Vivien Rolfe, Co-Chair of the ALT Open Education SIG and Associate Head of Department of Biological, Biomedical and Analytical Science, UWE, has written an excellent blog post on her thoughts on sharing and open education following the recent Hewlett Foundation Annual OER Meeting. Viv reflects on the experiences that sparked her initial interest and engagement with open education and the role of the UKOER Programme in shaping her own open practice and its ongoing influence in connecting networks of open education practitioners across the sector. Fundamentally what drives Viv’s practice and research in open education is exploring the motivation to share.
…there is no doubt in my mind that all people – students, teachers, executive and other partners buy-into the notion of OER very quickly and see that sharing makes sense. Sharing is a positive thing with many benefits, although sometimes the boundaries might require a little definition.
Viv also has some pertinent reflections on the current state of open education in the UK today, and concludes by encouraging us all to just get out there and share.
Not to beat ourselves with a stick – open education from our UK perspective has been transformatory in terms of teaching practice, establishing collaborations and sharing common goals toward a better education system. Unfortunately we have stalled in the UK with very little if any funding now for education innovation projects or research. But we can do something to chip away to complete the OER = sharing = equality loop.
As I said at the Hewlett meeting, my dream for OER was about fair and equal chances for people to access education, and to make these inroads now takes a concerted effort.
SO GO SHARE! Go share an OER story with a colleague or student that has never heard of open. We share where we feel comfortable within our own circles, but how will we ever challenge inequality if we don’t go out and meet it face on?
I’m delighted to have been invited to Berlin later this week to give a talk at OERde14 – The Future of Free Educational Materials. I’ll be talking about a range of contrasting initiatives that have aimed to promote open education policy and practice in Scotland, England and Wales over the last five years, including the UKOER Programme, Open Scotland, OER Wales, the Welsh Open Education Declaration of Intent, the Scottish Open Education Declaration and the Opening Educational Practice in Scotland project. I’ll also be reflecting on the different approaches taken by these initiatives and asking what Germany can learn from the experiences of open education practitioners in the UK.
The first and largest open education initiative in the UK was the UKOER Programme. Between 2009 and 2012 the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) invested over £10 million in UKOER, and funded over 80 projects at universities throughout England. UKOER proved to be hugely successful, however only English universities were eligible to bid for funding. As a result, there was arguably less awareness of the potential benefits of open education across other sectors of UK education. That is not to say there have been no significant open education developments in other parts of the UK, simply that approaches to open education have followed different paths.
In September 2013 universities in Wales issued the Wales Open Education Declaration of Intent, which announced Welsh Universities commitment to work towards the principals of open education and in direct response, the OER Cymru project was established. In a parallel initiative, the Welsh Government established an Open Digital Learning Working Group in early 2013, which published the report Open and Online: Wales, higher education and emerging modes of learning.
Meanwhile north of the border, interest was growing around the area of Open Badges, and MOOCs had also caught the attention of Scottish Higher Education.
In order to raise awareness of open education policy and practice more widely, Cetis, SQA, Jisc RSC Scotland and the ALT Scotland SIG, came together to launch Open Scotland in early 2013. Open Scotland is an unfunded 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. Among other activities, Open Scotland launched the Scottish Open Education Declaration, based on the UNESCO Paris OER Declaration.
Open education in general, and MOOCS in particular, also caught the attention of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Funding Council, and in early 2014 the Funding Council announced a £1.3 million investment in open education. Rather than issue an open funding call similar to the UKOER programme, SFC allocated their funding to the Open University to establish the Opening Education Practices in Scotland (OEPS) project, which aims to facilitate best practice in open education in Scotland.
These diverse programmes represent just some of the open education initiatives that have emerged in the UK; they provide a wide range of exemplars that may be of interest and benefit to open education practitioners in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.
Last week Joe Wilson of SQA and I presented a short webinar on the Open Scotland initiative and the Scottish Open Education Declaration. The webinar, which was hosted by Celeste McLaughlin of Jisc RSC Scotland, generated some interesting discussion and debate around open education in Scotland. A recording of the webinar is available here, and our slides are available from slideshare here .
The Scottish Open Education Declaration was introduced in the context of other open education developments including the UNESCO / COL Paris OER Declaration, the Open Educational Resources in Europe project, and Welsh HEIs statement of intent to work to open education principals. The Open Scotland initiative welcomes participation from individuals and institutions and we encourage all those with and interest in open education to comment on and endorse the Scottish Open Education Declaration. Joe encouraged participants to get involved as individuals and also to take the Declaration back to their academic boards to raise awareness of the initiative and to get their institutions to sign up. At this stage, the main aim of the Declaration is to raise awareness of the potential benefits of open education policy and practice, a valuable next step would be to start gathering exemplars that illustrate each statement of the declaration in action.
Joe and I both highlighted examples of open education practice in Scotland and further afield and participants also suggested other examples of communities sharing educational resources including the Computing at School Scotland initiative which aims to promote the teaching of computer science at school, and the fabulously named Magic Physics Pixies and their Scottish Physics Teaching Resources network. This discussion prompted Tavis Reddick, of Fife College, to ask:
“Are there any illustrative exemplars of, say, OER, which Open Scotland would recommend to show how sharing and remix could work in practice?”
There was some discussion of the Re:Source repository of open education resources for the Scottish college sector, with questions being asked about how extensively it is currently being used and whether a sustainable funding model could be developed. One suggestion was that, in the longer term, recurrent funding for Re:source could potentially come from the things it might replace, such as teaching materials acquisition budgets. One participant noted that their college did not yet have a policy that allowed them to publish OERs to Re:Source, but added that they hoped their board would take an interest soon.
One very valid question raised towards the end of the webinar was “how will we know if we are getting any better at this?” There are currently no benchmarking guidelines or KPIs for open education in Scotland but it would certainly be very interesting to undertake a landscape study of current open education practice across all sectors of Scottish education. This would act as a baseline against which we could measure progress, but a survey of this nature would require dedicated funding and resources. We’re already aware of lots of interesting examples of open education practice in Scotland but I’m sure that are many, many more out there, so if you know of any, or if you’re involved in any open education initiatives at your own institution, please do get in touch!
“Open Policies can develop Scotland’s unique education offering, support social inclusion and inter-institutional collaboration and sharing and enhance quality and sustainability.”
This was the starting point for discussions at the Open Scotland Summit at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, which brought together senior representatives from a wide range of Scottish education institutions, organisations and agencies to discuss open education policy for Scotland. Facilitated by Jisc Cetis, in collaboration with SQA, Jisc RSC Scotland and the ALT Scotland SIG, Open Scotland provided senior managers, policy makers and key thinkers with an opportunity to explore shared strategic priorities and scope collaborative activities to encourage the development of open education policies and practices to benefit the Scottish education sector as a whole.
Keynote and Lightning Talks
Dr Cable Green, Creative Commons’ Director of Global Learning opened the summit with an inspiring keynote on “Open Education: The Business and Policy Case for OER”. Cable began by quoting Cathy Casserly and Mike Smith of Creative Commons and the Hewlett Foundation:
“At the heart of the movement towards Open Educational Resources is the simple and powerful idea that the world’s knowledge is a public good and that technology in general and the Worldwide Web in particular provide an opportunity for everyone to share, use, and reuse it.”
Cable went on to discuss the significance of the Cape Town Declaration, the development of Creative Commons licences and the Paris OER Declaration before concluding that:
“the opposite of open is not ‘closed’, the opposite of open is ‘broken’.”
A series of lightning talks on different aspects of openness and open education initiatives in neighbouring countries followed Cable’s keynote; “Open Source in Education” by Scott Wilson of OSS Watch, “Open Data” by Cetis’ Wilbert Kraan, “MOOCs: The Elephant in the room?” by Sheila MacNeill, also of Cetis, David Kernohan of Jisc presented the HEFCE funded UKOER Programmes, Tore Hoel of Oslo and Akershus University College introduced the Nordic Open Education Alliance, and Paul Richardson presented the perspective from Wales.
Challenges, Priorities and the Benefits of Openness
During the afternoon participants had the opportunity to break into groups to discuss issues relating to openness, and how greater openness could help them to address their current strategic priorities and challenges.
The key issues raised included the following:
There are compelling arguments that old models for publishing research and content are outdated. New models are needed and again the arguments for these are compelling, however these new models require changes in attitude and practice. University business models don’t necessarily need to be built on sale of content, instead they can be built on access to great faculty, support, facilities, maximising efficiency through collaboration, etc. There is a lot of insecurity in the sector, staff are worried about their jobs, so there needs to be clarity about their roles and responsibilities and what they are paid to do.
Both within and between organisations there are different perceptions of “open”. For example, quality and assessment bodies have increased external openness by sharing assessment criteria, however due to confidentiality agreements institutions have to limit the data that is available to the public.
There is still a tendency to release OER under restrictive open licences, limiting the ability to re-use, revise, re-mix, re-distribute the new resource. One way to overcome the “closed mind” mentality is to develop policy to support openness, however open doesn’t equal free or without cost, investment is required to make resources open.
Openness is not always recognised, there are pockets of open activity throughout Scotland but these are not joined up. E.g. there are good examples of long-standing open practise among public libraries.
Lack of quality assurance is still raised as a barrier to OER. Cable Green suggested there needs to be a shift in attitude and culture from “not invented here to proudly borrowed from there”. Under Creative Commons licence, resource creators can invoke a non-endorsement clause in situations where an original work is re-purposed but the originating authors does not approve of the repurposed work.
Learners are co-creators of knowledge. How do we engage them? Learners, rather than institutions need to be central to all discussions relating to open policy and practice.
What can Scotland learn from other countries? The UKOER programme evidenced interest in OER and willingness to change practice south of the border. How can Scotland learn from this and use this experience to springboard ahead? There are parallels between Scotland, the Nordic Countries and the devolved nations, is there scope for working collaboratively with other countries?
How can open education policies and practices address the “Big Ticket” government agendas? Post 16 educations, widening access, knowledge transfer, driving changes in curriculum models, school – college – university articulation.
The education sector is undergoing a period of massive change and it is difficult to cope with additional new initiatives and agendas. However the sector can also capitalise on this period of change, as change provides opportunity for radical new developments.
At the school level the curriculum for excellence is changing the way children think and learn and universities and colleagues need to be ready for this. How can openness help?
Funding has been cut drastically in the FE sector. Does this mean that fewer students will be taught or that colleges need to be smarter and make greater use of open educational resources?
Articulation could be key to promoting the use of OER in Scotland. Many HEIs have produced resources for FE – HE articulation that could be released under Creative Commons licences.
An Open Education Declaration for Scotland
Using the UNESCO Paris Declaration as a starting point, the groups explored the potential of developing a Scottish open education declaration.
There was general agreement that the Paris Declaration was a “good thing” however many participants felt it was too focused on OER and that a Scottish declaration should encompass open education more widely.
In addition, the Paris Declaration focuses on “states”, a Scottish declaration would need to define its own stakeholders. It would also be beneficial to develop a common vocabulary (e.g. OER, open education, open learning, etc.) to enable effective communication and identify actions that move us forward.
While there was agreement that the statements of the Paris Declaration were beneficial, it was felt that a degree of contextualisation was required in order to demonstrate these statements and principals in action. One group suggested that it might be useful to have a grid of the Declaration’s statements that stakeholders could fill in to provide evidence of the statements in action. Cable Green added that projects are on going internationally to implement specific actions from the Declaration and suggested that Scotland might consider selecting one or more statements to take forward as actions.
Actions and Deliverables
Action 1 – Establish a working group, similar to Wales and the Nordic countries, that can stimulate research in the area of open education and inform future Government white papers. Cetis, SQA, Jisc RSC Scotland and the ALT Scotland SIG to discuss taking this forward.
Action 2 – Invite participants from those nations that are further ahead of Scotland in promoting the open Agenda. Work with the other devolved nations in the UK.
Action 3 – Use the working group to focus on key Government priorities and agendas, e.g. learner journeys, articulation, work based learning, knowledge transfer.
Key Deliverable 1: A position paper providing evidence of the benefits of openness with examples of how these can impact on Government priorities. (Cetis and the ALT Scotland SIG chair to meet in late July to begin work on a first draft. All drafts will be circulated publically for comment and input.)
Key Deliverable 2: A Scottish Open Learning declaration (including topologies, grids and action focussed statements).
Key Deliverable 3: Government policy on open education. This will require stakeholder groups to state how they will engage with and contribute to the implementation of the policy.
Continuing the Discussion
All these points are open to discussion and we would encourage all interested parties to contribute to the debate. Please feel free to comment here, or to contact the event organisers directly at the addresses below. If you blog or tweet about Open Scotland, or any of the issues raised as a result, please use the hashtag #openscot so we can track the discussion online.
Phil Barker, firstname.lastname@example.org; Lorna M. Campbell, email@example.com; Linda Creanor, firstname.lastname@example.org; Sheila MacNeill, email@example.com, Celeste McLaughlin, Celeste.McLaughlin@glasgow.ac.uk, Joe Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cetis would like to thank the following people for making the Open Scotland Summit possible: Phil Barker, Andrew Comrie, Linda Creanor, Martin Hawksey, Cable Green, Sheila MacNeill, Celeste Mclaughlin, Joe Wilson.
Thanks also to our presenters Cable Green, Tore Hoel, David Kernohan, Wilbert Kraan, Sheila MacNeill, Paul Richardson, Scot Wilson.
Arran Moffat and GloCast recorded and edited the presentations and valiantly attempted to stream Cable’s keynote through three foot thick tower walls!
A word from one of our participants:
Now is the right time to push the open agenda forward. Scotland hasn’t missed the boat, sometimes it’s good to wait for the second wave.