Commonwealth of Learning / UNESCO OER Regional Consultations

OER CosnultationsIn order to mark the 5th anniversary of the World OER Congress, which resulted in the Paris OER Declaration, the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), in partnership with UNESCO and the Government of Slovenia are undertaking a survey of world governments and key stakeholders focused on OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education: From Commitment to Action.

This survey is being conducted in advance of the 2nd World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress which will be held in Ljubljana on 18–20 September 2017. A series of regional consultations will also be held around the world from December 2017 until May 2017.  These regional consultations aim to:

  1. Raise regional awareness about the importance of OER and its relationship to SDG4;
  2. Provide a hands-on experience for all participants to establish personal OER knowledge;
  3. Explore mechanisms to facilitate the mainstreaming of OER;
  4. Identify strategies and solutions to overcome the challenges or barriers to mainstreaming OER; and,
  5. Agree on inputs that factor into the planning of the 2nd World OER Congress.

Questionnaires have been sent to sent to key stakeholders and government ministers, including the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Education Mr John Swinney.

Other interested parties  are encouraged to contribute to the consultation by completing the non-governmental stakeholders’ questionnaire which is available here.


An Overview of Open Education Policy and Practice in Scotland

This report, which is based on a paper presented by Lorna M. Campbell, OER Liaison – Open Scotland, at the ALT Conference at the University of Warwick in September 2016, provides an overview of a number of open education initiatives taking places across different sectors of Scottish education throughout 2016. This report was previously published by the Open Knowledge Open Education Group.

Open Scotland

openscot_logo_portrait_rsOpen Scotland is a cross sector initiative that aims to raise awareness of open education, encourage the sharing of open educational resources, and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education. The initiative was launched in 2013 and was originally supported by Cetis, ALT, SQA and the Jisc RSC Scotland.  Since 2015, the University of Edinburgh has provided a home for Open Scotland, with additional support provided by the ALT Scotland SIG.  Open Scotland maintains a blog which acts as a focal point to engage the community and disseminate news and developments relating to all aspects of openness in education in Scotland and further afield.

Scottish Open Education Declaration

Open Scotland also supports the Scottish Open Education Declaration  an open community draft based on the UNESCO OER Declaration which broadens the scope of the guidelines to encompass all aspects of open education. The ALT Scotland SIG has contacted previous Scottish Government education minsters, Mike Russell and Angela Constance to raise awareness of the Declaration, and in both instances met with an encouraging but non-committal response. In May 2016, following a Cabinet reshuffle, John Swinney was appointed as the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and the ALT Scotland SIG will bring the Declaration to his attention in the autumn.

Although the Scottish Open Education Declaration has not yet gained traction within Scotland it has generated considerable interest elsewhere in Europe, particularly in Slovenia where the Slovenian government are exploring the potential of adopting it.

Scottish Government

scottish-government-logo-2Although the Scottish Government allocated a substantial amount of funding to the Open University’s Opening Educational Practices in Scotland Project in 2014, there have been no further open education funding initiatives and open education does not appear to be high on the political agenda.  At best, open education is seen as being somewhat peripheral to Scottish Government priorities, primarily due to the perceived lack of a statistical evidence base supporting the impact of open education on learners.

Opening Educational Practices inn Scotland Project

oeps_logo_rsThe Open University’s OEPS project, which runs from 2014 – 2017, is funded by the Scottish Funding Council and aims to facilitate best practice in open education in Scotland.  The project undertakes a wide range of activities include running workshops and events, providing expert guidance, collating case studies and supporting open practice communities. The project has been particularly successful in engaging with third sector organisations including Scottish Union Learning and Pakinson’s UK.  OEPS recently launched a number of open courses developed in collaboration with partners including Understanding Parkinson’s with Parkinson’s UK; My Seaweed Looks Weird, with UHI and the Scottish Association for Marine Science; and Becoming an Open Educator.

Glasgow Caledonian University

glasgowcaledonianuniversity_logoGlasgow Caledonian University became the first university in Scotland to approve an interim open education resources policy in 2015.  The policy defines what OERs are, explains why GCU supports their creation, sharing and use, and gives advice on how to cite third party resources.  GCU Library is now undertaking advocacy work and providing training to raise awareness of OER and the policy.  The University has also recently established the EdShare repository to manage teaching and learning resources; 300 resources have been deposited in the first 6 months of which 40% are open access.

University of Edinburgh

edinburghUniversity of Edinburgh’s has also approved an OER policy, which encourages staff and students to make informed decisions about using, creating and publishing OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience.  This policy is underpinned by an OER vision which builds on the history of the Edinburgh Settlement, excellent education and research collections, traditions of the Enlightenment and the University’s civic mission.  The University also has an OER Service which undertakes a wide range of activities that support staff and students to engage with OER, and help the institution to mainstream digital education across the curriculum.

opened_tealRather than implement an OER repository, the University of Edinburgh releases OERs through a wide range of platforms, including flickr, TES, YouTube, Sketchfab, Wikimedia Commons and Media Hopper, the institution’s own media asset management platform.  These resources are then aggregated into the University’s one stop shop for open education resources, Open.Ed.

200px-wikimedia_uk_logo-svgEdinburgh also recently became the first University in Scotland to employ a dedicated Wikimedian in Residence. As an advocate for openness the Wikimedian in residence delivers training events and workshops to further the quantity and quality of open knowledge and enhance digital literacy through skills training sessions and editathons, and redress the gender imbalance of contributors by encouraging more women to engage with Wikimedia and enhance the coverage of articles about women.

Edinburgh’s efforts in supporting open education were recognized earlier this year, when the University was awarded Wikimedia UK’s Partnership Award for hosting the OER 16 Open Culture Conference, and the Association for Learning Technology awarded the Open Education Team third place in the Learning Technologist of the Year team awards.

University of Dundee

uniofdundeelogo_rsAlthough Dundee has not yet approved an OER policy, the University is hoping to progress to one in the future. Dundee are currently sharing open licensed student developed content through Vimeo and Flickr channels, including a showcase of OER from Masters in Medical Art students  The School of Dentistry is also using Sketchfab to share CC licensed dental models developed by students


Many Scottish universities have developed MOOCs which are running on a number of commercial platforms including FutureLearn, Coursera and EdX. Although MOOCs are a significant part of the open education landscape, engaging with MOOCs does not necessarily equate to engaging with open education.  Only two universities that run MOOCs have developed an OER policy, however anecdotal evidence suggests that a number of institutions are rethinking their MOOC production strategies with a view to making the process more open and sustainable.

FE Sector

PrintThe FE sector is still bedding down after the upheaval of regionalization and mergers. As a result merging institutional systems and creating shared infrastructure has become a priority, however engagement with open education is low.  The Re:Source OER repository previously hosted by Jorum has been moved to a new repository ResourceShare, supported by the College Development Network.  However while the sector is accepting of open educational practice and OER in theory, colleges tend to be cautious in actual practice and there is more interest in the walled garden approach to sharing educational content.  The is some interest in the Blended Learning Consortium led by Heart of Worcestershire College and a number of Scottish colleges have subscribed to join the closed consortium.


jisc-logoJisc announced the retirement of the national Jorum OER repository   in 2015 and the service will finally close at the end ofSeptember 2016. Jorum customers have the option of migrating copies of their content from the repository and selected resources are being migrated to the new Jisc App and Resource Store  which will host free and open licensed content alongside paid for content.  It remains to be seen how receptive the sector are to this approach with some within the open education community cautioning against the risk of open washing.


alt-logoThe Association for Learning Technology  is playing and increasingly active role in supporting open education in Scotland.  In addition to supporting the Open Scotland initiative, the ALT Scotland SIG  liaises with the OEPS Project, hosts annual events to showcase the use of education technology and open education across sector, brings together policy makers at an annual policy summit and raises awareness of open education at Scottish Government  level.

National Library of Scotland

national-library_rsThe National Library of Scotland launched a new strategy in 2015 and continues to review its open licensing policy with a view to making more of the library’s collections openly available. All images up to 1000px, core metadata and OCR scanned resources  are now licensed CC BY, unless the library does not own the copyright, metadata supplied to Europeana is licensed CC0 and high resolution images, extended metadata and manually transcribed resources are licensed CC BY NC SA.  In addition, the Library is planning to share more images through Wikimedia Commons.


there is significant engagement with open education within individual institutions across Scotland, the Scottish Government has yet to recognise the value of open education to expand access to education, widen participation, and support social inclusion.  However 2017 marks the anniversary of two significant open education initiatives; the tenth anniversary of the Cape Town Declaration and the fifth anniversary of the UNESCO OER Declaration.  These anniversaries will be marked by significant global events and it is possible that these can be leveraged to raise awareness of the value of open education within the Scottish Government and to drive forward the development of national open education policy.


With thanks to Sarah Cornelius, University of Aberdeen; Sam Coulter, University of West Scotland; Linda Creanor, Glasgow Caledonian University; Kerr Gardiner, University of Glasgow; Marion Kelt, Glasgow Caledonian University; Natalie Lafferty, University of Dundee; Kenjij Lamb, College Development Network; Joe Wilson, 

John Swinney, MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills addresses the Scottish Learning Festival

A guest post from Joe Wilson, reporting on the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills’ speech at the Scottish Learning Festival. 

The Scottish Learning Festival is the annual gathering mainly of schools across Scotland. This year even had the usual mix of excellent keynotes and workshops to re-inforce changes across the sector and provide staff who can get out of school for one or two days with an important opportunity to network.  Keynotes from the event are available here

As well as a programme of talks there is an exhibition area featuring most of the agencies that support Scottish schools, commercial vendors, with a broad focus on technology, and a local authority village highlighting a range of initiatives across Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

Traditionally the event starts with an address from the Minister for Education and this year was no exception. There are usually too a couple of well-timed press releases or policy changes that appear on the morning of address to give speech some beef.

This year was the announcement that the ‘assessment burden’ in schools would be tackled (Government plans major changes to school qualifications) and the Digital Learning and Teaching strategy Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through the Use of Digital Technology was published the previous day.

I think I’ve attended all the SLF conferences and this was the most confident delivery I’ve seen by an Education Minister in the last 20 years, focusing unrelentingly on closing the attainment gap. It needed to be a confident speech, relationships are currently fragile across this sector and while the Minister has picked up his brief in a confident fashion, as ever with education, there is a fair amount of baggage to be dealt with.

So what happened?

Swinney’s speech was directive really; a call to arms for teachers, head teachers, local authorities and all those working in public education to focus on the core values of Scottish Education. The system is there to transform lives and should be underpinned by “wisdom, compassion, justice, integrity”.  Scottish Education needs to build on its foundations and not rest on its laurels. There was reference to the recent OECD report on the state of Scottish Education; our report card is that we are on the right road but ‘could do better’ particularly around “closing the attainment gap”.

The challenge is that the right building blocks are there in our Getting it Right for Every Child, Curriculum for Excellence and Developing our Young Workforce policies, we need to free teachers and education leaders from unnecessary bureaucracy and let them get on with the job. The Minister praised the 23% rise in vocational qualifications now being delivered in schools as evidence of change happening and highlighted how the system was working towards building excellence and equity.

In his first six months Swinney has already taken action. Today, he announced that the assessment burden, the internal assessments in National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher, will go and be replaced with more externally assessed components.  This has been done with agreement of the National Assessment and Qualifications Working Group. They are working through ways to give more resources directly to schools, but local authorities, head teachers and teachers also need to get rid of their own self-generated bureaucracy.  Education Scotland is going to take down thousands of pages of guidance that is often contradictory.  Definitive guidance is now provided here Delivering excellence and equity in Scottish education: A delivery plan.

The Minister’s speech did not directly address the Digital Learning and Teaching strategy and its actual or potential impact on the classroom. In response to questions, Swinney highlighted that connectivity was still a challenge in many schools and that resources were being allocated to improve bandwidth across Scotland and that schools should make more effective use of GLOW.

There is much that educational technology, or more specifically changes in educational practice supported by educational technology, could do to support the aim of closing the attainment gap in Scotland.  Digital technology is to become central to all areas of curriculum, assessment and delivery.

Open Education has a key role to play in this but it is not explicitly referenced in the strategy. It as a key part in improving the relationship between teachers and learners and enhancing the learners’ experience.

I know for instance that SQA are looking to move towards making evidence digital a standard in all areas that it can – this could change face of assessment across Scotland.  That is something that everyone across the education and skills system should be thinking about.

There was a question too about the support available for young learners with mental health challenges and the lack of re-sources and joined up provision from education, social and health services.

There was no mention in the speech around the external assessments that are being planned for primary and early stage secondary pupils to provide Government with a performance benchmark and nothing really of substance for those working in Colleges, Higher Education or the training provider sector.

Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through The Use of Digital Technology

Last week the Scottish Government launched their new digital learning and teaching strategy for Scottish schools: Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through The Use of Digital Technology. The strategy outlines:

“a comprehensive approach to deliver the increased effective use of digital technology in education and bring about the equity of opportunity that is the key focus for this government.”

Key themes to emerge form the strategy are closing the attainment gap, developing digital skills, embedding technology right across the curriculum, and using digital technology to improve the assessment process.

The strategy is structured around four strategic objectives that will replace the existing five ICT in education objectives.

  • Develop the skills and confidencescotgov_strategy of educators in the appropriate and effective use of digital technology to support learning and teaching.
  • Improve access to digital technology for all learners.
  • Ensure that digital technology is a central consideration in all areas of curriculum and assessment delivery.
  • Empower leaders of change to drive innovation and investment in digital technology for learning and teaching.

The strategy emphasises that all four objectives must be achieved in order to realise the overarching vision for Scottish Education:

  • Excellence through raising attainment: ensuring that every child achieves the highest standards in literacy and numeracy, set out within Curriculum for Excellence levels, and the right range of skills, qualifications and achievements to allow them to succeed; and
  • Achieving equity: ensuring that every child has the same opportunity to succeed, with a particular focus on closing the poverty-related attainment gap.

The strategy also outlines what Scot Gov and Education Scotland will do to deliver this vision and identifies action plans for each strategic objective as follows:

Objective 1: Develop the skills and confidence of educators in the appropriate and effective use of digital technology to support learning and teaching.

  • Ensure Professional Standards for Registration and for Career-Long Professional Learning reflect the importance of digital technology and skills.
  • Ensure that all Initial Teacher Education (ITE) providers instil the benefits of using digital technology to enhance learning and teaching in their students, in line with GTCS Standards for Registration.
  • Ensure that a range of professional learning opportunities are available to educators at all stages to equip them with the skills and confidence to utilise technology appropriately and effectively, in line with the GTCS Standards for Career Long Professional Learning.
  • Ensure that a range of professional learning opportunities are available to educators at all stages to equip them with the skills and confidence to utilise technology appropriately and effectively, in line with the GTCS Standards for Career Long Professional Learning.

Objective 2: Improve access to digital technology for all learners.

  • Continued national investment into initiatives that support digital access in educational establishments.
  • Provide guidance at a national and local level around learner access to digital technology.
  • Promote approaches to digital infrastructure that put users’ needs at the heart of the design.
  • Encourage and facilitate the development of partnerships that will improve digital access and digital skills development opportunities for our learners.

Objective 3: Ensure that digital technology is a central consideration in all areas of curriculum and assessment delivery.

  • Ensure aspects of Curriculum for Excellence relating to the use of digital technology and development of digital skills are relevant, ambitious and forward looking.
  • Support, develop and embed approaches to assessment that make effective use of digital technology.
  • Support, develop and embed approaches to assessment that make effective use of digital technology.

Objective 4: Empower leaders of change to drive innovation and investment in digital technology for learning and teaching.

  • Ensure that the vision laid out in this strategy is adequately captured in Professional Standards, self-evaluation guidance and inspections of educational provision in Scotland.
  • Support leaders and decision makers to lead change in their local contexts through accessing and sharing relevant research in order to identify effective approaches to the use of digital technology in education.

Implications for Open Education

The Scottish Government has clearly placed raising attainment and achieving equity at the heart of its digital learning and teaching strategy. While it is encouraging that the strategy acknowledges the potential of digital technology to enrich education, enhance learning and teaching, equip learners with vital digital skills and lead to improved educational outcomes, it is disappointing that it does not acknowledge the significant role that open education can play in achieving these objectives. Although this may be regarded as something of a missed opportunity to place openness at the heart of the government’s vision for education in Scotland, it is to be hoped that the new strategy lays a firm foundation on which to build evidence of the role that open education can play in closing the attainment gap, developing digital skills, improving the assessment process, creating new opportunities for learners, supporting social inclusion and expanding equitable access to education for all.


Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through the Use of Digital Technology documents:

Open Education Presentations at #ALTC

The recent ALTC Connect, Collaborate, Create Conference at the University of Warwick featured a number of presentations focussed on open education in Scotland.

Into the Open – a critical overview of open education policy and practice in Scotland

Lorna M. Campbell, University of Edinburgh

This presentation provides a broad overview of current open education initiatives in Scottish Higher and Further education sectors and reflects on both progress and barriers to the development of open education policy and practice.

Developing literacies of open: across an institution and beyond

Stuart Nicol, University of Edinburgh

This presentation discusses a number of related initiatives at the University of Edinburgh in the context of supporting communities within the institution to acclimatise to the changing landscape brought about by the technologies and policies of open education.

Learning the Hard Way: Lessons in Designing OER in, for and through Partnership

Anna Page and Ronald MacIntyre, OPES Project, Open University

The presentation shares the OEPS project’s experiences of working in partnership with external organisations to create OER and enabling them to explore open educational practices in the process. The OEPS project has been adapting the existing tried and tested Open University course production models to partnership collaboration.

Making movies: Democratising the use of media in learning and teaching

Anne-Marie Scott, University of Edinburgh

This presentation provides an overview of strategic initiatives to place media use at the heart of the University of Edinburgh’s teaching, learning, research and public engagement activities and reflects plans for expanding the use of media to focus on assessment, feedback, and sharing as OERs in particular.


Open Education at ALTC Connect, Collaborate, Create

The annual ALT Conference ALTC: Connect, Collaborate, Create takes place at the University of Warwick next week and there are a number of papers under the Collaborate theme that focus on open education initiatives in Scotland and open education more generally.

If you’re unable to attend the conference in person you can participate remotely by following @A_L_T and the #altc hashtag on twitter.  All keynotes will also be live streamed on the ALT Youtube channel.

ALTC 2015, CC BY, Chris Bull,

ALTC 2015, CC BY, Chris Bull,

Open Education in Scotland

Designing Open Educational Resources in, for and through Partnership 
Tue, Sep 6 2016, 11:30am – 1:00pm
Ronald Macintyre & Anna Page, Open University

The Opening Educational Practices in Scotland project focusses on how to use Open Educational Resources (OER) to support those distanced from education. At the start we were keen to avoid the easy reading of ‘openness in education’ as a matter of educators in organisations releasing openly licenced learning materials online. However, as educators have “lived with” OER in various forms and free online has seeped into the classroom we have moved from considering how to make the resource open, to considering what open resources enable us to do – what one might call “the practice turn”.
Full abstract

Making movies: Democratising the use of media in learning and teaching 
Tue, Sep 6 2016, 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Anne-Marie Scott, University of Edinburgh

Strategic planning in many of our institutions places media use at the heart of teaching, learning, research and public engagement activities. Our initiatives in online education, student experience, and innovative teaching have surfaced many requirements for the collection, management and delivery of video and audio assets.

The presentation will include a summary of the scenarios that our academic community prioritised and how the IT solution selected (Kaltura) has met the challenge. We will reflect on our plans for expanding the use of media in the next academic year, focussing on assessment, feedback, and sharing as OERs in particular. We will share our ‘DIY Film School’ pilot training courses, teaching our staff and students how to make movies using their smartphones, and discuss the impact that all of this work is having on digital skills development, learning and teaching experience, and fostering a new culture of creativity, sharing and experimentation.

Full abstract

Into the Open – a critical overview of open education policy and practice in Scotland
Thu, Sep 8 2016, 1:30pm – 3:00pm
Lorna M. Campbell, University of Edinburgh

This paper will present a broad overview of current open education initiatives in Scottish Higher and Further education sectors and reflect on both progress and barriers to the development of open education policy and practice. Although strategic open education policy drivers may be lacking at national and sector level and awareness of open education appears to be minimal at government level, a range of innovative open education initiatives have arisen across the sector.

The collaborative Open Scotland initiative, now supported by the University of Edinburgh and the ALT Scotland SIG, continues to raise awareness of all aspects of open education and lobby for policies that support open practice at the national level. Open Scotland also supports the Scottish Open Education Declaration, which, although it has yet to gain support at national level, continues to be influential within institutions as a tool to open discussions about the strategic benefits of open education.

Full Abstract

Developing literacies of ‘open’ across an institution, and beyond
Thu, Sep 8 2016, 1:30pm – 3:00pm
Stuart Nicol, University of Edinburgh

This paper will discuss a number of related initiatives at the University of Edinburgh in the context of supporting communities within the institution to acclimatise to the changing “semiotic landscape” and shifting “materiality of literacy” (Barton et al. 2005, p 23) brought about by the technologies and policies of open education. The University of Edinburgh is committed to supporting open and sustainable learning and teaching practices by encouraging engagement with Open Educational Resources (OERs) within the curriculum, and supporting the development of digital literacies for both staff and students in their use of OERs. In support of this vision an OER learning and teaching policy has recently been approved (University of Edinburgh 2016), underpinned by a central OER support service. The Open.Ed ( website has also been launched as a one-stop-shop about OERs at the University, which includes guidance, showcasing of best practice and blogs by prominent open practitioners.

This position has been developed over a number of years through discussion and collaboration with staff and students both inside the institution and from the wider educational community. Highton, Sekar and Nicol (2015) discussed how the driver for broader engagement with OERs came from the student body represented through Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA). The OER policy itself is derived from openly licenced policies developed at Leeds and Glasgow Caledonian Universities and the OER position paper from Greenwich University.

Full abstract

CC BY Chris Bull

ALTC 2015, CC BY, Chris Bull,

Open Education

Developing flexible open courses (“cMOOCs”) with international collaborators
Tue, Sep 6 2016, 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Sarah Honeychurch, Maha Bali, and Kevin Hodgson

Collaborate to Create: Stakeholder Participation in Open Content Creation
Tue, Sep 6 2016, 3:15pm – 4:15pm
Richard Windle, Heather Wharrad, Kirstie Coolin, and Michael Taylor

Repositories for open education: a reflection and look forward for EPrints
Wed, Sep 7 2016, 10:25am – 12:05pm
Kelly Terrell

Different Aspects of the Emerging Open Education Discipline
Wed, Sep 7 2016, 10:25am – 12:05pm
Martin Weller

Collaborative partnerships to produce accessible open educational resources
Wed, Sep 7 2016, 12:15pm – 1:15pm
Abi James, E.a. Draffan, and Mike Wald

Lecture capture: risky business or evolving open practice
Wed, Sep 7 2016, 2:15pm – 3:30pm
Jane Secker, and Chris Morrison

ALT Scotland SIG: Sharing Stories – enablers and drivers for learning technology in Scottish education

A guest post from Prof Linda Creanor, ALT Scotland SIG Co-Chair. This post previously appeared on the ALTC Blog

Towards the end of June the ALT-Scotland SIG held their annual a event which this year focused on Sharing Stories – enablers and drivers for learning technology in Scottish education  It was held on the east coast of Scotland this time where around 50 delegates were hosted by Dundee and Angus College at their impressively modern Gardyne campus. The variety of presentations, discussions and demos can be seen in the outline programme. The event was recorded and both the morning and afternoon sessions are now available on the ALT YouTube Channel (morning and afternoon session) and embedded below (the YouTube video pages for each of these sessions includes navigation to the individual talks).

The presenters shared stories about innovative developments, including the ‘huddles and medals’ approach to transforming staff engagement with technology in the University of the West of Scotland, new approaches to mobile technology for blended learning at Edinburgh College, and the publishing of e-textbooks at the University of the Highlands and Islands as part of the Jisc funded eTIPS project.   We also heard about marks integration at Glasgow Caledonian University, approaches to encouraging collaboration among online distance learners at the University of Dundee, and strategic developments around open education and the promotion of CMALT certification at the University of Edinburgh.

There was also time for a useful open update and discussion session, where delegates shared tips and tricks, successes and concerns around various aspects of digital learning.

The really fun part came when participants were let loose in the College’s new Learning Lab where we had the opportunity to try out the various exciting technologies that are now being used for teaching and learning on the campus.  We had a tour of the inside of the human body through virtual reality headsets (definitely not for the squeamish), tried out 3D scanning and printing (with some unusual  results), programmed routes for miniature vehicles  (with variable outcomes) and flew drones to experience how they’re being used by construction and surveying students (all landed safely).

More information and photos of the day can be found on the Educational and Design Team’s blog at the University of Edinburgh and also on Lorna Campbell’s Open World blog.

All in all it was an inspiring day, helped immensely by the very warm welcome from colleagues at Dundee and Angus College.  The lively conversations continued as we left the campus buzzing with new ideas about technology and learning.

Open Scotland nominated for ALT Community Choice Award

alt-logo_0_0Open Scotland has been nominated for the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Community Choice Award as part of the Open Education Team at the University of Edinburgh.  Voting is open to all until noon on the 7th September. You can vote for Open Scotland and the Open Education Team by sending an email to with the subject line #LTA6.  Or alternatively tweet a message with the hashtags #altc #LTA6. 

The Open Education Team is a virtual team within the Information Services Group, Learning, Teaching and Web Services Division whose role is to coordinate open education and open knowledge activities across the University.  Edinburgh’s vision for OER is supported by the an OER Policy, which places open education at the heart of learning and teaching strategy. The Open Education Team undertakes a wide range of activities that support staff and students to engage with OER, and help the institution to mainstream digital education across the curriculum.

The Team supports the OER Service, which supports course teams, staff and students to develop digital literacies around OER; Open.Ed a one-stop-shop OER website, that provides access to ‘how to’ guides, OER collections, and blog feeds from practitioners; and Wikimedia editathons and training events facilitated by the University’s Wikimedian in Residence.

The Team also supports Open Scotland, the cross sector initiative that aims to raise awareness of open education, and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education.

European Guidelines for the Validation of Non-Formal and Informal Learning

cover_3073_enCEDEFOP, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, has recently issued the second edition of the  European Guidelines for the Validation of Non-Formal and Informal LearningThese guidelines set out how validation of informal and non-formal learning could increase the visibility and value of learning that takes place outwith formal education, and support the transferability of skills across Europe. This work is particularly relevant at this point in time given increased migration and social inclusion challenges across Europe, where the recognition of informal and non-formal learning could support transitions into employment and other positive pathways for those without formal qualifications.  According to the guidelines: 

Validation can help combat unemployment by improving skills matching and social cohesion, and supporting the unemployed or those at risk of losing their jobs by enabling citizens to communicate the value of their skills and experiences to potential employers or when returning to formal education. Validation can also form part of the response to the current refugee crisis through identification and certification of migrants’ previous experiences, to support quicker and smoother integration into host countries.  It can also play a major role in combating youth unemployment by making skills acquired through voluntary work, or during leisure, visible to employers.

A key objective of the earlier edition of these guidelines, issued in 2012, is that EU Member States work together towards national arrangements for validation by 2018.

What is particularly interesting about these new guidelines is that they place special emphasis on validation arrangements for education and training facilitated by open educational resources, and in addition, make specific reference to the use of badges with OER.  For reference, the section that relates to OER is included below in its entirety.

One thing to note is that the guidelines’ broad definition of OER includes both MOOCs and open courseware and it is possible that this may point the way to developing a solution to address accreditation and validation for MOOCs. Furthermore, there could be an opportunity to build on the Scottish Open Education Declaration as a basis for developing validation policies within Scotland, given that it already promotes the development of a culture of openness around education and assessment. 

With thanks to Grainne Hamilton of DigitalMe for summarising these guidelines and for highlighting the link to OER and the Scottish Open Education Declaration. 

4.1.1. Validation and open education resources

The recommendation states that the knowledge skills and competences acquired through open educational resources should be addressed by validation arrangements: ‘The arrangements for the validation of non-formal and informal learning [which] enable individuals to have knowledge, skills and competences which have been acquired through non-formal and informal learning validated, including, where applicable, through open educational resources’ (Council of EU, 2012, p. 3, point 1).

The reference to open educational resources (OERs) in the recommendation reflects the rapid expansion of online learning opportunities, particularly promoted by higher education institutions. OERs are defined in the recommendation as ‘digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning and research; it includes learning content, software tools to develop, use and distribute content, and implementation resources such as open licences; OER also refers to accumulated digital assets that can be adjusted and which provide benefits without restricting the possibilities for others to enjoy them’ (Council of EU, 2012, p. 5, point d). OER may include ‘…full courses, course modules, syllabuses, lectures, homework assignments, quizzes, lab and classroom activities, pedagogical materials, games, simulations, and many more resources contained in digital media collections from around the world’ (7). Massive open online courses (MOOCs) and open courseware are examples of OERs.

OERs are seen as important supplements to traditional education and training programmes, reducing overall cost, increasing accessibility and allowing individuals to follow their own learning pace. MOOCs are seen as a way to deliver high quality (world- class) teaching to a broad group of learners.

For all these reasons it is important to consider how the outcomes of this learning can be appropriately documented and assessed and how current practices on validation can take them into account. Box 4 indicates some issues to be considered when linking validation and OERs.

Possible requirements for validation of OERs:

  • Learning carried out through OER must be described in the form of learning outcomes.
  • Where the OER brings with it some form of internal credit, for example badges, these must explained and documented in a transparent way encouraging trust.
  • Standards and/or reference points underpinning credits or badges must be clearly explained.
  • Arrangements for quality assurance underpinning OERs must be transparently presented.
  • Methods for assessment/testing must be transparently explained.

The outcomes of online learning have to be treated with the same care and degree of scrutiny as any other learning outcomes. Given the inevitable variation in quality of OERs, along with the varying success of learners to adapt to online learning, attention has to be given – at national, European and international level – to documenting, assessing and certifying the outcomes OERs. For them to be considered in validation, transparency is crucial. The learning experienced through OERs needs to be described through learning outcomes. The status of standards and testing arrangements, if these exist, need to be clear and available to aid validation. Web-based platforms that allow for recognition and assessment of specific skills require careful consideration and need to be compared to existing systems of validation to promote adequate quality assurance and allow for rationalisation of efforts.

Key questions regarding on educational resources

The following questions are important when addressing open educational resources:

  • Are methods for validating learning outcomes acquired through OERs the same as for learning outcomes acquired in a different way?
  • How are internal credits (e.g. badges) considered by validation?

European Guidelines for the Validation of Non-Formal and Informal Learning

OER16: Open Culture Conference roundup

A round up of resources and recordings from the OER16: Open Culture Conference which took place at the University of Edinburgh on 19th & 20th April 2016.  The conference featured keynotes from Catherine Cronin, National University of Ireland, Galway; Emma Smith, University of Oxford; John Scally, National Library of Scotland; Jim Groom, Reclaim Hosting, and Melissa Highton, University of Edinburgh.


Melissa Highton, University of Edinburgh, by Anna Page, CC BY SA 2.0.