In the brave new world of multidisciplinary research, unlikely collaborations are increasingly giving rise to amazing results. Now, Oxford’s Academic IT Services has teamed up with academics and postgraduate students from the English Faculty to create Great Writers Inspire – a wonderful, free online resource for teachers and learners everywhere.
The project is in fact part of OpenSpires, a wider set of resources offered up by the University which are “open” not just in the sense that they are freely available to anyone with access to a computer, but also in the sense that they are opened up for users to share and redistribute. The website’s resources are available under a Creative Commons license which means that, as long as users attribute the original authors, they can re-use the resources however they like — providing they don’t stand to gain financially!
This flexibility and openness is particularly useful for teachers and lecturers. They can easily add snippets of video lectures, essays, or visual aids into their lessons or presentations, and turn a standard tutorial or lecture into something packed with extra information and enthralling media. But importantly the resources are of use to anyone, from academics to hobbyists, who simply wants to share information with other interested parties.
The project’s “openness” was evident from the get-go, and particularly in the way it was developed. The Great Writers Inspire Student Ambassadors were able to have their say and drive the project forward to the same extent as the academics and project managers involved. In fact, that approach was so successful that the Student Ambassadors were honoured in the annual OxTALENT awards which celebrate Oxford University’s innovative use of technology in teaching and learning.
So, what can people expect to find on the Great Writers Inspire site? Well, along with the vast e-book library, author biographies and contextual essays you might expect, there’s everything from video and audio lectures to maps and visualisations. And the breadth of content is quite amazing, too: it takes in everything from the post/colonial writing of J.M. Coetzee, through the modernist works of Katherine Mansfield and James Joyce, and stretches way back to Jane Austen and beyond.
The resources on Great Writers Inspire are open to all, and crucially they’re written simply, but not simplistically: academics will find many of the essays, lectures, and visualisation tools just as useful as students do. For example, it’s a rare treat for academic and student alike to watch a free debate between five Oxford University experts at the cutting edge of their fields, or to hear an Oxford Professor describe her latest research findings on Early Modern stagecraft in a succinct 10-minute presentation. Don’t hesitate in seeking such treasures out for yourself.