This week I’m at the Open Course Ware Consortium Conference in Ljubljana. They have some absolutely splendid dragons here!
Earlier this month I was delighted to be invited to join the Advisory Board of the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Open Education Working Group. The aim of the group, which is led by Marieke Guy, is “to initiate global cross-sector and cross-domain activity that encompasses the various facets of open education.” Marieke has invited all Board members to write an introductory blog post for the group so here’s mine. It was published over at Open Education Working Group site last week.
It’s hard to say when my own involvement in open education began. The start of the Jisc / HEA UKOER Programmes in 2009 is an obvious point of reference but many of the programmes and projects I was involved in long before that were concerned with sharing educational resources. Open licences were unheard of when I began working in education technology in 1997 so early projects I was involved with, such as Clyde Virtual University (SHEFC Use of the MANs Initiative) and the Scottish electronic Staff Development Library (SHEFC ScotCIT Programme), took a walled garden approach to sharing. Different methods of sharing, managing and disseminating educational resources were explored and developed over the next decade by a wide range of Jisc development programmes. Some of the ones I was directly involved in include Exchange for Learning (X4L), Digital Libraries in the Classroom, ReProduce, and the Digital Repositories and Preservation Programmes.
It was only with the launch of the Jisc / HEA UKOER Programme that I really got involved with open education as we might recognise it today though. On the surface, the primary aim of the HEFCE funded UKOER Programme was to get openly licenced educational content out there into the public domain, (the metaphor we frequently used was turning on the tap), however the underlying aim to the programme was to raise awareness of OER and embed open education practice within English higher education institutions. In keeping with the experimental and innovative nature of UKOER, Cetis recommended a novel approach to steering the programmes’ technical direction. Rather than identifying specific applications, standards, application profiles and vocabularies, we recommended that the UKOER programmes should adopt an open approach to the use of technology and standards. No descriptive standards, exchange mechanisms or specific technologies were mandated, thus allowing projects the freedom to choose the tools or technologies that best suited their requirements. The only provisos were that all projects should use the programme tag ‘ukoer’ and represent the resources they released in the Jorum national repository.
This open approach to technology and standards enabled us to learn from real world practice and to surface technical issues and problem areas. As a result, Cetis role in the UKOER Programmes was more conversational than directional. We monitored projects’ progress with the adoption and use of a wide range of technologies, applications and resource description approaches and helped to identify common technical issues. At the end of UKOER we synthesised the technical outputs of the programmes and produced an open ebook called Into the Wild: Technology for open educational resources. Even this book was a result of open practice! The book was the result of booksprint using the open source Booktype platform and an open draft was shared with the community for input and comment.
Working with the UKOER Programmes was a hugely rewarding experience and I think its fair to say that we all learned a lot, not just about open education technology, but also about the culture and practice of sharing. Measuring the impact of short-term innovation funding programmes is notoriously difficult, but looking back now, two years after the end of UKOER, it really does look like the programme made a real difference in raising awareness of OER and embedding open educational practice in the English higher education sector.
Since the end of the UKOER Programmes in 2012 I’ve continued to engage with a wide range of open education developments, including the US Learning Registry initiative, Creative Commons, the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative, Wikimedia UK and the Open Knowledge Foundation.
More recently I’ve been involved with the Open Scotland initiative. Open Scotland is a voluntary cross sector initiative, led by Cetis, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, Jisc Regional Support Centre Scotland and the Association for Learning Technology’s Scotland Special Interest Group. The aim of Open Scotland is to raise awareness of open education, encourage the sharing of open educational resources, and explore the potential of open education policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education. To further these aims, we have recently launched the draft Scottish Open Education Declaration. This declaration builds on the UNESCO 2012 Paris OER Declaration but the scope has been widened to focus on open education more generally, rather than OER specifically.
The cornerstone of the Open Scotland initiative is our belief that open education can promote knowledge transfer while at the same time enhancing quality and sustainability, supporting social inclusion, and creating a culture of inter-institutional collaboration and sharing. I believe that open education can expand access to education, widen participation, create new opportunities for the next generation of teachers and learners and prepare them to become fully engaged digital citizens. I know that these are goals and beliefs that the OKF Open Education Working Group shares and I am privileged to have an opportunity to contribute to this group.
I’m just back from spending a week at home in the Outer Hebrides. Nothing to report on the open education front up there (at least, not that I know of), but there’s plenty of open space and sometimes that’s no bad thing at all!
(Cross posted from Open Scotland blog)
Last week the Welsh Government’s Online Digital Learning Working Group published their report Open and Online: Wales, higher education and emerging modes of learning. The group was established in February 2013 by Leighton Andrews AM, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and Skills at the time,
“to examine the potential for online digital learning and how the Welsh Government can support the higher education sector in this growing field.”
Paul Richardson of Jisc RSC Wales acted as professional advisor to the group and undertook the consultation exercise. The report includes an invaluable background paper produced by Paul on Open and online resources: implications for practice in higher education institutions in Wales, which provides an invaluable overview of recent open education developments including OER and MOOCs, and quotes from a number of Cetis blogs and publications. Although Paul’s paper focuses on the implications of open education for Welsh HEIs I can also highly recommend is as an excellent general summary of recent developments open education policy, practice and technology.
The report itself includes the following of seven recommendations addressed to the Minister for Education and Skills and higher education institutions.
To the Minister for Education and Skills
1. Widening access to higher education to those with low participation backgrounds.
Fund the development of O&O resources for use in schools and colleges, with the aim of raising aspirations of learners from low participation backgrounds. This scheme should be co-ordinated through collaboration between HEIs and schools and colleges in their region, via existing Reaching Wider Partnership networks.
Investigate the use of Hwb as a host for the O&O resources developed, with the intention of establishing a central repository where all schools and colleges may access these resources.
Extend the work of the Open University OpenLearn Champions project to cover the whole of Wales via the Reaching Wider Partnerships.
Liaise with NIACE Dysgu Cymru, Agored Cymru, and others to align O&O resource production with the needs of adult learners pursuing agreed progression routes, including CQFW.
2. Developing skills for the workplace and the Welsh economy
Develop a strategy, working with other agencies, to raise awareness of the potential for online learning to support economic development.
Use the Welsh Government’s sector panels to foster dialogue between stakeholders (including educational providers and employers) in order to identify opportunities to develop skills using online resources.
Examine how online learning should be integrated into the approach for programmes funded through the European Social Fund.
3. Developing Welsh language skills for employment
Develop a Welsh language skills MOOC at higher education level so that students and work-based learners can develop their professional Welsh language skills and potentially seek certification for those skills.
To the higher education institutions
4. Reviewing institutional policies, monitoring developments and exploiting opportunities
Agree what the institution’s overall approach to open and online resources should be, monitor external O&O developments, and exploit opportunities to produce and use resources.
5. Strengthening institutional reputation and brand
Exploit open and online resources in appropriate circumstances to showcase the quality of learning opportunities.
To the Minister and the higher education institutions
6. Improving the skills of higher education staff
Institutions should provide academic staff with the skills and support they need to make most effective use of open and online approaches to learning.
HEFCW should continue to contribute to the costs of Jisc’s programme on open and online resources and take advantage of Jisc’s expertise.
HEFCW and the Higher Education Academy should take a lead on this agenda.
7. Licensing and sharing open educational resources
The Welsh Government should encourage the systematic adoption of open licensing for open educational resources produced by HEIs in Wales
Where possible staff and institutions should release open educational resources using an appropriate Creative Commons licence
Institutions should make open educational resources widely available, including via the Jorum repository.
Taken together with Welsh HEIs recent statement of intent to work towards the principals of open education, the publication of this report represents another important step forward for open education in Wales and provides inspiration for Open Scotland to continue raising awareness of open education policy and practice at senior management and government level.
The Open and Online report can be downloaded here and Andrew Green, chair of the Online Digital Resources Working Group has written an introductory blog post here MOOCs and other animals: ‘open & online’ report published
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 embedded below.
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?”
Although Open Scotland hasn’t got as far as recommending specific resources, the UKOER Programmes produced a wide range of resources including the OER Infokit, and the ALT Open Education SIG recently gathered a series of case studies for Open Education Week. The University of Leeds have also produced guidelines on developing and using OER for staff and students which have been adopted and repurposed by Glasgow Caledonian University: Library Guidance on open educational resources.
There is also considerable interest in the potential of Open Badges across the sector. Joe flagged up SQA’s commitment to Open Badges and Celeste highlighted the work of the Open Badges in Scottish Education Group and Borders College’s use of Open Badges to replace paper based certification for continuing professional development activities.
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!
A couple of weeks ago the fabulous Port Towns and Urban Cultures folk posted an article I wrote on the history of the Upper Clyde Shipyards and the Scottish media’s reaction to announcements of the threatened closure of the Govan yard at the end of last year. If you’re interested, you can read the post here:
And while you’e over there, I can highly recommend having a browse around the Port Towns and Urban Cultures site as they post a wide range of fascinating articles. One of my recent favourites is Daniel Swan’s “It’s because we’re just women.” Listening to women in port town industries
“We are all publishers now, publishing has never been so ubiquitous”
- Padmini Ray Murray
Earlier this week I was speaking at What I Know Is an interdisciplinary research symposium on online collaborative knowledge building organised by the University of Stirling’s Division of Communications, Media and Culture, together with Wikimedia UK. It was a completely fascinating and eclectic event that covered everything from new models of academic publishing, issues of trust and authorship, non-hierarchical networks of knowledge, extended cognition, collaborative art and the semantics of open.
Trust was a recurring theme that ran through the event. Symposium chair Greg Singh touched on fundamental issues of digital literacy and trust in his opening talk and Ally Crockford, the National Library of Scotland’s Wikimeian in residence, explored these themes in a talk about tensions and anxieties that persist around Wikipedia and collaborative authoring. Issues of trust persist around Wikipedia partially due to unfinished nature of many entries, however Ally argued that the evolving nature of Wikipedia is one of its strengths, you can see the history of everything written there. More fundamentally, Ally argued that Wikipedia democratises knowledge and teaches the value of thinking critically. Wikipedia is no longer a resource, it has become a structure for open access knowledge. Ally also picked up on continued anxiety and distrust of open access policies that lingers in academia, and in the humanities in particular, a sentiment that was echoed by many in the room.
Padmini Ray Murray, University of Stirling, picked up on the theme of open access and explored new models of academic publishing including Knowledge Unlatched and the Palgrave Pivot initiative, a novella approach to academic publishing. However she also acknowledged that there is a real danger of an academic divide developing around open access as many authors in developing countries can not afford article processing charges. Padmini also challenged us all to contribute more to Wikipedia, arguing that it’s our responsibility as digital citizens. Contributing to Wikipedia can challenge the unassailable voice of the academic, and that is no bad thing.
The second session of the symposium focused on extending cognition and agency and we had two proper philosophy presentations from real live philosophers Mike Wheeler and Zoe Drayson. Mike introduced the concept of cognitive niche construction; the process of building environmental structures to enable cognition. Humans excel at creating environments that help us to think more effectively and constructively. We embedded cognition by out sourcing tasks outside our thinking brain. Extended cognition suggests that thinking is not bounded by the brain, it is spatially distributed across brain, body and world. Technology can be viewed as an extension of adaptive memory. In the “Google age” the organic brain will now stores the access mechanisms of how to use technology to find information, rather than information itself. Real-time crowd sourcing, as on Twitter or Wikipedia, means that ownership of information is challenged. Mike suggested that one reason people are reluctant to contribute to Wikipedia is that the relation of the information you submit is unstably related to you.
Zoe expanded on the theme of knowledge and its relation to truth and belief.
Knowledge is true belief (+ something extra) = a combination of what a person believes + true information about the world
Zoe explored whether wikis challenge the standard account of knowledge because they are collaborative and online, and argued that neither the online nor the collaborative aspect of wikis conflict with the idea that information can constitute knowledge.
The third symposium session explored collaborative community initiatives. Penny Travlou focused on networked communities, creativity and spatiality. She talked about how collaborative art practices have been inspired by the open source computing community and introduced the Furtherfield initiative, a nurturing space where people work in non-hierarchical, network communities.
I spoke about Open Scotland as a collaborative online initiative to raise awareness of the potential benefits of open education practice within Scottish education. I’ve given variations of this presentation several times recently and it’s always interesting to see how aware, or not, people are of open education. In this case only two or three people in an audience of around forty had come across the UKOER Programme and Open Badges, were a similarly alien concept. However, there was a huge amount of interest in the potential of open education and an interesting discussion after my talk about how both academics and students could explore and embed more openness in their own practice.
The day rounded off with a wide-ranging conversation between Toni Sant and Greg Singh. Toni explored the idea of knowledge construction as bricolage, an every day process of putting things together from other things we find lying around. (This rather made me think of the Wombles, but it was getting rather late in the day by that point!) Toni also gave us a lightning tour of the full range of Wikimedia activities and introduced their education and outreach programmes. The symposium was drawn to a suitably rousing conclusion with Toni challenging us to
“Be open, collaborative, flexible, global. Don’t be afraid of the future. We can create it together. Be bold…just do it”
- Lorna Campbell (Cetis/ Open Scotland/ Open Knowledge Foundation)
- Dr Zoe Drayson (University of Stirling)
- Dr Padmini Ray Murray (University of Stirling)
- Dr Toni Sant (University of Hull / Wikimedia UK Academic Liaison)
- Dr Greg Singh (University of Stirling, Symposium Chair)
- Dr Penny Travlou (University of Edinburgh)
- Professor Mike Wheeler (University of Stirling)
- Dr Ally Crockford (University of Edinburgh / National Library of Scotland Wikimedian in Residence)