OERde14 – The view from Scotland

I’m delighted to have been invited to Berlin later this week to give a talk at OERde14 – The Future of Free Educational Materials. I’ll be talking about a range of contrasting initiatives that have aimed to promote open education policy and practice in Scotland, England and Wales over the last five years, including the UKOER Programme, Open Scotland, OER Wales, the Welsh Open Education Declaration of Intent, the Scottish Open Education Declaration and the Opening Educational Practice in Scotland project. I’ll also be reflecting on the different approaches taken by these initiatives and asking what Germany can learn from the experiences of open education practitioners in the UK.

Abstract

The first and largest open education initiative in the UK was the UKOER Programme. Between 2009 and 2012 the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) invested over £10 million in UKOER, and funded over 80 projects at universities throughout England. UKOER proved to be hugely successful, however only English universities were eligible to bid for funding. As a result, there was arguably less awareness of the potential benefits of open education across other sectors of UK education. That is not to say there have been no significant open education developments in other parts of the UK, simply that approaches to open education have followed different paths.

In September 2013 universities in Wales issued the Wales Open Education Declaration of Intent, which announced Welsh Universities commitment to work towards the principals of open education and in direct response, the OER Cymru project was established. In a parallel initiative, the Welsh Government established an Open Digital Learning Working Group in early 2013, which published the report Open and Online: Wales, higher education and emerging modes of learning.

Meanwhile north of the border, interest was growing around the area of Open Badges, and MOOCs had also caught the attention of Scottish Higher Education.

In order to raise awareness of open education policy and practice more widely, Cetis, SQA, Jisc RSC Scotland and the ALT Scotland SIG, came together to launch Open Scotland in early 2013. Open Scotland is an unfunded 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. Among other activities, Open Scotland launched the Scottish Open Education Declaration, based on the UNESCO Paris OER Declaration.

Open education in general, and MOOCS in particular, also caught the attention of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Funding Council, and in early 2014 the Funding Council announced a £1.3 million investment in open education. Rather than issue an open funding call similar to the UKOER programme, SFC allocated their funding to the Open University to establish the Opening Education Practices in Scotland (OEPS) project, which aims to facilitate best practice in open education in Scotland.

These diverse programmes represent just some of the open education initiatives that have emerged in the UK; they provide a wide range of exemplars that may be of interest and benefit to open education practitioners in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Welsh Government Report on Open and Online

Last week the Welsh Government’s Online Digital Learning Working Group published their report  Open and Online: Wales, higher education and emerging modes of learning. The group was established in February 2013 by Leighton Andrews AM, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and Skills at the time,

“to examine the potential for online digital learning and how the Welsh Government can support the higher education sector in this growing field.”

Wales O&OPaul Richardson of Jisc RSC Wales acted as professional advisor to the group and undertook the consultation exercise.  The report includes an invaluable background paper produced by Paul on Open and online resources: implications for practice in higher education institutions in Wales, which provides an invaluable overview of recent open education developments including OER and MOOCs, and quotes from a number of Cetis blogs and publications.  Although Paul’s paper focuses on the implications of open education for Welsh HEIs I can also highly recommend is as an excellent general summary of recent developments open education policy, practice and technology.

The report itself includes the following of seven recommendations addressed to the Minister for Education and Skills and higher education institutions.

To the Minister for Education and Skills

1. Widening access to higher education to those with low participation backgrounds.

Fund the development of O&O resources for use in schools and colleges, with the aim of raising aspirations of learners from low participation backgrounds. This scheme should be co-ordinated through collaboration between HEIs and schools and colleges in their region, via existing Reaching Wider Partnership networks.

Investigate the use of Hwb as a host for the O&O resources developed, with the intention of establishing a central repository where all schools and colleges may access these resources.

Extend the work of the Open University OpenLearn Champions project to cover the whole of Wales via the Reaching Wider Partnerships.

Liaise with NIACE Dysgu Cymru, Agored Cymru, and others to align O&O resource production with the needs of adult learners pursuing agreed progression routes, including CQFW.

2. Developing skills for the workplace and the Welsh economy

Develop a strategy, working with other agencies, to raise awareness of the potential for online learning to support economic development.

Use the Welsh Government’s sector panels to foster dialogue between stakeholders (including educational providers and employers) in order to identify opportunities to develop skills using online resources.

Examine how online learning should be integrated into the approach for programmes funded through the European Social Fund.

3.  Developing Welsh language skills for employment

Develop a Welsh language skills MOOC at higher education level so that students and work-based learners can develop their professional Welsh language skills and potentially seek certification for those skills.

To the higher education institutions

4. Reviewing institutional policies, monitoring developments and exploiting opportunities

Agree what the institution’s overall approach to open and online resources should be, monitor external O&O developments, and exploit opportunities to produce and use resources.

5.  Strengthening institutional reputation and brand

Exploit open and online resources in appropriate circumstances to showcase the quality of learning opportunities.

To the Minister and the higher education institutions

6.  Improving the skills of higher education staff

Institutions should provide academic staff with the skills and support they need to make most effective use of open and online approaches to learning.

HEFCW should continue to contribute to the costs of Jisc’s programme on open and online resources and take advantage of Jisc’s expertise.

HEFCW and the Higher Education Academy should take a lead on this agenda.

7. Licensing and sharing open educational resources

The Welsh Government should encourage the systematic adoption of open licensing for open educational resources produced by HEIs in Wales

Where possible staff and institutions should release open educational resources using an appropriate Creative Commons licence

Institutions should make open educational resources widely available, including via the Jorum repository.

Taken together with Welsh HEIs recent statement of intent to work towards the principals of open education, the publication of this report represents another important step forward for open education in Wales and provides inspiration for Open Scotland to continue raising awareness of open education policy and practice at senior management and government level.

The Open and Online report can be downloaded here and Andrew Green, chair of the Online Digital Resources Working Group has written an introductory blog post here MOOCs and other animals: ‘open & online’ report published