OER and Widening Access

Guest blogger: Gayle Hudson, Widening Access Manager North Wales – The Open University in Wales. Many thanks to Gayle for publishing her thoughts here – we’d love to hear your comments.


Gayle Hudson, The Open University

I come to the Cadarn Learning Portal project from a community widening access perspective.

I’m not a learning technologist or a natural techie person and I’m not an academic, I’m very interested in how all this ‘stuff’ reaches and impacts on real people, particularly adult learners and young people from communities who are under-represented in our great HE establishments.

I’ve been with the OU in Wales for the past 6 years and have seen a real shift in that time; from academics and technologists creating all this wonderful OER content for our OpenLearn website, to people starting to question who’s using this content and how is it helping to widen participation to HE. It is no longer good enough to say we ‘do’ widening participation because we offer OERs, we also need to look at practice and evidence.

In the past our OER activity was something happening ‘over there’ and as widening access practitioners we were busy in the community promoting our ‘real’ courses. Now we are seeing a much more integrated approach and a strategic commitment to putting human resource behind our ‘journeys from informal to formal learning’ workstream (or JIFL as the OU likes to call it).

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Online Resources for Learning and Using Welsh

With cariad@iaith having recently finished airing on S4C, it seems like a good time  to look at what resources are available for those of us who have Welsh as a second language, or are learning Welsh. Some of these are also useful resources for those fluent in Welsh and those who wish to  work through the medium of Welsh.

The pages of the Welsh Language Commissioner offer numerous practical resources for working in Welsh – links to Welsh versions of the Windows computer operating system for example. It also offers a link to a comprehensive English – Welsh dictionary. The BBC also offers a large dictionary, as well as a list of resources which includes Radio Cymru’s podcasts for learners and many other useful links. if you don’t have a Welsh keyboard but still need to produce Welsh alphabet letters there is a useful page at http://welsh.typeit.org/ that lets you produce the words and then copy them to your word processor or similar.

The Welsh type-it interface

The Welsh type-it interface

Say Something in Welsh offers excellent free self-paced courses that you can either listen to while logged in to the web site or (once you have created a free account) you can download the lessons as MP3 files, to listen to in the car or on the go. There are various courses and levels, as well as weekly and daily practice materials. Course 1, Level 1 (another course), and weekly sessions are all for free, although there is some content that you have to pay for by subscribing. A nice touch is that you can  take the lessons in either a North Welsh or a South Welsh accent, meaning you are more likely to have an accent and use the dialect that is used in your area. Our only criticism is that the site can be a little slow at times. You can also follow SaySomethinginWelsh on twitter, @DailyWelshWords.

Learn-welsh.net (www.learn-welsh.net) has many free tutorials, tests and games to test your learning. These are available at both beginnner and Intermediate levels, and feature many topics. After looking at and doing the exercises you can take the tests to asses your retention of the lessons. The tests measure using both multiple choice and written Welsh where you type the answer. The site is free but features adverts, and builds into a complete Welsh course. Some example screenshots from www.learn-welsh.net:



If you prefer to use a tablet or mobile phone to access Welsh, there are a number of apps available for iPad or Android apps, which include:

  • Surface Languages: Welsh – this has many helpful lessons and tests to measure your knowledge. It incorporates sounds with a voice over speaking the words for every lesson and test. It makes for a comprehensive first course as it covers many situations and subjects. The free lessons are available on the web site, or using an app for phone or tablet. The app is downloadable from the App store for your device. Again, the app is free but features adverts although these are fairly unobtrusive. Below are a couple of images of the app on an android phone.
surface-languages-into -15   surface-languages-mc
ap-geir-cheese  ap-geir-caws

There are some excellent free Welsh language courses and apps available for PC, or other devices. While they are not Higher Education level educational resources, these various resources, websites and apps show how it is possible to develop interactivity in online learning, use sound and image together, use video and podcasts, and also develop tablet and smartphone educational resources that are engaging and fun to use.

There are also apps that you pay for, but we have only featured here resources that are completely or partially free. It would be interesting if any readers can contribute further online resources that they have used to help them learn or use Welsh.


2014 WHELF HEWIT Gregynog Colloquium: A newbie’s view

Gregynog 2014-24

The grandeur and beauty of Gregynog Hall adds to the atmosphere of the annual WHELF/HEWIT Colloquium.

Guest blogger, Susan Ferguson, of Aberystwyth University’s e-learning team, kindly agreed to write about her experience last week as a first-time attender at the Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum/ Higher Education Wales Information Technology Forum joint colloquium. This is an annual event held in rural Powys at which Library, e-learning and IT staff update one another, and share practice and experience in both formal and informal settings. The colloquium lasts a week and as the week progresses the subject-matter of the talks gradually moves from a library focus to an IT one, although there is plenty of overlap. This means that many staff stay only for the part of the conference that is most relevant to them. 

Susan writes: As a member of this year’s organising committee, and a first-time delegate, I have been asked to note a few reflections about last week’s Gregynog Colloquium.  For me, this consisted of two days attending sessions, meeting new colleagues, speaking to sponsors, looking at new technologies as well as relaxing and enjoying Gregynog Hall.

The talks and sessions gave interesting updates about work that is ongoing and planned within Wales.  Within which, comments, feedback and questions from presenters and audience alike made me reflect upon my work and other projects here at Aberystwyth.  I particularly enjoyed hearing the Library New Voices session, where the speakers gave their reflections and insights about their professional journeys. Other sessions also included updates on and details about institutional innovations and collaborations, as well as updates from Jisc, JANET and CYMAL, about wider provisions on offer.

Cadarn Staff Gregynog 2014-17

CADARN learning Portal Project staff concentrate at one of the conference sessions

The general atmosphere was warm and friendly and has left me with an impression of a knowledgeable and supportive pan Wales network of Welsh HE colleagues.  Moreover, while the sessions gave timely, interesting updates the breaks enabled everybody to further discuss and talk about the issues raised; as well as enabling me to put faces to names and to speak to colleagues I had previously only encountered during video conferences.  Being able to directly see and speak to colleagues from across Wales was invaluable.

Nigel Gregynog 2014-38

Nigel Thomas of Aberystwyth University, one of the co-organisers, chaired one of the sessions.

This colloquium also benefited from a myriad of generous sponsors, who provided knowledge, refreshments and demonstrations of new teaching technologies. My favourite piece of which was Samsung’s new touch screen overlay which was highly intuitive, straightforward and potentially lends itself to a number of teaching styles.  It was brilliant being able to look at upcoming technologies even though we are currently spoilt for new, state of the art teaching stations and SMART technologies at Aberystwyth.

Gregynog itself is an amazing, beautiful building in a wonderful setting that easily absorbs and effortlessly accommodates a large amount of people.  It also seems to be equidistant for most Welsh HE institutions; its’ only downfall being, for an ICT and Library conference, a somewhat sporadic and idiosyncratic WiFi provision.  Something, Gregynog assures us will be improved.

Colin - Val Gregynog 2014-44

Conference delegates enjoy the sunshine and relaxed ambience of the conference.

As a member of this years’ organising committee I was grateful for the support we received, from those who spoke during and chaired sessions, to sponsors and to the staff at Gregynog who provided an ideal location for and ensured that this year’s colloquium ran smoothly. The overwhelming impression I was left with, from participating in this years’ colloquium, was of fascinating sessions and interesting new technologies; as well as meeting lots of new colleagues in a wonderful location.

All photos: Russ Basford/Johanna Westwood, Cadarn Learning Portal, published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Educational Media Production Team start work

Cadarn Production Team Photo

The Learning Portal’s Media Production Team: Russ Basford, Lizi Hesling and Matt Cawte

The Learning Portal project entered a new phase this month with the employment of a team of three media specialists. This team will assist partners’ staff in producing educational resources for use in their teaching and to educate and inspire visitors to the portal. They will start by producing some guides to the equipment that has been funded by the project, but then will visit partners to produce materials locally, and to support and train local staff in production skills and techniques.

The team consists of Lizi Hesling, Educational Media Producer, who will lead and co-ordinate the team; Matt Cawte, Computer Animator; and Russ Basford, Audio-Visual Technician. So far the new staff have been familiarising themselves with the project and the equipment available to partners. Here is a little more about their roles and backgrounds.

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Project Progress Update

Project Manager Tom Bartlett and Aberystwyth University E-learning Advisor Mary Jacob try out some of the new equipment supplied by the project.

Project Manager Tom Bartlett and Aberystwyth University E-learning Advisor Mary Jacob try out some of the new equipment supplied by the project.

The CADARN Learning Portal project is progressing on a number of fronts, here is a brief update and progress report on the project: what is going on, what we have achieved and what is happening next. This post has an update on equipment purchased and deployed at partners, the Multimedia Production Team, Website development and partner projects…

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