Investigating OER: LabSpace

Labspace logoThis week’s challenge was to review and critique Open Educational Resources.  After scanning a few of the suggested resources, I found I was most intrigue by LabSpace.  Being a science teacher, my first thought was, “An entire site dedicated to labs?  Are they virtual labs?  How does this work?”  I quickly found out that Open University and I have very different views on how to use the word ‘lab’!  Open University, based in the United Kingdom, created OpenLearn with the intent to provide free online education for anyone, anywhere in the world.  LabSpace is a part of OpenLearn, and is described on their homepage as “… a community-led environment which fosters the concept of sharing and reusing educational resources.  It is intended for educational and professional practitioners and more adventurous learners.”


All educational content not under third party copyright can be used and reused according to Creative Commons licensing, specifically ‘Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike’.  Material can be downloaded as well as linked to your own course website.  When searching around the site I found the download feature did not work (even when registered), but this is likely due to the fact that LabSpace is currently in a read-only mode, as it is under redevelopment (cannot create or remix content).  It will be re-launching under a new name, OpenLearn Works, soon (website says ‘Spring 2014’ but no specific date).

Evaluation Process
I tried to evaluate this site using the ‘Achieve Rubrics for Evaluating OER Objects’, but found I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  Instead, I went with something more informal.I explored three different courses/modules in detail:Exploring Sport Online: Athletes and Efficient Hearts

  • Time: 5 hours
  • Level: Introductory

Health and Social Care: Alcohol and Human Health

  • Time: 6 hours
  • Level: Introductory

Mathematics and Statistics: Numbers, Units and Arithmetic

  • Time: 5 hours
  • Level: Introductory

  • There are four possible levels in LabSpace courses; introductory, intermediate, advanced and masters.  The content in these three courses is well-suited to the levels assigned.  For example, the biology courses give enough of an introduction to various organ systems that the reader can make sense of the expanded concepts.  The math course begins with place value and scaffolds from there.
  • The suggested completion times are appropriate for most learners.  However, if I were to use the math course with my literacy learners I would expect that it would take them longer than 5 hours.
  • The courses use a mix of graphics and audio to enhance learning.  For example, the course on athletes and hearts includes audio clips from different athletes describing their real life training experiences.
  • Each course begins with an introduction.  A Table of Contents is provided running along the left-hand side of the webpage, so it is easy to navigate to different parts of the course.
  • The ‘Athletes and Efficient Hearts’ course included study skills, like creating mindmaps, bulleted summary lists, using a learning journal and completing a glossary.  I thought these were particularly helpful.  I did not see these included in the other two courses, so it really depends upon who created the course.
  • Registration with LabSpace is free, and if you register, you can discuss a topic in a forum, write a journal entry online, complete quizzes, and participate in an online learning community.  You also need to be registered to download any of the resources.  There are usually questions embedded within the courses, and registration hides the answers until you are ready.  Otherwise, the answers are shown at the same time as the questions.
  • All courses hosted in LabSpace must follow strict accessibility guidelines.  For example, support for the visually impaired includes being able to skip over navigation links to main content, ‘listen’ to the pages, and play audio and video materials through a wide range of media players.  Over 90% of video and audio materials have textual descriptions or transcripts to accompany them.
  • It is easy to search LabSpace.  Content is arranged by topic, so you can either search in the search box, or you can select a topic from a menu at the bottom of the homepage.
LabSpace…not just a place to find content!  There are three additional ‘spaces’ in LabSpace: ProjectSpace: “provides an online environment where partners or members of an organization can collaborate on the research and development of open educational resources” IndieSpace: “dedicated to users who are unfamiliar with how to remix material, upload their own material or use [LabSpace] tools” SectorSpace: provides space to “showcase OER in an open learning environment, make OER practice public, and experiment with OER learners”I am not sure if or how these additional spaces will change with the re-development of LabSpace.  For the purposes of this review I focused on the educational content piece, but I am interested in looking into the other ‘spaces’, in particular the IndieSpace.

Overall impressions
I think everyone would be able to find something they could use, whether linking directly to the site to use as is, or downloading the content to remix.  LabSpace runs on a Moodle platform, so many educators would already be familiar with the layout and design.  Overall, I would recommend this OER to other instructors.

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