UNESCO European Regional Consultation on OER Report

A guest post from Joe Wilson, reporting on the UNESCO European Regional Consultation on OER in Malta.  

OER CosnultationsIt was a great privilege to be invited as one of 70 participants from 25 countries gathered in Malta  to contribute to the UNESCO European Regional Consultation on Open Educational Resources in Malta. This to shape the inputs for the 2nd World OER Congress to be held in Ljubljana, Slovenia 18th-20th September 2017.  I hope the remaining regional consultations  for the Middle East/North Africa, Africa , Americas and the Pacific Region are as productive as our gathering. The consultation events are ably supported by the Commonwealth of Learning and funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. You too can take part in the consultation by completing the survey here:  http://rcoer.col.org/surveys.html

The theme of the World OER Congress is OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education; From Commitment to Action. This to move the global education system on from the Paris Declaration of 2012 calling on all governments to make a commitment to OER. The aim to use OER policies and practice to meet the United Nations aims of achieving a set of sustainable development goals for Education by  2030.

We were tasked with :

1. Reviewing the progress of OER in Europe since the World OER Congress 2012
2. To identify strategies for maintaining OER
3. Agreeing  a set of action points to be presented at the next Congress in September

Our outputs providing strategies, examples and models for the creation of a sustainable open educational infrastructure and mainstreaming open educational resources will be fed into the Congress but will be published here as they are pulled together and there will be a collection of interviews from the consultation events published here.

I was invited as Co-Founder of Open Scotland and I carefully prepared our inputs with Lorna Campbell my co-conspirator and  Scottish colleagues from the Association of Learning Technology before setting off.

I’ll share the key parts of my report here and some reflections from the group I worked with who were tasked to  focus on the barriers to the creation, sharing, use and re-purposing of Open Educational Resources at a national level.

In terms of Scottish approaches,  the formation of Open Scotland and the creation of the Open Scotland Declaration has positioned Scottish Education as thought leaders in building both grass roots support for open educational practice and for encouraging policy shifts at national and institutional level and this is still garnering Scotland and Scottish education with global recognition.

The OEPS project has produced some open assets that could do much to drive open practice across Scotland https://oepscotland.org/resources/open-courses/ While the Open University’s broader offering for learners http://www.open.edu/openlearncreate/ offers them access to a rich set of online courses and allows providers the opportunity to build their own courses on the OU  platform.

There are some other green shoots around the UK. The continued healthy support across the community for conferences like #OER17 , the FELTAG coalition supporting  blended learning and the sharing of developments. Some set backs too,  it is hard as yet to see the new Jisc Content and App Store as a serviceable replacement for JORUM.

However, while Scottish Government investment has been made in the Open University led OEPS project and some large global institutions like Edinburgh University have taken up the challenge to embed both open educational resources and a broader set of open educational practices across their operations for the public good and some others notably Glasgow Caledonian University are forging ahead with policies that will support OER, momentum is slow.

Why is the case – these are my own thoughts on Scottish Landscape and updates the last review of Scottish activity from October 2016.

Some of the global arguments for the adoption of open educational practices and resources do not have the same traction in Scotland. Scottish Education is not a text book driven system in Universities, Colleges or Schools – so the economic case for the adoption of Open Textbooks or more open practice around the development and sharing of resources does not have the resonance it might have in other countries where national administration’s buy text books.

The levers in Scotland have to be around our life long learning system, our belief in education as a social good, open to all and around the social benefits of OER to all in the system.

Universities continue to conflate OER with lots of other policy initiatives and developments – We have a MOOC so we must be making and sharing OER ( rarely the case). We have an open research policy and we have policies and practices around open data. ( no realisation that OER is different). There are few formal staff development programmes around the creation, use and repurposing of OER and only a few policy levers to encourage their consideration.

Colleges – Recently regionalised and finding their feet have forgotten traditions of developing learning materials collaboratively and when they remember they tend to do this in closed communities as content clubs. If you do a dig into the public contracts Scotland you can see a growing trend over last six months for Colleges to buy large collections of commercial content. They are trying to make more courses available on line and playing catch up,  by buying in the learning content. The entry level and CPD standards for lecturing staff are due to be refreshed but the current standards are weak around developing skills around embedding digital practice and make no mention of OER.

Schools – No real recognition that sharing learning materials is a good thing and to a degree still struggling with the notion that teachers create  learning materials. In Scotland we have a superb platform in GLOW a Scottish Schools Intranet with excellent set of tools to support learning but it lacks a learning object repository it is hard to find materials inside GLOW and there is no coherent approach to adopting standard open licencing like Creative Commons. In terms of development there is the recently published Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy this encourages the development of digital skills in both initial teacher training and in teacher CPD for continued registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland but it tends to focus on the use and deployment of technology and makes no mention of content creation or open educational resources.

Third sector and libraries – perhaps most progress is being made here. Libraries and museums are digitising their resources and releasing these into the public domain with open licences. Trade unions and third sector organisations realise that a sharing economy is the most effective way to support their stakeholders. Good signs here that the methods and approaches of the wikimedia foundation are being adopted.

Government, while the government has usefully made a significant investment in the OEPS Project, which it references in any enquiry about the progress of OER in Scotland, it still appears to view activity in this area as peripheral in meeting sectorial objectives.

The broad view of the administration seems to be  that policy around open educational practices is not required as initiatives in this space are being driven out by Universities fulfilling their charitable and philanthropic traditions  and that there is a lack of an evidence base around the benefits to learners that justifies a policy intervention.

The growing evidence base from other countries and global initiatives is counter to this view. A healthy open educational resource driven system needs both top down and bottom up support. The papers from this consultation and from the World Congress should allow an informed reappraisal of this position.

UNESCO European Regional Consultation on OER, Malta, February 2017

A further report on the Consultation is available from UNESCO here: Ministers, experts urge inclusive access and quality education through open educational resources

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.

Trends:

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.

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