- Published on Tuesday, 19 April 2011 02:00
Unknown to many students is a site, named UCT OpenContent, which enables anyone to access both teaching and learning materials from academics and tutors within the various faculties at UCT. OpenContent is located on the “Research and Libraries” drop-down menu, found on the UCT website home page.
It currently has 115 resources which consist of 697 downloadable items. “My only complaint is that I would like to see more Humanities faculty content on it,” says Travis Noakes, a student working towards his doctorate in Media Studies.
“As a student, the site is useful to view detailed examples of the diverse research activities occurring at UCT and download podcasts of talks (like GIPCA’s and CET’s) that I could not attend. The site also makes it easier to search for UCT’s academic resources online,” says Noakes.
The portal is different to Vula in that it is accessible for everyone, no matter which courses they are registered for or whether the person is a student at UCT.
Shihaam Donnelly, working with the Centre for Educational Technology, explained that OpenContent officially started in February 2010. The site developed through the Shuttleworth Foundation-sponsored Opening Scholarship Research Project.
“The aim of the Opening Scholarship Research Project was to explore the opportunities that Information Communication Technologies and open dissemination models could offer for enhanced communication and more effective knowledge dissemination at UCT,” said Donnelly.
However, the OpenContent portal has encountered several problems. “The project hasn’t had any funding since September 2010,” said Donnelly. The project is run purely through the “passion” of a small group of individuals at the Centre for Educational Technology.
“There is [also] a challenge with the copyright issues surrounding some of the content used by academics in their materials – trying to overcome the intellectual property law hurdle is not always easy and it causes delays, which means a further delay in getting the materials onto the site,” says Donnelly.
Professor Jean-Paul Van Belle explains that another hurdle for OpenContent is that students do not seem to be engaging with it as much as hoped. “Too few people know that they can Google only for Creative Commons content,” says Professor Van Belle.
Despite the project’s problems, Donnelly remains positive about what it can achieve, saying, “If students can encourage their lecturers to rather use open creative commons-licensed materials, it can yield benefits in the long run.
“The less UCT pays for copyright licenses [which are paid when material is uploaded onto Vula], the more money there could be for providing students with electronics for example, or to credit student accounts with print credits.”