Open.Ed

Earlier this week I was invited by Ewan Klein and Melissa Highton to speak at Open.Ed, an event focused on Open Knowledge at the University of Edinburgh.  A storify of the event is available here: Open.Ed – Open Knowledge at the University of Edinburgh.

“Open Knowledge encompasses a range of concepts and activities, including open educational resources, open science, open access, open data, open design, open governance and open development.”

 – Ewan Klein

Ewan set the benchmark for the day by reminding us that open data is only open by virtue of having an open licence such as CC0, CC BY, CC SA. CC Non Commercial should not be regarded as an open licence as it restricts use.  Melissa expanded on this theme, suggesting that there must be an element of rigour around definitions of openness and the use of open licences. There is a reputational risk to the institution if we’re vague about copyright and not clear about what we mean by open. Melissa also reminded us not to forget open education in discussions about open knowledge, open data and open access. Edinburgh has a long tradition of openness, as evidenced by the Edinburgh Settlement, but we need a strong institutional vision for OER, backed up by developments such as the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

open_ed_melissa

Melissa Highton

I followed Melissa, providing a very brief introduction to Open Scotland and the Scottish Open Education Declaration, before changing tack to talk about open access to cultural heritage data and its value to open education. This isn’t a topic I usually talk about, but with a background in archaeology and an active interest in digital humanities and historical research, it’s an area that’s very close to my heart. As a short case study I used the example of Edinburgh University’s excavations at Loch na Berie broch on the Isle of Lewis, which I worked on in the late 1980s. Although the site has been extensively published, it’s not immediately obvious how to access the excavation archive. I’m sure it’s preserved somewhere, possibly within the university, perhaps at RCAHMS, or maybe at the National Museum of Scotland. Where ever it is, it’s not openly available, which is a shame, because if I was teaching a course on the North Atlantic Iron Age there is some data form the excavation that I might want to share with students. This is no reflection on the directors of the fieldwork project, it’s just one small example of how greater access to cultural heritage data would benefit open education. I also flagged up a rather frightening blog post, Dennis the Paywall Menance Stalks the Archives,  by Andrew Prescott which highlights the dangers of what can happen if we do not openly licence archival and cultural heritage data – it becomes locked behind commercial paywalls. However there are some excellent examples of open practice in the cultural heritage sector, such as the National Portrait Gallery’s clearly licensed digital collections and the work of the British Library Labs. However openness comes at a cost and we need to make greater efforts to explore new business and funding models to ensure that our digital cultural heritage is openly available to us all. For those that are interested, my slides are available on Slideshare here: open.ed

Ally Crockford, Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Scotland, spoke about the hugely successful Women, Science and Scottish History editathon recently held at the university. However she noted that as members of the university we are in a privileged position in that enables us to use non-open resources (books, journal articles, databases, artefacts) to create open knowledge. Furthermore, with Wikpedia’s push to cite published references, there is a danger of replicating existing knowledge hierarchies. Ally reminded us that as part of the educated elite, we have a responsibility to open our mindsets to all modes of knowledge creation. Publishing in Wikipedia also provides an opportunity to reimagine feedback in teaching and learning. Feedback should be an open participatory process, and what better way for students to learn this than from editing Wikipedia.

Robin Rice, EDINA and Data Library, asked the question what does Open Access and Open Data sharing look like? Open Access publications are increasingly becoming the norm, but we’re not quite there yet with open data. It’s not clear if researchers will be cited if they make their data openly available and career rewards are uncertain. However there are huge benefits to opening access to data and citizen science initiatives; public engagement, crowd funding, data gathering and cleaning, and informed citizenry. In addition, social media an play can important role in working openly and transparently

Robin Rice

Robin Rice

Jim Bednar, talking about computational neuroscience and the problem of reproducibility, picked up this theme, adding that accountability is a big attraction of open data sharing. Jim recommended using iPython Notebook   for recording and sharing data and computational results and helping to make them reproducible. This promoted Anne-Marie Scott to comment on twtter:

Very cool indeed.

James Stewart spoke about the benefits of crowdsourcing and citizen science.   Despite the buzz words, this is not a new idea, there’s a long tradition of citizens engaging in science. Darwin regularly received reports and data from amateur scientists. Maintaining transparency and openness is currently a big problem for science, but openness and citizen science can help to build trust and quality. James also cited Open Street Map as a good example of building community around crowdsourcing data and citizen science. Crowdsourcing initiatives create a deep sense of community – it’s not just about the science, it’s also about engagement.

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James Stewart

After coffee (accompanied by Tunnocks caramel wafers – I approve!) We had a series of presentations on the student experience and students engagement with open knowledge.

Paul Johnson and Greg Tyler, from the Web, Graphics and Interaction section of IS,  spoke about the necessity of being more open and transparent with institutional data and the importance of providing more open data to encourage students to innovate. Hayden Bell highlighted the importance of having institutional open data directories and urged us to spend less time gathering data and more making something useful from it. Students are the source of authentic experience about being a student – we should use this! Student data hacks are great, but they often have to spend longer getting and parsing the data than doing interesting stuff with it. Steph Hay also spoke about the potential of opening up student data. VLEs inform the student experience; how can we open up this data and engage with students using their own data? Anonymised data from Learn was provided at Smart Data Hack 2015 but students chose not to use it, though it is not clear why.  Finally, Hans Christian Gregersen brought the day to a close with a presentation of Book.Ed, one of the winning entries of the Smart Data Hack.  Book.ed is a app that uses open data to allow students to book rooms and facilities around the university.

What really struck me about Open.Ed was the breadth of vision and the wide range of open knowledge initiatives scattered across the university.  The value of events like this is that they help to share this vision with fellow colleagues as that’s when the cross fertilisation of ideas really starts to take place.

Looking forward to OER15!

OER15_logoClearing the post-Christmas mail backlog is always a bit of a chore, but it was well worth it to find two emails from the OER15 committee saying the papers I submitted have been accepted for this year’s conference, which is taking place in Cardiff in April. I’ve had a paper at all but one of the OER conferences since they kicked off in 2010, though I believe John Robertson was on presenting duties first time round. OER is one of my favourite conferences and it’s been great to see it going from strength to strength, particularly when many predicted its demise after the UKOER programme came to an end in 2012. The programmes are always engaging and eclectic and it’s been encouraging to see international participation growing over the years. It’s fitting that the conference should be held in Wales this year as there have been some really positive open education initiatives developing there over the last few years including the 2013 Wales Open Education Declaration of Intent, the launch of OER Wales Cymru and the publication of the Welsh Government’s report Open and Online: Wales, higher education and emerging modes of learning.  I’m really looking forward to going to Cardiff as it’s a city I’ve never visited, but I also can’t help hoping that one of the next OER conferences can be held in Scotland!

This year I’ll be presenting one full paper on behalf of the Open Scotland initiative, and one short paper about the work of the Open Policy Network with Nicole Allen of SPARC and Cable Green of Creative Commons.

Common Ground – an overview of the open education landscape in Scotland.
Author: Lorna M. Campbell

The profile of open education in Scotland has risen significantly over the last year and open education initiatives have increased across all Scottish education sectors. Such is the profile of open education that, in their State of the Commons report, Creative Commons named Scotland among fourteen nations that have made national commitments to open education, through legislation or projects that lead to the creation, increased use or improvement of OER.

This paper will present an overview of the open education landscape in Scotland, focusing on significant policy and practice advances and identifying some of the drivers that have influenced these developments.

MOOCs continue to have an impact in HE, however a number of universities are broadening the scope of their engagement with open education and are increasingly looking to embed open policy and practice across the institution.   Building on the success of their MOOCs and the steady maturing of technology, the University of Edinburgh has committed to scaling up their open education offering and pledged to make openness a core part of their business. At Glasgow Caledonian University, open education developments have been lead by the library, where staff have developed OER guidelines, which are being incorporated into formal institutional policies.

There has been less progress in further education; the sector has undergone a significant period of turmoil resulting from the process of regionalisation and the promising Re:Source OER repository initially failed to gain traction. With the majority of structural changes in now in place and new appointments to the sector’s supporting bodies, it is to be hoped that colleges will reengage with open education, resulting in a resurgence of interest in OER and increased adoption of Re:Source.

Open education has yet to have a significant impact on the school sector, however there is growing awareness of the value of OER and encouraging open education practice in schools. GLOW, the Scottish schools national intranet aspires to move towards increased openness and to encourage teachers to become open educators.

Although there has been no open funding call comparable to HEFCE’s UKOER Programme, in 2014, the SFC allocated £1.27 million to the Open University to establish the Opening Educational Practices in Scotland project, which aims to facilitate best practice in open education in Scotland.

Open Scotland, the cross-sector collaborative initiative launched by Cetis, SQA, ALT and Jisc RSC Scotland in 2013 continues to engage with all of these sectors and initiatives and with international bodies including the Open Policy Network, the Open Education Consortium, Wikimedia Foundation and Open Knowledge, to raise awareness of open education and promote the potential of open policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education.  In late 2014 Open Scotland launched the second draft of the influential Scottish Open Education Declaration incorporating input from colleagues across the sector.

Education in Scotland is widely regarded as a shared common good, and open educators are increasingly coming together to share their experience of open education policy and practice in order to benefit the sector as a whole.

Open Education and the Broader Open Policy Environment
Authors: Nicole Allen, Cable Green, Lorna M. Campbell

Governments (and education institutions) around the world generate huge amounts of publicly funded research, data, and educational materials. Open policies, or policies that require open licenses for publicity funded resources, can maximize the impact of public investments and support open education by enabling the use and re-use of these valuable resources.

Join members of the Open Policy Network (OPN) — a newly launched coalition of organizations and individuals working to support the creation, adoption, and implementation of open policies across the world — for a discussion about some of the latest trends in open policy and how it relates to open education. Also learn about how the OPN is actively working to support open policy efforts and how you can get involved. More information about OPN is available at https://openpolicynetwork.org.

Thoughts on ALT’s CPD Rebooted

Earlier this week I went along to the ALT Winter Conference CPD Rebooted – Creative Professional Development for Learning Technology and, as is always the case with ALT events, I came away with a great deal to think about. There were some excellent presentations; Nic Whitton’s talk on games in education was particularly fascinating. I’m not a gamer myself, but I’m very interested in the affordances of playful learning and games in education.

David Hopkins, Clive Young and James Keift also gave three excellent presentations on CPD for learning technologists, career progression or lack thereof, and routes to CMALT accreditation, however I came away with a nagging feeling that much of their good advice didn’t really apply to me.

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In some ways this is related to the debate about “what makes a learning technologist?” that recently took place on the ALT-Members mailing list. I’m not even going to attempt to summarise what was a lengthy, wide ranging and very considered discussion, however one contribution that I particularly identified with came, as it often does, from Amber Thomas. In a blog post called Perhaps I’m not one?, which aimed to “give a voice to other learning technologists who feel like they don’t fit the standard description”.  Amber pointed out that learning technologists come in many different flavours and all make a uniquely valuable contribution.

Although I occupy a very different niche from Amber these days, her post really chimed with my experience of working in education technology. In response to her plea that

“People like me shouldn’t have to pretend to be something we’re not.”

I commented

“This, a thousand times over! I think it’s much harder to get recognition if you don’t fit neatly into one category or another.”

Which brings me back to the thinky thoughts raised by CPD Rebooted….It seems to me that there is a distinction between the various flavours of learning technologists who are employed by colleges and universities and whose primary remit is to support and develop the use of education technology within the institution, and those that are employed by advisory services, for want of a better word, and who have a more sector facing role. I realise this is a bit of a sweeping generalisation, but I think the former group of learning technologists have quite different opportunities for, and experiences of, career progression and CPD than the latter. In fact I might even go so far as to say that the latter group have very little opportunity for planned career progression and CPD at all. With advisory services being axed left, right and centre (TechDis was the latest in a long line of invaluable service to be despatched this week) many highly experienced professionals are increasingly finding themselves in the position of having to jump from one short term contract to the next. What does effective CPD look like for colleagues who may have little say in how their career progresses and who lack the job security to plan any kind of professional development, continuous, creative or otherwise? Of course you could argue that scrambling from one contract to the next is in itself a form of CPD, if a rather extreme one!

I’ve worked in education technology for over fifteen years, for much of that time as a researcher employed on short term contracts. During that time I’ve undertaken very little formal CPD, although I do try very hard to be an open practitioners and my skills have certainly developed through the many projects I’ve worked on. I’ve never sought any form of accreditation or certification, as these skills don’t seem to fit into the kind of boxes that often make up accreditation frameworks, which circles back again to the points that Amber raised in her blog post.

All of which makes me wonder if there is more of a role for ALT in providing innovative routes to creative professional development for people like me who don’t fit neatly into the boxes and who often have very little control over how their career progresses? I should confess at this stage that it’s a while since I’ve had a proper look at CMALT, so it’s quite possible that CMALT already does all of this and I am just woefully behind the times :} That said, I’d be very interested to hear how other colleagues in a similar position manage, or even just think about, their own professional development.

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Open Scotland at SHED

On Monday I gave a presentation on Open Scotland and the Scottish Open Education Declaration at a Scottish Higher Education Developers event hosted by the inestimable Jisc RSC Scotland.  Vicki Dale was kind enough to tweet my presentation and Sheila MacNeill drew one of her fabulous visual notes, so I’ve collated them into a little Storify here and embedded the presentation below.

CC BY SA NC Sheila MacNeill

CC BY SA NC Sheila MacNeill

POERUP: Policy Recommendations for Scotland

poerup_2(Cross posted from Open Scotland.)

Earlier this month the Policies for OER Uptake Project (POERUP), drew to a conclusion and published its final reports and deliverables on the POERUP Referata.  The overall aim of POERUP was to undertake research to understand how governments can stimulate the uptake of OER by policy means. Led by Sero Consulting and involving the Open Universiteit Nederland, Athabasca University, the University of Leicester, Université de Lorraine and EDEN, POERUP ran from 2011 – 2014.  The project’s key deliverables include a final report, thirty-three country reports focusing on the national policy context relating to OER, a comprehensive list of open education initiatives with OER maps, policy advice for universities, colleges and schools and, policy proposals for eight EU countries, plus Canada.

The Country Option Pack for Scotland (pdf) puts forward evidence based policy recommendations for higher education, colleges and schools, though many recommendations are applicable across all three sectors.  The recommendations are directed at the Scottish Government and Government funded education agencies, rather than at individual institutions.

Many of the policy recommendations put forward by Open Scotland are echoed by POERUP and the pack takes the Scottish Open Education Declaration as its starting point.

In particular, the report focuses on the importance of open licensing, and calls on Scotland’s funding bodies to ensure that

“any public outputs from their funded programmes are made available as open resources under an appropriate license.”

 The POERUP team suggest that a small amount of funding investment can go a long way to help create a culture in which open education can flourish, and they recommend that the Scottish Funding Council invests in open education by setting up an innovation fund to support new online initiatives in higher education, further education and the school sector with a commitment to opening up education.

The report also focuses on the potential of developing more flexible approaches to measuring and accrediting knowledge and competences including workbased learning, flexible learning and accreditation of prior learning.

In addition, there is also a welcome emphasis on professional development across all three education sectors, with the report calling for the establishment of an adequately funded

“professional development programme to help lecturers, teachers and administrators understand the benefits and uses of OER and open licensing.”

The report highlights the potential importance of the College Development Network’s  Re:Source OER repository in developing a national quality assurance standard for OER content produced in Scotland and urges the initiative to consider establishing and funding an OER evaluation and adoption panel.

The POERUP report represents a valuable step forward in promoting the development and uptake of policies to support open education in Scotland and it is to be hoped that the Government agencies towards whom it is addressed will take note and act on these recommendations.