Jisc RSC Scotland – a service at the heart of Scottish education

“Putting customers at the heart of what we do: it’s a commitment that many organisations are making, from e-commerce to education.”
Robert Haymon-Collins, Executive director customer experience – Jisc

A few weeks ago I went to the Jisc RSC Scotland annual conference in Glasgow,  I’ve been trying to get to this conference for years now, but due to other commitments that always seemed to get in the way, this was the first year I was able to attend. Colleagues have always spoken very highly about the conference and it certainly lived up to expectations.  It was really inspiring to see such a diverse group of people coming together from across Scottish Further and Higher education to share examples of innovative education practice taking place in colleges and universities right across the country today.  One of the highlights of the conference is always the iTech awards and you only need to look at the wide range of entries this year to see the breadth of education technology innovation across the sector. You also don’t need to look far to see the critical role that Jisc RSC Scotland play in supporting education technology innovation across Scottish education. Indeed for many colleagues Jisc RSC Scotland are Jisc’s real presence north of the border.

Consequently Jisc’s recent announcement (Towards a new-look customer service function for Jisc) that it intends to

‘transform our front of house operations, initially including the current network of regional support centres

rings all sorts of alarm bells.  ‘Front of house service’ seems like an odd way to describe a service as central and critical to the sector as Jisc RSC Scotland.  However it could be that I am not sufficiently au fait with the new customer focused discourse that frames this announcement.

Talk of ‘bringing together customer services’, ‘a unified Jisc presence’ and a ‘core customer service team’ does rather concern me though as it rather suggest the centralisation of Jisc services.  Jisc RSC Scotland’s team of specialist Advisors have an irreplaceable  breadth and depth of experience of the unique character and requirements of Scottish education and any loss or disruption to the services they provide would be a major blow to the sector, particularly at a time when further education is reconsolidating after a period of major funding cuts and regional restructuring.

Such changes could also have a huge impact on the development of open education practice in Scotland as Jisc RSC Scotland have been tireless supporters and promoters of open education through their Open Badges in Scottish Education Group, their CC licensed iTech case studies and their partnership with the Open Scotland initiative.

It’s not entirely clear from the announcement how these changes will affect Jisc RSC Scotland and, to be fair, the blog post does stress that Jisc will enter a consultation process before new roles are recruited in the autumn.  I sincerely hope that Jisc will consult widely with their ‘customers’ throughout the Scottish higher and further education sector and that the Scottish Funding Council will work together with Jisc to ensure that the invaluable service provided by Jisc RSC Scotland is maintained for the benefit of Scottish Higher and Further education as a whole.

#Cetis14 Open Education: From Open Practice to Open Policy

Last week Li and I ran a session at the Cetis Conference on Open Education: From Open Practice to Open Policy.  My initial plan had been to focus on questions such as:

  • What, if any, is the value of open education policy?
  • Do institutions need open education policies?
  • Should government agencies play a role in the development of open education policy?
  • Are there conflicts between commercial interests and market forces, and open education policy and practice?
  •  How can open education initiatives be nurtured and sustained?
  • And what do we mean by “open education” anyway?!

However after talking to David Kernohan he suggested:

“Why not invent a country and create an open education policy for it? We treat the delegates as the government of said country, and we each present what we have done making recommendations for the policy. At the end we ask the “government” to discuss and reach a conclusion.”

So we invited six speakers to talk about their experience of open education policy and practice and, if they felt up to the challenge, to present their policy recommendations for our fictional country.  Marieke Guy of the Open Knowledge Open Education Working Group attended the session has already written an excellent summary of the presentations and discussions here: Cetis Conference 2014 – Time to unhide open. I’m not going to attempt to duplicate Marieke’s great post, which I can highly recommend, so I’ll just highlight a couple of points raised by speakers over the course of the session.  I’ve also posted a Storify of the twitter discussion and relevant links here.

David Kernohan, Jisc

David Kernohan of Jisc kicked off by discussing what is and is not a policy and asking why we might want policy in any given area.

To provide explicit support for a particular practice or idea…
… but not to enforce either the practice or the idea.

To provide a scaffolding for proposed future work…
… or to reinterpret earlier work in the light of a later idea.

To bring a matter to wider attention…
… with a hoped-for result that more concrete steps are taken.

David went on to present a potted history of Jisc’s involvement in open education (he even unearthed a picture of the dreaded #Cetis08 conference “pudding”) and the experiences of the UK Open Education Resources Programme.  David suggested that the success of UKOER was that it was non prescriptive and that multiple, small projects gave agency for people to “work in the open space”.  UKOER encompassed many policies, many people, many practices but resulted in one community.

David Kernohan, Jisc

David Kernohan, Jisc

David’s slides can be downloaded here – Policy, Practice, Chance and Control

Paul Richardson, Jisc RSC Cymru

Paul discussed different meanings of open, and along they way suggested that “MOOCs are a way of turning OER into an experience.”  He also presented a number of Welsh initiatives in the open education space including OER Wales Cymru, the Wales Open Education Declaration of Intent , Y Porth and the Open and online: Wales, higher education and emerging modes of learning Welsh Government report which Paul himself made an invaluable contribution to and which I’ve already blogged about here and on the Open Scotland blog.

Joe Wilson, Scottish Qualifications Authority

Joe gave a lively and thought provoking talk which focused on the potential benefits of open education practice and open educational resources in the schools and further education sectors.  This is a challenge when many education authorities still actively discourage their teachers from sharing resources.  Tis illustrates the gap between policy structures and teachers practice.  Joe also discussed the issue of skills development and called for greater support in upskilling teaching staff and raising awareness of open education.  Finally Joe concluded by introducing Open Scotland and the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

Joe didn’t use any slides but he was wearing a rather fine Desperate Dan t-shirt which later resulted in this dreadful pun on twitter.

Desperate DanDesperate Dan – an important steak holder in open education?

Desperate Dan © DC Thomson & Co. Ltd.
Desperate Pun © Viv Rolfe

Suzanne Hardy, Newcastle University

Suzanne Hardy, Newcastle University

Suzanne Hardy, Newcastle University

Suzanne told us the story of open education developments at Newcastle University.  Being a Russell Group university, Newcastle is highly risk averse and pushing through new policies takes “forever”.  However despite legal concerns about copyright and licensing, Newcastle has embraced MOOCs and will be running its first Futurelearn MOOC shortly, Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman frontier.  Suzanne noted wryly that MOOCs are seen as a good marketing opportunity, and that “marketing trumps the lawyers”. In conclusion, Suzanne warned of the danger of policy becoming a tick box exercise that stifles innovation before reminding us that “it’s people that sustain open education, not policy, not practice”.

Suzanne’s presentation is available here.

Paul Booth, North West OER and Manchester Metropolitan University

Paul presented his own experiences of engaging in open education practice and, like previous speakers, highlighted the gap between open policy and practice.  On the one hand he was praised and rewarded for his open pedagogy, but at the same time he was also threatened with disciplinary action by his own institution. Paul also discussed the challenges of developing regional OER policy and warned that awareness of openness is still low and more needs to be done to promote open education.  Finally Paul rose to David Kernohan’s challenge and announced that he had established a new breakaway open education territory “kind of like Pitcairn” called it Granadaland with it’s own national anthem, sporting heroes and religion.

Granadaland's official sporting team

Granadaland’s official sporting team

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Grandaland’s official religion

Tore Hoel, Nordic OER and Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences.

Tore began by comparing the success of the Open Access movement to that of the open education movement adding “Why did open access succeed? It’s simple, there was a clear enemy.”  Tore suggested that much still needs to be done to raise awareness  and understanding of open education but added that OER can give organisations an opportunity to redesign their educational and financial models. Tore discussed the importance of multilingualism in developing open educational resources and also highlighted the Norwegian Government’s report on MOOCs.  In conclusion, Tore reminded us that “it’s not what you share it’s how you create it”.

Tore Hoel, Nordic OER

Tore Hoel, Nordic OER

Tore’s presentation can be downloaded here: CETIS14_OER.

Institute for Open Leadership – application deadline approaching

new-iol-logoEarlier this year Cetis were pleased to announce their membership of the Open Policy Network (OPN) launched by Creative Commons and partners in May.   One of the first initiatives to be announced by the OPN is the Institute for Open Leadership which aims to

“train new leaders in education, science, and public policy fields on the values and implementation of openness in licensing, policies, and practices.”

The first Institute of Open Leadership programme will run in January 2015 in the San Francisco bay area,   and applications are invited from

“Public and private sector professionals interested in openness and policy with the passion and potential to make a high impact at their institution and/or government through open policy. Emerging leaders in academia, the arts, cultural institutions, government, scientific labs, and others who are eager to become experts in open licensing, pursue new opportunities for open publishing of content and data, and directly influence policy decisions.”

Successful applicants will be required to develop an open policy project that will contribute to increasing openness within their institution and field of work.

Further information about the Institute of Open Leadership, along with details of how to apply are available here: http://openpolicynetwork.org/iol/

The closing date for applications is 30th of June 2014.

Open Education, Open Scotland – report & presentations

(Originally posted at Open Scotland)

Last week the ALT Scotland Special Interest Group hosted the second Open Scotland event, Open Education, Open Scotland at the Informatics Forum at the University of Edinburgh.  This free and open event was attended by sixty colleagues, and speakers represented every sector of Scottish education including schools, further education, higher education and government.

A recording of the event livestream, courtesy of Martin Hawksey of ALT, is available here: morning livestreamafternoon livestream, and there is a storify of tweets, links and presentations here: Open Education, Open Scotland Storify.

 Open Education, Open Scotland  – Joe Wilson, Scottish Qualifications Authority

The event was opened and introduced by Joe Wilson of the Scottish Qualifications Authority and the ALT Scotland SIG.  Joe suggested that universities in Scotland are currently in a very privileged position, but warned that the relationship between learners and institutions is changing.  Meanwhile the college sector has been comprehensively restructured but there is a danger of loosing the focus on the learner in the midst of restructuring.  Joe asked where are the attempts to look at new models of assessment?  Employers want to see that rich portfolio of experience that differentiates students as individuals.  He also asked, what can we do to encourage community learning and digital participation? A  citizen without a browser is now at a disadvantage as Government moves online by default.  Joe challenged delegates to think out of the box in terms of resources, assessment, and credentials and asked how can we open up access to resources to empower disadvantaged learners?

Open Scotland, Open ALT – Maren Deepwell, ALT

Maren provided an update on ALT’s collaboration, strategy and partnerships.  With a slide of Glasgow School of Art’s now destroyed Mackintosh Library, Maren gave us a timely reminder that not all we care about is digital, people are at the heart of what ALT do.  Maren also flagged up some good examples of sharing and open practice including ALT’s ocTEL online course and the Scottish Open Education Declaration from Cetis and Open Scotland.

Scottish Government Perspectives – Colin Cook, Deputy Director of Digital Strategy, Scottish Government

Colin introduced the Scottish Government’s Digital Strategy and focused on the role of the Digital Directorate to bring coherence to digital and ICT initiatives.  The Scottish Government has a policy commitment to build a world class digital Scotland and recognises that digital participation offers an opportunity to challenge ingrained inequalities. The Government wants to provide opportunities for people to move up the digital skills pathway, but it’s important to focus on learning, not just assistance. Third sector organisations have a huge role to play due to the position of trust they have with the digitally excluded.

The government is committed to driving forward digital transformation across the public sector and recognises the need for industry partnerships with education to develop a digital skills academy.  Colin acknowledged that wider use of data is critical to the Government’s long term vision of delivering effective public services, but added that safeguards are in place to promote public confidence so that people can be comfortable with how data is being shared.

SFC and OU update -  David Beards, SFC and Ronald MacIntyre, OU

Learning technology is high on the funding council agenda at the moment.  MOOCs currently dominate the policy rhetoric, but this is well understood and the importance of pedagogy is always there in the background.  Jisc is still the biggest thing that SFC funds and they are committed to the open agenda so it is up to everyone in the sector to let Jisc know what we want them to do.

SFC is providing the Open University with £1.27 million over three years to raise awareness of open education practice and support the sector’s capacity for online pedagogy.  The new “Open Project” will develop an online hub to share best practice, produce a small number of high quality OERs of particular benefit to Scotland, and evaluate various economic models for openness.  The outputs of the project will be very much in accordance with the activities undertaken by Open Scotland over the last year.

Open Badges, Open Borders – Suzanne Scott,  Borders College

Suzanne presented Borders College’s innovative use of open badges. Borders College’s journey started with a Moodle open badges pilot but following a chance discussion with the head of human resources, the initiative has now spread. Open badges are now used to engage with staff and have replaced all staff CPD paper certificates.  The use of badges for staff has increased loyalty and attendance at CPD sessions.

Phonar Open Courses – Jonathan Worth, Coventry University

Jonathan related his experiences of rethinking the business model behind photography and opening access to his Coventry University photography course.  The course, Phonar,  expanded from 9,000 to 35,000 people over a thirteen-week period prompting a mixed response from the university.   Institutions hear “open” and they think “free”, but talk about “connected” and they see business opportunities. Connections mean networks and opportunities.  Photographs are not the product, but digital fluency is an extremely valuable product.  Jonathan also warned “If you think your product as a teacher is information, you’re going head to head with the internet. Good luck with that!”  Jonathan also introduced Phonar Nation, “The biggest youth photography class in the world”.

Exploring the Digital University – Sheila MacNeill, Glasgow Caledonian University

After our scheduled speaker was unfortunately unable to attend,  Sheila kindly agreed to step in at the last minute to talk about research she and Bill Johnson have been undertaking on exploring the digital university. Sheila presented four key themes for digital universities: digital participation, information literacy, learning environments,  and curriculum and course design. She noted that universities’ civic roles can change quite profoundly through digital technology and urged us to think about the interface of digital and physical interaction.  Sheila also referred to Edinburgh Napier University’s Digital Futures project and talked about mapping digital literacy and residency across different university services.  Wrapping up her presentation Sheila questioned whether being an open practitioner was a “luxury” or a “daily necessity” for colleagues across the sector. 

Opening GLOW – Opening GLOW – Ian Stuart and John Johnston

GLOW initially started life as a national schools intranet in 2001, now Glow is about unlocking the benefits of the internet and providing learning opportunities.  For some time GLOW seemed clunky and unworkable but in 2010 wikis and forums were added.  Identity management should be core to GLOW services and accommodating BYOD has to be part of the GLOW landscape.  John and Ian acknowledge that there’s still lots of work to do with GLOW, but also plenty room to manoeuvre and to encourage teachers to become open educators. We need to encourage teachers to open up in as many ways as possible, the technology is the easy bit, culture is harder, and we need help from folk further along the road.

The Scottish Open Education Declaration – Lorna M. Campbell, Cetis

Lorna introduced the Scottish Open Education Declaration a community initiative launched by Cetis and Open Scotland. Based on the UNESCO Paris OER Declaration, the Scottish Open Education Declaration has a wider scope as it focuses on all aspects of open education practice, not just open education resources. The declaration also includes a clause on supporting the use of open source software in education. A key aspect of the declaration is the focus on education as a public good. The declaration is an open CC licensed public draft and all colleagues are invited to contribute.  A large number of comments have already been received, points that have been raised include, changing the focus of the declaration so that technology is viewed as an enabler rather than a driver, the need for an open culture shift and the necessity of capacity building, the importance of sharing and education sectors and stronger commitments to open licensing.  The first draft will remain open for comment for another month, then comments will be edited into the document, and a second draft posted for further discussion.

What is schema.org? Technical Briefing Paper

Last week my colleague Phil Barker and I published a new technical briefing paper What is schema.org?

schema_briefingThis briefing has been produced as part of our work with the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI). LRMI expands schema.org so that it can be used to describe educationally significant characteristics of resources. At a technical level, the first step to understanding LRMI is to understand schema.org.

What is schema.org? describes the schema.org specification for a technical audience. It is aimed at people who may want to use schema.org markup in websites or other tools, and who wish to know more about the technical approach behind schema.org and how to implement it. As such, it has relevance beyond the description of educational resources, and we hope it will be of interest to anyone describing resources on the web. Additional briefings providing an in-depth technical overview of LRMI will follow.

What is schema.org? Can be downloaded from the Cetis Publications website here http://publications.cetis.ac.uk/2014/960

About LRMI

The Learning Resource Metadata Initiative is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and jointly lead by Creative Commons and the Association of Educational Publishers—now the 501(c)(3) arm of the Association of American Publishers—with the aim of making it easier to publish, discover and deliver high quality educational resources on the web. With input from a wide range of organisations, from both the open and commercial spheres, involved in publishing, creating and using educational resources, LRMI successfully proposed additions to schema.org (an initiative of Google, Yahoo and Bing) allowing the description of educationally important properties of resources to be marked-up in web pages in a manner that is easily understood by search engines. This enables users to create custom search engines that support the filtering of search results based on criteria such as their match to a specific part of a curriculum, the age of the students, or other relevant characteristics.

Open Scotland at CILIP Scotland Conference

Earlier this week I was invited to present about Open Scotland at the CILIP Scotland Conference in Dundee. This is the first time I’ve attended the CILIPS conference and it was a really lively and engaging event with over 300 participants and an inspiring keynote on “Challenges, Choices and Opportunities” from Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie Trust.  My Open Scotland presentations seemed to be well received and I was very encouraged to have a couple of questions about the potential role of public libraries in opening access to educational resources, particularly for the school sector.  When we held the first Open Scotland Summit in Edinburgh in 2013 it occurred to me that the education sector potentially has much to learn from the public library sector in terms of open practice.  My presentation session was ably chaired by Heather Marshall, Senior Librarian at Glasgow Caledonian University Library and in conversation with her afterwards I was struck yet again by GCU Library’s commitment to promoting open educational resources and encouraging open educational practice among their staff.

cilips14