Response to World OER Congress Action Plan

The following comments were drafted by Joe Wilson and Lorna M. Campbell and submitted in response to the World OER Congress Action Plan on behalf of Open Scotland and the University of Edinburgh.   The draft Action Plan, Outcome and Recommendations is available in English and French here http://www.oercongress.org/woerc-actionplan/

1. Capacity of users to access, re-use and share OER

Awareness and skills to use OER:

a) Key educational stakeholders (teachers, teacher trainers, educational policy makers and librarians) should be provided with capacity building to raise awareness on how OER can enhance teaching and learning.

b) Systematic and continuous capacity building (in-service and pre-service) on how to find, modify, create and share OER should be an integral part of teacher training programmes. This would include capacity building on digital literacy to identify, share and use OER. The support of governments, educational institutions and teacher associations for this is important.

UNESCO / COL should consider codifying baseline standards for capacity building; e.g. understanding copyright, how to use open licences, describing content for resource discovery.

Sharing OER:

c) Legal frameworks of educational institutions should support the development and use of OER by teachers.

Add “and professional bodies” here.

f) A 360° continually updating function should be introduced that allow OER creators to inform users on updates as well as users to suggest updates and modifications of OER.

This seems unrealistic.

g) Institutions and/or teachers should aim to use OER-based teaching materials as an integral rather than as a peripheral element of curriculum.

This is an important point.

Finding OER:

h) Indexing of OER resources (including in national OER repositories) should be further developed to support the identification of existing OER.

i) OER repositories should have clear action plans with performance indicators to encourage goals such as accessibility, interoperability with other repositories, usage and sustainability.

j) Effective meta-analysis and data mining practices should be encouraged for OER retrieval.

There is too much reliance here on dedicated OER repositories. OER repositories are just one way to manage and disseminate content. Web platforms, local repositories, and content aggregators also have an important role to play. Don’t let a single technology approach drive policy and strategy. Better encoding of machine readable licences will help to improve resource discovery. Look at the work of Schema.org and LRMI. Work with search engines to optimize OER discovery.

A good example of a lightweight approach to OER aggregation is the Solvonauts open source OER search engine http://solvonauts.org/

2. Language & Cultural issues

OER made available in diverse languages and adapted to the related cultural context where it is used is vital for uptake in local contexts. Furthermore, for OER to be used by educational systems, issues related to the sharing and accepting of knowledge from different sources need to be addressed.

b) Harness technologies that overcome the language barrier such as online translation systems.

Look at the MediWiki Content Translation tool https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Content_translation Engage students in content translation, this can be a valuable learning experience and also involves them in the creation of OER.

A good example of this approach is the University of Edinburgh’s Translation Studies MSc which includes a Wikipedia translation assignment http://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/wir/2017/01/05/wikipedia-assignment-translation-studies-msc/

3. Ensuring inclusive and equitable access to quality OER

OER needs to be accessible to all learners, including those who have disabilities, those that are economically disadvantaged and within a framework that ensures gender equity. Electricity and connectivity remain challenges in many parts of the world. For this reason, it is important that it is possible to find/use/modify and share OER using diverse ICT environments, including on mobile devices, or even to the extent possible, off-line Furthermore, in order for OER to be used with confidence by the educational community mechanisms to ensure confidence of the quality of resources should be in place.

g) Ensure systems for peer-review quality control of OER

We need to rethink what peer review actually means in the context of open educational resources – feedback from learners and teachers is may be more useful than more traditional peer review mechanisms. Don’t presume that peer review is the only way to measure quality.

4. Changing Business Models

Globally, the traditional business model for commercial textbook publishing has come under economic pressure to evolve because of the technological development and the digitization of content. The changes experienced by the publishing industry are affecting its market paradigms and business models (Rodrigues, Chimenti, Nogueira, Hupsel, & Repsold, 2014). There is a need to identify innovative solutions and develop new business models, so that the interests of the OER community and educational publishers are addressed.

Business models should focus purely on reforming traditional models of textbook production. Business models should incorporate drivers to encourage teachers and learners to engage with open education, e.g. professional recognition for creating and reusing OER. This needs to be embedded in teaching standards.

d) Charging for hard copies of OER materials, use of paid advertisements, and other means for income generation to sustain OER-based education.

It’s important to educate teachers and learners about the non-exclusive nature of open licences. Also, open licences should not be seen as a barrier to working with innovative technology providers.

5. Development of supportive policy environments

Mainstreaming of OER requires the creation, adoption, and implementation of policies supportive of effective OER practices. In this regard, funding flows are more likely to follow from policy directives, and policies can be applied for both bottom-up and top-down approaches.

b) Policies that support awareness raising on the benefits of OER; funding for evidence based research; incentives for following good practices; and the fostering of supportive strategies and practices to support the use of OER by the educational community.

Evidence based research is critical for supporting the adoption of OER policies. However research into the benefits of OER shouldn’t focus purely on cost savings. Research also needs to focus on benefits to learners and teachers, improved quality of learning content, and improved learning experience.

i) Policies which recognize OER’s contribution to knowledge creation, similar to the publication and sharing of research, provide institutions with strong incentives for the adoption of OER.

The focus needs to remain on OER policies but it is important to relate OER policies to Open Access & open data policies.

Examples of OER Policy development:

1. Scottish Open Education Declaration http://declaration.openscot.net/ is an open community declaration based on the UNESCO OER Declaration which broadens the scope of the guidelines to encompass all aspects of open education, rather than OER specifically. The Declaration is hosted on an installation of Comment Press and all those with an interest in open education are encouraged to contribute. The Declaration is managed by the Open Scotland initiative.

2. University if Edinburgh OER Policy http://www.ed.ac.uk/files/atoms/files/openeducationalresourcespolicy.pdf This policy is based on a policy originally developed by the University of Leeds as part of the UK OER Programme. This policy was subsequently adapted by the University of Greenwich and Glasgow Caledonian University before being adopted by the University of Edinburgh, so the policy itself has become a reusable OER.

New Recommendation

Ensure open education, OER and open licensing is embedded in all teachers training and professional development programmes to ensure that all teachers develop the digital skills to create and use open educational resources, engage with open education and develop their own open education practice. Examples of good practice

Example of OER Good Practice

1. 23 Things http://www.23things.ed.ac.uk/ 

23 Things for Digital Knowledge is an award winning (LILAC Credo Digital Literacy Award 2017), open online self-paced course run by the University of Edinburgh.

The course, developed by Charlie Farley of Educational Development and Engagement, is designed to encourage digital literacy and to be of use to a broad audience within and beyond the institution. The aim of the course is to expose learners to a range of digital tools for personal and professional development as a researcher, academic, student, or professional. Learners spend a little time each week, building up and expanding their digital skills and are encouraged to share their experiences with others.

The judges of the Credo Digital Award for Information Literacy described the course as “a superb resource which builds digital literacy through a well-designed combination of information, discovery and social interaction. It is very flexible in how it can be used, with bitesize chunks of learning, and accreditation through badging for those who wish to work through the whole course. It therefore appeals to a wide range of learners.”

All course content and materials, unless otherwise stated, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY) and the University actively encourages others to take and adapt the course. The course has already been used by many individuals and organisations outwith the University of Edinburgh and it has recently been adapted for use by the Scottish Social Services Council as 23 digital capabilities to support practice and learning in social services.

2. LGBT Healthcare 101 http://open.ed.ac.uk/lgbt-healthcare-101/

Digital story interviews with LGBT+ volunteers, ‘LGBT+ Healthcare 101’ presentation, and a secondary school resource, created by and for University of Edinburgh medicine students. The resources were created as part of a project to address a lack of awareness and knowledge of LGBT+ health, and of the sensitivities needed to treat LGBT patients as valuable skills for qualifying doctors.

Resources for the LGBT+ Healthcare 101 course, created by Calum Hunter, Matthew Twomey, Derrick NG, Navina Senthilkumar and Eleanor Dow. Released under a CC BY licence.

3. Open Scotland http://openscot.net/

Open Scotland is a cross sector initiative supported by the Association for Learning Technology’s  Scotland Special Interest Group.  The aim of this 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, OER repositories, OER guidelines for staff and students, and adoption of Open Badges. 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.

Inspired by the UNESCO Paris OER Declaration, Open Scotland has also launched the Scottish Open Education Declaration, 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 all those with a commitment to open education are encouraged to contribute to.

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 https://www.youtube.com/user/educationscotland

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.

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
http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/publications/3073

University of Edinburgh approves new OER Policy

edinburghAs part of its on going commitment to open education, the University of Edinburgh has recently approved a new Open Educational Resources Policy, that encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience. The University is committed to supporting open and sustainable learning and teaching practices by encouraging engagement with OER within the curriculum, and supporting the development of digital literacies for both staff and students in their use of OERs.

The policy, together with supporting guidance from Open.Ed, intends to help colleagues in making informed decisions about the creation and use of open educational resources in support of the University’s OER vision. This vision builds on the history of the Edinburgh Settlement, the University’s excellence in teaching and learning, it’s unique research collections, and its civic mission.

The policy is based on University of Leeds OER Policy, which has already been adopted by the University of Greenwich and Glasgow Caledonian University. It’s interesting to note how this policy has been adapted by each institution that adopts it. The original policy describes open educational resources as

“…digitised teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released by the copyright owner under an intellectual property licence (e.g. Creative Commons) that permits their use or re-purposing (re-use, revision, remixing, redistribution) by others.”

However Edinburgh has adapted this description to move towards a more active and inclusive definition of OER

“digital resources that are used in the context of teaching and learning (e.g. course material, images, video, multimedia resources, assessment items, etc.), which have been released by the copyright holder under an open licence (e.g. Creative Commons) permitting their use or re-purposing (re-use, revision, remixing, redistribution) by others.”

This definition aims to encompass the widest possible range of resources that can be used in teaching and learning, not just resources that are developed specifically for that purpose. This description acknowledges that it is often the context of use that makes a thing useful for teaching and learning, rather than some inherent property of the resource itself.

Although open licensing is central to the University’s OER vision, this is much more than a resource management policy. In order to place open education at the heart of learning and teaching strategy, the University’s OER Policy has been approved by the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee. The policy is intended to be clear and concise and to encourage participation by all. By adopting this policy, the University is demonstrating its commitment to all staff and students who wish to use and create OERs in their learning and teaching activities, and who wish to disseminate the knowledge created and curated within the University to the wider community.

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