Open for Scots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gie it a shot!


25 Years of Ed Tech

When I signed up to curate the Open Scotland blog, I hadn’t thought of the possible perks but getting a sneaky peek of Martin Weller’s forthcoming book 25 Years of Ed Tech has definitely made it all worthwhile. It’s a look back over a quarter century of educational technology and is also very much in keeping with this month’s reflective theme.

While Martin and I both work for the OU, it is a very big university and we don’t actually work together. I managed to blag it the old fashioned way – by asking nicely on Twitter. You won’t have to wait very long for your own copy as it is due out in February, published by Athabasca University Press, and will be made available with a CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence (of course).

Weller, M (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press. Alberta

TLDR: 25 Years of Ed Tech is a must read for educators and prospective open practitioners. I found myself wishing I’d had it as a source during my MA in Online and Distance Education studies so I can see it becoming a core (open) textbook. It will also help prepare us for a more critical relationship with educational technology.

Any summary of 25 years is bound to be subjective and you may find yourself quibbling with some of the dates he has assigned to each technology or trend. Weller has chosen the years based on when they became significant for him or when they reached a tipping point of adoption within higher education. The 25 years cover 1994 – 2018 and some of the later entries may sound familiar from his EdTechie blog posts. Aiming for one technology per year (though some years have many sub-headings!) this is a wonderfully succinct yet wide-ranging back story to the canon of Ed Tech – a counter to the sector’s tendency towards ‘historical amnesia’. There is a focus on higher education but even if you work in a different educational context, or have not embraced online education, you will find this an accessible and interesting read.

It begins with the nascent forums of online bulletin boards, moving on to the uptake of the internet and how its design as an open system enabled all that subsequently evolved. In that sense, much of the history of ed tech intersects with that of open education. It’s not surprising that the OU was an early adopter of the possibilities for ‘e-learning’ and Weller was part of the team that created the very first fully online undergraduate module (in 1999). Early predictions were that this way of teaching would spell the end of teachers but the larger scale of the course meant that more tutors and facilitators were needed. What changed was the pedagogical approach, from a ‘sage on the stage’ to a ‘guide on the side’ (King 1993).

In some cases, the technology has matured and been mainstreamed while others have come and gone – either morphing into a different technology or failing because the world wasn’t ready for it yet. What’s interesting is the interconnectedness of many technological innovations and the discussions within the EdTech community which led to their evolution. Learning objects (2000) required content but not context which made it difficult for educators to share and reuse them. The discussions on LOs led to the development of open educational resources (2004) – with their own rules for sharing and platforms to enable that – but there was a lag before the technology caught up. The ideas behind constructivist (1997) and later connectivist (2010) learning needed Web 2.0’s social networks (2006). In the meantime, the sector was building a shared vocabulary and standards for ‘open’.

For all its relative successes – the OU’s open platform OpenLearn had 8.9 million visitors last year – Weller argues that OER still haven’t gone mainstream, with levels of awareness among educators in the UK sitting at 10-20%. While it may not have been transformative in the way it was predicted in 2004, OER can be seen as a gentle shift in the tectonics of education that has moved gradually but consistently so that the old arguments that kept knowledge behind the gates of the academy and publishers’ paywalls no longer hold. This is particularly evident in the US, where the Open Textbooks movement (2013) is a direct challenge to the end-stage capitalism hegemony that encourages students to donate their blood in order to pay for textbooks in the hundreds of dollars.

In 2012, the so-called ‘Year of the MOOC’, it was predicted that MOOCs would disrupt higher education in the way Napster did the music industry. [As an aside, music artists whose songs are downloaded from sites like Napster and iTunes get less than 10% of the cost, with record companies receiving more than 50% and Apple the remainder. Plus ça change.] MOOCs are free and accessible with the potential to democratise education, but they remain plagued by low completion rates (<10%), are accessed predominantly by learners with high prior educational attainment, and have been accused of replicating old-school ‘sage on the stage’ pedagogies to achieve scale. It can be argued that they are in the post-hype maturity stage and the model is still evolving. If you’ve never done a MOOC, or are interested in one that explores online and open education, Weller is behind The Online Educator course which is running on FutureLearn in February.

Along the way, Weller acknowledges when he has called it wrong (announcing “the VLE is dead” in 1997 was premature) but he was an enthusiastic adopter of blogging (2003) which he suggests has developed in a way no other technology has. It is now an almost obligatory open practice, allowing academics and practitioners to share ideas, connect with a wider audience and evolve the concept of a learning community. Twitter and social media (2009) have amplified this but not without exposing us to the uglier side of our connected world. Weller recalls a brief, utopian time before the online environment became so toxic and acknowledges the risks of harassment, misogyny and racism. As these risks fall disproportionately on women, people from minority communities and indeed the majority world (aka the Global South), I feel he could have cited some of the voices with lived experience of this. I’m put in mind of sava saheli singh’s Fallacy of Open.

Digital badges make an appearance in 2015. I’ll be blogging about these later in the month so don’t want to say too much but suffice to say they are another example of an idea that promised much but has yet to be widely adopted in the UK. They’re also another example of how ed tech evolves “when other technologies make the environment favourable for their implementation”.

The book rounds off with a “dystopian turn” and Weller sounds a note of caution against the dark side of edtech – uncritical adoption of technology that puts our students’ data and privacy at risk – and reminds us of our duty of care. He also offers educators some rules for engaging with technology. I’m not going to tell you what they are – you’ll just have to download the book! While you’re waiting, Weller acknowledges some of the non-male voices that often get missed in ed tech creation stories so take the time to explore some of them: Maha Bali, Catherine Cronin, Robin de Rosa, Audrey Watters and Open Scotland’s own Sheila McNeill. I’d also recommend Donna Lanclos’ work on strategic refusal of ed tech.

Gill Ryan


Seven years of open

Happy New Year! This is traditionally a time for reflection so as I take the reins of the Open Scotland blog for January I will take the opportunity to look back on seven years of the Scottish Open Education Declaration (2013).

Full disclosure – I am a relative newbie to the open education community. In 2013, I was working in community education and had no clue about the massive potential of OER for my learners. I first heard the term in 2015 when I became involved in a partnership project to remix an OER for carers with Lindsay Hewitt of the OU in Scotland. I was smitten and when she offered me a (short-term) contract, I jumped (from my existing short-term contract). Precarity was my norm then. I had the opportunity to work closely with the then Open Educational Practices in Scotland (OEPS) project and learned so much in a short time, attending every forum and conference that was going and meeting many of the fine people who had been involved in the Declaration along the way. I attended my first ALT OER conference in Edinburgh in 2016 (co-chaired by Lorna Campbell). OpenLearn, the Open University’s OER platform, was already 10 years old.

Before I was completely down with the terminology (we do have a knack for jargon and acronym) what I remember from those meetings was recurring mention of repositories. It is indicative of how the conversations have moved on that this is no longer the case. I’ve witnessed the direction move from OER to open educational practices (OEP) and pedagogy. There has also been a centring of ‘open’ within higher and further education. Unsurprising perhaps, as so many of the members and theorists within the growing and increasingly international community are located in HE institutions.

Which brings me, eventually, back to the Scottish Open Education Declaration. What’s interesting to me is that the Declaration wasn’t overly focused on HE. It was addressed to the Scottish Government, the Scottish Funding Council, education agencies, schools, colleges, universities, the third sector, and all organisations and individuals engaged in teaching and learning including galleries, libraries, archives and museums. It identifies the potential of open education in expanding access, widening participation, teaching and learning, digital citizenship, social inclusion, inter-institutional collaboration, publicly-funded research, accreditation (open badges), and lifelong learning (formal and non-formal).

Over the course of this month, I hope to explore activity in Scotland related to some of these lesser-blogged-about areas of open practice. Given my own role in widening access with the Open University in Scotland, you can expect to hear about projects I’ve been involved with. I am very much hoping that these can be the start of a conversation and would love to hear about – and boost – some of the exciting things you’ve been doing since the Declaration.

Tweet me @Gill_ie

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)
  2. OE Policy Forum report (2019)
  3. Policy Registry of the OER World Map
  4. Survey on Open Education in European Libraries of Higher Education by SPARC Europe

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.

Sharing curation in Open Scotland

Open Scotland is moving to a new model of shared curation by a community of volunteers, modelled on the wonderful #FemEdTech. For each of the coming months someone has volunteered to write a blog post or two about their own part of the Open Scotland world and to tweet a bit. The hope is that this will enable a more active Open Scotland without placing more burden on too few people. As the volunteer for the first month in this new mode I thought I would reflect a bit on what I think that means.

Open Scotland is a voluntary cross sector initiative that aims to raise awareness of open education, encourage the sharing of open educational resources, and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education.

Open Scotland about page

“Cross sector” is key. That means Open Scotland is interested in all levels of education: pre-school, school, FE and HE, continuing professional development and all forms of lifelong learning, formal and informal. It also means engagement with teachers, learners, academics, technologists, lawyers, librarians, curators and others in the cultural sector, as well as institutional and government policymakers including politicians and civil servants. So, not only is Open Scotland cross sector, it is also multidisciplinary. But what does it mean to be so encompassing? What can we learn from other widely scoped activities, and what should we bear in mind when engaging with all those neighbouring communities and interest-groups?

Another multi-disciplinary community that I’ve worked with in the dim past is that around crystallography, and something caught my attention when listening to the podcast BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time programme on one of my crystallography heroes, Dorothy Hodgkin. It’s near the end, starting about 45mins in, leading to the following observations:

Georgina Ferry: “The culture of science today actually isn’t very like that*, and I was just rather interested to notice recently that Wellcome, which is the funder of […] a very large proportion of Biomedical Science in the UK today, has recently set up a new project to look at the research culture and to try to shift it in the direction of being more collaborative and kinder — they’ve used the word ‘kind’– and there’s really a sense that the way things have gone is just too far in the direction of being competitive, and I think Dorothy’s example shows that it is possible to do very great science without it having to be like that.”

[* Determining what precisely it is that science isn’t very like is left as an exercise to the reader]

Judith Howard: “I am pleased to say that crystallography is still like that. It is a very caring, sharing community. As we spoke earlier: we need each other, we need people who are good at machinery, computers, growing crystals, extracting the compounds from the biology in the first place. We do need collaboration. The ground that was laid by […] many of the early pioneers, that was the way that they worked. They needed help from each other; it continues that way. We work on completely different materials but we all use computers, often the same software, we’re sharing things and we are sharing advances. So if someone has an advance in one area we share it through our international meetings into another area, and we develop instrumentation by having ideas and sharing them and sharing them with the instrumental manufacturers as well.”

BBC Radio 4, In Our Time: Dorothy Hodgkin

We all know that historically not all parties have been kind when advances in crystallography have been shared, but there is something in what Judith Howard says that strikes true to me personally. For example, one of the first examples of open data / open science that I encountered was the Protein Data Bank, which has been running since 1971. I think the point about how, in crystallography, no one person will have all the skills and resources to solve a problem is one that is true more generally, it certainly aligns with the range and scope of Open Scotland that I outlined above, and I think her conclusion that we need collaboration is equally transferable. I took a look at the Wellcome’s Trust’s website for the work to which Howard was referring. I think it is this, Research culture: let’s reimagine how we work together. Interestingly, the reference I see to be kindness is where Robin Farrar, director of the Trust, he says “it can be hard to be kind“. That’s true especially in low-bandwidth communication such as Twitter, annual conference meetings, and papers and blog postings, limited as they are, respectively, by message length, infrequency and being essentially unidirectional. We really don’t need to add in any further toxic attitudes from overly competitive academics or vested commercial interests.

But it’s not easy. I think we do need a community that calls out errors when we see them; we do need to be careful not to amplify voices that represent interests that are at odds with openness, and that are abundantly capable of making themselves heard without our help. It means rewarding generosity. Making heard the voices that are too often silenced requires more effort than just providing a platform for everyone.

Open Education itself has a voice that needs effort in amplifying. It lives in close proximity to many other “opens”: Open Access, Open Source Software, Open Science, Open Data, Open Standards. All of these are of interest to Open Scotland, and we have a lot to learn from experiences in these fields, but I think we also need to assert that Open Education is distinct from those fields, especially when it comes to policy and strategic actions such as funding. Some of us have experience of programmes that have dealt with teaching and learning materials and research outputs within the same framework, where the research interests dominated. A conclusion then was that teaching and learning was not well served by being subsumed into programmes that largely focussed on research materials. In HE at least research is seen as more attractive and more prestigious than teaching (consider the phrases “research opportunity” and “teaching load”); the same can be seen in attitudes that lead to teaching money going research focussed higher education often at the expense of FE and life-long learning.

I don’t claim that this post represents Open Scotland’s view, if indeed it makes any sense to talk of an Open Scotland view, but I do welcome the Open Scotland Code of Conduct for shared curation which seems to be written to the same tune. I don’t have the answers to how Open Scotland addresses these issues, but I do look forward to it growing as space for collaboration, amplifying those voices that need it, and representing open education as an equal partner with other open endeavours.

Author information: Phil Barker is an independent consultant with Cetis LLP, working in technology to enhance learning and information systems for education. He specializes in Open Education, especially resource description and discovery.

OER20 Call for Proposals

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open Scotland Shared Curation Invitation

In an effort to revitalise the Open Scotland initiative, and to build on the Scottish Funding Council’s College and University Sector ICT Strategy 2019 – 2021, which commits to the aims of the Scottish Open Education Declaration, we are proposing to explore a shared curation model similar to the one used by the #femedtech network. We hope this will encourage more people to get involved and to ensure that Open Scotland represents all sectors of education in Scotland.
Curation will involve posting a minimum or one blog post about any aspect of openness in education to the Open Scotland blog and tweeting relevant open education news using the #OpenScot tag. Open Scotland does not currently have a dedicated twitter account but we would be happy to set one up if you feel it would be useful.
We welcome curators from all sectors involved in education in Scotland including further and higher education, schools, adult and community learning, training, professional development, galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM), health services, and the third sector.
All aspects of openness in education are in scope, including but not limited to:
  • Open education practice
  • Open educational resources
  • Open policy
  • Open assessment practices
  • Open textbooks
  • Open source software
  • Open standards
  • Open online courses
  • MOOCs
  • Wikimedia projects

Blog posts could highlight open initiatives from your own sector or institution, or interesting developments from across the world. We also welcome information about up and coming conferences and events, and reports from events around Scotland and internationally.

If you are interested in volunteering to curate Open Scotland for a month, please sign up using this shared spreadsheet: Open Scotland Curation, or contact either Joe Wilson ( or Lorna M. Campbell ( Please share this call for participation with any colleagues who might be interested.

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 or