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!

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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.

Opening Up Education

It’s been another encouraging week for open education with the launch of the European Commission’s Opening Up Education initiative.

The Communication on Opening Up Education

“sets out a European agenda for stimulating high-quality, innovative ways of learning and teaching through new technologies and digital content.”

The initiative aims to increase the use of digital content and resources in education, address inequalities in the use of ICT in schools across member states, to ensure that universities are ready to face the “digital challenge”.

Opening up Education focuses on three main areas:

  • Creating opportunities for organisations, teachers and learners to innovate;
  • Increased use of Open Educational Resources (OER), ensuring that educational materials produced with public funding are available to all; and
  • Better ICT infrastructure and connectivity in schools.

The initiative will be supported by a number of funding initiatives including Erasmus+, Horizon 2020 and EU Structural Funds.

In addition to launching the Opening up Education initiative the Commission have also launched the Open Education Europa portal, a “gateway to European innovative learning”.

Open Education Europa

Open Education Europa

The portal allows users to search for a wide range of open educational content including courses, MOOCs and resources. Search results can be filtered by subject, level, language and Creative Commons licence type. Although I’m usually pretty sceptical about the “lets build a giant portal” approach to managing and distributing open educational content, it’s great to see a truly multilingual resource.  It’s also good to find Jisc funded resources there,  including Jorum and Humbox, there may be others, but I haven’t had a chance to have a good look yet. Users also have the option of signing up to Open Education Europa to share blogs, events and groups, and the portal also provides access to a  range of papers, news reports, articles etc. There’s also a rather fun European MOOC scoreboard. Look, Spain are winning!

European MOOC Scoreboard

European MOOC Scoreboard

I’ve been following the Opening Up Education initiative for some time and I’m already very encouraged by the Commissions commitment to open education, open licences and open educational resources. I very much hope that the UK will be able to engage with Opening Up Education and build on the success of the Jisc / HEA UK OER Programmes.

Links: 

Opening Up Education press release: Commission launches ‘Opening up Education’ to boost innovation and digital skills in schools and universities

European Commission Communication: Opening up Education –  Innovative teaching and learning for all through new Technologies and Open Educational Resources (pdf)

Opening up Education – frequently asked questions

Open Education Europa Portal

“The Mark of World Class Institutions”

This week saw the launch of two admirable projects that stand to make a significant contribution to global access to open educational resources. In the USA the Getty Trust announced their Open Content Programme, and in India, the Ministry of Human Resource Development launched their National Repository of Open Educational Resources.

The aim of the Getty Open Content Programme is to make available, free of charge

all digital images to which the Getty holds the rights or that are in the public domain to be used for any purpose. No permission is required.

In the first instance almost five thousand images from the J. Paul Getty Museum have been made available, with plans to add images from the Getty Research Institute and the Getty Conservation Institute in the future. There are also plans to open access to the Getty Vocabularies and outputs of the Conservation Institute’s field projects.
In an article in The Getty Iris titled Open Content, An Idea Whose Time Has Come, the Getty’s CEO, James Cuno, explained the motivation for the Open Content Programme:
getty_ocp_banner

The Getty was founded on the conviction that understanding art makes the world a better place, and sharing our digital resources is the natural extension of that belief. This move is also an educational imperative. Artists, students, teachers, writers, and countless others rely on artwork images to learn, tell stories, exchange ideas, and feed their own creativity.

Cuno goes on to refer to the discussion of open content in the Horizon Report, Museum Edition which stated

it is now the mark—and social responsibility—of world-class institutions to develop and share free cultural and educational resources.

Adding “I agree wholeheartedly.” And so do I!

The approach adopted by the Getty Open Content Programme is interesting as they make no attempt to restrict access to their resources on the basis of how they will be used. Unlike the National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum in the UK, who will only allow their images to be used free of charge for non-commercial purposes, there are no restrictions on using Getty images commercially.

When downloading an image users are presented with a simple form which requires them to select their status (private individual, not-for-profit organization, for-profit company, other) and how they intend to use the resrource (publication, personal, non-commercial, commercial, other). Submission of this information is compulsory in order to access the image, however the form states that the information is being collected so that “so that we may continue to improve access to our content.”

getty_download

There are a few conditions placed on the use of images, though it’s debatable whether these can be regarded as “restrictions” in any sense of the word:

Users are requested to use the following source credit when reproducing an image, Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

When using open content images, you should not suggest or imply that the Getty endorses, approves of, or participated in your projects.

The small print of the Open Content Images Terms of Use states that:

Some images may include people or objects for which a third party may claim rights such as trademark, copyright, privacy, or publicity rights. The Getty does not warrant that all of the images designated for downloading are free from rights claimed by third parties. As the user, it is your responsibility to ensure that there are no restrictions based on third party rights. The Getty assumes no liability for your use of these images if a third party makes an infringement claim.

And finally:

Getty would appreciate a gratis copy of any scholarly publications in which the images are reproduced in order to maintain the collection bibliography.

It’s also interesting to note that Getty have completely bypassed Creative Commons, and in fact their OCP images don’t appear to carry any licence at all! I’m very curious as to why this particular approach was taken and what the potential pros can cons are of releasing images without any obvious licence. That coda aside, I think this is a hugely admirable project and I hope other heritage institutions around the world are encouraged to consider opening access to the wealth of resources they hold.

Meanwhile on the other side of the world the Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development announced the launch of the National Repository of Open Educational Resources. The aim of the repository, which is build on a platform developed by Gnowledge Labs, Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, is to:

bring together all digital and digitisable resources for the school system – for all classes, for all subjects and in all languages.

And it’s objectives are to:

• To enhance the quality of teaching-learning
• To facilitate teachers to create and share contextualized teaching learning resources
• To celebrate innovations in resource creation

india_oer

Although I haven’t had a chance to explore the collections in any great detail, far less to investigate the platform, one interesting facet of the project is that the repository uses a growing map of semantic concepts to group and organise resources.  The press release states that:

The concept map itself is a learning resource for teachers, providing an opportunity for critically assessing the curriculum and aiding the construction of their own unique learning themes for their classrooms. The digital resources – documents, audio-visuals, interactive objects, images are mapped to the concepts. This enables access to a library from which teachers can choose appropriate resources.

india_oer_concept

It’s an interesting approach and, if the repository really takes off, it will be fascinating to see how this works at scale.

The repository and all its materials carry a CC BY SA licence and while there are no conditions or restrictions placed on  downloading resources, users must complete a captcha before adding comments to resources held in the repository.

Although the repository already contains an impressive collection of content, the metadata is, dare I say it, a little thin at present. For example, images are accompanied by topic tags and the date and the name of the person who contributed them, however very little information is provided about the provenance of the image, where or when it was taken, and who the creator was. Hopefully this is information that will be added as the repository develops.

It’s great to see two high profile open content initiatives being launched within the same week and I very much hope they will encourage others to follow suit.

OER and the Only Solution

Thanks to Cable Green of Creative Commons for flagging up a recent speech by Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, which highlighted the potential value of Open Educational Resources in helping to provide global access to education. The speech, Education is the Only Solution, which was addressed to the US Agency for International Development Global Education Summit, focused on the need to address global poverty and inequality to provide high quality education for all. A need that Duncan referred to as:

“a moral imperative, as well as a civic and economic necessity.”

Taking as his inspiration Malala Yousafzai’s address to the United Nations last month, Duncan acknowledged the role of “nations, multilateral organizations, NGOs and other partners” in working to make a better educated, safer, healthier world a reality by helping children, and girls in particular, gain the fundamental skills they need for success.

Duncan also reflected on the role of “game-changing” education technology

“that can help teachers personalize learning, and connect students and teachers with the best content the world has to offer, no matter where they live.”

And this is where Open Educational Resources come in:

“the fast-evolving field of education technology—from cloud computing to personal learning devices to Open Education Resources like the Khan Academy, which my two young children enjoy—has huge potential to transform education.”

Furthermore…

“Open Education Resources and other communication tools can help improve and expand teacher training and professional development—a huge opportunity in countries grappling with large teacher shortages and under-educated teachers.”

I know nothing about the political background and context of Duncan’s speech, but it’s hard to argue with the sentiments. (Though I found some of the language rather hard to parse – “Today’s global economy is not a zero-sum game. Instead, education is the new currency by which nations keep competitive and grow the pie for all.” – eh?!) And although I would caution against regarding open educational resources as a panacea for the world’s educational ills, it’s encouraging to see their potential benefits being highlighted at this level. And to be fair to Duncan, he did stress that:

“It’s important always to start with the education challenge, and then determine which technology, if any, meets the need and adds value to other solutions. It’s tempting to make it about new, glamorous gadgets—but that can distract from simpler and more effective approaches.”

Amen to that.

I was also interested to note that Duncan announced:

“we’re poised to make the first free, U.S. government-funded digital learning materials—designed to improve postsecondary training in high-demand careers—available for use and improvement.”

Does anyone know anything about this initiative? I don’t think I’ve heard anything about it before.

While the educational challenges that face the UK in general, and Scotland in particular, are quite different from those facing developing nations and the US itself, there are undeniably some commonalities. To quote Duncan again:

“Worldwide, just as in the U.S., we also need to focus on educational quality, attainment and completion.”

Quality, attainment and completion were among the issues discussed earlier this summer during the Open Scotland Summit in Edinburgh that set out to explore the potential of open policies to develop Scotland’s unique education offering, support social inclusion, inter-institutional collaboration and sharing and enhance quality and sustainability. I can’t help hoping that one day, in the not too distant future, we’ll hear an education minister on this side of the pond acknowledging the potential of open educational resources, and open education more widely, to achieve these goals.

PS I thought it was interesting that Duncan flagged up Khan Academy as an inspiring OER initiative, given that Kahn Academy content is released under the relatively restrictive Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence, however that’s a discussion for another blog post :}