#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

cetis14_pb1

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.

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