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

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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].

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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.

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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].

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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.

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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.

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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.

OER16 Conference Submissions Open

oer16_logoThe OER16 Open Culture is now accepting submissions.  The conference, which is taking place in Scotland for the first time since it began in  2010, will take place at the University of Edinburgh on the 19th and 20th April 2016. The call for proposals was launched at the ALT Conference in Manchester at the beginning of September and the submissions site is now open.

Submissions are invited for presentations, lightning talks, posters, and panels and workshops on the themes of:

  • The strategic advantage of open, creating a culture of openness, and the reputational challenges of openwashing.
  • Converging and competing cultures of open knowledge, open source, open content, open practice, open data and open access.
  • Hacking, making and sharing.
  • Openness and public engagement.
  • Innovative approaches to opening up cultural heritage collections for education.

If you have any queries about the conference themes please contact conference co-chair Lorna M. Campbell at lorna.m.campbell@ed.ac.uk / lorna.m.campbell@icloud.com or on twitter @lornamcampbell. Any queries regarding the submission process should be directed to Anna Davidge at ALT, anna.davidge@alt.ac.uk.

Further information about the conference is available here oer16.oerconf.org and you can follow @oerconf and #oer16 on twitter. Look forward to seeing you in Edinburgh in the Spring!

 

Thoughts on #OEPSforum14 and the Battle for Open

Cross posted from Open World.

This rather crowded map of open education in Scotland is the product of a brief ten minute brainstorm I took part in at the launch of the Open University’s Opening Education Practices in Scotland (OEPS) project in Edinburgh last week.

open_scot_map_3

Open Education in Scotland
Contributors:  Linda Creanor, Natalie Lafferty, Heather Gibson, Peter Cannell and Lorna M. Campbell

My scribbles may not be very legible, and the geography is questionable, but even if you can’t read the text, this map does give a good impression of the sheer breadth of open education practice already taking place across all sectors of Scottish education. And it also gives a good impression of the significant task facing the OEPS project if they are to effectively engage with existing open education initiatives in Scotland. This is a point that Sheila MacNeill and Joe Wilson have already raised in two thoughtful blog posts (Stuck in the middle with…open and #Oepsforum14 #Openscot Reflections.) Though supportive of the project and enthusiastic about its potential, both Sheila and Joe have raised valid questions about how OEPS plans to support existing open practice in Scotland, and how it will construct a distinctly Scottish narrative of open education.

During a typically thought provoking presentation on The Battle for Open, Martin Weller warned us that if we don’t engage with open education practice now, we’ll be sold a packaged version of what it is. To my mind, engagement with existing open education initiatives in Scotland will be key to the success of the OEPS project. It is critical that the project engages practitioners in creating a Scottish narrative of open education, rather than delivering a packaged alternative.

I’m not going to attempt to summarise the entire meeting, you can get a good flavour of the event from Sheila and Joe’s blog posts, this storify put together by Heather Gibson of QAA Scotland and Martin Hawksey’s TAGS archive. There are a couple of points I want to reflect on however.

The OEPS Online Hub

One of the objectives of the OEPS project is to build an “online hub to encourage and share best practice in open education”. This hub, which will be based on the OU’s existing OpenLearn Works platform, is being developed by members of the OEPS team based at the OU’s Open Media Unit in Milton Keynes. In a parallel session focused on the hub, we were asked to prioritise user stories and requirements, devised by the project team, from the perspective of practitioners and learners. The group I was part of went a bit off piste with this task and in the process raised some valid questions regarding the role of the hub.   There was some confusion as to the exact nature of the online hub, and whether it was intended to be an OER repository. One participant questioned whether there was a real need for another online repository in Scotland when we already have Jorum and Re:Source, and the uptake of centralised repositories generally is notoriously low. The project team explained that although the hub will aggregate resources from other OER collections and enable users to export content, it is not intended to compete with existing OER repositories such as Jorum and OER Commons, it’s aim is primarily to support a community of open education practitioners. While there was a suggestion that this approach sounded a little bit “if we build it they will come”, it’s reassuring to know that OEPS will be focusing on supporting practitioner communities rather than on building another platform in what is already a very crowded space. Questions were also raised regarding the users stories and requirements drafted by the project team, with one participant asking whether a requirements gathering exercise had been undertaken in Scotland to determine the sector’s specific need for an online hub.

The Thorny Issue of Funding

The second point I want to reflect on is the rather thorny issue of funding, or more precisely, the relationship between funding and open education. This is an issue that Martin Weller touched on during his Battle For Open presentation. Martin pointed out that most battles are about money, and that there is a lot of money at stake in open education. This is certainly a point I would agree with, in some quarters at least. Martin also introduced the concept of “guerrilla research” which he contrasted with traditional research as follows…

guerilla_research

from The Art of Guerilla Research by Martin Weller

While this is an attractive model, (and I <3 Beaker) I can’t help wondering how guerrilla research is supported; after all, it’s hard to “Do research” without funding at some level. And the same applies to open education, we all know that open doesn’t equal free, and that funding is required to support open education practice. Sheila MacNeill has written compellingly on this subject in her earlier blog post Open education practice, luxury item or everyday essential?  I’m not going to re-hash Sheila’s arguments, but I think there are a lots of undercurrents relating to the relationship between openness and funding that we still need to surface.

Which brings me back to the scribbled map at the top of this post. Many of the open education initiatives in Scotland are unfunded, voluntary, or funded on institutional shoestring budgets. It’s commendable that Scottish education has done so much with so little, and perhaps this is what sustainable open education practice looks like, but it does make me wonder how much more could be achieved if funding was available to support open education right across the sector. While it’s hugely encouraging that the Scottish Funding Council has made a significant investment in open education by funding the OEPS project, and I have every confidence that the project team will make a significant contribution to supporting open education practice in Scotland, I can’t help holding on to a glimmer of hope that at some stage in the future SFC will launch an open education funding call that is open to all sectors of Scottish education.

College Development Network Librarians Open Developments in Scotland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jisc RSC Scotland Open Education Joint Forum

Earlier this week I was invited by Jisc RSC Scotland to attend their Open Education Joint Forum which took place at the Informatics Forum at the University of Edinburgh.  It was a very well attended event that featured a packed programme of thought provoking and  engaging presentations that highlighted a range of really inspiring open education developments.   I’ve put together a storify of the event’s lively twitter back channel here and links to all the presentations are available from Jisc RSC Scotland here.

Open Scotland

Lorna M Campbell, Cetis and Joe Wilson, SQA

I kicked of the event with a short overview of the Open Scotland before passing over to Joe who challenged the audience to share their educational resources, before talking about about the benefits of openness and calling for changing mindsets around Open Education.  Joe also reminded us that there is a real strength in Scottish education, we have dedicated and talented teaching staff and by opening up education they can shine for learning.

Joe Wilson, SQA

Joe Wilson, SQA

Massive Open Online Courses: Open education  of course?

Martin Hawksey, ALT

Martin Hawksey, my former Cetis colleague, now with ALT, gave an inspiring presentation that placed MOOCs in the historical context of technology innovation and asked if we are now in danger of promoting a dogmatic approach to programming and technology innovation. Martin revisited Doug Englebart’s “Mother of All Demos” which, among many other innovations, demonstrated screen sharing and videoconferencing as far back as 1968.  In education we have a tendency to get stuck in particular ways of doing things, both students and teachers have specific expectations and can be very resistant to change.

Martin Hawksey, ALT

Martin Hawksey, ALT

Martin highlighted some of the tools, services, platforms and applications that can be employed to deliver MOOCs.  He also reminded us that every letter of MOOC is negotiable and suggested that the issue of MOOC completion rates is irrelevant.  Open or closed is not a binary thing, but there are huge benefits to moving towards more openness.  Martin concluded by telling is all that “openness is about feeling warm inside” and that we should all “ride the waves of innovation to a more open, more relevant style of education’.  Martin has written a an excellent blog post about his presentation which you can read here: Taking on the dogmatic approach to education with a bit of ‘reclaim open digital connectedness’.

Re:Source OER Repository

Garry Cameron, Scotland’s Colleges, Jackie Graham and Sarah Currier, Mimas

Gerry spoke about the need to change hearts and minds to use and develop open educational resources and called for a clear statement and a decisive stance on open educational resources from Scottish Government. Scotland’s Colleges committed to releasing resources under Creative Commons licences.

Gerry Cameron, Scotland's Colleges

Gerry Cameron, Scotland’s Colleges

Re:Source is an OER repository for Scotland’s colleges. The open platform is here and could be used by many across the Scottish education sector but policy drivers needed.  Jisc RSc Scotland is collaborating with Scotland’s Colleges to work ona  way forward. Librarians also have a crucial role to play in developing open repositories within Scotland’s colleges.  Jackie Graham went on to demonstrate the Re:Source repository before handing over to Sarah Currier who spoke about the Jorum repository which powers Re:Source.

Jackie Graham, Re:Source

Jackie Graham, Re:Source

Blackboard xpLor

Julie Usher, Blackboard

Julie Usher, Blackboard

Julie Usher, Blackboard

Julie Usher began by highlighting the potential of OERs but suggested that they can be hard to find; how do you fin and evaluate OERs, link them to curricula, including assessments.  To address this problem Blackboard have developed the xpLor content repository. xpLor supports OER discover and allows content to be pulled directly into Blackboard courses.  Creative Commons is baked into xpLor repository so content can be exported with  CC licenses.

Introduction to Open Badges and OBSEG

Grainne Hamilton, Jisc RSC Scotland

Grainne Hamilton, Jisc RSC Scotland

Grainne Hamilton, Jisc RSC Scotland

Open badges are a form of digital accreditation that can be displayed online.  Badges are like coats of arms, they are images that contain information and have meaning beyond the visual.  Open Badges incentivise informal, formal and work based education and break learning into manageable chunks. The Open Badges in Scottish Education Group (OBSEG), which is supported by Jisc RSC Scotland, has set up three sub-groups focusing on Learner Progress, Technology and Design and Staff Development.