OER16 Conference Submissions Open

oer16_logoThe OER16 Open Culture is now accepting submissions.  The conference, which is taking place in Scotland for the first time since it began in  2010, will take place at the University of Edinburgh on the 19th and 20th April 2016. The call for proposals was launched at the ALT Conference in Manchester at the beginning of September and the submissions site is now open.

Submissions are invited for presentations, lightning talks, posters, and panels and workshops on the themes of:

  • The strategic advantage of open, creating a culture of openness, and the reputational challenges of openwashing.
  • Converging and competing cultures of open knowledge, open source, open content, open practice, open data and open access.
  • Hacking, making and sharing.
  • Openness and public engagement.
  • Innovative approaches to opening up cultural heritage collections for education.

If you have any queries about the conference themes please contact conference co-chair Lorna M. Campbell at lorna.m.campbell@ed.ac.uk / lorna.m.campbell@icloud.com or on twitter @lornamcampbell. Any queries regarding the submission process should be directed to Anna Davidge at ALT, anna.davidge@alt.ac.uk.

Further information about the conference is available here oer16.oerconf.org and you can follow @oerconf and #oer16 on twitter. Look forward to seeing you in Edinburgh in the Spring!


The Way Forward: National Library of Scotland Strategy 2015 – 2020

The National Library of Scotland plans to put a third of its renowned collection of 24 million items online in the next 10 years in one of the biggest programmes of its kind anywhere in Europe

This ambitious goal is outlined in the National Library of Scotland, Leabharlann Naiseanta na h-Alba, new 2015 – 2020 Library Strategy which was launched last week.

The focus of the strategy, titled The Way Forward, is squarely on openness, access and reducing inequality through the use of digital technology.   The Strategy introduces the National Library’s commitment to

natlib_strategy…providing easy access to our physical and digital collections and delivering services that are open and available to all. Our determination is to make the knowledge held within our collections as widely available as possible. By breaking down barriers that prevent people engaging in education and learning, we help to reduce inequalities.

Acknowledging the complex and ever changing environment in which the National Library operates, the Strategy highlights some of the challenges it faces in terms of funding, efficiency, improvement, realising the potential of physical collections, embracing the challenges and opportunities of digital technology, and addressing copyright and licensing.

The Strategy identifies seven significant trends, and six strategic priorities, many of which have direct relevance to open education.


forms of knowledge communication will continue to widen, as the book, ebook, ejournal, social media, and data are recast;

libraries will be more open in the way they supply and license information, as well as revealing their day-to-day activities through social media;

Strategic priorities:

4. Supporting learning. We will ensure our collections and services make an important contribution to the education, learning and advancement of our citizens and the success of our nation.

4.1 We will improve equality of opportunity by seeking to remove all barriers which prevent people accessing our collections and services.

5. Inspiring engagement.  We will design and deliver public engagement programmes that will educate, entertain and inspire the communities of Scotland.

5.3 We will engage with our users and audiences as partners, collaborators, and supporters, seeking opportunities for them to reuse our content and participate via social media and crowdsourcing. We will be a place of researching, making, and creating.

The National Library aims to support the Scottish Government’s national outcomes for a successful Scotland which include a focus on education, learning, research and innovation.

natlib_strategy_3“Our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.”

We contribute to and create new innovative resources for use in schools including ‘Scotland on Screen’ and the Library’s ‘Learning Zone’.

We link with Scottish universities, colleges and schools on innovative research projects.

All our educational resources link to the Curriculum of Excellence and are promoted to schools across Scotland.

The Strategy also demonstrates an admirable commitment to multilinguality with Scots language resources for schools and the ability to search the library catalogue in Gaelic.

In a press release accompanying the Strategy launch, Dr John Scally, National Librarian and Chief Executive of the National Library of Scotland commented

“At no time has it been as possible to reach out beyond our buildings to provide services to people living in every part of Scotland. This new strategy seeks to harness technological developments to achieve the central aim of the National Library — to provide access to knowledge that is inspiring, accessible and relevant to anyone, whether living in or interested in Scotland.”

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, added

natlib_strategy_2“The National Library’s new strategy 2015-20 highlights the key role that the Library plays in educating and supporting research and innovation, and enhancing Scotland’s profile here at home and abroad. I am pleased to see that it is firmly committed to improving access to its impressive collection of 24 million items by developing further its online presence to make its collections more widely available and engage with new and more diverse audiences worldwide.”

While the strategy acknowledges that there are limitations to how content can be used and delivered, due to existing copyright, licensing agreements and legal restrictions, the National Library’s new Strategy demonstrates a clear commitment to increasing openness which will hopefully be an important driver to promoting greater openness across all Scotland’s educational and cultural heritage institutions.


New support for Open Scotland

(Cross posted to Open World)

I’m very pleased to to announce that the University of Edinburgh has confirmed that it will support the Open Scotland initiative over the next twelve months. As of the beginning of September I will be working one day a week as OER Liaison – Open Scotland within the Learning, Teaching and Web division at the University of Edinburgh, where I’ll be working with LTW Director and OER16 co-chair, Melissa Highton.

Edinburgh already has a world class reputation for encouraging innovation in open education and a forward looking vision for sharing open educational materials, so I’m very pleased indeed that the University has chosen to support Open Scotland in this way.

The main activities I’ll be concentrating on over the coming months are planning next year’s OER16 conference, revitalising the Open Scotland initiative, promoting the Scottish Open Education Declaration, and continuing to participate in the Open Policy Network.  The Open Scotland blog has been rather neglected for some time now so hopefully I’ll be able to start updating this site again with open education news and developments from across Scotland and beyond, so if you’re involved in an any kind of open education initiative that you’d like to see featured here, please feel free to get in touch. You can drop me a mail at lorna.m.campbell@icloud.com or contact me on twitter @lornamcampbell.

I’ll also be at ALT-C in Manchester next week so if you’ve got any thoughts or ideas either for OER16 or for Open Scotland, please do come and find me for a chat.

OEPS Forum and ways forward for the Scottish Open Education Declaration

Earlier this month I went along to the second Opening Educational Practices in Scotland Forum where I’d been invited to present an update on the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

OEPS Update

The event began with an update from the OEPS Project team outlining their progress in supporting a network of open education practitioners, developing a Scottish open education hub, collating case studies and supporting the development of new content and practice. There was considerable discussion as to the role of the hub, which has been revised following discussions at the first OEPS forum. Although the hub will facilitate aggregated OER search, it will focus more on being a community hub for open education practice. For a comprehensive update on OEPS progress, the project recently published their first report here: First OEPS Project Report.

An international perspective on opening educational practices – Laura Czerniewicz

Undoubtedly the highlight of the morning, was Laura Czerniewicz remote presentation from Cape Town on international perspectives on opening educational practices. Laura spoke about how openness and the internet have reconfigured the post traditional education landscape and presented a series of case studies from South Africa. Laura went on to suggest that open education exists in an extremely contested and complex environment. In Africa there has been some scepticism about open education as it is seen as an extension of the commodification of knowledge, however Africa has a strong narrative culture of sharing which can be harnessed to encourage the sharing of open education resources and practice (Jane-Frances Agabu, National Open University of Nigeria). One of the most interesting and challenging points Laura raised in her presentation centred on the legitimacy of piracy as a means of sharing educational content in the face of rising text books costs.

“Is it unethical to want to be educated or is it unethical to charge so much for books? To have to pay that amount when you can’t afford it?”

A valid question indeed.

Towards the end of her talk Laura also discussed the potentially valuable role of open education policy, although she also cautioned:

“Policy is great, but policy without budget can be problematic.”

This is certainly a point I would agree with.  In order to make an impact, policy ideally needs to be backed up by adequate resources and funding, however this also begs the question of how to support unfunded policies that emerge from the community such as the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

The Scottish Open Education Declaration – the way forward

In the afternoon I presented two workshops on future directions for the Scottish Open Education Declaration, (slides from these workshops are available here). The second draft of the Declaration was published by Open Scotland in December 2014, after receiving a small amount of very welcome funding from the OEPS Project. Shortly afterwards, the ALT Scotland SIG forwarded the declaration to Angela Constance, the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.  Although Open Scotland has not been in a position to actively promote and disseminate the declaration recently, primarily due to lack of funding, it was evident from participants at the workshops that there still seems to be real appetite across all sectors of Scottish education to continue taking the Declaration forward. Several participants said that they had found the declaration useful for raising awareness of open education within their own institution and for triggering discussions about open education at policy level. The Scottish Funding Council also appear to see some merit in the Declaration and during discussions with workshop participants and members of both Open Scotland and the OEPS Project, we were able to identify several steps to take the Declaration forward.

Evidencing the Declaration

While the Declaration may have some value as an aspirational statement of intent, clearly it will carry considerably more weight if each point can be evidenced by examples of existing practice in Scotland and further afield.   Examples of existing practice could be crowd sourced and collected via the Declaration Comment Press site and collated from evidence gathered by the OEPS Project.

Evidence of Impact

In order to highlight the value of both open education and the Declaration at government level it would be useful to be able to provide evidence of positive impact.  Assessing the impact of open education initiatives is always difficult as quantitative measures have a tendency to miss the bigger picture and, arguably, the ethos of open education.  Gathering qualitative user stories and case studies is likely to be a more useful way to provide evidence of the impact of the Declaration. The case studies being collated by the OEPS Project will hopefully be of particular value here, but continued efforts should be made to gather user stories from across the sector.

Harmonising the Declaration with current policy

When the first version of the Declaration was drafted in early 2014, we made a conscious effort to ensure that it tied in with Scottish Government policies and strategic objectives. Clearly the policy landscape has changed over the last twelve months and it would be useful to revisit the Declaration to ensure that it supports current policy particularly with regard of formal and informal learning, social inclusion and widening access.

Engaging Universities Scotland

A number of bodies and agencies have been identified that could potentially provide valuable support for the Declaration, one of which is Universities Scotland. Although an encouraging number of university colleagues have already made valuable contributions to the declaration, it would be beneficial to engage senior managers to ensure that open education is supported at policy level across the higher education sector.

Engaging schools, colleges and the third sector

It is important that the Declaration represents all sectors of Scottish education; therefore it is critical that we find routes to engage not just higher education but also schools, colleges and the third sector. We would welcome suggestions from colleagues as to how to raise awareness of the Declaration and encourage engagement with open education across all sectors of Scottish education.

The Scottish Open Education Declaration is an open community draft and we continue to encourage all those with an interest in open education in Scotland and beyond to comment on the document here http://declaration.openscot.net/

Scottish Open Education Declaration – new draft released

A new draft of the Scottish Open Education Declaration has been released, and is now available for comment here: declaration.openscot.net. (Draft 0.1 of the Declaration, together with all comments received, is still available here.)

The new release of the Declaration incorporates input from many colleagues who commented on the first draft, in addition to policy recommendations developed by the POERUP Project in their Country Option Pack for Scotland.

Some of the amendments made to the Declaration include:

  • Encouraging theuse of CC BY licences for all educational materials produced with public funds, as opposed to CC BY SA licences as recommended in draft 0.1.
  • The addition of “Retention” from Wiley’s 5 Rs of Openness model.
  • Recommending that adequately funded professional development programmes are established to help teachers and other key personnel to understand the benefits of all forms of open education, as suggested by the POERUP guidelines.

Two new clauses were also added, the first is adapted from the POERUP guidelines, and the second was suggested by Scott Wilson of Cetis / OSS Watch and Tavis Reddick of Fife College.

  1. Ensure that open educational resources follow accessibility guidelines and that accessibility is a central tenet of all open education programmes and initiatives.
  2. Support the adoption of appropriate open formats and standards and the development of best practices to ensure that open educational resources can be easily created, revised, repurposed and remixed.

The Declaration continues to be hosted on a dedicated Comment Press site and members of the education community in Scotland and all those with an interest in open education are encouraged to comment on and contribute to this latest draft. All those that commented on the first draft have been credited and attributed in the new version of the Declaration.

Open Scotland would like to acknowledge the support of the Open University’s Opening Educational Practices in Scotland project who provided a small amount of funding to enable this draft to be completed.

In line with the licence conditions of the original UNESCO / COL Paris OER Declaration, the Scottish Open Education Declaration has been released under a CC BY SA licence.

Creative Commons: State of the Commons

Earlier this week Creative Commons issued their State of the Commons report, which covers the impact and success of free and open content worldwide.

Measuring the size of the commons has always been a challenge. There’s no sign-up to use a CC license, and no central repository or catalog of CC-licensed works. So it’s impossible to say precisely how many licensed works there are, how many people are using Creative Commons licenses, where those people are located, or how they’re using them.

With this report, we’re taking a big step toward better measuring the size of the commons. We’re also sharing all of the data and methodologies that we used to find these numbers, and making a commitment to hone and update these findings in the months and years to come. We’re also telling the stories of events from 2014 that have impacted the size, usability, and relevance of the commons.

The full report can be accessed here https://stateof.creativecommons.org/ and it’s very encouraging to see Scotland getting mentioned among 14 countries that have made national commitments to open education, through legislation or projects that lead to the creation, increased use or improvement of open educational resources.


Creative Commons, CC BY

Leicester City Council and OER for Schools

A guest post from Josie Fraser,  ICT Strategy Lead (Children’s Capital) at Leicester City Council about the council’s ground breaking work in promoting and encouraging the development and use of openly licensed educational resources in the school sector. 

OER banner

Leicester City Council has recently become the first Local Authority in the UK to give permission to school staff to openly licence the educational resources created by employees in the course of their work. We’ve given the permission in order to take open education forward across the city – with the aim of ensuring all school staff are aware of and able to benefit from the use of openly licenced resources – and also able to create and share open educational resources (OER). We’ve also released a range of guidance and resources to introduce open licensing and open educational resources (OER) to school staff to help with this.

In Leicester, I’ve been working with schools to support the development of staff digital literacy skills. Our work has highlighted that many staff aren’t aware of open licencing and don’t know what open educational resources are. As well as providing practical, introductory information for schools about finding, using and accrediting OERs, we want to encourage the adaption and creation of OER – to support schools in promoting and sharing the great work that is being produced across Leicester, and to actively contribute to open education.

There are many different types of schools across the UK. In Scotland, the picture is relatively straight forward, with the 32 Scottish Local Authorities in the position of employer for local, special, and denominational schools. In England, the Local Authority is the employer of staff working at community and voluntary controlled schools, but not of other types of school – for example academy, foundation, and voluntary aided schools, where the governing body is typically the employer. In Leicester, there are currently 84 community and voluntary controlled schools. The council is the legal and beneficial owner of copyright of materials produced by these employees in the course of their employment. This isn’t something that is specific to school employees or to Local Authorities as employers– it applies to all employees working under a contract of service, unless a specific agreement is in place. Sometimes there will be an explicit statement in an employee’s contract that references this, for example:


The council shall be the legal and beneficial owner of the copyright in and all other rights to the results of the development of and the application of all work produced by you during the course of your employment and as a consequence of your employment.

However, not all employees (including school employees) have statements like this in their contract – typically, whether it’s there or not, unless a specific agreement is in place, the expectation is that employees should obtain permission from their employer to share work created in the course of their employment. The rights to work created outside of the course of employment – for example, a presentation a staff member creates on their own time for an event that they are not attending as part of their job – belong to the employee. Students also own the rights to their own work.

Staff don’t have an automatic right to take copies of this work from one employer to another, and they don’t automatically enjoy moral rights – the right to be acknowledged as the author of the work.

Schools and school staff have a great culture of sharing, most of which is informal. Sharing educational resources benefits everyone – learners and educators can benefit from the care and expertise that have gone into producing resources, and energy can be put into developing work to better suit learners and school’s needs, rather than starting from scratch. Most schools and educators will at some point have adopted someone else’s, lesson plan, activity, or policy.

This informality potentially leaves staff vulnerable in a number of ways. Others might adopt or use their work in ways they aren’t happy with, or they may not get proper credit for their work for example. Leicester City Council has providing formal permission as an employer for school staff to openly licence their educational resources in order to address some of the issues that might arise ahead of time. It sends a clear message that we are encouraging staff to share their openly licenced work, and enables schools to put in place local policies.

A fraction of what currently gets shared by schools is openly licensed. Open Licences build on the existing legal copyright framework to provide clear permissions for flexible uses of work – an open licence provides an opportunity to clearly signal how the work can be copied, shared and developed, and who should be given credit for the resource.

Along with the permission, we’ve produced a leadership briefing note giving more information, and provided two model school policies – one for the schools where the permission is in place (i.e. Leicester City Council has provided it, as employer) and one for schools where the governing body could put permission in place, through the adoption of a policy. In this way we are raising awareness of OER across all schools in the city, and hoping to encourage them in taking a similar approach.

Looking at OER in relation to schools policies and practices can promote organisational awareness and discussion of copyright, ownership, and accreditation – all important areas that staff can model good practice in for their learners. Online and digital resources are routinely made use of and created in all our schools. This increased use and creation of digital and web based resources means that understanding the copyright rules and permissions that relate to the use of digital and online teaching and learning materials is very important. Digital resources are protected by copyright in the same way as other resources.

Permission to share educational resources through open licence represents an exciting opportunity for schools to take a fresh look at the original materials staff are producing, and how these can best be used to promote the school and build connections to other educators and organisations. I very much hope that other Local Authorities will look at Leicester City Council’s model, and make use of the resources we have created and shared to take the use and creation of OER forward.

All of the resources mentioned in this post are available under open licence and can be downloaded from: http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/ls/open-education/

POERUP: Policy Recommendations for Scotland

poerup_2Earlier this month the Policies for OER Uptake Project (POERUP), drew to a conclusion and published its final reports and deliverables on the POERUP Referata.  The overall aim of POERUP was to undertake research to understand how governments can stimulate the uptake of OER by policy means. Led by Sero Consulting and involving the Open Universiteit Nederland, Athabasca University, the University of Leicester, Université de Lorraine and EDEN, POERUP ran from 2011 – 2014.  The project’s key deliverables include a final report, thirty-three country reports focusing on the national policy context relating to OER, a comprehensive list of open education initiatives with OER maps, policy advice for universities, colleges and schools and, policy proposals for eight EU countries, plus Canada.

The Country Option Pack for Scotland (pdf) puts forward evidence based policy recommendations for higher education, colleges and schools, though many recommendations are applicable across all three sectors.  The recommendations are directed at the Scottish Government and Government funded education agencies, rather than at individual institutions.

Many of the policy recommendations put forward by Open Scotland are echoed by POERUP and the pack takes the Scottish Open Education Declaration as its starting point.

In particular, the report focuses on the importance of open licensing, and calls on Scotland’s funding bodies to ensure that

“any public outputs from their funded programmes are made available as open resources under an appropriate license.”

 The POERUP team suggest that a small amount of funding investment can go a long way to help create a culture in which open education can flourish, and they recommend that the Scottish Funding Council invests in open education by setting up an innovation fund to support new online initiatives in higher education, further education and the school sector with a commitment to opening up education.

The report also focuses on the potential of developing more flexible approaches to measuring and accrediting knowledge and competences including workbased learning, flexible learning and accreditation of prior learning.

In addition, there is also a welcome emphasis on professional development across all three education sectors, with the report calling for the establishment of an adequately funded

“professional development programme to help lecturers, teachers and administrators understand the benefits and uses of OER and open licensing.”

The report highlights the potential importance of the College Development Network’s  Re:Source OER repository in developing a national quality assurance standard for OER content produced in Scotland and urges the initiative to consider establishing and funding an OER evaluation and adoption panel.

The POERUP report represents a valuable step forward in promoting the development and uptake of policies to support open education in Scotland and it is to be hoped that the Government agencies towards whom it is addressed will take note and act on these recommendations.

Open Education Consortium: Open Education in Scotland

(Cross posted from Open World)

Last month’s Newsletter from the Open Education Consortium focused on open education in Europe and featured the following article on Open Education in Scotland written by Joe Wilson of SQA and I.  Many thanks to Igor Lesko for inviting us to contribute.


“The use of technology in our future learning framework will continue to grow and be supported by the growth of open educational resources, providing greater learning opportunities without barriers.”

– Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning

Open Scotland[1], is a cross sector initiative led by the Centre for Education Technology, Interoperability and Standards (Cetis)[2], the Scottish Qualifications Authority[3], the Jisc Regional Support Centre in Scotland[4] and the Association for Learning Technology’s Scotland Special Interest Group[5]. The aim of this unfunded initiative is to raise awareness of all aspects of open education and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education. Scotland has a distinctive and highly regarded tradition of education, however policies to support and embed open education are in their infancy and, to date, there have been no open funding calls to support open education across the sector.

Despite the absence of top down strategic drivers, a considerable number of open education initiatives have emerged across the Scottish education sector including MOOCs[6], OER repositories[7], OER guidelines for staff and students[8], and adoption of Open Badges[9]. Building on these developments, and experiences gained from supporting open education programmes elsewhere in the UK, Open Scotland aims to encourage the sharing of open educational resources, embed open educational practice and lobby for policies that support open education at the national level. In order to achieve these aims Open Scotland has hosted a number of events including the Open Scotland Summit[10], which brought together senior managers, policy makers and key thinkers to explore how openness can help to address key strategic priorities including curriculum change, knowledge transfer, quality assurance, change management and articulation; and Open Education, Open Scotland[11] which provided a platform for practitioners from all sectors of Scottish education to share their experiences of adopting and promoting open education practices.

Inspired by the UNESCO Paris OER Declaration, Open Scotland has also launched the Scottish Open Education Declaration[12], which builds on the principals of the UNESCO declaration, but expands its scope to encompass all aspects of open education practice. The Scottish Open Education Declaration, http://declaration.openscot.net/ is an open community draft, which we encourage all those with a commitment to open education to contribute to and comment on.

In a parallel development to the grassroots Open Scotland initiative, the Scottish Funding Council has allocated £1.27 million to the UK Open University to establish the Opening Educational Practices in Scotland (OEPS) project[13], which aims to facilitate best practice in open education in Scotland. The OEPS project launches on the 13th of September and we anticipate that it will engage with other open education initiatives across Scotland. We hope that all those with a commitment to open education can work together to develop Scotland’s unique education offering to support social inclusion and inter-institutional collaboration and sharing, and enhance quality and sustainability.


[1] Open Scotland, http://openscot.net
[2] Cetis, http://cetis.ac.uk
[3] Scottish Qualifications Authority, http://sqa.org.uk
[4] Jisc RSC Scotland, http://www.jiscrsc.ac.uk/scotland
[5] ALT Scotland SIG, https://www.alt.ac.uk/get-involved/special-interest-groups/scotland
[6] MOOCs at the University of Edinburgh, http://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/online-learning/moocs/moocs
[7] Re:Source, http://resource.blogs.scotcol.ac.uk/
[8] Glasgow Caledonian University Library Guidance on Open Educational Resources, http://www.gcu.ac.uk/library/usingthelibrary/copyright/openeducationalresourcesandlibraryguidance/
[9] Borders College Case study, http://www.rsc-scotland.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/23042013bordersOB.pdf
[10] Open Scotland Summit, http://openscot.net/event-reports/open-scotland-report-and-actions/
[11] Open Education, Open Scotland, http://openscot.net/event-reports/open-education-open-scotland-report-presentations/
[12] Scottish Open Education Declaration, http://declaration.openscot.net
[13] Opening Education Practices in Scotland, http://oepscotland.org/

Thoughts on #OEPSforum14 and the Battle for Open

Cross posted from Open World.

This rather crowded map of open education in Scotland is the product of a brief ten minute brainstorm I took part in at the launch of the Open University’s Opening Education Practices in Scotland (OEPS) project in Edinburgh last week.


Open Education in Scotland
Contributors:  Linda Creanor, Natalie Lafferty, Heather Gibson, Peter Cannell and Lorna M. Campbell

My scribbles may not be very legible, and the geography is questionable, but even if you can’t read the text, this map does give a good impression of the sheer breadth of open education practice already taking place across all sectors of Scottish education. And it also gives a good impression of the significant task facing the OEPS project if they are to effectively engage with existing open education initiatives in Scotland. This is a point that Sheila MacNeill and Joe Wilson have already raised in two thoughtful blog posts (Stuck in the middle with…open and #Oepsforum14 #Openscot Reflections.) Though supportive of the project and enthusiastic about its potential, both Sheila and Joe have raised valid questions about how OEPS plans to support existing open practice in Scotland, and how it will construct a distinctly Scottish narrative of open education.

During a typically thought provoking presentation on The Battle for Open, Martin Weller warned us that if we don’t engage with open education practice now, we’ll be sold a packaged version of what it is. To my mind, engagement with existing open education initiatives in Scotland will be key to the success of the OEPS project. It is critical that the project engages practitioners in creating a Scottish narrative of open education, rather than delivering a packaged alternative.

I’m not going to attempt to summarise the entire meeting, you can get a good flavour of the event from Sheila and Joe’s blog posts, this storify put together by Heather Gibson of QAA Scotland and Martin Hawksey’s TAGS archive. There are a couple of points I want to reflect on however.

The OEPS Online Hub

One of the objectives of the OEPS project is to build an “online hub to encourage and share best practice in open education”. This hub, which will be based on the OU’s existing OpenLearn Works platform, is being developed by members of the OEPS team based at the OU’s Open Media Unit in Milton Keynes. In a parallel session focused on the hub, we were asked to prioritise user stories and requirements, devised by the project team, from the perspective of practitioners and learners. The group I was part of went a bit off piste with this task and in the process raised some valid questions regarding the role of the hub.   There was some confusion as to the exact nature of the online hub, and whether it was intended to be an OER repository. One participant questioned whether there was a real need for another online repository in Scotland when we already have Jorum and Re:Source, and the uptake of centralised repositories generally is notoriously low. The project team explained that although the hub will aggregate resources from other OER collections and enable users to export content, it is not intended to compete with existing OER repositories such as Jorum and OER Commons, it’s aim is primarily to support a community of open education practitioners. While there was a suggestion that this approach sounded a little bit “if we build it they will come”, it’s reassuring to know that OEPS will be focusing on supporting practitioner communities rather than on building another platform in what is already a very crowded space. Questions were also raised regarding the users stories and requirements drafted by the project team, with one participant asking whether a requirements gathering exercise had been undertaken in Scotland to determine the sector’s specific need for an online hub.

The Thorny Issue of Funding

The second point I want to reflect on is the rather thorny issue of funding, or more precisely, the relationship between funding and open education. This is an issue that Martin Weller touched on during his Battle For Open presentation. Martin pointed out that most battles are about money, and that there is a lot of money at stake in open education. This is certainly a point I would agree with, in some quarters at least. Martin also introduced the concept of “guerrilla research” which he contrasted with traditional research as follows…


from The Art of Guerilla Research by Martin Weller

While this is an attractive model, (and I <3 Beaker) I can’t help wondering how guerrilla research is supported; after all, it’s hard to “Do research” without funding at some level. And the same applies to open education, we all know that open doesn’t equal free, and that funding is required to support open education practice. Sheila MacNeill has written compellingly on this subject in her earlier blog post Open education practice, luxury item or everyday essential?  I’m not going to re-hash Sheila’s arguments, but I think there are a lots of undercurrents relating to the relationship between openness and funding that we still need to surface.

Which brings me back to the scribbled map at the top of this post. Many of the open education initiatives in Scotland are unfunded, voluntary, or funded on institutional shoestring budgets. It’s commendable that Scottish education has done so much with so little, and perhaps this is what sustainable open education practice looks like, but it does make me wonder how much more could be achieved if funding was available to support open education right across the sector. While it’s hugely encouraging that the Scottish Funding Council has made a significant investment in open education by funding the OEPS project, and I have every confidence that the project team will make a significant contribution to supporting open education practice in Scotland, I can’t help holding on to a glimmer of hope that at some stage in the future SFC will launch an open education funding call that is open to all sectors of Scottish education.