The Long View: Changing Perspectives on OER

Transcript and slides from my keynote at the OER18 Open For All Conference in Bristol.

Being invited to keynote is always a privilege, and I’m particularly honoured to have been invited to present the opening keynote at this year’s OER18 Conference here in Bristol. Not least because I’m following in the footsteps of the three inspirational women who presented last year’s keynotes; Diana Arce, Maha Bali and Lucy Compton-Reid, but also because it’s a real privilege to be here talking, and more importantly, listening to you. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s the people at this conference, people like you, who have shaped my thinking on OER and my career as an open education practitioner more than any other. You see, OER is my conference, I’ve attended every single one since the conference launched at the University of Cambridge in 2010, and in 2016 I had the huge pleasure of chairing the OER Open Culture conference at the University of Edinburgh with my inspiring colleague Melissa Highton.

Over the years I’ve seen this conference grow in scale and scope, I’ve seen themes and trends around open education change and evolve, and I’ve watched with real pleasure as the conference has become more diverse, inclusive, and international. The OER conference really is increasingly open for all.

One of the things that I’ve always loved about open education, and indeed about learning technology more generally, is that we have all arrived here by very different, often circuitous, and sometimes surprising routes. We all came from somewhere else and we all bring something different to the domain of open education in terms of experience, practice and perspective.

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Using WordPress to build an online academic identity

This is my presentation for the amazing PressED Conference #PressEdConf18, run by the equally amazing Pat Lockley @pgogy, and Natalie Lafferty @nlafferty.   My “talk” is about surviving precarious employment and using WordPress to build an independent academic identity and support formal CPD through CMALT.

Hello, I’m Lorna & I work at the OER Service @OpenEdEdinburgh at @EdinburghUni. I’m also an independent open education practitioner.  I’m going to talk about how you can use WordPress to support open education practice, personal academic identity & formal CPD #pressedconf18

Before joining @EdinburghUni I worked for the @Jisc Cetis service @UniStrathclyde for 15 years. Most of that time I was employed on a series of short term precarious contracts.  In 2015 my dept was shut down & I was made compulsorily redundant. It wasn’t fun. #pressedconf18

After 15 years my prof. identity was tied up with the Uni & Cetis, extricating myself hard.  1st thing I did was set up a WordPress blog to reassemble evidence of my work & my career. It’s called Open World after a Kenneth White poem http://lornamcampbell.org/ #pressedconf18

Setting up my blog allowed me to take ownership of my academic identity, #outwith the constraints of the institution.  This was an important positive step that helped me through a difficult period of transition and uncertainty. #pressedconf18

It was also reassuring and encouraging to gather evidence of my skills in one place, and my blog now hosts my cv, papers, presentations, history research. #pressedconf18

It’s also where I think out loud &, along with twitter, where I connect with my community & share my practice & personal politics with my peers.  You can listen to me Shouting From The Heart about why blogging is so important to me #pressedconf18

Having reclaimed my professional academic identity, in 2016 I took the next logical step as an open practitioner, and moved my blog to Reclaim Hosting. The process couldn’t have been simpler and I can’t recommend the service highly enough. #pressedconf18

Anyone who has worked on short term or precarious contracts know’s how difficult it is to manage career progression & CPD, esp. in a domain as diverse & rapidly changing as learning technology. I wrote a blog post about this here: Thoughts on ALT’s CPD Rebooted #CMALT #pressedconf18

I’m now fortunate to work at @EdinburghUni which supports learning technologists to undertake CPD through @A_L_T’s #CMALT programme. In 2017 I started gathering evidence for my CMALT portfolio  #pressedconf18

Because I had already gathered evidence of my professional practice on my blog, it was easy to find the information I needed.  Choosing which evidence to use for my #CMALT portfolio was much harder! #pressedconf18

Being an open practitioner, I decided to practice what I preach & build my portfolio in the open on my existing WordPress blog http://lornamcampbell.org/cmalt/  I shared it with the #CMALT community on twitter and got lots of helpful advice & feedback. #pressedconf18

Developing my #CMALT portfolio in the open, & using WordPress, was a really positive experience for me & you can read my reflection on the process here: CMALT Reflection and Thanks #pressedconf18

I was delighted when my CMALT portfolio was approved on first submission with the peer assessor commenting on my commitment to open education and open practice.  None of this would have been possible without my Open World blog. #pressedconf18

CC BY, @ammienoot

I still keep my Open World blog at & my OER blog posts are now pulled through to our Open.Ed blog  enabling me to maintain my own academic identity & still share my practice with my colleagues. #pressedconf18

And last but not least….#pressedconf18

Celebrating Wikipedians for International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day, and as a passionate Wikipedian, I want to give a shout out to everyone who is working so hard to address the gender balance of articles on Wikipedia.  It’s no secret that Wikipedia has a gender problem, here’s the encyclopedia’s own article on the topic: Gender bias on Wikipedia.  On the English-language Wikipedia only 17.49 % of biographical articles are about women.  This figure is better for some languages, such as Welsh which achieved gender equilibrium in 2016, and worse for others. This disparity is hardly surprising given that women account for only around 10 -15% of editors on English Wikipedia.   What is perhaps less well known is that, all over the world, editors, Wikimedia chapters, and Wikipedia projects, such as Wiki Women in Red, are working really, really hard to change this.

At the University of Edinburgh we are fortunate to have an amazing Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, who works tirelessly not only to embed open knowledge in the curriculum, but also to redress the gender imbalance of contributors by encouraging more women to become editors, and to improve the representation, coverage and esteem of articles about women in science, art, literature, medicine and technology.  Ewan regularly runs WikiWomen in Red editathons and events for International Women’s Day and Ada Lovelace Day to name but a few.

In my own fledgling Wikipedia editing career I’ve created a whole seven new articles, all of them about women, and I wouldn’t have been able to do this without Ewan’s support and guidance. Seven articles might seem like a drop in the ocean, but those little drops can ripple out and have an unexpected effect.

Last week in school, as part of The Young Women’s Movement, my daughter and her class were asked to write a couple of lines about a person who inspired them.  This is what my daughter wrote.

I choose my mum because she wants to empower women by making Wikipedia pages for them, she makes wikipedia pages for women who played a big part in history but aren’t known that well. #Gomymum

I hope by the time she is old enough to become an editor herself the gender balance of Wikipedia will have improved a good deal, but in the meantime, here’s a shout out to some of the amazing women who are helping to make that a reality:  Lucy Crompton-Reid, Daria Cybulska, Marshall Dozier, Charlie Farley, Josie Fraser, Gill Hamilton, Melissa Highton, Susan Ross, Ann-Marie Scott, Jo Spiller, Sara Thomas, Alice White, and all my Wikimedia UK colleagues and fellow Board members, past and present.

Changing Perspectives on OER

In case you missed it, this blog post outlining my OER18 keynote appeared on the conference website last week.

Being invited to keynote is always a privilege, but I was particularly honoured to be asked to present at this year’s OER18 Conference in Bristol, not least because I’ll be following in the footsteps of the three inspirational women who presented last year’s keynotes; Diana ArceMaha Bali and Lucy Crompton-Reid. You see, OER is my conference, I’ve attended every single one since the conference launched at the University of Cambridge in 2010, and in 2016 I had the pleasure of chairing the conference at the University of Edinburgh with my inspiring colleague Melissa Highton.

To my mind, the success of the OER Conference has always been founded on its willingness to examine and renegotiate what “OER” means, and this is one of the themes I’ll be exploring in my keynote.  And by that, I don’t mean defining the specific attributes of what constitutes an Open Educational Resource, I mean critically reflecting on what openness means in relation to education at different points in time and from different perspectives, because as Catherine Cronin reminds us in Open Education, Open Questions, “openness is a constantly negotiated space”.   Open education looks very different to each and every one of us, and our perspective will depend entirely on where we are standing and the privilege of our vantage point.  And of course it is inevitable that our perspective will change as our roles and careers develop over time.

Gabi Whitthaus has already written a thoughtful personal reflection on her journey through the OER conferences and, like Gabi, the changing themes and fluctuating interpretations of “OER” have influenced and reflected my own development and perspective as an open education practitioner over the last decade.

In my current role I have the privilege to work with a great team of people at the OER Service at the University of Edinburgh, an institution with a strong commitment to openness and a vision for OER.  This commitment is squarely aligned to the University’s mission to provide the highest quality learning and teaching environment for the greater wellbeing of our students, and to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing. During my keynote I’ll be exploring some of the ways that the university encourages learners to engage with and co-create open education through a wide range of initiatives including internships, playful learning activities, Wikipedia in the classroom assignments, and outreach and engagement courses.

I strongly believe that engaging learners and equipping them with the digital skills necessary to participate in open education is key to ensuring that OER and open education is collaborative, diverse, accessible and participatory. Because ultimately that is what openness is about.  Openness is not just about attributes, definitions and licences, openness is also about creativity, access, equality, and inclusion and ultimately it’s about expanding access to education, supporting social inclusion and enabling learners to become fully engaged digital citizens.

When the conference first launched eight years ago, I approached open education and OER from a rather different perspective.  In 2010 the JISC / HEA UKOER Programme was well underway and the first OER keynote was presented by JISC’s Executive Secretary Malcolm Read.  At the time, I was working for the JISC Innovation Support Centre CETIS, where I led the team that provided strategic and technical support to the UKOER Programme.  My focus then was on how we could harness lightweight web technologies and new Web 2.0 platforms to create a sustainable OER infrastructure without relying too heavily on the monolithic systems and formal education technology standards mandated by previous programmes.

Two years later in 2012 I sat in the audience with my colleague Joe Wilson, then Head of New Ventures at SQA, and listened to Sir John Daniel, talking about the UNESCO / COL initiative Fostering Governmental Support for OER Internationally, one of the outputs of which was the influential Paris OER Declaration. In a rather roundabout way, that keynote and the subsequent Declaration inspired us to launch the Open Scotland initiative and, together with colleagues from across the open education community, to draft the Scottish Open Education Declaration. And it was through this initiative that I started to re-frame my perspective on OER and open education in terms of personal ethics and the wider policy landscape.

2012 was also the year that the UKOER Programme came to an end and the education technology sector in the UK faced an unprecedented and prolonged period of change and restructuring. Many predicted the demise of the OER Conference at that time, particularly when open education discourse was increasingly becoming dominated by commercial MOOC providers and their promise to disrupt! education.  However, far from being swept side by the avalanche, the OER conference continued to thrive and to push the boundaries of open education to incorporate open pedagogy, policy, research and practice, and when ALT stepped up to support the event in 2015, its future was assured.

While it is crucial that we continue to critically negotiate and reassess openness, it is also important that we don’t lose sight of some of the fundamentals of open education.  And I would argue that one of those fundamentals is that publicly funded educational resources should be freely and openly available to the public.  As open education discourse shifts to focus on open policy, open practice, open textbooks, one might be forgiven for thinking that open educational resources are done and dusted, but that is very far from the case and this is another theme that I want to expand on in my keynote.

In addition to expanding its focus, the OER Conference has also made real and tangible efforts to expand its community, and to ensure that the event is diverse, inclusive, accessible and welcoming.  The conference has become increasingly international and has gone to significant lengths to ensure that it really is open and accessible to as diverse a community as possible.  ALT is to be applauded for its commitment to providing a wide range of channels and opportunities to enable colleagues to participate in the conference virtually and remotely, and the event has not shied away from asking difficult questions about who is included and excluded from open spaces and conceptualisations of openness.

One perspective that has sometimes been missing from open education discourse is the voice of the learner.  That is not to say that the OER Conference has not made an effort to ensure that the student voice is included and represented.  Two officers of the National Union of Students have presented keynotes; Toni Pearce at OER13 (standing in for Rachel Wenstone) and Wendy Carr at OER14.  However I’m particularly encouraged to see that this year’s conference is squarely addressing learner inclusion by focussing on how open education and open practice can support learners, foster learner diversity and inclusion, and help students develop important digital literacy skills.

At the University of Edinburgh, students have always played a key role in shaping the institution’s vision of openness.  Together with senior colleagues within Information Services, it was the Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) that provided the initial impetus for the development of an OER policy at the university, and in 2014 EUSA’s Vice President for Education, Dash Sekhar, attended the conference in Cardiff along with colleagues Melissa Highton and Stuart Nicol to talk about this student-led OER policy.  I’m delighted that EUSA’s current  Vice President for Education, Bobi Archer, will be attending the conference this year, and several of my Information Services colleagues will be coming along to present papers highlighting innovative and creative examples of student engagement across the university. Edinburgh’s vision of openness encourages both staff and students to engage with the use and creation of OER and open knowledge, to enhance the quality of the student experience while at the same time making a significant, contribution to the cultural and digital commons.

Over the years, my own journey as an open education practitioner has followed a similar trajectory to the OER Conferences; my focus has shifted from national technology strategy, to institutional policy and practice, and personal ethics and politics.  One thing that has not changed however is that I still believe passionately that open education and OER are necessary to provide diverse and inclusive education and to ensure that education really is Open to All.

CC BY City of Glasgow College

CMALT Reflection and Thanks

Earlier this year, after years of procrastinating, I was very proud to finally become a certified member of ALT. This is my short reflection on my experience of CMALT accreditation and my way of thanking all those that supported me along the way.

Since 2015 I’ve been fortunate to work in Information Services at the University of Edinburgh which provides bursaries and dedicated support to enable learning technologists to become Certified Members of ALT.  The support is provided by my colleague Susan Greig in the form of advice, guidance, feedback and facilitated writing retreats.  Although the scheme includes dedicated writing time, I found that due to other work commitments I ended up writing much of my portfolio in my own time.  That’s okay though, when it comes to reflective writing, I think I probably work better at my own time and pace.  Writing on demand is something I’ve always struggled with.  I did spend a couple of days writing with my colleague Phil Barker which I found really helpful.  Phil and I have written together for donkey’s years and aren’t afraid to be rude about each others writing, which was really helpful in the early stages of drafting my portfolio!

As an open education practitioner, I decided that I wanted to practice what I preach and develop my portfolio as an open resource.  I had originally planned to blog about my experience of developing my portfolio in the open but, perhaps unsurprisingly, I didn’t have time to do this. However I did develop my whole portfolio in the open, building it up here on my blog, piece by piece.

ALT’s CMALT Portfolios Open Register proved to be an invaluable resource and I found it really helpful to have access to portfolios written by members in non-traditional learning technology roles and senior management positions.  Maren Deepwell’s portfolio was a continual inspiration to me and I referred back to it countless times when I was planning and writing my own portfolio.  A lot of my portfolio focuses on the development of policy and strategy, so it was incredibly useful to have access to an exemplary portfolio which also covered these areas. I also have to credit Sheila MacNeil for the idea of doing my contextual statement as a video!

The #CMALT community on twitter also proved to be enormously supportive and I benefitted from numerous helpful and encouraging comments from members.  People seemed genuinely keen to share their experience of undertaking CMALT and to help others along the way.

When it came to providing evidence for the portfolio it was really useful to have all the information readily available on my blog. I’ve written before about the importance of my blog for keeping track of my career and my professional practice and boy did that really come home to me when I was organising my portfolio.

As I suspected, the section I found most challenging to write was Core Area 2: Teaching, learning and assessment processes. Although I do see myself as an educator of sorts, I’m not a teacher and I’ve never taught in formal contexts, so I had to think a bit creatively, particularly when it came to demonstrating an understanding of my target learners.  For this section I chose to focus on my peers and colleagues who are part of the connected community of open learners and networked scholars who I engage with as an open practitioner.

Although I wasn’t able to get to any of Susan’s CMALT writing retreats I did benefit enormously from her feedback prior to submitting my portfolio. The advice she provided on how to be explicit about evidencing my portfolio was invaluable and I think it’s a direct result of that feedback that I was able to pass first time around, so thank you Susan!

I was so thrilled to receive an e-mail from ALT confirming that I’d been awarded CMALT in July that I actually didn’t notice the assessors comments attached to the mail :}  When I did finally notice these I have to confess that I was completely bowled over. I was particularly touched by the comment that my commitment to open education demonstrated its potential for “revolutionary, humanising praxis”, as described by Paul Prinsloo.  Thank you, I’m humbled.

And as if that wasn’t enough, I also got a shiny new badge to go with my conference shoes!

matchy matchy

In late November, I was also delighted to be invited to a CMALT celebration event where Susan and Maren welcomed all the new CMALT members at the University of Edinburgh with fizz and cakes.  And I’m proud to say that we now have more CMALT members than any other university in the country!

CC BY, @ammienoot

So that’s my CMALT journey, it was certainly hard work, but I found it to be an immensely positive experience.  It’s not often that we have the time to step back and reflect on our work and CMALT provides us with the prefect opportunity to do just that.  It’s also an excellent way to connect with an incredibly helpful and diverse group of colleagues who really do exemplify the best in peer support.  So if you’ve ever been wondering whether CMALT is the right path for you, I can recommend it without reservation.

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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UNESCO OER World Congress

Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Slovenia to represent the University of Edinburgh and Open Scotland at the UNESCO OER World Congress in Ljubljana.  The theme of the Congress was “OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education: From Commitment to Action” and there was a strong focus on how OER can help to support United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4.

“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”

The main output of the Congress was the UNESCO Ljubljana OER Action Plan and accompanying Ministerial Statement. The Action Plan outlines 41 recommended actions in 5 key areas to mainstream OER and to help Member States to build knowledge societies and provide quality and lifelong education, and I’ll be writing a short blog psot on the Action Plan later.

It would be impossible to summarise such a diverse event in a single blog post so I just want to pick out some of my own personal impressions.

OER World Congress, CC BY Slovenian Press Agency

The first thing that struck me was that the event really lived up to its ambitions to be truly global with over 500 delegates from 111 countries present.  I attended lots of “international” and “global” events when I worked in learning technology standards development but they were always heavily dominated by delegates from the US and the global north.  I think the OER World Congress is the first event I’ve been to that actually felt genuinely global.

That made it all the more disappointing that there were so few delegates present from the UK. The only other UK participants were Joe Wilson (Open Scotland) and Leo Havemann (Open Knowledge), and there was no official representation from either the UK or Scottish Governments. Given that the UK was once at the forefront of innovative OER initiatives with the #UKOER Programme, that’s a pretty depressing state of affairs.

I heard a lot of inspiring and thought provoking talks over the course of the three days, but one that gave me pause for thought, though perhaps not for the right reasons, was Sir John Daniel summing up of a panel discussion on actions and impacts. John suggested that we have a long way to go before OER reaches the tipping point of general use and that there is a “lamentable lack of data on OER use”.  There’s certainly some truth in this, but I don’t think there has been as little progress as he seemed to be suggesting. John also argued that MOOCs have benefits over OER because they are complete courses, before going on to mention how much he enjoyed FutureLearn courses.  This seems to me to be highly debatable given that many (though admittedly not all) MOOCs are neither open nor reusable in any real sense of the word, particularly now that many platforms are time limiting access to course resources.

I was inspired however by CEO of Creative Commons Ryan Merkley’s keynote.  Ryan presented us with a clear and unambiguous message as to why OER is so important.

Ryan Merkley, CC BY Slovenian Press Agency

“We’re living in a less and less free world constantly trying to defend against restrictive copyright regimes that restrict access to creativity to those who need it. We should seek to share knowledge and lift people up, to create a more equitable world. The commons is public good, a platform for all to share and so is education but we’ve lost sight of that. Today’s education models place individual investment over public good; we pay less but we get less for what we pay and in the end we don’t own anything. The public has to pay for the same resources over and over again. Education budgets are tight, so why do we keep spending our money on things we don’t own and can’t reuse? Publicly funded educational resources should be publicly accessible.  We should all own what we pay for.  Free is not the most important thing about OER, it’s the permission to modify and reuse that’s important. We need to put the power of open at the centre of every opportunity.  We need to transform education globally, and disrupt education models based on artificial scarcity. Left to their own devices commercial interests will build their version of the future out of the past. Our focus has to be on improving student learning not protecting old structures.”

Another inspirational moment of the Congress that really made me stop and think came at the end of the Open Data satellite meeting when Leo Havemann reminded us that

“Education should be life long and life wide and should not just have an employability focus.”

The Congress also provided a rare opportunity for members of the Open Education Working Group Advisory Board to meet face to face and I’ve written another blog post about that meeting over at the Open Ed blog.

(L-R) Cable Green, Fabio Nascimbeni, Lorna M. Campbell, Leo Havemann, Virginia Rodés and Sophie Touzé at the OER World Congress, Ljubljana.

And it was also great to meet members of the Open Med project and to pick up a copy of the Declaration du Maroc sur les Ressources Educatives Libres; the OER Morocco Declaration which is based on the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

And you can see a short interview with me talking about the Declaration and open education initiatives in Scotland and at the University of Edinburgh in this interview with Jöran Muuß-Merholz.

Wiki Loves Monuments – An amazing contribution to the commons

The Wiki Loves Monuments competition came to a close last Friday and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I was still uploading ancient holiday snaps at quarter to midnight.  Who knew I had so many pics of ancient ruins?!  By the time the competition closed, a staggering 14,359 new images of UK scheduled monuments and listed buildings had been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, over 2000 of which came from Scotland.  And what’s even more impressive is that 1,351 of those image were uploaded by colleagues from the University of Edinburgh 💕 That’s an amazing contribution to the global commons and a wonderful collection of open educational resources that are free for all to use.  Our most prolific contributor was our very own Wikimedian in Residence Ewan McAndrew, who we have to thank for spurring us all on, closely followed by Anne-Marie Scott, who contributed some glorious images of Pheobe Traquair’s murals at the Mansfield Traquair Centre.  And the diversity of the images uploaded is just incredible.  Everything from castles, cathedrals, country houses, churches, cemeteries, chambered cairns, terraces, fountains,  bars, bridges, brochs, botanic gardens, and even a lap dancing club (thank you Ewan…) I managed to upload a modest 184; my oldest monument was the Callanish Stones on my home island of Lewis and most modern was a picture of Luma Tower in Glasgow that I took out the window of a passing bus!  You can see all my pics here, and not one of them was taken with an actual camera :}

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