How to nurture a community of online learners

Community.....

Community…..” flickr photo by Kamaljith shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

I’ve been involved in open learning for several years now. It started almost by accident, when some guy called Dave ran a crazy learning experience that we called rhizo14, carried on serendipitously into a sister experience called CLMOOC, and gradually became a part of my daily ritual as I started participating in Daily Creates. Much of what happens in these open, online experiences can appear to be random and unstructured, but beneath and behind them is a set of core principles and values and a tried and tested design. Those can be broadly summed up as belonging to an educational framework called connected learning. That’s helped me to learn some tricks to help all of us (staff and students) to teach and learn online. They’re at the end of this post, for those wanting to skip straight to the punchline.

Connected learning is a work in progress. It begins from an (intuitively plausible, I think) set of beliefs in the value of learning that is interest-driven, peer-supported and academically relevant, and harnesses the power of social media in order to make these types of learning better integrated into learners’ lives while attempting to make it accessible to anyone who wants to participate (equity is a core value). As such, it is platform and technology agnostic, although the values of open education are central to what practitioners do.

At the heart of connected learning is the thought that we live, nowadays, in a participatory culture. Sometimes people describe this as “Web 2.0”, but participatory culture is actually a richer concept than that. Henry Jenkins contrasts the concept of “interactivity”, which he describes as a relationship between a customer and a software company and a property of some social media platforms, and “participation” which is a relationship between people (which can be facilitated by use of social media). This means that we can’t take student engagement for granted, we have to explicitly design it into our courses. For those familiar with the terminology, I might use this distinction to explain the differences between xMOOCs and cMOOCs. I say this to note a difference, and not to imply that cMOOCs are always superior – knowledge acquisition and participation in learning are not, imo, contradictory concepts – each has its place. Anna Sfard makes this point better than I could.

To an outsider, learning in the open can look unstructured and random, and those new to this type of learning and teaching can feel overwhelmed, out of their depth, unsure of their own abilities, frustrated, scared or even angry. This goes for both learners (often called participants) and educators (often called facilitators). This is why it is so important to design these experiences carefully, and to think carefully about the types of support that can be provided. I think, in the interesting times that lie ahead of us, we are all going to need all the support we can get – both to keep ourselves going, and to help our learners. Teaching and learning online can be an isolated experience, as those of us who do it know only too well.

So how can all of this help us now? First of all I should stress that I’m not suggesting that everybody immediately abandons whatever they are doing and redesign their courses so that they are connected learning experiences – I’m not trying to make more work for anyone. What I am going to tell you about is some tried and tested strategies that have helped the community that I am a part of to emerge and continue. I’m not pretending to have invented any of these strategies either – just to have used or experienced them for myself.

  • Remember that your learners will be in many different time zones, some of which will have better connectivity than others. People who can’t participate are likely to feel very left out and uncared for. Think about asynchronous activities as well as synchronous ones.
  • Some learners will have state of the art technology, others … won’t. Think about designing activities/resources that can load on different devices.
  • Realise that there is no such thing as a digital native: some (staff and students) will find it easy to adapt to this new way of teaching and learning others … won’t. We can’t predict who will and won’t adapt. Think about how to support staff and students who just can’t work out how to log in/submit/engage.
  • Don’t rely on one platform or one mode of delivery. Systems could be overloaded, or not available for a particular device, or not available in a geographical area (YouTube content, for example, can be restricted by geographical area). Yes, this could mean duplicating important content/messages in order to ensure that everyone who needs can access them.
  • Don’t force anyone to use a particular platform (other than official, institutionally supported ones). Your students might well have ethical objections to using a particular one. Respect those. Never require anyone to sign up to a (non-institutionally supported/“official”) platform in order to participate. Data rights are human rights.
  • Tap into the altruism of others. Nurture a community that helps each other (both staff and students). Model this yourself, watch for others doing it and publicly thank them. Think about the types of roles that might be needed to build a learning community: as well as you (the teacher), you might look for particularly active and/or knowledgeable students to become mentors.
  • Structure informal activities that people can engage in if they want. These don’t have to take a lot of time to design – you might ask students to share something unique about where they are living, to tell others about their hobbies, pets, or family. You could ask them to do this by sharing a small image, a link to a website, or a forum post. These help participants to feel that they belong and can build a sense of community over time.

And, finally, reach out to others around you. Use your networks and don’t be afraid of saying that you are finding something hard. My initial experiences of all of this was a baptism of fire. Those who watch me nowadays often think that I always find it easy to participate, and have always found it easy, but that’s not true. In fact, I nearly dropped out of an early connected learning experience (CLMOOC 2015) because I was feeling lost, confused and overwhelmed. What happened next was, I realise, due to the carefully designed support structure that was in place. I shouted out into the void and someone answered. The rest, as they say, is history.

This post was originally published on my personal blog

Action Lab on Open Education Policy Making: Open Scotland Update

This short update on open education developments in Scotland was recorded as part of the Action Lab on Open Education Policy Making led by Fabio Nascimbeni, Universidad Internacional de La Rioja, and Alek Tarkowski, Centrum Cyfrowe, at the OE Global Conference in Milan in November 2019.

Other resources shared during the Action Lab include:

  1. European Commission Report on Open Education Policies in all EU member states (2017) https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/policy-approaches-open-education-case-studies-28-eu-member-states-openedu-policies
  2. OE Policy Forum report (2019)  https://oerpolicy.eu/oe-policy-forum/
  3. Policy Registry of the OER World Map https://oerworldmap.org/resource/?filter.about.%40type=Policy&size=20
  4. Survey on Open Education in European Libraries of Higher Education by SPARC Europe  https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/8X3DFYW

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

MOOCs

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

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

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.

Summary

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.

Acknowledgements

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, joewilson.net 

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

Sharing on the Bayou by Viv Rolfe

Vivien Rolfe, Co-Chair of the ALT Open Education SIG and  Associate Head of Department of Biological, Biomedical and Analytical Science, UWE, has written an excellent blog post on her thoughts on sharing and open education following the recent Hewlett Foundation Annual OER Meeting. Viv reflects on the experiences that sparked her initial interest and engagement with open education and the role of the UKOER Programme in shaping her own open practice and its ongoing influence in connecting networks of open education practitioners across the sector. Fundamentally what drives Viv’s practice and research in open education is exploring the motivation to share.

…there is no doubt in my mind that all people – students, teachers, executive and other partners buy-into the notion of OER very quickly and see that sharing makes sense. Sharing is a positive thing with many benefits, although sometimes the boundaries might require a little definition.

Viv also has some pertinent reflections on the current state of open education in the UK today, and concludes by encouraging us all to just get out there and share.

Not to beat ourselves with a stick – open education from our UK perspective has been transformatory in terms of teaching practice, establishing collaborations and sharing common goals toward a better education system. Unfortunately we have stalled in the UK with very little if any funding now for education innovation projects or research. But we can do something to chip away to complete the OER = sharing = equality loop.

As I said at the Hewlett meeting, my dream for OER was about fair and equal chances for people to access education, and to make these inroads now takes a concerted effort.

SO GO SHARE! Go share an OER story with a colleague or student that has never heard of open. We share where we feel comfortable within our own circles, but how will we ever challenge inequality if we don’t go out and meet it face on?

You can read the rest of Viv’s blog post here Sharing on the Bayou.

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

College Development Network Librarians Open Developments in Scotland

Earlier this week I travelled up to the Stirling where I had the pleasure of presenting the keynote at the College Development Network Librarians Open Developments in Scotland event. It was an interesting and lively event and it’s great to see college librarians really engaging with the open education debate. Open education has the potential to be of enormous benefit to the FE sector, and librarians have a critical role to play in raising awareness of open education and advising their staff on the development and use of open educational content and licences.

My slides are available here and I’ve posted a Storify of the event here: Librarians Development Network: Open Developments in Scotland.

My presentation was followed by a fascinating talk by Suzanne Scott about Borders College‘s adoption of Mozilla Badges.  There’s been a lot of talk about the potential of open badges recently, so it’s really interesting to see them being used in a real world scenario.   Borders College aren’t just using badges to motivate students and acknowledge their achievement, they are also using them to engage with staff and have replaced all staff CPD paper certificates with Open Badges.  Adopting badges has also had significant reputational benefit and has raised the profile of the college;  Borders College are 4th on Mozilla’s list of international Open Badge Issuers. 

Following Suzanne, Mike Glancey of the National Museums of Scotland gave a talk about SCURL‘s Walk in Access initiative.  Now I have to confess, I had never heard of Walk in Access before, but it sounds like a really valuable initiative.  Walk in Access provides members of the public with on-site access to digital content such as journals and databases, where licensing terms and conditions permit.  Walk in Access highlights libraries commitment to opening access and also helps to widen engagement and provide access to distance learning students. The SCURL Walk in Access report is available here.

In the afternoon we were lucky to have a presentation from the always inspiring Christine Sinclair about the University of Edinburgh’s Coursera MOOCs and her team’s experiences of running the ELearning and Digital Cultures MOOC (). Christine explained that Edinburgh initially got in involved with MOOCs for five reasons: reputation, exploration, outreach, shared experience and, most importantly, fun!  The Edinburgh MOOCs have the support of the principal and the senior management, and the university has invested a considerable amount of funding in the initiative, however a lot the courses still run on “staff goodwill, evenings and weekends.”   It’s too early to say if this is a sustainable approach, Edinburgh are still exploring this.  Although the  team didn’t want to produce “star tutor talking heads” videos they discovered that students still wanted to “see” their lecturers and to form a connection with them. Some students struggled with the  approach, asking “Why aren’t you teaching us? Where are our learning outcomes?”  but others really engaged and came back to act as Community Teaching Assistants the following year.

Christine was followed by Gary Cameron of the College Development Network who gave an inspirational talk calling for his colleagues across the college sector to “Share, Share, Share!” To facilitate this sharing the Re:Source repository has been established for the Scottish college sector as a place to share open educational resources.  CDN are also planning to issue small grants for staff to openly licence resources in key topic areas. Gary ended his talk by reminding us that:

“OER is no longer an option, it’s an imperative, but still need to win battle for hearts and minds.”

The final presentation of the day was from Susanne Boyle, who has recently taken over from Jackie Carter as Director of Jorum and Senior Manager, Learning and Teaching at Mimas.  Susanne is not the only new member of staff to join the Jorum team, within a couple of months, 50% of the  team will be new appointments!  Jorum will be supporting the Jisc funded FE and Skills Programme, and will be creating tools to make it easier for FE practitioners to connect with Jisc and Jorum content.  The team will also be focusing on Health Practice resources and collections, and will be working closely with the North-West OER Network.  I have been involved with Jorum since it was just a wee glimmer of a project proposal, and I have sat on its Steering Group through every phase of its development so it will be very interesting to see what this new lease of life brings!

Scottish Government Support for Open Education?

“We broadly support open licences and OER and need a serious public debate on this issue.”

~Michael Russell, MSP

This was the Minister for Education’s response to a question I put to him earlier today regarding Scottish Government support for open education policy and open licences for publicly funded educational resources in order to benefit learners, not just within Scotland, but internationally.  The Minister was speaking at the Future of Higher Education In Scotland and the UK event in Edinburgh, organised by the ESRC Fellowship Project: Higher Education, the Devolution Settlement and the Referendum on Independence.

In a wide-ranging speech outlining the Scottish Government’s vision of higher education in an independent Scotland, Russell stated that we need an education sector that can meet the challenge of new technological advancement and institutions that can fully explore the potential of new technologies for learning. MOOCs and OER have great potential to form new pathways to learning, to widen participation and promote a culture of collaborative development and reuse. Consequently a core group supported by SFC has been established to look at the benefits of OER and promote online learning resources produced by Scottish universities.  This group is composed of the Open University and the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde; UHI may also have a role to play. 

While it’s hugely encouraging to hear the Minister for Education acknowledging the importance, not just of the inevitable MOOCs, but of OER and open education more generally, I have some concerns that with such a narrow group of stakeholders involved in the core group, the scope of the debate might fail to encompass the wider benefits of open education to the Scottish sector as a whole.  Open education policies and practice have the potential to benefit teachers and learner right across the sector, in schools, colleges and universities, in formal and informal learning scenarios, and to support life long learning right across the board.

As yet, no further details have been released regarding the nature of the core group activities and the level of SFC investment, so we will continue to watch these developments with interest.  

ETA A summary transcript of Russell’s speech has been made available by the Scottish Government here. The relevant paragraphs relating to open education are as follows:

“I am very encouraged by the potential of massive open online courses – short courses delivered online that can be taken by anyone, anywhere. Of course, we must ensure quality of provision, however, free resources such as these have great potential to provide pathways to formal learning and widen participation in higher education.

“That is why I have indicated to the Scottish Funding Council that, in supporting this new work, they should facilitate the best open practice in Scotland and enhance the sector’s capacity and reputation for developing publicly available online learning materials.

“It is a very exciting prospect that a student anywhere in the world can access materials presented by world-class academics working in world class Scottish universities.

Martin Hawksey has made a twitter archive of the event hashtag available here: #HEScot and all papers from the event have now been uploaded here: Seminar 3: The future of higher education in Scotland and the UK.

Norwegian Government MOOC Report and Digitization Programme

Norway MOOC reportEarlier this week the Nordic OER Alliance announced that the Norwegian Government has published its first governmental report on MOOCs and the role of OER: Norwegian MOOC report: Tilrår satsing på OER!

Although the report is in Norwegian, the recommendations have helpfully been translated into English by Tore Hoel, and are copied below. Even without being able to read the entire report, it’s very encouraging to see a national government recommending further investment in innovative pedagogies, teacher and learner support and infrastructure development for technology supported learning. Amongst other recommendations, the Committee has recommended the allocation of a 15 million NOK annual grant for “research-based knowledge development and transfer of knowledge related to learning analytics”. Perhaps more significantly the Committee has also recommended a further 10 million NOK to be allocated to “pursue further development of digital literacy among staff in the higher education sector”. Enlightened thinking indeed. Additional funding has also been recommended for education technology infrastructure development in general and MOOC infrastructure in particular. The report also covers accreditation and recognition, but does not recommend a radical overhall of the current system.

The publication of the Norwegian Government’s MOOC report, comes hot on the heels of reports in the tech press earlier this month that the National Library of Norway is planning to digitise all the books in its holdings within 15 years. While the essence of this story is true, the NLN is a legal deposit library, and it does have a policy to digitise its entire collection over the course of 20 – 30 years, the initiative has actually been running since 2006, but seems to have come to the attention of the US press only recently. That aside, it’s an admirable and ambitious initiative which, together with the Government MOOC report,  speaks volumes about Norway’s commitment to openness.

Resources

Nordic OER: http://nordicoer.org/
Government MOOC Report: http://khrono.no/sites/khrono.no/files/moocutvalget_delrapport_1_13122013.pdf
National Library of Norway – Digitization Policy: http://www.nb.no/English/The-Digital-Library/Digitizing-policy
National Library of Norway – What is being digitized?: http://www.nb.no/English/The-Digital-Library/What-is-being-digitized

Government MOOC Report Recommendations

Chap. 6.2 Innovative pedagogy and quality

The Committee recommends a systematic focus on research-based knowledge development about ICT and learning.

The Committee recommends the establishment of an environment for research-based knowledge development and transfer of knowledge related to learning analytics in 2015 with an annual grant of 15 million NOK. Structure and shape must be considered in relation to current participants and funding agencies.

The Committee believes that the higher education sector has limited use of incentives at the individual level associated with the development of teaching. This does not work stimulating and motivating to adopt new technologies and new forms of learning. The Committee therefore recommends that the operative environment in general and incentives for the educational area are reviewed, both at the individual, institutional and national level. These must be connected together and clearly have the same effect.

The Committee recommends that the allocation of funding to pursue further development of digital literacy among staff in the higher education sector. The Commission proposes to allocate NOK 10 million.

The Mooc Committee recommends that the ministry appointed committee to assess competencies outside the formal education system also considers expertise developed through Mooc deal with exams and credits.

Chap. 6.3 Infrastructure for Mooc and other digital learning

The Committee believes there is a need to continue and increase national spending on technology infrastructure. The Commission proposes to increase funding for further infrastructure development for online education in general with 10 million annually and 10 million annually to develop new infrastructure for Mooc deals specifically.

The Committee recommends that there be further assessed whether it is appropriate to have a common national Mooc portal or alternative solutions are better.

Chap. 6.4 Trade and labor market skills needs

The Committee recommends that business and industry sector uses Mooc and similar offerings in skill development of the employees.

There is appropriated 10 million to further education of teachers using Mooc and similar offers. The Committee recommends that there be an additional 10 million to develop and gain experience with the use of Mooc and similar offerings in continuing education within other relevant educational fields.

Chap. 6.5 Mooc that part of the Norwegian degree system: accreditation and recognition of Mooc deals

The Committee believes that Mooc not necessitate a change of the Norwegian regulations for accreditation and recognition of subjects and topics to be included in a degree system. Mooc exams and credits from both Norwegian and foreign institutions may naturally be part of this system as it is today.

The Committee recommends that institutions utilize the room for maneuver which lies in the administration of the rules for crediting of subjects and topics to be included in a degree system, by facilitating better and smoother practices across Norwegian institutions.

The Committee recommends an assessment of whether current practices are appropriate and what can be done to strengthen the institutions’ utilization of leeway inherent in the current rules for crediting of subjects and topics to be included in a degree system.

The Committee recommends trial of admission to Mooc offerings at Norwegian institutions for applicants who do not meet the traditional requirements for admission to higher education.

Chap. 06.06 Copayment and the principle of free higher education

The Committee believes that Mooc offerings in Norway in the first place should be free.

The Committee recommends that the Ministry is undertaking a review of the rules for personal payments to institutions opportunities to claim fees for parts of a group of participants will be made clear.

Chap. 6.7 Educational support

The Committee recommends that considered whether to grant educational support to learners in Mooc and similar offers with flexible workload and duration. With similar offerings means other forms of online promotions or offers that combine online and campus education.

The Committee believes that Mooc and similar offerings outside Norway and the EU / EEA area should be considered to provide the basis for educational support.

The committee believes that the assessments of changes in education funding scheme also must asses the impact on foreign students.

Chap. 6.8 Funding of higher education

The Committee recommends that the funding system should facilitate incentives or arrangements which support the cooperation between the institutions on the development and supply of Mooc and similar offers, such as flexible ways to share the benefit of credit production.

The Committee recommends considering the introduction of an incentive for education relevance in the funding system. Cooperation between educational institutions and actors in the labor sector on Mooc and similar offers can be an indicator of such relevance.

The Committee recommends that there be annual allocation within the strategic assets of the funding, to support the development of educational content and the development of technological infrastructure for Mooc and similar offers.