OPEN-i (open photojournalism education network), which has been set up by myself and a small team from my university with funding from the JISC BCE initiative (Business and community engagement) which is the UK’s learning technology funding body, the research funds were to explore the potential for online collaborative tools to enhance the engagement of universities with the outside world, business and communities we use the ning platform for the network, plus wimba web conferencing software for the live webinars which are the cornerstone of the network we launched the network in July, and now have around 550 members.

The focus is really on trying to re-imagine the profession in the age of web 2.0. our sector is undergoing radical change and transformation form the old paid for legacy media model of magazines and newspapers that was its original core area, to a new one of more participatory media, more access to audiences etc thru the web, but much less money from editorial clients, so we are trying to figure out what new business models might work in the future to produce work that is socially relevant, ethically founded, and has impact on the audience and benefit to the subjects.

So the debate is focused more on the practice of being a photojournalist than on the aesthetics, we talk more about how to produce and dissemennate the work we do than the work itself.

In fact we even decided not to allow members to post their photographic work to the site unless it raised questions relevant to these questions, i.e. the site is not a ‘portfolio’ site to show your work to other people, other spaces exist for that already.

The intention for this community is to try to break some new ground, come up with some new insights or models for the future, one way we hope to do this is by bringing together different types of actors e.g. academics, practitioners, academic/practitioners, photo agencies, photo editors, photo educators, new members of the profession, students etc so that in their interaction there should be some transformational energy generated

Also it is a way to ‘test the water’ and get a sense of what is happening in our industry from a variety of perspectives

January 20, 2010

About OPEN-i

Filed under: General — openinetwork @ 16:31

OPEN-i is a global online community of practice for the professional photojournalism industry. It uses web 2.0 social networking tools and live web conferencing to provide an arena to encourage serious debate about the direction of the profession in the age of social networking, bringing together professionals, stakeholders and interested parties ranging from individual photographers, photo agencies, large-scale news operations like the wire services, editors, consumers of images, galleries, academics and critics, educators and aspiring entrants to the profession in the form of postgraduate students and early career photographers.

OPEN-i is centred around a series of live webinars and discussion sessions presented by leading industry professionals. Debates will take place monthly starting in July 2009 over a one-year trial period, and will seek to ask challenging questions about the future development of the industry. Network members will be invited to attend, and all presentations will be archived and accessible online.

The first year (June 2009 through June 2010) will focus on developing an initial network of about 400 professionals involving key partners who already have established a ‘real world’ network.

This trial period is currently funded by JISC, and is supported by the London College of Communication at the University of the Arts London and the World Press Photo Foundation. The main project team includes Paul Lowe (lead), Marcia Chandra (facilitator) and Margo Blythman (evaluator).

This is a project blog for the team to share progress and reflection.

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