I’m delighted to have been invited by John Johnson and David Noble to join them on Radio Edutalk tonight to talk about the Open Scotland initiative and open education more generally. I’ll be talking to John and David at 20.00 GMT tonight, so why not tune in and join us here: Radio Edutalk Live Stream.
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I’ve spent most of this week in Ljubljana, Slovenia for the Open Course Ware Consortium Global Conference where I was interested to hear about a project that has much to inspire Open Scotland. Ljubljana was chosen in order to host the conference to highlight an ambitious new national initiative, OpeningUpSlovenia. The initiative was launched at the conference by Jernej Pikalo, Slovenian Minister for Education, and Mitja Jermol, Head of Center for Knowledge Transfer at the Jožef Stefan Institute.
OpeningUpSlovenia takes its inspiration from the European Commission’s 2013 Opening Up Education communication. OpeningUpSlovenia is a collaborative cross sector initiative involving all Slovenian universities, compulsory and vocational education institutions together with technical, research and industry partners. The aim of this ambitious initiative is to:
“create an open educational system parallel to the formal one to exploit all aspects of open education, allowing rigorous, transparent, and replicable testing of open learning environments, open education theories, new business models, open organisational forms, open education computational tools, and new and emerging technologies for the educational technologies market place.”
During the fist stage of the initiative, three sub-projects will be launched focusing on different educational sectors;
1. Compulsory pre-school, primary and secondary education, 2. OER in higher education, 3. Vocational education, on-the-job training and life-long learning.
These projects will create advanced technologies, open learning environments and open educational resources and will foster open connectivity and innovation. Supporting multilingualism in open education is also a corner stone of the OpeningUpSlovenia.
Through this initiative, Slovenia aims to become a role model for open education in a knowledge based Europe. In response to the question ‘Why Slovenia?’ Mitja Jermol responded, ‘Because Slovenia is a “little big country”’. Due to its size and scale, Slovenia is in an ideal position to support the EU’s aim of opening up education across Europe and globally. In order to do this, Slovenian Minister for Education Jernej Pikalo stressed unequivocally the need for legislative measures and explicit government policies to support innovation in open education.
It will be very interesting to see how the OpeningUpSlovenia initiative progresses and what Scotland, as another “little big country”, can learn from their experiences. In drawing the launch of OpeningUpSlovenia to a close, Fred Mulder, UNESCO Chair in Open Educational Resources called for more countries to follow Slovenia’s example and open up education. Wouldn’t it be nice if Scotland was next?
“to examine the potential for online digital learning and how the Welsh Government can support the higher education sector in this growing field.”
Paul 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.
Last week Joe Wilson of SQA and I presented a short webinar on the Open Scotland initiative and the Scottish Open Education Declaration. The webinar, which was hosted by Celeste McLaughlin of Jisc RSC Scotland, generated some interesting discussion and debate around open education in Scotland. A recording of the webinar is available here, and our slides are available from slideshare here .
The Scottish Open Education Declaration was introduced in the context of other open education developments including the UNESCO / COL Paris OER Declaration, the Open Educational Resources in Europe project, and Welsh HEIs statement of intent to work to open education principals. The Open Scotland initiative welcomes participation from individuals and institutions and we encourage all those with and interest in open education to comment on and endorse the Scottish Open Education Declaration. Joe encouraged participants to get involved as individuals and also to take the Declaration back to their academic boards to raise awareness of the initiative and to get their institutions to sign up. At this stage, the main aim of the Declaration is to raise awareness of the potential benefits of open education policy and practice, a valuable next step would be to start gathering exemplars that illustrate each statement of the declaration in action.
Joe and I both highlighted examples of open education practice in Scotland and further afield and participants also suggested other examples of communities sharing educational resources including the Computing at School Scotland initiative which aims to promote the teaching of computer science at school, and the fabulously named Magic Physics Pixies and their Scottish Physics Teaching Resources network. This discussion prompted Tavis Reddick, of Fife College, to ask:
“Are there any illustrative exemplars of, say, OER, which Open Scotland would recommend to show how sharing and remix could work in practice?”
There was some discussion of the Re:Source repository of open education resources for the Scottish college sector, with questions being asked about how extensively it is currently being used and whether a sustainable funding model could be developed. One suggestion was that, in the longer term, recurrent funding for Re:source could potentially come from the things it might replace, such as teaching materials acquisition budgets. One participant noted that their college did not yet have a policy that allowed them to publish OERs to Re:Source, but added that they hoped their board would take an interest soon.
One very valid question raised towards the end of the webinar was “how will we know if we are getting any better at this?” There are currently no benchmarking guidelines or KPIs for open education in Scotland but it would certainly be very interesting to undertake a landscape study of current open education practice across all sectors of Scottish education. This would act as a baseline against which we could measure progress, but a survey of this nature would require dedicated funding and resources. We’re already aware of lots of interesting examples of open education practice in Scotland but I’m sure that are many, many more out there, so if you know of any, or if you’re involved in any open education initiatives at your own institution, please do get in touch!