What can academic libraries do to improve OER support?

For the month of May 2020, Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) Sir Alex Ferguson Library are curating the Open Scotland blog. The topics GCU are presenting provide an insight into the work they do in supporting open practice, open education, and open educational resources.

In our fourth and final post, Senior Library Administrator Seth Thompson returns to present a summary of the findings of his MSc Information and Library Studies dissertation. Seth completed his postgraduate research at Robert Gordon University (RGU) in 2018. His work used a case study methodology to investigate academic library support of OER in Scotland.

Introduction and background

I began working in the library at GCU in January 2015. From a very early stage in my library career I became interested in the idea of open education and open educational resources (OER). I think this was probably because as I began working at GCU I was seeing and hearing about the library’s new edShare@GCU repository and the progress of the GCU OER policy project. As I attended the internal presentations and training sessions about these projects, I realised I had a genuine interest in open practice, the creation of resources that could facilitate future remixing and repurposing, and how these presented opportunities to further knowledge in a time-efficient and cost effective way. I completed my MSc in Information and Library Studies as a distance learner at RGU in 2018. Throughout my studies, openness, resource accessibility, licensing and OERs continued to be of great interest to me. In my final semester at RGU I decided that I could make Higher Education (HE) academic library support of OER in Scotland the topic of my dissertation.

The first step on my dissertation journey was to identify Scottish HE academic libraries that supported OER. I wanted to know if there were other academic libraries that supported OER outside of GCU, how they did this, and what made them want to support an open agenda. To this end, I conducted an environmental scan of all Scottish HE academic library webpages to find which university libraries actively mentioned support for OER. Purposive selection identified three potential cases, with each case providing detailed OER service webpages. I discovered two possible library cases: the Sir Alex Ferguson Library at GCU, and the University of Glasgow library (UoG). I also discovered that the University of Edinburgh (UoE) provided a specific OER support service, Open.Ed.

Stated briefly, the three institutions provide the following support:

The Sir Alex Ferguson Library provides practical support of the GCU OER policy, user support of edShare@GCU, and assistance to staff in resource creation, copyright, intellectual property rights, and licensing enquiries. Further information about our OER services can be found in my previous Open Scotland blog post, on our library website, and edShare@GCU webpages.

UoG provide the ‘EdShare at Glasgow’ repository and copyright, licensing, OER use and creation guidance and training.

Open.Ed support UoE’s OER vision and provide staff and students with advice, guidance and digital skills workshops on OER use and creation, copyright and open licensing, and engagement with open education.

After discussing with my supervisor, I decided that an exploratory multiple case study would be a suitable methodology to use. I used two data collection tools, semi-structured interviews (eight in total across cases) with librarians and staff responsible for OER support, and a thematic case document analysis. My interview questions and document analysis aimed to examine how the cases support OER, why cases wished to support OER, and identify any potential factors affecting each cases’ ability to support OER. At this point it is worth keeping in mind that due to the scale of the project and the use of a case study approach, the results of my research are not generalisable. Though the research may be of interest to libraries and librarians looking to develop strategies and services to support open practices.

Summary of my findings

Five broad themes were identified across cases:

  • Academic libraries and HEI department OER support
  • Institutional approaches to OER
  • Educators and OER
  • Approaches to OER service delivery
  • Copyright and licensing

Academic libraries and/or department OER support

There was strong consensus across cases that academic libraries and/or departments within HEIs should support OER. In line with good open practice, all cases highlighted a desire for co-creation in service delivery. Collaboration is identified as an enabling factor to library OER projects (Bueno-de-la-Fuente et al. 2012; Smith and Lee 2017), with OER seen as a catalyst for improved collaboration (McGill et al. 2013).

Each case displayed strong affinity with open practice and stated their reasons to support OER as including:

  • Supporting digital education
  • Showcasing educator teaching materials
  • Developing educator digital and information literacy skills
  • Supporting student learning through diversifying curriculums and cost reduction
  • To develop educator copyright and licensing knowledge to enhance teaching resources and protect institution copyright integrity

However, cases also highlighted tensions with educators and departments within OER projects and initiatives. This is concurrent with tension identified by McGill et al. (2015) when attempting to collectively develop OER.

Institutional approaches to OER

Each case identified differing levels of institutional support. Institutional OER approaches may incorporate funding, policy, senior and local management support and social culture, with each of these elements potentially impacting factors upon service success. Within HEIs institutional budgets may be key to OER funding and success (Mulder 2013; Barrett et al. 2009). Institutional conditions such as those found at Open.Ed, which included central funding, non-coercive policy, senior and departmental support, and high availability of educator and student support mechanisms, may assist in presenting an environment which is seen to motivate educator agency and OER decisions. Soft or flexible OER policies may gently encourage educator OER use (Nikoi and Armellini 2012; UNESCO 2011). Though policy may not singularly ensure sustainable OER practice (Cox and Trotter 2016), it may assist in clarifying issues of copyright, licensing and IP ownership (Gadd and Weedon 2017). Building an institutional OER culture may benefit from both student and staff involvement, as demonstrated at Open.Ed. Perceived conflicts between institutional support of research and institutional support of OER were suggested by participants at GCU and UoG. This is concurrent with Cox (2013). There is a lack of research discussing motivators to produce OER in relation to excellence frameworks such as the Research Excellence Framework (REF) or Teaching excellence Framework (TEF). A lack of external motivators, such as professional incentives or recognition for creating OER, may also be a barrier to OER services.

Educators and OER

Educators professional relationship with OER was identified as a major impacting factor upon case OER services. Identified issues included resource proprietary, fear of judgement and anxiety regarding resource quality. All case concerns are not dissimilar to issues previously identified (Cox 2013; Beggam 2010; Sefton 2010). The lack of OER awareness amongst educators at each case was comparable to de los Arcos et al. (2016). However, in drawing together Cox and Trotter (2016) and Anderson’s (2010) findings, presenting a collegiate institutional culture that values opportunities for educators to freely engage with OER and exhibit high levels of OER agency may assist in encouraging OER use. Interviewee responses at Open.Ed suggested that an open collegiate culture such as this may be present. GCU and UoG participants reflectively questioned whether their services offering addressed the pedagogical needs of educators. Educator use of OER services without the creation of OER in mind may present a gap in knowledge and literature, particularly in OER repository services. If the option to share materials as OER is present, why are educators not choosing to do so? This may present evidence concurrent with the findings of Cronin, who found that performing open practice is a complex, personal and contextual decision that is continually negotiated (2017). A key OER support consideration is that educator attitudes to sharing and borrowing may be deeply rooted in professional and individual feelings (Rolfe 2012).

Approaches to service delivery

Open.Ed, GCU and UoG concurred in identifying a need to develop educator OER awareness and knowledge to encourage use (Smith and Lee 2017; de los Arcos et al. 2016; Cox 2013; Murphy 2013). However, cases presented contrasting approaches to services. GCU and UoG focused on repository services. Open.Ed focused on skills training. Both GCU and UoG highlight a lack of staff time and resource as a factor impacting upon abilities to deliver training and advocacy services. Time is acknowledged as a barrier to librarian OER support (Smith and Lee 2017; Okamoto 2013). Open.Ed’s focus toward developing digital skills identifies with research that suggests developing technical skills may encourage OER use (Anderson 2010) and counteract potential for digital skills gaps (Jisc n.d.). Open.Ed expressed different feelings towards institutional OER repositories than library service cases GCU and UoG, with Open.Ed being more inclined to resources being shared on broader social platforms such as YouTube, Flickr etc. as they felt that this may be more accessible. There would appear to be benefits to sharing using institutional repositories (Atenas and Havemann 2014) and sharing online on social platforms (Rolfe 2016). However, institutional repository sustainability may be dependent on funding and institutional approaches to openness. Therefore, budgets may be key (Mulder 2013). As stated, GCU Interviewees reflectively considered if OER services have fulfilled educators’ pedagogical requirements, and if future services could have greater focus toward educators’ needs. This would appear to agree with Ferguson’s statement that for academic libraries to continue to take part in OER conversations, such as those regarding creation, storage, preservation and versioning, they must adapt to the needs of departments, staff and students (2017).

Copyright and licensing

GCU, Open.Ed and UoG all identified a lack of educator copyright and open licensing knowledge, thus concurring with previous open practice research (de los Arcos et al. 2016). Services provided by all cases attempt to increase copyright competency. Findings identified that cases experiencing copyright predominantly in three of the framed contexts described by Morrison and Secker: as a problem, a recognised entity, and as an opportunity (2017). However, all cases presented evidence to suggest their experiences of educator copyright interactions provided opportunities to develop knowledge and understanding. In concurrence with Kleemeyer et al. (2010), Borchard and Magnussen (2017), and Smith and Lee (2017), evidence presented may suggest that librarians and OER support staff interviewed possess copyright and licensing skills that could be an enabler in OER support. Furthermore, copyright discussions with educators at Open.Ed are considered to have facilitated conversations around accessibility, diversity, inclusion, approaches to diversifying curriculums, and student collaborations. Good copyright and licensing practice are required from the start of OER creation processes to mitigate against retrospect resource checking and ‘copyright debt’ and can increase ways materials can be used in the future.

What can libraries do to improve OER support?

The following section provides a summary of my recommendations for each of the themes that were identified across cases.

Academic libraries and HEI department OER support

As mentioned, there was strong consensus that academic libraries and/or departments within HEIs should support OER. Libraries looking to support OER should look to create OER themselves. This was identified at each case and may set an example to educators. Each case sought collaboration to improve their service delivery. Collaboration can enable OER projects, whilst OER is a catalyst for collaboration, therefore libraries may wish to utilise OER within co-creative projects in attempts to improve projects and enhance collaborations. A multitude of reasons for supporting OER are presented by cases. If libraries are considering supporting OER, it may be beneficial to state agreed missions, objectives, and goals to focus service scope as this may guard against tensions such as those identified by McGill et al. (2015).

Institutional approaches to OER

Libraries may wish to consider lobbying senior executives to deliver an OER support statement. This may include policy development or OER inclusion in support frameworks. Policy documents are available as OER (for example GCU, Open.Ed and University of Leeds) which can be adapted to suite needs. However, it may not be advisable to solely rely on policy as a driver for OER. Libraries should consider their institutional culture and if OER philosophies reflect their institutional mission and vision. Libraries may wish to consider encouraging educators to think about open practice, as supportive collegiate culture may foster an environment within which educators feel free to exhibit high levels of OER agency (Cox and Trotter 2016). Student engagement with OER may also enable the transformative potential of OER (UNESCO 2011). Engaging with the student voice may provide service development opportunities as evidenced at Open.Ed. Acknowledging OER created by educators through social websites may represent an opportunity to address barriers such as a lack of recognition (Jhangiani et al. 2016; Cox 2013; Alevizou 2012). Libraries could consider utilising networks within academic departments to highlight UNESCO (2011) recommendations to position OER within professional development objectives, as this may also address professional incentive barriers (Alevizou 2012).

Educators and OER

Natural sharing instincts may be complex (Cronin 2017; Rolfe 2012) and potentially not easily modified (Anderson 2010). However, moral standing may be influenced by cultural surroundings (Anderson 20120). Therefore, it is recommended libraries looking to support OER create environments that value open practice and social responsibility which may boost educator attitudes to sharing. Solutions proposed by GCU and Open.Ed to educate staff in CC licenses, whilst reinforcing that OER are adaptable resources, are recommended to address loss of control and fear of resource quality judgement. As previously stated, libraries should consider utilising academic department networks to highlight UNESCO (2011) recommendations of OER within professional development objectives. This may also present career enhancing opportunities as identified by Rolfe (2012) and Browne et al. (2010), which may encourage OER use. Further research is recommended to investigate if OER services meet the pedagogical needs of educators, and examine why educators may engage with OER services, particularly repositories, yet not release materials as OER.

Approaches to OER service delivery

If libraries are looking to support OER, developing services that advocate OER benefits (Weller et al. 2015; McGill et al. 2013) and enhance educator knowledge, understanding and digital skills relating to OER and associated concepts such as copyright and CC licensing may be key to success. Academic libraries should also consider both institutional repositories and online social platform hosting. However, consultation with educators to establish OER related needs is critical to ensuring service developments reflect institutional and educator pedagogical needs.

Copyright and licensing

From case findings, facilitating copyright and licensing understanding amongst educators may be an ongoing task which requires continual support. Librarians may require training to support educators’ OER needs relating to copyright and licensing. Copyright and licensing service offerings should aim to empower staff with knowledge to guard against possible future ‘copyright debt’ and retrospective OER copyright and license checking.

In closing, and how to contact us

Under the guidance of my dissertation supervisor, an article version of my research which focuses on the two library cases is available from both the RGU and GCU research repositories. I also presented a poster about the case study findings of my dissertation at OER19 under the theme ‘Back to basics – Asking difficult questions about Open Education’.

If you would like to get in touch about anything mentioned in my blog or any our previous posts this month, please feel free to contact us edshare@gcu.ac.uk or me personally on Twitter. Finally, and on behalf of the Sir Alex Ferguson Library, I would like to say thank you to Open Scotland and the Open Scotland blog team for providing us with the opportunity to guest curate the blog during May 2020. It has been a really enjoyable experience for everyone involved at GCU, and during the current Covid-19 crisis has provided a welcome and fulfilling opportunity for creative output.

Seth Thompson

@sthom_23

References

ALEVIZOU, P., 2012. Open to interpretation? productive frameworks for understanding audience engagement with OER. In: Cambridge 2012: Innovation and Impact – Openly Collaborating to Enhance Education, a Joint Meeting of OER12 and OpenCourseWare Consortium Global 2012. Cambridge, 16-18 April 2012. [online]. Available at: http://oro.open.ac.uk/33452/ [Accessed 17 December 2017].

ATHENAS, J. and HAVEMANN, L., 2014. Questions of quality in repositories of open educational resources: a literature review. Research in Learning Technology, 22(1), 20889.

ANDERSON, M.H., 2010. To share or not to share: is that the question? EDUCAUSE Review, 45(4), pp. 40-49.

BARRETT, B., GROVER, V., JANOWSKI T., VAN LAVIERENA, H., OJOA, A. and SCHMIDTA, P., 2009. Challenges in the adoption and use of OpenCourseWare: Experience of the United Nations University. Open Learning, 24(1), pp. 31-38.

BEGGAN, A., 2010. Opening Up: staff attitudes to open learning. [PowerPoint presentation]. OCW Consortium Global, Hanoi, Vietnam. Available from: https://www.slideshare.net/AndyBeggan/opening-up-staff-attitudes-to-open-learning [Accessed 16 September 2018].

BORCHARD, L. and MAGNUSON, L., 2017. Library leadership in open educational resource adoption and affordable learning initiatives. Urban Library Journal, 23(1), Article 1.

BUENO-DE-LA-FUENTE G., ROBERTSON, R.J. and BOON, S., 2012. The roles of libraries and information professionals in Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives: survey report. JISC Cetis.

COX, G., 2013. Researching resistance to open education resource contribution: an activity theory approach. E-Learning and Digital Media, 10(2), pp. 148-159.

COX, G. and TROTTER, H., 2016. Institutional culture and OER policy: how structure, culture, and agency mediate OER policy potential in South African universities. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17(5), pp. 147-164.

CRONIN, C., 2017. Openness and Praxis: Exploring the Use of Open Educational Practices in Higher Education. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(5), pp. 15-34.

DE LOS ARCOS, B., CANNELL, P. and MCILLWHAN, R., 2016. Awareness of open educational resources (OER) and open educational practice (OEP) in Scottish higher education institutions: survey results: interim report. Edinburgh: Opening Educational Practices in Scotland.

FERGUSON, C.L., 2017. Open educational resources and institutional repositories. Serials Review, 43(1), pp. 34-38.

GADD, G. and WEEDON, R., 2017. Copyright ownership of e-learning and teaching materials: policy approaches taken by UK universities. Education and Information Technologies, 22(6), pp. 3231-3250.

JHANGIANI, R., PITT, R., HENDRICKS, C., KEY, J., and LALONDE, C., 2016. Exploring faculty use of open educational resources at British Columbia post-secondary institutions. BCcampus research report. [online]. Victoria, BC: BCcampus. Available from: https://bccampus.ca/files/2016/01/BCFacultyUseOfOER_final.pdf [Accessed 6 January 2017].

KLEEMEYER, P., KLEINMAN, M. and HANSS, T. 2010. Reaching the heart of the university: libraries and the future of OER. In: Open ED 2010 Proceedings. Barcelona, 2-4 November 2010, UOC, OU, BYU, pp. 241-250.

MCGILL, L., FALCONER, I., DEMPSTER, J.A., LITTLEJOHN, A. and BEETHAM, H., 2013. Journeys to open educational practice:  UKOER/SCORE review final report. [online]. JISC. Available from: https://oersynth.pbworks.com/w/page/60338879/HEFCE-OER-Review-Final-Report [Accessed 5 January 2017].

MORRISON, C.M and SECKER, J., 2017. Understanding librarians’ experiences of copyright: findings from a phenomenographic study of UK information professionals. Library Management, 38(6/7), pp. 354-368.

MULDER, F., 2013. The LOGIC of national policies and strategies for open educational resources. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 14(2), pp. 97-105.

MURPHY, A., 2013. Open educational practices in higher education: institutional adoption and challenges. Distance Education, 34(2), pp. 201-217.

NIKOI, S. and ARMELLINI, A., 2012. The OER mix in higher education: purpose, process, product, and policy. Distance Education, 33(2), pp. 37-41.

OKAMOTO, K., 2013. Making higher education more affordable, one course reading at a time: academic libraries as key advocates for open access textbooks and educational resources. Public Services Quarterly, 9(4), pp. 267-283.

ROLFE, V., 2012. Open educational resources: staff attitudes and awareness. Research in Learning Technology, 20(1), 14395.

ROLFE, V., 2016. Web strategies for the curation and discovery of open educational resources. Open Praxis, 8(4), pp. 297-312.

SEFTON, P., 2010. My Fave Two Reasons not to Release OpenCourseware. [online]. 12 August 2010. Available from: http://ptsefton.com/2010/08/12/my-fave-two-reasons-not-to-release-opencourseware.htm [Accessed 16 September 2018].

SMITH, B. and LEE, L., 2017. Librarians and OER: cultivating a community of practice to be more effective advocates. Journal of Library and Information Services in Distance Learning, 11(1-2), pp.106-122.

UNESCO, 2011. Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education. Paris: UNESCO and Commonwealth of Learning.

WELLER, M., DE LOS ARCOS, B., FARROW, R., PITT, B. and MCANDREW, P., 2015. The impact of OER on teaching and learning practice. Open Praxis, 7(4), pp. 351-361.

YIN, R.K., 2018. Case study research and applications: design and methods. 6th ed. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

We created an OER – The GCU Copyright Advisor

For the month of May 2020, Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) Sir Alex Ferguson Library are curating the Open Scotland blog. The topics GCU are presenting provide an insight into the work they do in supporting open practice, open education, and open educational resources. 

In this post, Resource Librarian (Systems) Nicky Stewart of the library’s Collections and Discovery team discusses the development of GCU’s very own OER – The GCU Copyright Advisor – and what the future might hold for it.

The image is a comic by Marion Kelt which succinctly illustrates the process of developing the Copyright Advisor in 11 colourful panels

The image above is a comic by Marion Kelt which succinctly illustrates the process of developing the Copyright Advisor in 11 colourful panels. Copyright Comics: the UK Online Copyright Advisor by Marion Kelt, licensed under CC BY 4.0

Introduction

How do you get people to engage with copyright legislation?

How do you get them to apply it correctly?

Here at GCU we asked ourselves these very questions back in 2014. And the solution, we decided, was to make it easier for people to do these things. From that realisation was born our first open educational resource (OER): the GCU Copyright Advisor.

Background

In 2014, the Digital Development team within GCU Library was given responsibility for providing copyright advice to members of the university community. This followed major changes to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 that same year. The team provided a copyright advisory service via a team mailbox, finding many of the queries were simple and often repeated from different sources. As the team worked to merge with the Resource Management team​ in 2015 to form the Collections and Discovery team, a project was devised to empower users to make informed decisions about copyright and resolve routine copyright queries by themselves.

Copyright Advisor 1.0

To do this we needed a tool that would allow users to find solutions to their copyright queries with minimal effort, something they could use online whenever the need arose. The team’s belief in open education guided them towards creating the tool with reusability at its heart. This meant producing something with a relatively simple design using non-proprietary software that could be easily updated to reflect future changes in copyright legislation. Additionally, the tool should be something we could publish as an OER, providing the means for others to remix and repurpose for their needs.

The Copyright Advisor project group was assembled in 2016 to develop content for the Copyright Advisor. The team decided that the advisor would provide advice on the formats we most frequently received queries about: audio recordings, book chapters, computer code, images, journal articles, maps, and videos. Over the course of many meetings the group designed decision tree diagrams that led the user through various questions regarding their resource and their intended use, with the result being appropriate advice based on their particular requirements. Once the content was complete, Marion Kelt transformed our diagrams into a usable tool using iSpring software. The following link shows an early version of the Copyright Advisor.

Improving the Copyright Advisor with SLIC funding

Despite the success of the original Copyright Advisor, there were several flaws with the service:

  • The iSpring design was not particularly easy to navigate or visually appealing
  • The tool was neither HTML5 nor mobile responsive
  • While iSpring was free to use, the tool had been built using proprietary software

The project team saw possibilities for improving on their creation. However, to realise our vision we knew we would need to employ the skills of a designer and/or developer, and to do that we would need money. It was at this time we became aware of a potential funding opportunity from the Scottish Library & Information Council (SLIC) through their Innovation Grant fund. We put together a funding bid based on the terms of reference for our project, articulating our vision for the improved Copyright Advisor.

Objectives

  • HTML5, mobile responsive OER​
  • File formats easily updated and maintained by the GCU Copyright team
  • Not tied to any proprietary software​
  • Shared under a Creative Commons licence(CC-BY​)
  • Visually appealing and easy to navigate​

Target audience​

  • UK education community, including academics, students, and support staff​

Overall style

  • Professional, friendly and positive

We were delighted when our funding bid was accepted and SLIC awarded the £6,000 that would allow us to take the project forward. We immediately set to work liaising with our university Procurement and Information Compliance teams on the production of a short-term service contract​ for use with the selected designer/developer, before posting the opportunity to work with us on Creative Scotland Opportunities Tool. The post garnered attention from several designers, but having been aware of the great work they had produced for other copyright related projects, we were pleased to award Worth Knowing the contract following an interview conducted over Skype.

Following our design brief, Worth Knowing provided some early prototypes which helped us get a sense of the improved usability we would see in the final product, delivered by the new content management system underpinning the tool produced using Markdown coding language. The prototypes were followed by many discussions around design options, focusing on topics such as accessibility and legibility​, media format icons​ and colour schemes​.

With the designs finalised and prepared by Worth Knowing​, the files were uploaded to our GitHub account​ along with an explanation of the content management system​ and instructions on how to populate the content. Marion then set to work learning Markdown using online tutorials and trial and error. Once the tool had been populated there was time for a final proofread by the Copyright Advisor project team before launching on our educational repository edShare​ along with all files and instructions on how to reuse.

Promotion and reception of the improved Copyright Advisor

Marion took to the road promoting the redesigned Copyright Advisor at conferences both home and abroad, including:

  • Open Educational Resources (OER) 2017​
  • Icepops (European Conference on Information Literacy) 2017​
  • CILIP ARLG-SW DARTS Conference 2018​
  • OER 2019​
  • CILIPS Copyright Event 2019

It was also our great honour to be the recipient of the George Pitcher Award 2017​ for the Copyright Advisor.

Image of Marion Kelt accepting the George Pitcher Award 2017 for the Copyright Advisor

Marion Kelt accepting the George Pitcher Award 2017 for the Copyright Advisor

We’ve been able to follow the use of the advisor in its various iterations through analytics from edShare. Below you can see the number of page hits and file downloads as of 14th May 2020:

  • Version 1​
    • Launched October 2017
    • 338 downloads​
    • 151 hits​
  • Version 2​
    • Launched March 2018
    • 2658 downloads​
    • 168 hits​
  • Version 3​
    • Launched January 2019
    • 1438 downloads​
    • 168 hits​

Future developments

Prior to her untimely passing, Marion was working with a number of groups who were interested in remixing the Copyright Advisor for their own purposes, and we hope that we’ll see take up by other institutions in the future.

However, the potential of the advisor is not limited to the field of copyright, as the format of the advisor will work with any decision tree type process​. To that end, the library has identified two new projects where the advisor will be redeveloped to meet completely different needs. At present we are working with the university’s Research and Innovation Office and School of Professional Services to produce an advisory tool for principal investigators to correctly complete research application details into our research information system (Pure). And in the future we are looking to repurpose the advisor to produce an eresource access troubleshooter which can be used by both staff and students.

We’ll also be keeping an eye out for any changes to UK copyright legislation to ensure the Copyright Advisor is always up to date.

Nicky Stewart

edShare: GCU’s Educational Resources Repository

For the month of May 2020, Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) Sir Alex Ferguson Library are curating the Open Scotland blog. The topics GCU are presenting provide an insight into the work they do in supporting open practice, open education, and open educational resources.

In our second post Toby Hanning, the library’s Research Information and Systems Manager, provides some background on the development of edShare (GCU’s educational resources repository), describes the challenges involved in implementing and managing the service, and asks what the future holds for open education at GCU.

edShare@GCU is Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) educational resources repository. Its origins can be traced back to the Spoken Word project (2003-2008), led by GCU in collaboration with the BBC and two US institutions, Northwestern University and Michigan State University. The project made multimedia resources from the BBC archives and other sources available for educational use in the UK, US and EU. When the project was mothballed all BBC content was withdrawn but what remained was a lot of multimedia resources created by staff at GCU. Many staff continued to create resources even after the project ended and were keen to still share these widely with colleagues across the globe. By 2013 demand for the service was such that support for open education was enshrined in the University’s Strategy for Learning, a document which would shape the development of learning, teaching and assessment across the institution until 2020.

Following extensive consultation with staff, a successful business case to fund the development of a new repository, and the formalisation of the University’s open educational resources (OER) policy, edShare@GCU was launched in autumn 2016.

What is edShare?

edShare is built using an educational resources flavour of the open source repository software Eprints. There is a small but growing community of edShare users in the UK with repositories at the University of Southampton, Edgehill University and most recently the University of Glasgow.

edShare@GCU is a repository primarily for the GCU community which allows educational resources to be securely stored in a central location and shared with staff and students at GCU, or published as OERs. All teaching, research and support staff can deposit resources, whilst students are granted “read” access; they can view content but cannot upload resources themselves. The repository accepts all permanent educational resources, defined as resources which can be retained in perpetuity and are not subject to a retention schedule.

Alongside edShare sits a service run by the Collections and Discovery team in the library. As well as managing the system this service offers users training on depositing resources and runs OER advocacy sessions. There is no formal review process for resources uploaded to edShare so the service also provides formal advice on copyright, licensing and intellectual property rights (IPR) to members of the GCU community, ensuring users have the knowledge and skills to create and upload copyright compliant resources. The service can also assist with technical queries relating to the creation of OERs, and accessibility queries.

As part of GCU’s common good mission edShare also hosts OERs free of charge for a small number of external organisations including the Glasgow Centre for Population Health and the Gathering the Voices Project. If you represent a not-for-profit organisation and are interested in having your OERs hosted on edShare then please contact us.

Is edShare well used?

Whilst we encourage our teaching staff to create dedicated OERs or even MOOCs, we realise that this can be a labour-intensive endeavour and that many well intentioned staff simply don’t have the time to create these resources. As a result we have taken the approach of encouraging staff to share their everyday learning and teaching resources via edShare and to licence them openly for reuse. This approach significantly reduces the barriers to deposit and as a result edShare currently hosts over four thousand resources, over half of which are OERs.

At the time of writing resources in edShare have been downloaded or viewed over 600,000 times since August 2017. Popular teaching resources include a wide range of lecture videos, interactive HTML resources and software tutorials. Support resources are also very popular, such as the library’s referencing guide, programme handbooks and an interactive ICT induction resource for new students.

Challenges

We have encountered a number of challenges implementing edShare and our associated OER services. Foremost was the challenge of managing educational resources in a repository environment traditional used for static, permanent resources such as research outputs or theses. By definition educational resources are not definitive; they are regularly reviewed and updated over time with new versions created regularly. For this reason edShare has in-built version control. When used correctly users are pushed to the latest version of a resource automatically but can choose to browse previous versions should they wish to do so. Internal policies have been developed over time to manage the various issues that can arise when managing educational resources. For example occasionally resources will be updated to reflect new standards in a particular field and older versions need to be removed. This is one of the few instances where resources will be deleted from edShare, with tombstone citations left in place to prevent broken links. Equally we have learnt over time that whilst edShare supports version control it is not intuitive to use and our key takeaway here has been to include information on versioning in our training sessions and online material.

Another challenge we have faced is how to ensure copyright compliance and good practice without a formal review process. The idea of implementing a review process for resources before publishing them was discussed in depth prior to launching the service, but it was agreed that the difficulty of assessing individual pieces of content in a resource would not only be overly onerous but also impractical. After all an image used in a lecture may appear to be proprietary but could in fact be openly licenced or have been purchased by the creator. Reviewing resources would require an in-depth dialogue with the creator of each resource about how and where they sourced content, and we felt that time could be better spent empowering staff to create copyright compliant resources and showing them how to find and reuse openly licenced content. As a result we offer face-to-face copyright training sessions as well as online materials. We also encourage a self-policing policy whereby if anyone has concerns about a deposited resource they can contact the team who will investigate further and liaise with the creator to resolve any issues. This policy is backed up by a robust takedown policy. To date this overall strategy has been successful; staff have the opportunity to upskill and learn good practice in relation to copyright and licensing, whilst barriers to deposit are reduced as resources are published immediately upon deposit.

The final challenge we have faced is how to encourage staff to publish their resources as OERs when we offer them the opportunity to restrict access. In edShare depositors have the choice to publish their resources openly, with all members of the GCU community, with only GCU staff, or to a select group of individual users. We have found that for many staff the idea of sharing their resources, and the potential scrutiny which comes with that, was a significant barrier to publishing resources as OERs. To combat this we have worked hard to advocate the benefits of open education across the GCU community and to emphasise that scrutiny in particular can be a positive when it comes to increasing the quality of resources. We also took the decision to set the default publishing mode for resources in edShare to “open”, making restricting access an active decision rather than a passive one.

What does the future hold for edShare?

Sustainability of our service is at the forefront of our long term thinking. Technical developments such as migrating the system to a scalable cloud-hosted solution are attainable but require some additional financial investment. An upgrade to the system software is also on the horizon, bringing an improved design and a responsive template for the repository, as well as improved statistical reporting.

The current situation with Covid-19 has precipitated an enforced move to online teaching for most Universities and in this respect GCU is no different. The last two months has seen a significant increase in the number of new users depositing resources in edShare, resulting in increased demand for the services we offer. A silver lining to the pandemic perhaps, but with more users comes the requirement for more resource to undertake training and advocacy, and to deal with copyright and licensing queries. Of course we are competing for finite resource, and often we are competing with ourselves. At GCU we have a small team who manage all the library systems including our library management platform (Alma), our discovery system (Primo), and our research information system (Pure), as well as edShare and a number of smaller systems. What should take precedence for the team in the next year: scaling up our OER services to meet new demand, supporting the hurried move to online learning, managing the institution’s REF submission, or implementing new research data management and digital preservation systems which will offer new functionality and opportunities for our staff and students? All institutions will be having similarly difficult conversations at this time but in reality supporting teaching and research will always be our priority. To this end planned developments for our OER services may have to wait until we have assessed our priorities in a post-pandemic world. Undoubtedly this is disappointing but perhaps not surprising given the uncertain landscape we find ourselves facing and the inevitable financial constraints which will follow.

However there is a positive note on which to end this post. In many respects edShare and our OER services have been built to be self-sustainable and it has been heartening to see the manner in which our team have adapted so quickly to a new way of working. We have guidance and tools in place which enable users to deposit resources without any formal training, including the GCU UK Copyright Advisor tool, which will be the feature of our next blog post. In essence this means staff have all the tools and knowledge at their disposal to continue to create OERs or openly license their everyday learning and teaching materials. Regardless of resourcing or financial constraints open education can and will continue to persist. With parents around the world home schooling their children and students studying remotely, open education is perhaps more relevant now than it ever has been in the past.

Toby Hanning

If you have any questions about edShare or our associated OER services please email edShare@gcu.ac.uk

Supporting open practice at the Sir Alex Ferguson Library, Glasgow Caledonian University

For the month of May 2020, Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) Sir Alex Ferguson Library are curating the Open Scotland blog. The topics GCU are presenting provide an insight into the work they do in supporting open practice, open education, and open educational resources.

In this first post, Senior Library Administrator Seth Thompson of the library’s Collections and Discovery team provides a brief and recent history of how GCU came to support open education, with an overview of some of the areas in which the library provides this support.

The Sir Alex Ferguson Library is situated in the heart of GCU’s Glasgow campus. GCU is committed to the social mission to promote the common good. A major aim of this is to widen access to higher education for individuals regardless of their backgrounds, and to leverage the institution’s intellectual and social capital for the benefit of GCU and wider communities served both in Scotland and internationally.

In line with supporting GCU and wider communities, and as part of our commitment to the common good, the library aims to provide welcoming, friendly, helpful, accessible and open physical and digital environments for our students, staff and members of the public to use. As well as the services we offer to GCU students and staff, we have an ‘open door’ policy, meaning anyone can use our physical library space as a study area. We also offer a free community membership, meaning members of the public can gain borrowing rights to library resources. Additionally, our webpages highlight and promote openly accessible databases, journal sites, textbooks, and resources that may be of interest to our students, staff, community members and wider publics. Our open educational practices also include support for GCU’s open access policy and open access repository.

In 2016 the library implemented edShare@GCU. edShare is GCU’s learning and teaching resource repository. As part of our library strategy, we encourage the GCU community to submit educational resources to edShare as Open Educational Resources (OERs) for use, repurposing, and development worldwide. edShare is designed around the key themes of storing, sharing and preserving educational resources. The repository accepts permanent resources created by GCU staff and also provides a point of contact for resource creation, copyright, intellectual property rights, and licensing enquiries, advice and training. Our second blog post of the month will be an in-depth piece about the edShare development project, how the repository is used by staff, students and the wider public, the challenges associated with its use, and what is next for edShare@GCU.

To support the submission of educational resources as OER, and in conjunction with the development of the edShare@GCU repository, the library also led on the creation of GCU’s OER Policy. Our policy provides support and clear guidance to GCU staff wishing to create OER. The policy is based on the University of Leeds’s guidance on the use and publication of OER. The University of Leeds policy is licensed under a Creative Commons license, which facilitated our reuse and modification of the original work. Our policy, the original Leeds policy, and an additional policy from the University of Greenwich, have then gone on to be reused and adapted by the University of Edinburgh in the development of their own OER policy. Some might say this is a fine example of open practice and OER in action!

A driving force behind the development of GCU’s OER policy was our colleague Marion Kelt. Marion is sadly no longer with us and is greatly missed by all at GCU. Marion was a strong advocate for open education and well known within open education communities in Scotland and beyond. I know she would have been very pleased and enthusiastic in her support of our guest curation of the Open Scotland blog. If you would like to learn more about the trials and tribulations of creating an OER policy, Marion has written pieces on this for both the Open Educational Practices in Scotland project (OEPS) and WONKHE. Marion’s work has been instrumental in developing our library’s approaches to open education and the services we provide.

Image of Marion Kelt at OER18 in Bristol

Marion at OER18 in Bristol, by @sthom_23

Marion was also a key figure in the development of the subject of what will be our third blog post of the month, the GCU UK Copyright Advisor. The GCU UK Copyright Advisor is an online tool developed to assist with frequently asked copyright queries. It provides basic UK copyright guidance on seven types of resources: audio files, book chapters, computer code, images, journal articles, maps and video files. The Copyright Advisor is openly available for anyone to use, and the code is openly licensed so any person or organisation can adapt and modify the resource to suit their needs. We are always interested to hear from anyone who might like to use the Copyright Advisor for their own project, so if this is you please feel free to contact us at edshare@gcu.ac.uk. Our third blog will provide greater insight into the steps involved in the Copyright Advisor’s creation, the challenges we encountered during development, it’s many versions and iterations, the reception it has received, and what is next for the GCU UK Copyright Advisor.

Our fourth and final blog will look at wider academic library support of OER in Scotland. I looked into this topic in 2018 as the focus of my dissertation for an MSc Information and Library Studies from Robert Gordon University. I also presented a poster about the case study findings of my dissertation at OER19 under the theme ‘Back to basics – Asking difficult questions about Open Education’. In this post we will look at the institutions who participated in my case studies and discuss some of their motivations for adopting support for OER, whose interests they felt were served by their approaches, and who they felt they were actually open for. I will also present some participant reflections on their approaches to open practices and the services they provide that support the open agenda, and how they feel they might be able to develop and enhance their service offerings moving forward.

I hope this introductory blog has given you a flavour of what we have planned for the month ahead. If you would like to contact the Sir Alex Ferguson Library regarding any of our planned blog topics, or anything open education related, please feel free to contact at edShare@gcu.ac.uk. You can also keep up to date with the more general ‘goings on’ from the library on Twitter @SAFLibraryGCU, via Instagram, or on Facebook.

Seth Thompson

@sthom_23

Openness and COVID-19

Back in October 2019 when I signed up to contribute a post to the Open Scotland blog, I chose April 2020 as ‘my month’ rather arbitrarily. Back then, I certainly did not foresee the current state of global affairs or the impact a global pandemic would be having on education and society beyond.

In just a few weeks, campus closures and remote working/learning have become the new norm for many. As a result, diverse communities of staff in universities and colleges are being forced to learn together (and no doubt painfully in some cases) how to confront serious existential challenges such as maintaining teaching and research activity during this period of upheaval.

Fundamentally, the COVID-19 pandemic is an awesome reminder of the interconnectedness of individuals, communities, social institutions and of our fragile relationship with the planet itself. It may seem trivial to look for positives in a global health crisis that is claiming thousands of lives each day. However, there is evidence that a spirit of cooperation and reciprocity is being rekindled at all levels of society. Within this context, the principles of open educational and the work of groups like Open Scotland are arguably more important, and more relevant, now than ever before. Open principles have already played key roles in assisting higher and further education institutions to respond to COVID-19.

When faced with the considerable challenge of digitalising teaching, assessment and feedback activities, for example, many turned to Open Educational Resources (OER) in the form of books, journal articles, wikis and blogs for inspiration, support and guidance. Moreover, many have drawn heavily on OER to populate these newly-digitalised modules. This is certainly the case for the module and programme design teams that my colleagues and I support at Strathclyde. Open Data and Open Hardware Projects (including, for example, the sharing of blueprints for emergency ventilators) have also formed part of the research and public health response, which many educational institutions are contributing to admirably.

Furthermore, statements such as the following words of Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Chair of the Russell Group on 27th March 2020, are being echoed by senior colleagues across the world:

“Now more than ever it is crucial that the higher education sector works together and harnesses our resources in support of the national response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

On March 20th 2020, an earlier JISC statement on access to content praised a number of providers of digital content and software for their implementation of open educational principles:

“[We] have seen publishers, aggregators and suppliers of digital content and software come forward in offering a range of solutions to help institutions maintain their teaching and research activity during this time of crisis […] providing open access to research in support of coronavirus/COVID-19 and putting in place access options that remove limitations on use and users.”

It is likely that, when the dust settles, many in higher and further education will owe a considerable debt of gratitude to those who have championed open education for many years, even if they may remain unacquainted with the wider project. Yet, despite the role played by OER in recent weeks, questions remain about the receptivity of the ‘warp and weft’ of the academic community to participate fully in open educational practices, both now and beyond the current COVID-19 crisis. Many of the concerns introduced in relation to notions of care, and the questions of privilege, justice, equity, power and sustainability that were introduced during the OER20 Conference, will demand attention long into the future.

Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr once wrote ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’ (the more things change the more they remain the same), and it will be interesting to observe how the spring of 2020 is remembered. As a decisive moment when a critical mass of educators and leaders in HE finally saw themselves as co-creators of an open society? Or as a period when many successfully leveraged others’ openness to their advantage?

As a member of this community, however, I believe that there are many reasons to be hopeful. The swift and widescale adoption of models of remote, distributed and online learning – however imperfect – mean that more and more academic staff are being forced to operate in an environment in which openness thrives naturally; the Web. Moreover, those who promote open education are also likely to be playing key roles in providing formal and informal peer support to colleagues who are at an earlier stage of their digital journey in teaching, research and knowledge exchange. In our actions and in our words, we can inculcate the idea that an open sharing of practice and resource is as much a part of online practice as, say, discussion forums and Trello boards.

If remote, distributed and online working and learning are indeed the ‘new norm’, let’s be upfront with our colleagues about the value of open educational principles in enabling FE and HEIs to perform what history is likely to record as one of the most significant and rapid transformations the education sector has ever witnessed since the turn of the year. Let’s encourage them to learn more about open education, and to participate in open practices, and to share our knowledge, experience, tools and resources for the benefit of all.

 

Dr Sean Afnán Morrissey (sean.morrissey@strath.ac.uk) is an Academic Developer at the University of Strathclyde. His current interests include technology-enhanced teaching, learning, assessment and feedback, peer-support networks, and inclusive approaches to module design. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a Certified Member of the Association of Learning Technology.

Sean and his colleagues in the Organisational and Staff Development Unit have curated a bank of resources to support staff with the transition to remote and online working, including opportunities for training, resources and online support. A copy of the list can be accessed here: Curated Resource Bank.

Openness, Precarity and Equity

As part of Open Education Week, the ALT Open Education SIG and Femedtech facilitated an asynchronous event Open Policy – Who cares?  The organisers invited provocations from members of the open education community in the form of Flipgrid videos and writings on femedtech.net. This Open Scotland contribution was written by Lorna M. Campbell. 


I’ve worked in the domain of open education for over ten years now and I passionately believe that publicly funded educational resources should be freely and openly available to the public.  In fact this is one of the founding principles of the Scottish Open Education Declaration.  When we talk about open policy the focus tends to be on “open” and “free”, however I think what is critical here is “funding”, because as we all know, open does not mean free. If we want to support the creation of open knowledge and publicly funded open education resources, then the education sector has to be supported by adequate funding and, perhaps more importantly, by equitable working conditions.  And this is where problems start to arise; at a time when casualisation is endemic in the UK higher education sector, too many colleagues are employed on exploitative precarious contracts.  This is why we are currently in a period of sustained industrial action that is protesting universities’ failure to make significant improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.  If you are a teaching assistant employed on a fixed hourly rate that doesn’t even begin to cover the preparation time for creating your teaching resources and lecturing materials, it’s hard to make the case, ethically and morally, that you should release your resources under open license, because you’re effectively giving your labour away for free, and very few marginalised workers have the privilege to be able to do that. So while I still believe that we do need more policy around open education, and that we have an ethical responsibility to make publicly funded educational resources available to all, we also need equitable working conditions that will enable us all to contribute to the shared knowledge commons.

Openness in the age of surveillance

Recently the topic of ‘openness in the age of surveillance’ has appeared in my life in multiple ways which I thought I’d share. Before I do a quick introduction, I’m Martin Hawksey and I work for the Association for Learning Technology, an independent membership organization which is focused on increasing the impact of learning technology for public benefit. Our funding comes from our membership services and events which means we have an independent voice. We use this voice to inform policy, practice and professionalisation of learning technology. The types of activities we are involved in around the theme of surveillance include co-ordinating the ALT Members response to the UK Government Technology and Data Ethics Inquiry, a webinar series around GDPR, as well as involvement in the ‘After Surveillance’ and Human-Data Interaction networks. ALT has also for a number of years supported the OER Conference, which this year includes the theme ‘Openness in the age of surveillance’.

This year’s conference theme has got me thinking about surveillance in education and open educational practices, but my interest in this area actually goes back further. For those that know me and my work they’ll know for the last 10 years or so I’ve been developing and distributing a free solution for people to archive data from Twitter in Google Sheets (TAGS). My journey with TAGS started with wanting to share a way for people to easily collect data from hashtag communities, mainly around events and conferences, but increasingly I’m aware like all technology this solution isn’t neutral and whilst I’ve a long list of positive uses of TAGS, I’m also aware this could be a tool to track and surveil individuals and communities.

The lack of control and ownership we have on the internet is really worrying. An example I highlighted in a talk at Domains19 in ‘Minority Report – One Nation Under CCTV’, which I also revisited for a Wikimedia DE event, was the news that Flickr had supplied IBM with over 100 million Creative Commons images so that IBM could train their facial recognition service. As Creative Commons were quick to highlight that this wasn’t related to how the images were licensed, in summary:

Whilst it’s true the dataset used by IBM were CC licensed this is a mute point. Even if these photos had a traditional copyright licence ‘fair use’ would have allowed IBM to data mine your photos without requiring any permission from you first. … did you ever give Google or any other search engine permission to index images associated with your name

Google Indexed Search Results

Surveillance in education feels unavoidable, for example, as soon as you record a students grade you are observing and recording an individual’s performance, but I heartened by the work of the community who are providing a critical eye as well as helping us to not fall into the hands of big brother. If this also interests you OER20 is a great opportunity to find out more about ‘openness in the age of surveillance’. 

There are, at the time of writing, tickets available if you’d like to join us on the 1-2 April in London, but we are also live streaming a number of sessions that might be of interest. OER20 actually kicks off with a keynote from sava saheli singh who “conceptualized, co-created, and co-produced “Screening Surveillance” – a knowledge translation program for the Big Data Surveillance project”. After sava we are live streaming three related sessions from the parallel programme:

On day two of the OER20 programme we’ll also be live streaming:

For those attending OER20 in person there are also some other sessions you can click through to find more information about:

Hopefully you’ll be able to engage with OER20 either in person or online via the live streaming and the #OER20 hashtag, but if not I welcome your comments on what ‘Openness in the age of surveillance’ means to you.

Open for Access

It’s approaching the end of the month and my curation of the Open Scotland account. There’s so much I planned to write but find myself running out of time. Before I go, let’s return to the Scottish Open Education Declaration. The declaration recognised the potential of open education to “expand access to education, widen participation, create new opportunities for the next generation of teachers and learners and prepare them to become fully engaged digital citizens”. This is where I see my own open practice situated so let me tell you a little about how I use OER in widening access.

The Open University has an open admissions policy, which means students don’t need to have prior educational qualifications to study for a degree with us. This was pretty radical in 1969 and I’d argue still a powerful counter to prevailing neoliberal narratives about ‘standards’. Our university is explicit about its social justice mission to make education accessible to all. To help fulfil this, we make a percentage of all our content available for free on OpenLearn. OpenLearn allows us to engage with learners who may be very distant from higher education. It means we can begin where they are at, with the subject that interests them, at the level they are ready to learn and at their own pace. But OpenLearn is a beast – after 14 years and thousands of OER, from one minute videos to 100 hour courses, the choices can be overwhelming. Where to begin?

Over the years the OU in Scotland has developed a model called open learning champions. We have worked collaboratively with community and third sector organisations to develop a network of ‘champions’ who can support potential learners to access online learning, develop confidence and build digital skills. How they do that depends on their role and the relationship they have with learners. Some will get learners started and leave them to explore for themselves, others will provide 1:1 support to undertake a course, some champions have taken an OER and run it offline with a group of learners or used a blended approach with some online learning and some group work. We have also worked with third sector organisations to co-create OER with learners, using our OpenLearn Create platform.

“Most of my learners don’t have a computer or a laptop at home, so they use a tablet or a public library. That digital divide means they need support to get started, but once they get to a certain level OpenLearn is something fun and engaging that helps increase their digital skills but not in a boring IT class. Doing a wee thing in a subject that interests you makes you more comfortable in the digital space.” community engagement worker / open learning champion

The model has evolved as champions tell us how they use OER and then we incorporate the case studies into our workshops for new champions. We currently have just over 300 champions working with learners who are disabled, care experienced, refugees or asylum seekers, carers, adult returners… groups that may not otherwise have engaged with us but have existing relationships with our champions.

“As we go through the course, we identify what people are interested in and explore resources on OpenLearn, making sure it’s at the right level and length for the learner. Delivering the course this way encourages peer support and fosters relationships. The group gives them confidence, builds resilience and provides a supportive environment.” carer development worker / open learning champion

To support people on their learning journey, we’ve developed Open Pathways, a guide for navigating OpenLearn, OpenLearn Create and FutureLearn platforms that enables learners to plan their online learning and into formal study if that’s where it takes them. Our open entry policy makes the OU an attractive option for people who left school early or have been out of education for a while. The flip side of this is retention, which is a bigger issue for us than other universities, so a core aim of our access work is to set people up for success. Open Pathways enables them to practice self-directed learning with lower stakes, building their study skills and confidence so they are ready to succeed in higher education.

This isn’t all about the OU. We know that other institutions in Scotland are using OER to support their access and participation activity, and I had hoped to chat to colleagues in the sector to share some of their innovative practice but just haven’t managed it this month. I’m aware that Fife College uses OER to ‘keep students warm’ between their enthusiasm at registration and their course start date. The University of Edinburgh uses OER as part of their community outreach. If you or your institution are using OER for access and outreach, I’d love to here about it. Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter.

@Gill_ie

Gill Ryan

Access, Participation and Success

Open University in Scotland

gill.ryan@open.ac.uk

 

Open for Scots

It’s not often that OER make the news but in December the Open University in Scotland’s new Scots language and culture course made a bit of a splash. I spoke to the OU’s Sylvia Warnecke, who led production of the OER, about interview requests, open archives, and creating a new pedagogy for a non-standard language.

Scots Language and Culture sits on OpenLearn Create – the OU’s most open platform, which makes course building tools available for free to anyone interested in creating, reusing or remixing content. We also use it for co-producing resources with partner organisations, which is what Sylvia did, rather than placing the course on OpenLearn, which houses only OU-generated OER.

“We had to develop a whole new pedagogy for learning Scots as it is not a codified language. There are no agreed standards for written Scots and the language has many regional variations in addition to 10 main dialect areas. We approached teaching Scots in the way a child learns a language, through immersion, mainly by listening. To do this, we had to have a new feature added to OpenLearn Create to enable people to listen to authentic Scots, then record themselves speaking and play it back so they can hear if their pronunciation sounds right.”

The project originated in 2016 following the Scottish Government’s launch of the Scots Language Policy, but it has been a long time evolving into its current form. It was produced in partnership with Education Scotland and was very much a community effort. Many Scots linguists, speakers and authors gave their time to the project, writing content and providing audio material. It also drew on content from archives and other online resources that have been made available with an open licence, such as the Dictionary of the Scots Language and the Scots Syntax Atlas.

Since Part 1 was launched in December (Part 2 was released this week) the course has been accessed by more than 8000 learners, making it one of the most successful on OpenLearn Create to date. Was Sylvia expecting the course to be so popular?

“We knew there was an interest but we’ve been taken aback by the overwhelming response from the public and the media. It was strange to be fielding requests for interviews with newspapers and radio. One of the questions I got asked was “why did it take a German lassie to make this happen?” I think it’s because I had no preconceptions about Scots, I just approached it as a linguist and could compare it to Swiss German, another non-standard language which is fully recognised in Switzerland. So many people have fed back to us what it means to them to have the validation that the way they speak is a real language and not ‘bad English’ like they were told at school. They are proud to be recognised as bilingual.”

Sylvia reckons social media has helped change attitudes to using Scots, reaching younger audiences and people with Scottish roots around the world. The Duo Lingo app’s recently launched Gaidhlig course has also been hugely popular and far exceeded expected numbers. The Scots OER is being used by a wide range of people and institutions, in schools, in prison learning centres and by groups of retired people, some of whom were not allowed to speak Scots when they were in school. 40% of people accessing the course are based outwith the UK (that’s right autocorrect, I said ‘outwith’!) from Canada to Australia.

Scots speakers may enjoy learning about the role of the language in Scottish history and culture and explore reasons for its ‘lack of prestige’. If you’re new to Scots you’ll learn to understand spoken and written Scots in different dialects and can begin to build your vocabulary. Each part of the course covers 20 study hours and you can earn a digital badge on completion of both Parts 1 and 2.

Gie it a shot!

@Gill_ie

UNESCO OER Recommendation Approved

Earlier this week at the CI Sector Commission of the General Conference, UNESCO Member States voted to adopt the UNESCO OER Recommendation.  The Recommendation is  a key mechanism towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 on Quality Education.  SDG4 aims to improve quality of life and access to inclusive education to help equip people with the tools required to develop innovative solutions to the world’s greatest problems. One of SDG4’s key targets is to:

ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development

Building on the 2017 Ljubljana OER Action Plan, and the 2012 Paris OER Declaration, the new UNESCO OER Recommendation has five objectives:

  1. Building capacity of stakeholders to create access, use, adapt and redistribute OER.
  2. Developing supportive policy.
  3. Encouraging inclusive and equitable quality OER.
  4. Nurturing the creation of sustainability models for OER.
  5. Facilitating international cooperation.

The Recommendation acknowledges that:

the implementation of open licensing to educational materials Introduces significant   Opportunities for more cost-effective establishment, access, reuse, re-purpose, adaptation, redistribution, curation, and quality assurance of those materials, including, but not limited to, translation to different learning and cultural contexts, the development of gender -sensitive materials, and the  creation of alternative and accessible formats of materials for learners with special educational needs.

UNESCO’s Assistant Director General for Communication and Information, also announced the launch of a Dynamic Coalition for the implementation of the new OER Recommendation in order to promote and reinforce international cooperation.

The full text of the UNESCO OER Recommendation is available here: Draft Recommendation on Open Educational Resources and a press release can be read here: UNESCO Recommendation on OER.