University of New England (that’s Australia)

UNE_LogoAfter the fantastic week in Bathurst at Charles Sturt University and AuSakai 09 I spent a fun weekend in Sydney with Clay Fenlason. He and I hung out with my friend Mike Erlin, a former colleague at DigitalThink who went to Australia (with his Australian wife) to work for WebCT. He now is CEO of an e-learning company in Sydney called Workstar and he and his family were very nice to host us for a day at the beach and then an early dinner at their place near Yowie Bay (some photos on Facebook and Flickr). On Monday morning I headed up to The University of New England in Australia, where I had been invited to give two talks, the first on Sakai 2.6 to their VLE selection committee and the second, organized by the new DEHub Distance Education innovation center, on Open Education. Unfortunately the first talk never happened.The VLE committee is evaluating Sakai, Moodle, Blackboard and D2L. The group had apparently decided that it wouldn’t be fair to have two presentations about Sakai. Steve Swinsburg had previously given a presentation about Sakai (thanks Steve!) so UNE informed me that I couldn’t give my planned presentation. Unfortunately this news came only the Friday before and I didn’t have time to plan something else. So I showed up at the appointed time to a fairly large room of people and we had what I thought was a nice chat about open source software communities and technology-enhanced learning in general. The conversation was lively and I hope they weren’t too disappointed that I wasn’t able to deliver on the originally scheduled topic. They were certainly very gracious about the last minute change in plans, which I appreciated.

Before the second talk I had a chance to chat with Cherry Stewart, a Research Fellow at DEHub, and an honorable mention winner of the 2009 Teaching With Sakai Innovation Award. You may remember her if you attended the Sakai Conference in Boston (see the awards ceremony video). We were jointly interviewed by a UNE journalist, and they subsequently published a nice article about Cherry winning the award. I think this award is a big deal, and UNE is rightfully proud to have a winner come from their campus.

In any case, afternoon ended with my presentation on Open Education (slides on Slideshare). This is the first time I’ve given a talk on this subject and it needs some work, certainly, but more and more I’ve been thinking about the linkages between Sakai and the Open Educational Resources and Open Scholarly Access worlds. This is the three-legged stool of Open Education and I think our fates are intertwined to larger and larger degrees whether we like it or not (I do like it). So I’ll be working on improving my knowledge of the space (especially Open Scholarly Access which I know little about) and weaving it into upcoming presentations and blog posts.

The day ended with a nice dinner at the home of Nathan Wise (also of DEHub) out in the country. I don’t know if it was far enough out to qualify as the bush, but the taxi almost hit a wallaby on the way up the driveway. In any case it was a very full and productive day, despite the snafu with the morning presentation. I look forward to a return trip some time and I want to especially thank Cherry for arranging the visit and providing such a warm welcome.

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