May 20, 2024

My Open Story for #101openstories

Hello I’m Debbie Baff .. (@debbaff) and this is my Open Story for #101openstories… to celebrate the year of open sorry it might be a bit of a waffle and possibly too late to make the cut …

Inspired by the fabulous #101openstories contribution from the lovely Sheila MacNeill and in response to an encouraging prompt from Chrissi Nerantzi🙂

Open by example …

Well if I’m honest I guess my adventure with ‘open’ probably started when I was little and watching my dad do his studying with the Open University. He was one of the first cohorts back in the seventies and I remember being fascinated with the TV and radio programmes and multitude of books and papers , so I consider myself pretty much as having grown up with the OU and their whole philosophy of being ‘open to people, places, methods and ideas’ just really appealed to me and so this has kind of framed my loved of open…

Open Studying .. Open Teaching

I went on to study with the OU myself, undertaking a BSc in Psychology, a Professional Certificate in Management and eventually a Masters in Online and Distance Education in 2015. I started the Masters in 2001 after I taught as an Associate Lecturer on a new Short Online course entitled ‘ TU170 Learning Online: Computing with Confidence’ which was designed to introduce students to working online. I thought then that there was definitely something in this online malarky and was captivated by the strange ‘other world’ of First Class Conferencing and discussion forums so I figured it would probably be a good idea to find out more about it  …Ahem ( yes 2001 I hear you cry ! ) … for those that are good at Maths yes it did take me a long time to actually finish my Masters but in my defence I did have two children and completed an MSc in Business Psychology in the middle of it. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it 🙂 I did a little video for the OU about my experience which you can see here.

I guess the experiences that I had on my Masters spanned the developments both in the online world but also in the wider open world and the introduction of Web 2.0 etc. It was through my Masters that I first got involved with blogging although that wasn’t until 2014 so I am relatively late to the party.  I do still use this blog though. I do still consider myself very much a newbie to the world of blogging though and often think that I don’t really have all that much to say. I also find it so hard to actually finish posts although I am working on that one….

Open Pastures

At the end of 2013 I was made redundant from my post as Head of Student Registry at the University of South Wales.  Looking around in the redeployment pool I spotted the opportunity for a Project Manager for a new Open Education Resources Initiative ( OER Wales Cymru). Although it was a fixed term post I welcomed the chance to undertake a new challenge, I applied for and by some absolute miracle got the position… I’m sure it was my experiences with undertaking the MA that secured the deal …

Its funny how things work out …

On reflection, this was one of the best moves that I have ever made, not only did I have the opportunity of undertaking the role of Project Manager for a sector wide high profile Open Educational Resources (OER Wales Cymru) but it also gave me such a brilliant chance to meet so many others in the open education community that I simply wouldn’t have met otherwise.

I found myself getting to know people whose work I had been reading for years ( talk about being slightly star struck ! ) and to actually start to put into practice some of the things that I had learnt in my studies …

Open Education Conferencing !

I attended my first Open Education Resource Conference in Newcastle in 2014 (OER14 Building Communities of Open Practice) where I did my first ever Conference Presentation … Adopting OER models at a national level: the experience of Wales . Thankfully a colleague of mine did this as a joint presentation with me (Sue Burnett) but I was so worried about my bit that it was still really daunting. I needn’t have worried though as people in the open community were so friendly and supportive so I soon found my feet.

I got to know most of the people on the organising committee for OER14 which as it turned out was really helpful, especially given that on the back of my new job description was a little strap line that said something along the lines of

“ oh and by the way if you could also find time to organise an international OER conference that would be great…”

 I didn’t have a clue where to start,  but I soon found that a whole raft of people came forward to volunteer their services to help organise the conference for 2015. (This was also to be supplemented by the amazing folks at ALT who came on board to jointly co-ordinate the conference.) Bit by bit the conference came together and with an enormous amount of help from the Conference Committee and ALT OER15 Mainstreaming Open Education took Cardiff by storm in April 2015. I was thrilled to have the brilliant Martin Weller and my then boss Haydn Blackey as co-chairs for the conference. As if that wasn’t enough we were also lucky enough to secure the likes of Cable Green , Josie Fraser and Sheila MacNeill as our amazing keynote speakers so I was absolutely in my element…

(For an excellent flavour of the #OER15 conference check out these blog posts from Catherine Cronin and Marieke Guy )

Having led the organisation of the OER15 Conference in Wales as part of my role for OER Wales Cymru I have been helping out with the annual OER conference organising committee ever since. So far I have been involved with organising OER14, OER15, OER16 and OER17 and hopefully will also be helping to organise OER18 too …

Open about Sad Times …

Sadly my elation at the organisation of the OER15 conference was hit by the sudden illness and subsequent death of my mum which meant that I couldn’t actually attend on the day. I was deeply touched by the sheer compassion and care that I was afforded by the whole Open Community during such a really difficult time . My mum actually watched some of it online with me shortly before she died and I was humbled by the mentions and thank you’s that I received which made not only me but my mum very proud. Although each OER Conference will always be a difficult anniversary for me it will also be a joyous time to be involved with such an amazing community….

Open Communities

Through my role with OER Wales Cymru I slowly started tweeting . Although I had actually had a twitter account before, I didnt really ‘get it’. It was through the Twitter that I discovered a whole world of other people in the Open Community. I found out about things like twitter chats and started taking part in things like the weekly Learning and Teaching Chats ( #LTHEchat). It was here that I met two amazing ladies Sue Beckingham and Chrissi Nerantzi who have both had a profound influence on me. The open nature of the Learning and Teaching Chat has been such a game changer for me as it has introduced me to things that I have never heard of and put me in touch with people that have really made a difference in my own personal and professional development.

I then started volunteering with #LTHEchat as an organising team member and other Open initiatives such as , #creativehe, #fos4l and #byod4l.

Open Badges

Have I mentioned Open Digital Badges yet ? #deblovesbadges

I have met so many amazing people in the Open world that have helped me and I try to do my bit by volunteering to help others. I’m Secretary for the Open Education Special Interest Group at ALT and have helped to run the first UK open Digital Badges in HE conference held last year at Southampton University.

Open about how I love the Open Education Community

So basically to sum things up in terms of my open story, I love being part of the wider Open Education Community itself. I’m part of something bigger. I feel connected. I feel valued. I care about the community and I feel cared for. I feel I belong.

Take Care


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