The Voice of OER15

Typical.  You wait a week for an #OER15 blog post and then two come along at once!  Thanks to the folks at CADARN for this inspiring little video which really captures the spirit of the conference.  Featuring, among others, David Kernohan, Cable Green, Hayden Blackey, Josie Fraser and me.

I think I may have got rather carried away with my enthusiasm for open education in the interview :}

OER15 – Better late than never!

It’s rather late in the day to be posting an OER15 blog post, but better late than never hopefully! :} As ever it was a hugely enjoyable and inspiring conference, and as is often the case, Marieke Guy of Open Knowledge beat me to it and wrote a great summary of the conference in her blog post OER15: Window Boxes, Battles and Bandwagons.  I’m not going to try and duplicate Marieke’s fab write up but I do want to pick out a few of the highlights of the conference.

Taking OER Mainstream – Cable Green

The keynotes were excellent as always. Cable Green was in typically unequivocal form in his opening talk Taking OER Mainstream. He reminded us that in order to be considered as OER, content must be free and you must have legal rights to reuse, revise, remix, redistribute and retain it. And lest there be any ambiguity around Creative Commons licences, Cable stated that resources licensed with the No Derivatives clause are not OER.

cc_oer

Cable Green, CC BY 4.0

 Cable also touched briefly on open washing, which Audrey Watters has defined as

“having the appearance of open source and open licensing for marketing purposes while continuing proprietary practices.”

And he called Udacity out for openwasing with their Open Education Alliance, which despite the name, does not appear to be open in any sense of the word.

Cable went on to suggest that locking content behind paywalls, and restrictive licences creates “artificial scarcity in a world of abundance” and argued that it

“borders on immoral and unethical behaviour the way we spend public funds today on education. All publicly funded resources should be openly licensed by default.”

However OER is not just about saving money it’s about increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of public funding and ultimately, creating a more educated citizenry to work peaceably towards solving grand challenges.  Cable concluded by inviting comment and feedback on the draft OER Implementation Plan, which is aiming to identify the top strategic priorities for OER. You can comment directly on the document or on twitter using the hashtag #oerplan

Open Education and the Broader Policy Environment – Open Policy Network

I was delighted to be able to join a panel session with Cable immediately after his keynote, alongside fellow Open Policy Network colleagues Nicole Allen of SPARC and Alek Tarkowski of Centrum Cyfrowe Poland, discussing open education and the broader policy environment. Picking up on the themes he’d introduced in his keynote, Cable highlighted the importance of providing support to move from policy to implementation, Alek highlighted the work of the Polish open e-textbooks program and Nicole discussed what we can learn from the success of Open Access advocacy.  I particularly liked Nicole’s point that while policy plays an important role in promoting open education, it is not hugely effective in engaging students in OER; the involvement of the library can be much more important here.

Nicole Allen, Lorna M Campbell, Cable Green, Alek Tarkowski. Picture by Simon Horrocks

Nicole Allen, Lorna M Campbell, Cable Green, Alek Tarkowski. Picture by Simon Horrocks.

I presented a short case study on crowdsourcing policy from the ground up, based on our experiences of developing the Scottish Open Education Declaration. While this can be a good way to engage communities in policy development; acting on policies that are not supported by funding is challenging and pushing community policy up to government level can be difficult. However I was inspired by Alek’s comment that in Poland, they had been working on open education policy for many years before the government sat up and took notice, but when they finally did, all the groundwork had already been laid.

Kevin Mears, CC BY 4.0

Kevin Mears, CC BY 4.0

The immensely talented Kevin Mears drew this clever sketch note of our session, but I should clarify that I didn’t quite say “the time for declarations has passed”. That was a direct quote from Cable’s keynote and he was actually suggesting that we now need to move beyond declarations of intent to active implementation. This is something I absolutely agree with, declarations are a useful tool to help raise awareness of the value of open education but they are simply one step along the way and ultimately the role of policy has to be to inform and transform practice.

Open Education in Scotland

In terms of the Scottish Open Education Declaration, there would be huge value in evidencing the points of the declaration with examples of practice from across the sector, and judging by the number of colleagues who presented from Scottish institutions, there is certainly plenty of practice going on. I’m hoping to (eventually!) blog an overview of Scottish colleagues’ contribution to the conference over at Open Scotland, along with my slides from, Common Ground, a short paper I presented on open education initiatives across all sectors of Scottish education.

Thanks to Catherine Cronin for taking a rare semi-decent picture of me!

Picture by Catherine Cronin

The Spaces of Open Educational Experience – Brian Lamb

This was the first time I’d heard Brian Lamb talk and he was every bit as engaging and thought provoking as you might expect.  Brian suggested that when it comes to embracing the open web scalability, sustainability and institutional wide impact are still an issue.  One solution to this problem is that we need to build “training wheels for the open web” to help colleagues who struggle. Two initiatives that do just that are Domain of One’s Own, which provides web space to encourage colleagues at University Mary Washington to explore the creation and development of their own digital identities, and the fabulously named SPLOT! which aims to make it easy to post activity to the open web without creating accounts, or providing personal information.  One important point I learned from Brian’s presentation is that all cool developments happen over drinks 🙂 Oh and he also highlighted the excellent development work of Pat Lockley which gets him extra points in my book.

OER on Mainstreet – Josie Fraser

The theme of this years conference was Mainstreaming Open Education, and while I think we all agree that we do want to see open education as an integral component of mainstream education I confess to being slightly uneasy that we run the risk of neglecting the experience of many colleagues for whom open education practice is increasingly being pushed to the margins as a result of budget cuts, redundancy and the casualisation of teaching contracts.

Josie Fraser touched on these themes in her brilliant keynote about Leicester City Council‘s policy giving permission to school staff to openly licence the educational resources they create in the course of their work. Josie acknowledged that the mainstream can be a very normative and exclusionary place, synonymous with privilege, and tokenising rather than embracing, however it can also recognise diversity and value difference.  Digital literacy is key to engaging people so they can critically challenge their online environments.

What really inspires me about Josie’s work with Leicester City Council, it that it provides an excellent example of how open education policy really can support transformative practice. If you haven’t already listened to Josie’s keynote, I can highly recommend it. It’s worth an hour of anyone’s time.  Unless you’re a dolphin lover.

OER16

At the end of each OER conference it’s traditional for the organisers to pass the baton to the new co-chairs and this year I’m delighted to say that the baton passed to Melissa Highton and I.  We’re honoured to announce that, for the first time ever, OER16 will take place in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh in April 2016 so watch this space!

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.

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.

OCWC Global Twitter Highlights

I’ve made a storify of a few of my twitter highlights from the recent OCWC Global Conference in Lubljana here: OCWC Global Conference Storify.

ocwcglobal_storify

Without a doubt my twitter highlight of the entire event has to be from Peter Bryant….

Encouraging news from the Wellcome Library and Europeana

I’m a bit pressed for time for blogging at the moment, but there have already been two news items this week that are worth highlighting.

First of all, the Wellcome Library have followed the lead of the National Portrait Gallery, the J. P. Getty Museum and many other institutions worldwide, and announced that they have made over 100,000 high resolution historical images available free of charge.  All the images, which include of manuscripts, paintings, etchings, early photography and advertisements, carry a a CC-BY licence and can be downloaded from the Wellcome Images website.

Among many fascinating collections, Wellcome Images includes works by my favourite Georgian satirical cartoonist Thomas Rowlandson, along with his contemporaries James Gillray and George Cruikshank.

Swimming by Thomas Rowlandson

“Side way or any way” by Thomas Rowlandson

In a press release accompanying the launch, Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library, said

“Together the collection amounts to a dizzying visual record of centuries of human culture, and our attempts to understand our bodies, minds and health through art and observation. As a strong supporter of open access, we want to make sure these images can be used and enjoyed by anyone without restriction.”

The BBC also published a rather entertaining article about the collection here:  Grin and bare it: buttock cupping & other health ‘cures’.

The other announcement that caught my eye was the launch of the second release of the Europeana Open Culture app.  I haven’t had a chance to try the new app, but I haven’t had too much success searching Europreana in the past, so I’m hoping that it will be an improvement.   The new app promises to bring “enhanced functionality, new content,  a more user-friendly layout” and is available in seven languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Bulgarian, and Swedish).  The press release states:

“you can now download the hi-res image for free and use it however you want to – for your work, study or leisure projects”

However, as I haven’t had a chance to load up the app, I don’t know what licence or licences these images carry.   However the app code for the Muse (Museum in your pocket) Open Source iPad App used by Europeana is available from Github.

It’s really encouraging to see more and more museums, libraries and galleries making their content freely available under open licence, these are invaluable resources for teachers, learners and researchers worldwide.  I just hope we will see more education institutions joining them!

A good start to 2014? MOOCs, OER and open courses

Just a fortnight in to 2014 and it’s already been an encouraging year on the open education front.   I’ve had a lightning talk on Open Scotland accepted for OER14 in Newcastle and Phil Barker and I have also had a paper on LRMI accepted for the OCWC Conference in Llubljana.

I was also very encouraged by Andy Beggan’s announcement on OER_Discuss that the University of Nottingham will be running a FutureLearn MOOC, Sustainability, Society and You, which, in Andy’s own words:

“tries to adhere closely to the aims and objectives of OERs as much as possible, and is 8 weeks long with hundreds of OERs of various types from external sources. We have also made the entire course itself available under a Creative Commons licence.”

I’ve written several posts recently about the restrictive licenses used by some commercial MOOC platform providers and their thorny relationship with OER, so it’s really encouraging to see more MOOC developers making a real commitment to openness.  There have been other examples of MOOCs based on open content and principals ofcourse, most notably the University of London’s Coursera MOOC English Common Law: Structure and Principals, which Pat Lockley has been involved in.  Other courses highlighted by list members include the University of Southampton’s Web Science: How the web is changing the world, which plans to share all it’s resources through EdShare, and Delft University of Technology’s courses on edEx which carry a CC-BY-SA-NC licence.

Andy’s announcement also sparked an interesting discussion about the Terms and Conditions adopted by FutureLearn and other MOOC platform providers and whether they supported or discouraged the use of open education resources and open education practice.  The overwhelming response from list members whose institutions have signed partnership agreements with FutureLearn is that they have been very supportive of partners who want to develop courses based on OERs and that they are keen to offer more courses using open licences, which is very good news indeed!

For the record, FutureLearn’s Terms and Conditions state:

“Certain Partner Institutions may, at their own discretion, make available certain Online Content and Courses under a Creative Commons licence (non-Commercial). Should Partner Institutions choose to do this, it will be clearly identified on the appropriate Online Content and Courses page of the Website and we acknowledge that the Creative Commons licence will override certain of these terms and conditions as appropriate. A full copy of the relevant Creative Commons licence will be available from a link at that point.”

So any decision to use  or develop openly licensed content or courses lies with the partner institutions, rather than FutureLearn itself.

There was also some discussion about the Non Commercial clause; Steve Stapleton explained that the Nottingham team contacted the rights holders of all third party content they planned to use in their MOOC and, of all those that responded, none objected to their content being used.  Pat Lockley added that the University of London had also contacted third party rights holders and that only one had refused permission for their content to be used in the Common Law MOOC.

You can follow the full thread of this discussion which includes some fascinating points about FutureLearn and Coursera’s terms and conditions (honestly, it’s much more interesting than it sounds!) and their increasingly positive approach to open education courses and content.  That has to be a good way to start the year doesn’t it?!

POERUP Policy Advice for Universities

(Cross posted from Open Scotland)

poerup_2Policies for OER Uptake (POERUP) is a European Commission funded Life Long Learning Programme project, coordinated by Sero Consulting, which is carrying out research to understand how governments can stimulate the uptake of OER by policy means. The project aims to:

“convince decision-makers that in order to be successful with OER, they will have to formulate evidence-based policies based on looking beyond one’s own country, region or continent, beyond the educational sector they look after.”

POERUP have already undertaken a survey of open education policy along with developments in education, e-learning, internet and copyright in 26 countries and have produced a series of comprehensive reports which can be viewed on the Country Reports wiki.

The project is also tasked with producing OER policy documents for a number of EU nations including Scotland, and the team are keen to work with those who have been involved in Open Scotland. The project are also drafting three EU-wide policy papers for schools, colleges and universities on fostering OER uptake, which will act as aides-mémoire for the national policy documents. A draft of the POERUP EU-wide Policies for Universities is available here.

This document provides an invaluable overview of policy developments relative to open education from EU initiatives (e.g. Bologna, Europe 2020, Opening Up Education), OER projects, lobbyist circles (e.g. Opal, UNESCO/COL) and POERUP working meetings. From this evidence base, the following eighteen Policy Proposal Recommendations have been synthesised. In formulating these proposals care has been taken

“not to over-focus on OER as an end but more of a means towards educational transformation.”

To provide comments or feedback on these recommendations please contact Paul Bacsich of Sero Consulting at paul.bacsich@sero.co.uk.

Recommendations for European Commission and via EU for the Member States

Innovation – new institutions

1. The Commission should set up a competitive innovation fund to develop one new “European” university each year with a commitment to low-cost online education around a core proposition of open content.
Accreditation of institutions – new accrediting bodies and mutual recognition
2. The Commission should foster the development of transnational accrediting agencies and mutual recognition of accreditations across the EU.
3. The Commission should reduce the regulatory barriers against new kinds of HE providers (e.g. for-profit, from outside the country, consortial, etc).

Quality agencies

4. Quality agencies in ENQA49 should:  Develop their understanding of new modes of learning (including online, distance, OER and MOOCs) and how they impact quality assurance and recognition;

  • Engage in debates on copyright;
  • Consider the effects of these new modes on quality assurance and recognition;
  • Ensure that there is no implicit non-evidence-based bias against these new modes when accrediting institutions both public and private including for-profit (if relevant), accrediting programmes (if relevant) and assessing/inspecting institutions/programmes.

Bologna-bis: competence-based not time-based assessment

5. The Commission and related authorities developing the European Higher Education Area50 should reduce the regulatory barriers against new non-study-time-based modes of provision: in particular by developing a successor to Bologna based primarily on competences gained not duration of study.

Assessment and accreditation of modules

6. The Commission should recommend to universities that they should work to improve and proceduralise their activity on APL (Accreditation of Prior Learning) including the ability to accredit knowledge and competences developed through online study and informal learning, including but not restricted to OER and MOOCs, with a focus on admitting students with such accredited studies to the universities’ own further courses of study.
7. The Commission should recommend to the larger member states that they should each set up an Open Accreditor to accredit a range of studies which could lead to an undergraduate degree. In the first instance the Accreditor should focus on qualifications in the ISCED 5B area as this is most correlated with high-level skills for business and industry.

Funding mechanisms for institutions and content

8. The Commission should foster work into standardised syllabi EU-wide for undergraduate degrees in certain professions (e.g. medicine, nursing, mathematics, IS/IT) where this is appropriate for EU-wide action, and in the light of a successful outcome to such initiatives, foster the developments of common bases of OER material to support these standards, including relevant open repositories and (ideally jointly with publishers) open textbooks.
9. The Commission should ensure that any public outputs from its programmes (specifically including Erasmus for All and Framework) are made available as open resources under an appropriate license.
10. The Commission should encourage member states to do likewise for their national research and teaching development programmes, including for the public funding component of university teaching.
11. The Commission should encourage member states to increase their scrutiny of the cost basis for university teaching and consider the benefits of output-based funding for qualifications.

IPR issues

12. The Commission should adopt and recommend a standard Creative Commons license for all openly available educational material it is involved in funding. This should currently be Creative Commons 3.0 in unported or relevant national versions, updated from time to time. The Commission should also recommend this license to all member states.
13. The Commission should study the issues in the modern European HE system round the “non commercial” restriction and make appropriate recommendations for its own programmes and for member states.
14. The Commission should support the development of technological methods to provide more and standardised information on IPR to the users of digital educational content.
15. The Commission should mount a campaign both centrally and via the member states to educate university staff on IPR issues.

Training of academics

16. The Commission should support the development of online initial and continuous professional development programmes for teachers, focussing on online learning with specific coverage of distance learning, OER, MOOCs and other forms of open educational practice, and also IPR issues.
17. The Commission should encourage member states to do this also and should recommend the use of incentive schemes for teachers engaged in online professional development of their pedagogic skills including online learning.

Further research

18. The Commission should fund research into the verifiable benefits of OER, with greater efforts to integrate such analyses with its ongoing research on distance learning, on-campus online learning, and pedagogy; and recommend the same to member states.