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.”

Continue reading

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

New Role

The view from the office isn’t bad…, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

Now that I’ve cleared the inevitable post-holiday e-mail backlog I’m ready to start a new role as Senior Service Manager – Learning Technology within Education Design and Engagement (EDE) at the University of Edinburgh. I’ve actually been transitioning into this role for several months now and have been working closely with colleagues in EDE, where the OER Service is based, for some time now.  For the last year I’ve been working as OER Liaison – Open Scotland in the Learning Teaching and Web directorate within Information Services.  This role involved co-chairing the OER 16 Open Culture Conference together with Melissa Highton, promoting the Open Scotland initiative and the Scottish Open Education Declaration, disseminating the University of Edinburgh’s open education activities, working with our Wikimedian in Residence, and liaising with other international open education initiatives and organisations.  Open education will still be central to my new role but I’ll be more focused on embedding open education and OER within the university.  In addition to continuing with some of my existing activities I’ll be working more closely with the OER Service and getting more involved in supporting institutional programmes and initiatives and liaising with other departments within the University, such as the Institute of Academic Development, to ensure that openness and OER are embedded across the institution.  I’ll also be wrapping up the two IS Innovation Fund Projects that I’ve been managing recently and disseminating their outputs.  And of course I’ll still be actively involved with the Association for Learning Technology, Wikimedia UK, and the Open Knowledge Open Education Working Group.  I’ll continue to share my experiences here on my blog and on twitter, so watch this space!

 

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.

Crossing the Field Boundaries: Open Science, Open Data & Open Education

Last week I was invited to speak at the International Open Science Conference in Berlin which this year had a special focus on OER.  My talk featured a case study of the University of Edinburgh’s Geosicence Outreach and Engagement Course so I’d like to thank Colin Graham and all those involved in the course for allowing me to present their inspirational work.

This talk focuses on the interface between OER, open data and open science and our experience at the University of Edinburgh of promoting open education through the School of GeoSciences Outreach and Engagement course.

The title of this paper, “Crossing the field boundaries”, comes not from the domain of GeoScicences though, but from Maryam Mirzakhani, professor of mathematics at Stanford University and the first female winner of the Fields Medal.  In a 2014 interview Maryam said

“I like crossing the imaginary boundaries people set up between different fields—it’s very refreshing. There are lots of tools, and you don’t know which one would work. It’s about being optimistic and trying to connect things.”

A Tenacious Explorer of Abstract Surfaces, Quanta Magazine, August 2014

I am not a mathematician, or a scientist, but I do have some experience of crossing field boundaries, and since open education is all about breaking down boundaries and cutting across fields, this seems like a nice metaphor to hang this talk on. Continue reading

International Open Science Conference

This week I’m looking forward to presenting an invited talk on OER at the International Open Science Conference in Berlin.

My talk, Crossing the Field Boundaries will explore the interface between open education, open data and open science. The talk will highlight the Open Knowledge Open Education Group‘s influential study of Open Data as OER by Javiera Atenas and Leo Havemann, and using examples from the University of Edinburgh’s GeoScience Outreach and Engagement Course will highlight how student created open educational resources can be used to widen participation and encourage knowledge transfer and community engagement in science education.  I’ll post my paper and slides when I get back later in the week.

Thanks to the conference organisers for making these cute twitter cards!

Open Knowledge, OER, Wikimedia, MOOCs and Maritime Masculinities

How is it March already?!  I’ve been sorely neglecting this blog for the past few months, not because I’ve got nothing to say, quite the opposite, I’ve been so tied up with different projects I’ve barely had a chance to write a single blog post! A poor excuse I know, but anyway, here’s a very brief run down of what I’ve been up to for the past three months and hopefully I’ll be able to get back to blogging on a regular schedule soon.

Most of my time has been taken up with two new IS Innovation Fund projects I’m running at the University of Edinburgh.

UoE Open Knowledge Network

The UoE Open Knowledge Network is an informal forum to draw together the University’s strategic policies and activities in the area of Open Data, Open Access, Open Education, Open Research, Open Collections and Archives, in order to support cross-fertilisation and promote the institution’s activities in these areas. This Network aims to embed open knowledge within the institution and to establish a self-sustaining network supported by the departments and divisions that have oversight of the University’s strategic Open Access, Open Education and Open Data policies.

The Network held its first event in January which featured a keynote from Gill Hamilton of the National Library of Scotland plus lightning talks from colleagues across the institution.  You can read more about the event on the Open Knowledge network blog here: http://okn.ed.ac.uk/

UoE Open Knowledge Network, CC BY Stephanie Farley

Accessing Open Research Outputs MOOC

Since the publication of the Finch report and the Research Councils’ policy on open access, universities have increasingly made the outputs of their publicly funded research freely and openly available through open access journals and repositories. However it’s not always easy for people outwith academia to know how to access these outputs even though they are available under open licence.

This project is developing a short self paced learning MOOC aimed at the general public, private researchers, entrepreneurs and SMEs to provide advice on how to access open research outputs including Open Access scholarly works and open research data sets, in order to foster technology transfer and innovation. The course will focus on developing digital and data literacy skills and search strategies to find and access open research outputs and will also feature a series of case studies based on individuals and SMEs that have made successful use of the University of Edinburgh’s world class research outputs.

This is the first time I’ve worked on a MOOC project and I’m delighted to be working with Morna Simpson, of Geek Girl Scotland who has just been named one of Scotland’s most influential women in tech.

Wikimedia UK

I’ve been involved in a whole host of Wikimedia events including the Wikimedia UK Education Summit at Middlesex University, where Melissa Highton gave an inspiring keynote and I chaired a panel of lightning talks, #1Lib1Ref which encouraged Librarians and wikimedia editors to add one reference to Wikipedia to mark the 15th anniversary of the foundation of Wikipedia, and the History of Medicine editathon, part of the University of Edinburgh’s Festival of Creative Learning.  This event was a personal highlight not only because it took place in the stunning Surgeon’s Hall Museum and featured an utterly fascinating series of talks on subjects as diverse as Lothian Health Services Archive and William Burke, Scotland’s most prolific serial killer, but also because I got to create a new Wikipedia page for Ethel Moir, a nurse from Inverness who served on the Eastern Front in WW1.  I’m planning to do some more work on Ethel’s Wikipedia page tomorrow as during the University of Edinburgh’s Bragging Writes editathon as part of International Women’s Day.

History of Medicine Editathon, Surgeon’s Hall, CC BY Ewan McAndrew

UNESCO European Consultation on OER

2017 marks the 5th anniversary of the Paris OER Declaration and UNESCO and the Commonwealth for Learning are undertaking an international consultation focused on OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education. Since the end of last year I’ve been liaising with COL to ensure that Scotland was represented at this consultation which is being undertaken in advance of the 2nd World OER Congress which will be held in Ljubljana later this year.  Joe Wilson went along to the consultation in Malta represent Open Scotland and you can read his report on the event here.

Maritime Masculinities Conference

Way back in December I took a week off from Ed Tech to co-chair the Maritime Masculinities Conference at the University of Oxford. The two day conference featured keynotes from Prof. Joanne Begiato, Dr Isaac Land and  Dr Mary Conley and a wide range of international papers.  I chaired a panel of papers on the theme of Sexualities and my co-author Heather Noel-Smith and I also presented a paper on Smoking Chimneys and Fallen Women: the several reinventions of Sir Henry Hart.  We were pleasantly surprised by the success of the conference and the lovely feedback we got from delegates.

I’ve also got a lot of conferences and events coming up over the next couple of months, but I think that deserves a separate blog post!