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.

OER20 Call for Proposals

The OER20 Conference, which will take place in London on 1-2 April 2020, has launched its call for proposals.   The theme of the conference is The Care in Openness and the conference co-chairs are Mia Zamora, Daniel Villar-Onrubia and  Jonathan Shaw.

Covering issues of privilege, equity, precarity, power relations and public interest, OER20 will put the spotlight on both the value and limitations of care in Open Education.

The co-chairs are particularly keen to hear from people who have an interest in the following indicative areas of practice:

  • Openness in the age of surveillance
  • Sustainable open education communities
  • Open education for civic engagement and democracy
  • Criticality and care in open education
  • Caring pedagogies and designing for diverse communities of inclusion

Wildcard proposals that specifically address the conference themes in relation to open practice, research and policy are also welcome.

For further information and to submit a proposal, visit the conference website: OER20 The Care in Openness.

College & University Sector ICT Strategy commits to OER

The Open Scotland blog has been quiet for the last eighteen months but there have been some significant developments in open education in Scotland in the intervening period, most notable of which is the Scottish Funding Council’s College and University Sector ICT Strategy 2019 – 2021, which commits to the aims of the UNESCO OER Action Plan and the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

The Strategy was developed by the Further and Higher Education ICT Oversight Board, co-chaired by Gavin McLachlan, Chief Information Officer and Librarian to the University of Edinburgh and Dr Ken Thomson Principal and Chief Executive, with input from Jisc, UCSS-ISSC and others.

While recognising that colleges and universities have diverse academic profiles, local contexts and campus infrastructures, the strategy focuses on activities and services, including infrastructure, collections, advisory and production services, that may benefit from being organised at a national level.

The strategy covers:

  1. Skills,
  2. Economic Development and Innovation,
  3. Digital Public Services,
  4. Data,
  5. Information Security,
  6. Infrastructure
  7. Digital Participation and Inclusion

In section 7. Digital Participation and Inclusion the strategy states that:

In line with the UNESCO OER Action Plan, we will promote the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Badging initiatives to support both formal and informal learning that is equitable, inclusive, open and participatory. We are committed to the aims of the Digital Participation charter and the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

The strategy’s aims and objectives for Digital Participation and Inclusion are:

  • make Information Services open and accessible, ensuring they are represented and visible to students and staff at forums and that IS staff are actively engaged in institutional life to better understand users’ needs and requirements;
  • support the use of open licences for all educational resources created with public funding;
  • promote common ICT core skills and online learning (over and above core educational requirements) to develop personal digital skills, embedding relevant elements from the EU and Jisc frameworks to promote the development of learner and staff skills, and
  • involve students in the design and development of student-facing digital platforms, ensuring they meet usability and accessibility requirements, and address the 5 Digital Rights.

Although the strategy stresses that participation in any sectoral or national service is on a voluntary basis, this cross sector commitment to the aims of the UNESCO OER Action Plan and the endorsement of open licenses for educational resources created with public funding represent a significant development for open education in Scotland.

In order to build on the platform provided by the strategy and to highlight the sector wide benefits of engaging with OER and Open Education we are planning to reactivate the Open Scotland initiative in the coming months, so please check the blog for further updates.  If you would like to get in involved with the Open Scotland initiative, or to contribute news items or case studies about OER and open education to this blog, please contact lorna.m.campbell@icloud.com or joewilson@joewilsons.net

Response to World OER Congress Action Plan

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

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

Awareness and skills to use OER:

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

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

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

Sharing OER:

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

Add “and professional bodies” here.

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

This seems unrealistic.

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

This is an important point.

Finding OER:

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

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

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

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

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

2. Language & Cultural issues

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

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

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

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

3. Ensuring inclusive and equitable access to quality OER

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

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

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

4. Changing Business Models

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

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

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

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

5. Development of supportive policy environments

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

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

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

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

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

Examples of OER Policy development:

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

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

New Recommendation

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

Example of OER Good Practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Open Scotland https://openscot.net/

Open Scotland is a cross sector initiative supported by the Association for Learning Technology’s  Scotland Special Interest Group.  The aim of this initiative is to raise awareness of all aspects of open education and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education.  Scotland has a distinctive and highly regarded tradition of education, however policies to support and embed open education are in their infancy and, to date, there have been no open funding calls to support open education across the sector.

Despite the absence of top down strategic drivers, a considerable number of open education initiatives have emerged across the Scottish education sector including MOOCs, OER repositories, OER guidelines for staff and students, and adoption of Open Badges. Building on these developments, and experiences gained from supporting open education programmes elsewhere in the UK, Open Scotland aims to encourage the sharing of open educational resources, embed open educational practice and lobby for policies that support open education at the national level.

Inspired by the UNESCO Paris OER Declaration, Open Scotland has also launched the Scottish Open Education Declaration, which builds on the principals of the UNESCO declaration, but expands its scope to encompass all aspects of open education practice.  The Scottish Open Education Declaration, http://declaration.openscot.net/ is an open community draft, which all those with a commitment to open education are encouraged to contribute to.

An interview with Joe Wilson from the European OER Regional Consultation

An interview about open education and OER with Open Scotland’s Joe Wilson, recorded at the UNESCO European Regional Consultation in Malta earlier this year.

The report from the European Consultation is available here:  Regional Consultation on Open Educational Resources OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education: From Commitment to Action.  Papers from the other regional consultations are also available on the OER Regional Consultations website.

 

UNESCO European Regional Consultation on OER Report

A guest post from Joe Wilson, reporting on the UNESCO European Regional Consultation on OER in Malta.  

OER CosnultationsIt was a great privilege to be invited as one of 70 participants from 25 countries gathered in Malta  to contribute to the UNESCO European Regional Consultation on Open Educational Resources in Malta. This to shape the inputs for the 2nd World OER Congress to be held in Ljubljana, Slovenia 18th-20th September 2017.  I hope the remaining regional consultations  for the Middle East/North Africa, Africa , Americas and the Pacific Region are as productive as our gathering. The consultation events are ably supported by the Commonwealth of Learning and funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. You too can take part in the consultation by completing the survey here:  http://rcoer.col.org/surveys.html

The theme of the World OER Congress is OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education; From Commitment to Action. This to move the global education system on from the Paris Declaration of 2012 calling on all governments to make a commitment to OER. The aim to use OER policies and practice to meet the United Nations aims of achieving a set of sustainable development goals for Education by  2030.

We were tasked with :

1. Reviewing the progress of OER in Europe since the World OER Congress 2012
2. To identify strategies for maintaining OER
3. Agreeing  a set of action points to be presented at the next Congress in September

Our outputs providing strategies, examples and models for the creation of a sustainable open educational infrastructure and mainstreaming open educational resources will be fed into the Congress but will be published here as they are pulled together and there will be a collection of interviews from the consultation events published here.

I was invited as Co-Founder of Open Scotland and I carefully prepared our inputs with Lorna Campbell my co-conspirator and  Scottish colleagues from the Association of Learning Technology before setting off.

I’ll share the key parts of my report here and some reflections from the group I worked with who were tasked to  focus on the barriers to the creation, sharing, use and re-purposing of Open Educational Resources at a national level.

In terms of Scottish approaches,  the formation of Open Scotland and the creation of the Open Scotland Declaration has positioned Scottish Education as thought leaders in building both grass roots support for open educational practice and for encouraging policy shifts at national and institutional level and this is still garnering Scotland and Scottish education with global recognition.

The OEPS project has produced some open assets that could do much to drive open practice across Scotland https://oepscotland.org/resources/open-courses/ While the Open University’s broader offering for learners http://www.open.edu/openlearncreate/ offers them access to a rich set of online courses and allows providers the opportunity to build their own courses on the OU  platform.

There are some other green shoots around the UK. The continued healthy support across the community for conferences like #OER17 , the FELTAG coalition supporting  blended learning and the sharing of developments. Some set backs too,  it is hard as yet to see the new Jisc Content and App Store as a serviceable replacement for JORUM.

However, while Scottish Government investment has been made in the Open University led OEPS project and some large global institutions like Edinburgh University have taken up the challenge to embed both open educational resources and a broader set of open educational practices across their operations for the public good and some others notably Glasgow Caledonian University are forging ahead with policies that will support OER, momentum is slow.

Why is the case – these are my own thoughts on Scottish Landscape and updates the last review of Scottish activity from October 2016.

Some of the global arguments for the adoption of open educational practices and resources do not have the same traction in Scotland. Scottish Education is not a text book driven system in Universities, Colleges or Schools – so the economic case for the adoption of Open Textbooks or more open practice around the development and sharing of resources does not have the resonance it might have in other countries where national administration’s buy text books.

The levers in Scotland have to be around our life long learning system, our belief in education as a social good, open to all and around the social benefits of OER to all in the system.

Universities continue to conflate OER with lots of other policy initiatives and developments – We have a MOOC so we must be making and sharing OER ( rarely the case). We have an open research policy and we have policies and practices around open data. ( no realisation that OER is different). There are few formal staff development programmes around the creation, use and repurposing of OER and only a few policy levers to encourage their consideration.

Colleges – Recently regionalised and finding their feet have forgotten traditions of developing learning materials collaboratively and when they remember they tend to do this in closed communities as content clubs. If you do a dig into the public contracts Scotland you can see a growing trend over last six months for Colleges to buy large collections of commercial content. They are trying to make more courses available on line and playing catch up,  by buying in the learning content. The entry level and CPD standards for lecturing staff are due to be refreshed but the current standards are weak around developing skills around embedding digital practice and make no mention of OER.

Schools – No real recognition that sharing learning materials is a good thing and to a degree still struggling with the notion that teachers create  learning materials. In Scotland we have a superb platform in GLOW a Scottish Schools Intranet with excellent set of tools to support learning but it lacks a learning object repository it is hard to find materials inside GLOW and there is no coherent approach to adopting standard open licencing like Creative Commons. In terms of development there is the recently published Digital Learning and Teaching Strategy this encourages the development of digital skills in both initial teacher training and in teacher CPD for continued registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland but it tends to focus on the use and deployment of technology and makes no mention of content creation or open educational resources.

Third sector and libraries – perhaps most progress is being made here. Libraries and museums are digitising their resources and releasing these into the public domain with open licences. Trade unions and third sector organisations realise that a sharing economy is the most effective way to support their stakeholders. Good signs here that the methods and approaches of the wikimedia foundation are being adopted.

Government, while the government has usefully made a significant investment in the OEPS Project, which it references in any enquiry about the progress of OER in Scotland, it still appears to view activity in this area as peripheral in meeting sectorial objectives.

The broad view of the administration seems to be  that policy around open educational practices is not required as initiatives in this space are being driven out by Universities fulfilling their charitable and philanthropic traditions  and that there is a lack of an evidence base around the benefits to learners that justifies a policy intervention.

The growing evidence base from other countries and global initiatives is counter to this view. A healthy open educational resource driven system needs both top down and bottom up support. The papers from this consultation and from the World Congress should allow an informed reappraisal of this position.

UNESCO European Regional Consultation on OER, Malta, February 2017

A further report on the Consultation is available from UNESCO here: Ministers, experts urge inclusive access and quality education through open educational resources