The HumBox project

E-Learning

P14_HUM_BOX_LOGOBrief Description

The HumBox project aims to publish a bank of good quality humanities resources online for free download and sharing, and in doing so, to create a community of Humanities specialists who are willing to share their teaching materials and collaborate with others to peer review and enhance existing resources. The resources published as part of our project will be placed in the HumBox, an innovative new online storage area for teaching and learning materials.

Background

Despite the rapid rise in the number of so-called ’hybrid’ or blended and fully online courses and the satisfaction students get from engaging with these various modes of teaching, it still takes considerable time, commitment and dedication to develop good online course materials that contain a variety of tasks, activities, well-researched links, podcasts and videos. The necessary time commitment is the reason cited by many lecturers for not doing it at all. A 2005 survey of English e-learning practitioners captures the mood well: ‘sometimes there’s a prohibitive workload involved in preparing and uploading materials … the labour can seem disproportionate to the learning context it is geared to support’ (E-learning Practitioner Survey in English Studies, 2005).

However, there are more factors than lack of time that are slowing the development of good-quality, flexible e-learning materials. There is still little reward in the academy for their development. It can be a struggle to find inspiration and ideas from within the discipline and sometimes it is simply not possible to produce the resources you really desire given copyright issues, technical restraints or institutional barriers.

TheHumBoxproject aimed to change that. In the pilot phase (2009/10), we collected over 1200 resources from across the Humanities and, in the process of turning them into OERs, we are investigating solutions to the issues cited above with the aim of creating a community of practitioners committed to ’open’ sharing and reuse.

Project design

Each of the three Humanities Subject Centres involved was responsible for managing a particular aspect of the project as well as the partners affiliated to it. Each Subject Centre had a particular role: English, for example, held responsibility for marketing & dissemination and had partners at Coventry, Winchester, Hull and Sheffield Hallam universities. The partners were responsible for collecting learning materials for deposit into the collection and for helping shape the nature of the collection through a series of evaluative workshops and feedback mechanisms. Partners also held dissemination events in their local institutions and established personal profiles within the nascent collection, thus contributing to a growing sense of a ‘community-based’ collection.

As project lead the LLAS Subject Centre at the University of Southampton was able to use the a new instance of a repository tool developed by the Computer Sciences department called ‘eprints’. This was rapidly skinned to the HumBox look and feel and became the focal point for the development of the collection as a whole.

As the project progressed issues such as IP/Copyright, tagging and quality of materials as well as formatting were encountered and solutions found.

Key outcomes:

  • The HumBox Collection presenting more than 1200 (as at July 2010) resources for use in Humanities teaching and a growing community of uploaders who have created profiles on the site and are contributing their resources on a regular basis.
  • All the original project participants have been engaged in publicity and awareness-raising activities for HumBox and OERs and many of their colleagues have started using the HumBox: an example of the wider humanities community’s thoughts on HumBox can be found in video interviews recorded by Sarah Hayes (Aston), one of our partners: e.g. http://humbox.ac.uk/2109/
  • One of our partners, Sarah Hayes (in conjunction with C-SAP Subject Centre), has had a paper accepted for the next EUNIS conference: “Motivations to deposit: Two approaches to Open Educational Resources (OER) within Languages and Social Sciences (LSS) at Aston University” featuring communications from the HumBox.
  • Future publications on IPR and copyright, technical innovation and the community engagement aspect of the project are planned and have been informed by the project outcomes.

Related links & Resources

Project partners

English Subject Centre Partners

Billy Brick
University of Coventry

Michael Jardine & Matthew Sauvage
University of Winchester

Lesley Coote
University of Hull

Matthew Steggle
Sheffield Hallam University

Research Period

May 2009 – May 2010