Developing a Framework for Open Educational Practices at the University of the Highlands and Islands

Public Domain Image, Pixabay

The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) is a tertiary, geographically and digitally distributed university that comprises thirteen Academic Partners including FE and HE focused colleges, and specialist research institutes. Within the Highlands and Islands region, the university covers a geographic area that is approximately the size of Belgium and provides local access to Higher Education in geographically dispersed rural locales, and well as within the urban centres in the region. Due to our geographically dispersed nature we have a comprehensive and robust technology infrastructure supporting our learning, teaching and administrative functions.

Sharing and collaboration across the university is essential in the above context and this is achieved in many ways using a variety of technologies, some more ‘open’ than others. The UHI Toolkit, a lightweight repository using a restricted Dublin Core architecture is used for sharing learning and teaching materials internally; the streaming service is used for sharing lectures, webinar recordings and videos publicly (see here for an excellent keynote on open educational practice).

Open educational practice at the University of the Highlands and Islands is not new and indeed there has been activity in some areas in previous years with a well-established open access policy and institutional open access repository (PURE). In addition we are an active member of the OERu, were involved in Open Education Practices Scotland (OEPS) and colleagues are actively involved in the open Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice (JPAAP) as editors, reviewers and contributors . Other initiatives in the university such as the Jisc funded eTextbook Institutional Publishing Service (eTIPS) project, whilst focused on producing low-cost etextbooks, have provided us with processes and knowledge that are adaptable and will enable us to develop our open practice going forward.

Developing the framework

To focus, consolidate and enhance our open educational practice we are currently putting together a ‘Framework for the development of open educational practices’. The framework will provide a 3-year route map for increased activity in 6 areas:

  • Open textbooks
  • Open educational resources
  • Open pedagogic practices
  • Open learning opportunities
  • Open scholarship
  • Open educational research

Year 1 is now underway, kicked off on the 20th November with the ‘Open all ours’ event, a series of workshops and presentations including an excellent keynote by Lorna M. Campbell from the University of Edinburgh OER service. The focus of year 1 is on benchmarking, building relationships, raising awareness and undertaking the preparatory work for year 2. In Year 2 we will be implementing new systems and policies, running pilot projects and increasing the engagement with open practices across the 6 areas identified. Year 3 will evaluate the impact of years 1 and 2 and build on the initiatives and practices already established.

Pulling together the framework has been a learning experience, not least understanding the impact of all the relevant declarations, government policies and institutional strategies. Most readers will be familiar with UNESCO and the 2017 Ljubljana OER action plan and subsequent OER recommendation, perhaps less of you will be aware of the Scottish Funding Council’s (SFC) College and University Sector ICT Strategy 2019 – 2021 and fewer again of the University of the Highlands  and Islands Learning and Teaching Enhancement Strategy (LTES). Each of these in their own way influence and support open educational practices across the university.

The university’s LTES has 12 values, one of which is ‘harnessing open education approaches’ with the aim of:

“Developing online and other open education practices and approaches to support and enhance learning and teaching, to use, create and share open educational resources, and to widen access to education including within our local communities.”

Reflecting on feedback from the first draft of the framework it is evident that the view from inside the institution differs in some ways from the external perspective. A simple example is the use of the word ‘delivery’ when talking about education. Until it was pointed out I hadn’t really considered the connotation, that of one-way traffic. Other areas where there were differences was in the breadth of coverage of open education and what definition to use, who should be engaged across the university (don’t forget the student body), the importance of collaboration and co-creation, whether we should have an institutional repository, quality assurance processes and the importance of staff skills to the overall success. Suffice to say it was worthwhile having internal and external reviewers as this has given a breadth and depth that may otherwise have been missing.

The framework has now been approved for distribution as a consultation document by the university Quality Assurance and Enhancement Committee and Academic Council and will be made available to the wider university body at the university learning and teaching conference on the 22/23 January 2020. Once fully accepted by the university we will of course publish it as an open resource under a Creative Commons license.

Author information:  Scott Connor is the Educational Development Leader (Flexible and Open Learning) at the University of the Highlands and Islands Learning and Teaching Academy.

Action Lab on Open Education Policy Making: Open Scotland Update

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

Other resources shared during the Action Lab include:

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

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.

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

The Place of Gaelic in Modern Scotland

Mr John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills

Mr John Swinney, Scottish Government, CC BY-NC 2.0

Last week in Stornoway, as part of the Royal National Mòd, Mr John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, presented the Angus Macleod Lecture on The Place of Gaelic in Modern Scotland.  Mr Swinney assumed ministerial responsibility for the Gaelic language after the last election.

In a thought provoking speech Mr Swinney reiterated the Scottish Government’s commitment to securing the future of the Gaelic language in Scotland and outlined plans for education, broadcasting, digital and economic development to support the language.

The First Minister clearly stated that hostility towards Gaelic has no place in Scotland, adding that the reason for the Government’s commitment to the language is quite simple. “Gaelic belongs in Scotland.”

Although Mr Swinney did not speak specifically about open education, he did refer to the importance of Gaelic education provision:

“Earlier this year, the Scottish Parliament passed an Education Act which included important Gaelic provisions. We will use this to strengthen Gaelic provision in schools.

This Act placed a duty on Bòrd na Gàidhlig to prepare Guidance on Gaelic education. This Guidance, for the first time, describes what parents can expect local authorities to deliver when they choose Gaelic education for their children. The consultation on this Guidance closes at the end of this month.

In recent years, we have seen a welcome increase in the number of parents choosing to place their children in to Gaelic education. Since 2008, we have witnessed a 32% increase of young people in Gaelic medium education and it is our duty in the Scottish Government, working with local authorities, to ensure this demand can be met.

Today I would like to announce £700k of funding for Glasgow City Council for its two Gaelic schools at Glendale and Berkeley Street. This funding will further improve the learning environment for young people studying core subjects such as physical education, STEM and ICT, ensuring Gaelic learning provides a wide experience across the curriculum.”

In response to a question from Open Scotland regarding the importance of ICT to support Gaelic education, the Deputy First Minister reiterated the Government’s commitment to providing 100% network connectivity throughout Scotland. He went on to highlight the importance of education technology to broaden the coverage of education provision, ensuring that Gaelic education can reach greater numbers of learners than ever before.  In addition he also emphasised the new opportunities that information and communication technology affords young people in the Highlands and Islands, enabling them to expand their education and skills, and seek new careers without having to leave the Gàidhealtachd.

A Storify of live tweets from the Deputy First Minister’s lecture is available here: The Place of Gaelic in Modern Scotland

Links

Scottish Government press release
Full text of the Deputy First Minister’s lecture

European Guidelines for the Validation of Non-Formal and Informal Learning

cover_3073_enCEDEFOP, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, has recently issued the second edition of the  European Guidelines for the Validation of Non-Formal and Informal LearningThese guidelines set out how validation of informal and non-formal learning could increase the visibility and value of learning that takes place outwith formal education, and support the transferability of skills across Europe. This work is particularly relevant at this point in time given increased migration and social inclusion challenges across Europe, where the recognition of informal and non-formal learning could support transitions into employment and other positive pathways for those without formal qualifications.  According to the guidelines: 

Validation can help combat unemployment by improving skills matching and social cohesion, and supporting the unemployed or those at risk of losing their jobs by enabling citizens to communicate the value of their skills and experiences to potential employers or when returning to formal education. Validation can also form part of the response to the current refugee crisis through identification and certification of migrants’ previous experiences, to support quicker and smoother integration into host countries.  It can also play a major role in combating youth unemployment by making skills acquired through voluntary work, or during leisure, visible to employers.

A key objective of the earlier edition of these guidelines, issued in 2012, is that EU Member States work together towards national arrangements for validation by 2018.

What is particularly interesting about these new guidelines is that they place special emphasis on validation arrangements for education and training facilitated by open educational resources, and in addition, make specific reference to the use of badges with OER.  For reference, the section that relates to OER is included below in its entirety.

One thing to note is that the guidelines’ broad definition of OER includes both MOOCs and open courseware and it is possible that this may point the way to developing a solution to address accreditation and validation for MOOCs. Furthermore, there could be an opportunity to build on the Scottish Open Education Declaration as a basis for developing validation policies within Scotland, given that it already promotes the development of a culture of openness around education and assessment. 

With thanks to Grainne Hamilton of DigitalMe for summarising these guidelines and for highlighting the link to OER and the Scottish Open Education Declaration. 


4.1.1. Validation and open education resources

The recommendation states that the knowledge skills and competences acquired through open educational resources should be addressed by validation arrangements: ‘The arrangements for the validation of non-formal and informal learning [which] enable individuals to have knowledge, skills and competences which have been acquired through non-formal and informal learning validated, including, where applicable, through open educational resources’ (Council of EU, 2012, p. 3, point 1).

The reference to open educational resources (OERs) in the recommendation reflects the rapid expansion of online learning opportunities, particularly promoted by higher education institutions. OERs are defined in the recommendation as ‘digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning and research; it includes learning content, software tools to develop, use and distribute content, and implementation resources such as open licences; OER also refers to accumulated digital assets that can be adjusted and which provide benefits without restricting the possibilities for others to enjoy them’ (Council of EU, 2012, p. 5, point d). OER may include ‘…full courses, course modules, syllabuses, lectures, homework assignments, quizzes, lab and classroom activities, pedagogical materials, games, simulations, and many more resources contained in digital media collections from around the world’ (7). Massive open online courses (MOOCs) and open courseware are examples of OERs.

OERs are seen as important supplements to traditional education and training programmes, reducing overall cost, increasing accessibility and allowing individuals to follow their own learning pace. MOOCs are seen as a way to deliver high quality (world- class) teaching to a broad group of learners.

For all these reasons it is important to consider how the outcomes of this learning can be appropriately documented and assessed and how current practices on validation can take them into account. Box 4 indicates some issues to be considered when linking validation and OERs.

Possible requirements for validation of OERs:

  • Learning carried out through OER must be described in the form of learning outcomes.
  • Where the OER brings with it some form of internal credit, for example badges, these must explained and documented in a transparent way encouraging trust.
  • Standards and/or reference points underpinning credits or badges must be clearly explained.
  • Arrangements for quality assurance underpinning OERs must be transparently presented.
  • Methods for assessment/testing must be transparently explained.

The outcomes of online learning have to be treated with the same care and degree of scrutiny as any other learning outcomes. Given the inevitable variation in quality of OERs, along with the varying success of learners to adapt to online learning, attention has to be given – at national, European and international level – to documenting, assessing and certifying the outcomes OERs. For them to be considered in validation, transparency is crucial. The learning experienced through OERs needs to be described through learning outcomes. The status of standards and testing arrangements, if these exist, need to be clear and available to aid validation. Web-based platforms that allow for recognition and assessment of specific skills require careful consideration and need to be compared to existing systems of validation to promote adequate quality assurance and allow for rationalisation of efforts.

Key questions regarding on educational resources

The following questions are important when addressing open educational resources:

  • Are methods for validating learning outcomes acquired through OERs the same as for learning outcomes acquired in a different way?
  • How are internal credits (e.g. badges) considered by validation?

European Guidelines for the Validation of Non-Formal and Informal Learning
http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/publications/3073

University of Edinburgh approves new OER Policy

edinburghAs part of its on going commitment to open education, the University of Edinburgh has recently approved a new Open Educational Resources Policy, that encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience. The University is committed to supporting open and sustainable learning and teaching practices by encouraging engagement with OER within the curriculum, and supporting the development of digital literacies for both staff and students in their use of OERs.

The policy, together with supporting guidance from Open.Ed, intends to help colleagues in making informed decisions about the creation and use of open educational resources in support of the University’s OER vision. This vision builds on the history of the Edinburgh Settlement, the University’s excellence in teaching and learning, it’s unique research collections, and its civic mission.

The policy is based on University of Leeds OER Policy, which has already been adopted by the University of Greenwich and Glasgow Caledonian University. It’s interesting to note how this policy has been adapted by each institution that adopts it. The original policy describes open educational resources as

“…digitised teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released by the copyright owner under an intellectual property licence (e.g. Creative Commons) that permits their use or re-purposing (re-use, revision, remixing, redistribution) by others.”

However Edinburgh has adapted this description to move towards a more active and inclusive definition of OER

“digital resources that are used in the context of teaching and learning (e.g. course material, images, video, multimedia resources, assessment items, etc.), which have been released by the copyright holder under an open licence (e.g. Creative Commons) permitting their use or re-purposing (re-use, revision, remixing, redistribution) by others.”

This definition aims to encompass the widest possible range of resources that can be used in teaching and learning, not just resources that are developed specifically for that purpose. This description acknowledges that it is often the context of use that makes a thing useful for teaching and learning, rather than some inherent property of the resource itself.

Although open licensing is central to the University’s OER vision, this is much more than a resource management policy. In order to place open education at the heart of learning and teaching strategy, the University’s OER Policy has been approved by the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee. The policy is intended to be clear and concise and to encourage participation by all. By adopting this policy, the University is demonstrating its commitment to all staff and students who wish to use and create OERs in their learning and teaching activities, and who wish to disseminate the knowledge created and curated within the University to the wider community.

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