The Benefits of Open Education and OER

This is a transcript of a talk I gave as part of the Open Med Project webinar series.

What is open education?

Open education is many things to many people and there’s no one hard and fast definition.

  • A practice?
  • A philosophy?
  • A movement?
  • A licensing issue?
  • A human right?
  • A buzz word?
  • A way to save money?

This is one description of the open education movement that I particularly like from the not for profit organization OER Commons…

“The worldwide OER movement is rooted in the human right to access high-quality education. The Open Education Movement is not just about cost savings and easy access to openly licensed content; it’s about participation and co-creation.”

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ALTC 2017 – Highlights and Inspirations

A week has already flown by since the ALT Conference and I’ve still barely managed to gather my thoughts, so instead of a more considered blog post, here’s a quick summary of some of my highlights of the conference.

Bonnie Stewart, CC BY Chris Bull Photography

Live tweeting the conference keynotes is always an enjoyable challenge and this year was no exception. I was thrilled to hear Bonnie Stewart as I’ve followed her work on twitter for many years but had never had the pleasure of hearing her speak before.  It’s hard to pick a single message from Bonnie’s thought provoking keynote, which explored concepts of openness and the construction of norms in higher education, but if I had to pick just one, it would be that open can help us to break down boundaries and binaries and challenge the prestige economy of Higher Education.  Open may not be the solution, but it is the right trajectory, and somewhere along that trajectory are the results we will reap in ten years time.

Sian Bayne also presented a fascinating keynote that explored critical issues of digital identity sanctuary and anonymity through a study of use of the now defunct anonymous social media platform Yik Yak by students at the University of Edinburgh.  Sian has written an article based on her keynote for WonkHE which I can highly recommend.

Sian Bayne, CC BY, Chris Bull Photography

“With growing social awareness of what’s at stake in losing our anonymity online, perhaps this is the moment to look again at institutional policies and resources regarding student wellbeing, mental health, counselling and pastoral support, and think about how these would benefit from a wide and open discussion around the value of anonymity, and of digital sanctuary for our students.”

Digital sanctuary and anonymity on campus
~ Sian Bayne

There were a significant number of talks about lecture recording at the conference this year and as we’re currently in the process of rolling out a new lecture recording system at the University of Edinburgh, Media Hopper Replay, I tried to catch as many of those as possible.  One that I found particularly interesting was Lecture Recording – Is more always better? by Alison Reid of the Univeristy of Liverpool who explored the impact of lecture recording on less able students who are already struggling with workload.  While recorded lectures are a valuable safety net for many students, for those who are already feeling overwhelmed they can be an additional source of stress and anxiety as they often don’t have time to watch the recording end to end. Furthermore, low achieving students can become even more isolated if they rely too heavily on lecture recording.  The solution is to provide more peer support and study skills workshops, and to increase aspects of teaching that encourage interactivity and which can’t be captured with recording.

I also managed to catch two really interesting talks on open education.  Gabi Witthaus presented and absolutely fascinating comparative textual analysis of the TEF Whitepaper and the EU Policy Report Opening up Education: A Support Framework for Higher Education Institutions.  The TEF paper is all about competition and is filled with sporting metaphors about winners and losers. It talks about service providers, customers, provision.  EU report on the other hand presents open education as a universal good, talking about removing barriers and widening access however it also employs a false binary between open and closed.  Oddly the TEF Whitepaper does not define “teaching excellence” and in 34,000 words only mentions the word “academics” three times!

Leo Havemann also facilitated a really engaging workshop exploring definitions of openness in education. Leo  encouraged us to think of open as more than an adjective; open is also a verb, a continual practice and he reminded us that openness and closedness are not a binary dichotomy, there is a continuum between them.

Maren Deepwell, Josie Fraser, Martin Weller, CC BY, Chris Bull Photography

Perhaps my personal highlight of the conference though was seeing former Learning Technologist of the Year and Chair of Wikimedia UK, Josie Fraser receive Honorary Life Membership of ALT in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the learning technology community.  Josie has been a good friend and an enduring inspiration to me for many years and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this prestigious award.

And of course is was an absolute delight to see Maren Deepwell, the rest of the ALT team and the ALT Social Media Supergroup.  If Rich Goodman and I were the Social side of the supergroup, the Media side, Martin Hawksey, Chris Bull and Scott Farrow were so discrete you barely noticed they were there, but of course they were the ones who did all the hard work of filming and photographing the conference and keeping the livestream up and running and as always they did an exemplary job.  Chris even managed to take a picture of me that doesn’t make me cringe :}

Lorna M Campbell, CC BY, Chris Bull Photography

Getting the band back together – the ALTC Social Media Super Group

Live tweeting ALTC

Last year’s sell out gig – me & Rich Goodman by www.chrisbullphotographer.com

It’s that time of year again.  If I can navigate the train strikes I’ll be heading down to Liverpool on Monday for the annual ALT Conference where we’ll be reforming the ALTC Social Media Super Group with Martin Hawksey on filming and live feeds, Rich Goodman on media tweets, Chris Bull on photography, and me on keynote livetweets.   We also have a new member joining the group this year; Scott Farrow from Edgehill University will be joining us on drums camera.  

Livetweeting the conference keynotes from the official ALT twitter account is always a bit nerve wracking, especially with keynotes of the calibre of Siân Bayne, Peter Goodyear and Bonnie Stewart. And just to up the ante, this year I’ll be tweeting from ALT’s verified twitter account.  I’ve never tweeted from a blue tick before :}  Livetweeting the keynotes may be challenging but it’s a challenge I always enjoy.  So much so that I included a reflection on this in my CMALT portfolio.

“Live tweeting in an official capacity  for events such as the ALT Conference requires a slightly different approach to live tweeting from my own personal account.  When I live tweet on behalf of an event organiser I try to keep my tweets as factual, neutral and representative as possible.  It’s important not to misrepresent the speaker or inadvertently tweet anything that might bring the organisation into disrepute.  If I’m tweeting personally, I tend to tweet the points that interest or irritate me, adding my own thoughts and comments along the way. It feels like quite a different way to use the technology.”

matchy matchy

I’m rather proud to say that after attending the ALT conference since 2000, this is the first time I will be there as a fully fledged Certified Member of ALT.  Which means I have a fabulous new accessory to wear with my conference shoes :}

I’m not actually giving a paper of my own this year, and for once I’ve actually read the programme in advance of the conference and planned out the sessions I’m hoping to attend. I was really pleased to see so many papers focused on different aspects of lecture recording as we’re currently rolling out a new and hugely ambitious lecture recording programme at the University of Edinburgh.  I’m hoping to catch as many of these papers as possible so I can feed other institutions’ experiences back to my colleagues at the university who will be in the final stages of preparing our new Media Hopper Replay service to go live while I’m at the conference.

And of course as always, one of the highlights of the conference will be the Learning Technologist of the Year Awards. I was honoured to be on the selection panel this year and the entries were truly inspiring. If you haven’t already voted there’s still time to cast your vote for the Community Choice award. Voting closes at noon (BST) on 6 September, so make sure you get your vote in before the deadline!

Student Engagement with OER at University of Edinburgh

Earlier this week Christina Hendricks at UBC put out a call for examples of student engagement with open education and OER.  I was going to reply in comments but as we have lots of great examples of students getting involved with OER at the University of Edinburgh I thought I’d write a short post here.

Together with LTW Director Melissa Highton and Stuart Nicol of Education Design and Engagement, Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) provided the initial impetus for the development of an OER policy at the university.  A short paper presented at OER15 by Melissa, Stuart and Dash Sekhar of EUSA, reported that in 2014

“the EUSA Vice President for Academic Affairs challenged University senior managers to explore how learning materials could be made open, not only for students within the University, but across Scotland and to the wider world.”

Student-led OpenEd and wiping away the open wash by Melissa Highton, Stuart Nicol & Dash Sekhar, OER15.

The result was the University’s OER Policy which was approved by the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee in 2016.

Reproductive Medicine Students, CC BY SA, Ewan McAndrew

The University’s Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew,  has also been instrumental engaging students in the creation of OER through a number of Wikimedia in the Classroom initiatives that have seen students contributing original articles in a number of languages to the world’s largest open educational resource – Wikipedia.  Subjects that have incorporated Wikipedia into their courses include Translation Studies,  World Christianity and Reproductive Medicine.

“It’s about co-operation from the get-go. You can’t post a Wikipedia article and allow no one else to edit it. You are offering something up to the world. You can always come back to it, but you can never make it completely your own again. The beauty of Wikipedia is in groupthink, in the crowd intelligence it facilitates, but this means shared ownership, which can be hard to get your head around at first.”

Reflections on a Wikipedia assignment by Áine Kavanagh

Meteorological Visibility Observations: A User’s Guide, CC BY, James Holehouse

Another course that has been instrumental in engaging students with OER is the Geosciences Outreach and Engagement course. Over the course of two semesters, students undertake an outreach project that communicates some element of the field of GeoSciences outside the university community. Students have the opportunity to work with schools, museums, outdoor centres and community groups to create resources for science engagement including classroom teaching materials, leaflets, websites, smartphone/tablet applications, and presentation materials.

“By taking this course, not only was I, as the student, able to learn about the values and excitement of public engagement with other disciplines, but I also developed a working tool for further scientific engagement for a new audience.”

A call for increased public engagement in geology higher education by Jane Robb in Geology Today, Vol. 29, No. 2.

For the last two years the University has also employed student interns during the summer months as Open Content Curators whose role is to repurpose materials created by staff and students around the University to ensure they can be released under open license and shared in places where they can be found and reused by other teachers and learners, such as TES.  Reflecting on his time as our first Open Content Intern, Martin Tasker wrote

“Open Education is a large part of the reason I’m at Edinburgh studying physics, and I firmly believe that it is one of the keys to widening participation in education in a meaningful way. The proliferation of the internet among all classes in society means that a savvy university can reach those that would previously have had little access to education beyond their school years. And with our work in OERs, we can hopefully feed back some of the expertise of our academics into the classroom, raising the standard of teaching and taking some of the pressure off extremely overworked teachers.”

Wrapping Up: My Time as an Open Content Curator Intern, Martin Tasker

These are just some of the ways in which students at the University of Edinburgh are engaging with open education and OER.  I’m sure there are many more around the University that I have yet to discover!  Further information about many of the University’s OER initiatives is available from Open.Ed.

Key Performance Indicators for OER

One of the things I’ll be looking into as part of my new role is key performance indicators for open educational resources.  At the University of Edinburgh we have a Vision and Policy for OER that encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience, enrich the University and the sector, showcase the highest quality learning and teaching, and make a significant collection of unique learning materials available to Scotland and the world.

Staff and students at the university are already making open educational resources available through a range of channels including Open.Ed, Media Hopper, TES, SketchFab, Youtube, Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia, and there are a number of initiatives ongoing that promote and support the creation of OER including 23Things, Board Game Jam, various MOOC projects, our Wikimedian in Residence programme and others.

So how do we develop meaningful key performance indicators to measure and assess the success of these initiatives?

Quantitative indicators are relatively simple to measure in terms of OER produced. It’s not difficult to gather web stats for page views and downloads from the various platforms used to host and disseminate our OERs.  For example our open educational resources on TES have been viewed over 2,000 times, and downloaded 934 times, a Wikipedia article on Mary Susan MacIntosh, created during a UoE editathon for International Women’s Day has had 9,030 page views, and UoE MOOCs have reached two and a quarter million learners.

Measuring OER reuse, even within the institution, is much less straightforward.  To get an of idea of where and how OERs are being reused you need to track the resources. This isn’t necessarily difficult to do, Cetis did some research on technical approaches for OER tracking during the UKOER Programme, but it does raise some interesting ethical issues.  We also discovered during our UKOER research that once authors create OER and release them into the wild, they tend not to be motivated to collect data on their reuse, even when actively encouraged to do so.

There is also the issue of what actually constitutes re-use.  Often reuse isn’t as straightforward as taking an OER, adapting is and incorporating it into your course materials.  Reuse is often more subtle than that.  For example, if you are inspired by an idea, a concept or an activity you ome across in an OER, but you don’t actually download and use the resource itself, does that constitute reuse?  And if it does, how do we create KPIs to measure such reuse?  Can it even be measured in a meaningful way?

And then there’s the issue of qualitative indicators and measuring impact.  How do we assess whether our OERs really are enhancing the quality of the student experience and enriching the University and the sector?  One way to gather qualitative information is to go out and talk to people and we already have some great testimonies from UoE students who have engaged with UoE OER internships and Wikimedia in the Classroom projects. Another way to measure impact is to look beyond the institution, so for example 23 Things lornwas awarded the LILAC Credo Digital Literacy Award 2017 and has also been adapted and adopted by the Scottish Social Services Council, and the aforementioned article on Mary Susan McIntosh featured on the front page of English Wikipedia.

I know many other institutions and organisations have grappled with the issue of how to measure the impact of open education and OER.  In the US, where OER often equates to open textbooks, the focus tends to be on cost savings for students, however this is not a particularly useful measure in UK HE where course are less reliant on astronomically priced texbooks.  So what indicators can we use to measure OER performance?  I’d be really interested to hear how other people have approached this challenge, so if you have any comments or suggestions please do let me know.  Thanks!

Standard Measures, CC BY SA 2.0, Neil Cummings, https://flic.kr/p/aH8CPV

How is it almost August?

This is another of those blog posts that starts “Where the hell have the last two months gone?!”  I’ve been sorely neglecting this blog since early May, not because I’ve got nothing to write about, quite the opposite, I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to get near it!  I’m about to go off on annual leave for a couple of weeks but I wanted to post a quick round up of the last two months before I go, so here’s wot I have been up to.

Innovation Projects

UoE OKN, CC BY Natalie Lankester-Carthy

A lot of my time has been tied up with two Information Services Innovation Fund projects.  The UoE Open Knowledge Network was a small project that aimed at drawing together the University’s activities in the area of Open Data, Open Access, Open Education, Open Research, Open Collections and Archives, to support cross-fertilisation and promote the institution’s activities in these areas. We ran three events, with the last one taking place in early July.  This event focussed on discussing priorities, ideas for the future and how we can sustain the network going forward.  You can read about the first two events on the project blog here: UoE Open Knowledge Network and I’ll be writing up the July event when I get back from leave in August.

The aim of the second project was to develop a MOOC for entrepreneurs, creative individuals, and SMEs to help them develop the knowledge and skills to find and access free and open licensed research, data and content produced by universities and higher education. I was lucky enough to recruit Morna Simpson of Geek Girl Scotland to work on the project however despite our best efforts and an incredible amount of work on Morna’s part the project faced a number of challenges which we struggled to overcome.  Rather than go ahead with a MOOC we will be releasing a series of twelve case studies on the theme of Innovating with Open Knowledge demonstrating how individuals and organisations can access and use the open outputs of University of Edinburgh research.  These case studies should be finished by early August so watch this space!

Media Hopper Replay

The University of Edinburgh is in the process of rolling out a new state of the art lecture recoding service, Media Hopper Replay, which will see 400 rooms enabled to deliver lecture recording by 2019.  As part of a training programme for staff, my colleague Charlie Farley and I have been developing training sessions on preparing for lecture recording covering accessible presentation design, copyright basics, and using open educational resources.

ALT

City of Glasgow College, CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

I was honoured to be invited by ALT to join the selection panel for the prestigious Learning Technologist of the Year Awards.  The quality and diversity of the entries was really inspiring and while I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the entries it wasn’t easy to pick the best from such a strong field.  The winners of the awards will be announced at the ALT Annual Conference which this year takes place at the University of Liverpool.  I’ll be there rejoining my old partner in crime Richard Goodman to provide social media coverage of the conference for the third year running.

In June I also helped to organise ALT Scotland’s annual conference which focused on sharing strategy, practice and policy in learning technology.  We had really interesting talks on lecture recording policy and practice from the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow and Joe Wilson reported back from two European open education policy events he recently attended on behalf of Open Scotland.  The real star of the show however was City of Glasgow College’s new state of the art campus where the event took place.

Celtic Knot Conference

In early July I was busy helping UoE’s Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, plan the University of Edinburgh / Wikimedia UK Celtic Knot Conference.  The conference showcased innovative approaches to open education, open knowledge and open data to support and grow Celtic and Indigenous language communities, and explore how our cultural heritage can be preserved as living languages.  The conference was attended by delegates from all over Europe and was an enormous success.  It was a real privilege to be involved in this event and as a Gael, I found the conference to be both moving and inspiring.  I may have got a little starry eyed listening to delegates talking animatedly in Gaelic, Welsh, Breton, Basque and too many other languages to mention.  And as an indication of the collaborative and supportive nature of the event, it was great to see all 50+ delegates come together to provide input and advice to Wikimedia Norge on how to support Sami language Wikipedia.

 

Wikimedia UK

Last weekend I was at the Wikimedia UK AGM and Board Meeting in London where it was a real pleasure to see Josie Fraser voted in as new chair of the Wikimedia Board and our very own UoE Wikimedia in Residence Ewan McAndrew awarded a very well deserved joint Wikimedian of the Year award together with Kelly Foster.  It was also great to hear that Sara Thomas has been appointed as the new Wikimedian in Residence at the Scottish Libraries and Information Council.

CMALT

And on top of all that I somehow managed to submit my CMALT portfolio at the end of May! Although it was a lot of hard work, and although I went right to wire (of course), I actually enjoyed the process of putting my portfolio together and I found it really useful to step back and reflect on my experience of working as a learning technologist in the broadest sense of the word. I would still like to write a proper post reflecting on my experience of developing my portfolio in the open but that will have to wait until the autumn.

That’s just a few of the things that have been taking up most of my time over the last couple of months.  I’m now off for a fortnight’s holiday during which we are going to attempt to coax our aged VW van to take us all the way to Brittany.  If we make it to the Borders we’ll be lucky!   I’ll be back in early August with a new role at the University of Edinburgh as Learning Technology Team Leader in the Department of Education Development and Engagement.

International Open Science Conference report

A brief report on the International Open Science Conference held in Berlin in March, presented at the University of Edinburgh Open Knowledge Network event on 28th April 2017.

The Open Science Conference held in Berlin in April was the 4th international conference sponsored by the Leibniz Research Alliance and it grew out of the former Science 2.0 Conference.

The stated aim of the Open Science Conference is to bring together three communities; the research community engaging in open science, the library community and the computer centres who maintain and run the infrastructure.  Participants included researchers, librarians, practitioners, politicians, and other stakeholders.  Many of the delegates I spoke to were librarians and and it was interesting to note that many of them were familiar with the work of the Digital Curation Centre here at the University, and spoke highly of the service they provide.

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CMALT – Advice from the community

Last week I wrote a reflective blog post about starting out on the CMALT journey, What do you do?, and was delighted to get lots of really helpful practical input from the ALT community on twitter.  I’ve captured the advice and discussions in a Storify here Starting CMALT – Advice from the community so I can look back on them and in case they’re of use to others. Here’s some of the highlights.

Matt Cornock had useful advice on completing Section 3 if you’re not in a teaching role.

Phil Barker kicked off an interesting discussion about how long it takes to complete a portfolio.

Working together with a colleague seems to be a good way to make progress

Kate Mitchell was particularly interested in the tensions of our role:

While Martin Hawksey may have blow my cover 😉

Open Pedagogy – A view from a distance

I’ve been thinking on and off for the last few days about the fascinating discussions going on around Open Pedagogy. Maha Bali has curated a diverse and thought provoking series of posts on the topic here and has organized a hangout to discuss What is Open Pedagogy? later today. Other than commenting on a few blog posts here and there, I haven’t contributed much to this debate and it’s taken me a little while to figure out why.

To some extent this is bound up with a post I wrote last week What do you do? That post is an off the cuff reflection prompted by my first attempt to make a start on my CMALT portfolio, but it does relate, if only tangentially, to the question of open pedagogy too. I think one of the reasons that I’ve felt slightly distanced from the open pedagogy discussions is that to my mind pedagogy is intrinsically bound up with the theory and practice of teaching and although I’ve worked in Higher Education for years, I’ve rarely been involved in teaching and I have never considered myself to be a teacher or an academic. This is one of the issues I was trying to grapple with, all be it facetiously, in my What do you do? post. I’ve very rarely taught staff or students, though I do hope that people have learned things from me along the way. I do help to support teaching and learning, but even then, I’m several steps removed from the pedagogy and the teaching process. I don’t do teaching so I’ve always felt I don’t really do pedagogy either.

What I do consider myself to be is an education practitioner. I participate in the process and practice of education and hopefully, some way further down the line, this contributes to teaching and pedagogy. Perhaps more importantly for my own personal and professional identity, I see myself as an open practitioner. I try very hard to practice my profession in the open, I try to learn from other open practitioners, I try to listen and learn and engage, and I try to be guided by the principals of openness and inclusivity.

This is why I identified so strongly with the questions Josie asked in her blog post Waves not Ripples

“I’m suspicious of the current distinction between open pedagogy and open practice, and in particular, how little explanation is being given to the privileging or even just use of the term pedagogy over the term practice. Is the use of pedegogy being used as shorthand for educational practice? Is it being used to underline the importance of formal education, or the primacy of teaching? Why not open heutagogy? Is it being used as a form of interpellation, a signal to include and exclude specific groups within open education? What is wrong with ‘practice’? How do we benefit from continuing to insist on a break between theory and practice, or theory and politics? Is this distinction as harmful as the disavowal of the relationship between the personal and the political?”

Josie’s questions also called to mind the point Amber Thomas made in her wonderful blog post Perhaps I’m not one, which I linked to from my earlier post. Amber’s blog post is primarily a reflection on what makes a learning technologist, but she also includes this thought, which still resonates with me three years later.

“And another thing: I’m not an academic and I don’t teach. I consider myself to be a para-academic. (Like a paralegal, or a paramedic ). I have a particular skillset which has a place in universities. I’ve lost count of the number of sessions I’ve been in at elearning conferences over the year where the presenter asks “how many people in the room actually teach?”. Cue a few hands raised and the majority looking down at their feet, embarrassed, as if the 5/10/15 years experience in education counts for nowt. Universities are multi-professional places and learning technologists, in all their flavours, have a rightful place at the table. People like me shouldn’t have to pretend to be something we’re not.”

Like Amber, I’m not an academic and I don’t teach, so I’m not sure how much I can contribute to discussions about pedagogy. It’s not that I’m disinterested, far from it, it’s more that when people talk about pedagogy is often feels like they’re talking about something I don’t do, something I haven’t thought deeply enough about.

Of course that may simply be a massive misconception on my part, but there’s no denying that I tend to feel I have more to contribute to discussions about open practice, policy and politics than discussions about open pedagogy. Josie asks whether open pedagogy is being used as a signal to include and exclude specific groups within open education. I’m not sure I would go as far as to say that I feel excluded, but I do feel slightly distanced.

I don’t know how to draw this post to a sensible conclusion, because I don’t really know if I have one, but I suspect I’ll continue thinking about these issues of identity, experience, inclusion and exclusivity for some time to come. And perhaps if I can joint the hangout later today I’ll find out whether there is anything I can contribute to the discussions about open pedagogy, and whether this feeling of distance is just a misconception on my part after all.

A view from a distance