It’s that time of year again! The ALT Conference is taking place at the University of Warwick next week. The theme of this years conference, which has a distinctly playful feel, is Connect, Collaborate and Create, and the conference is being co-chaired by Nicola Whitton and Alex Moseley. I’ll be joining the ALTC social media team again with my partner in crime Richard Goodman from Loughborough University and we’ll be live tweeting all five (count ’em!) of the conference keynotes. Chris Bull will be on hand again to photograph the conference and this year we’re also being joined by Kenji Lamb from the College Development Network and Sandra Huskinson, Loughborough University, who’ll be helping Martin Hawksey to livestream and broadcast the event.
Oh and the Open Education Team that I work with at the University of Edinburgh is up for the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Community Choice Awards. If you’d like to vote for us, which would be super nice of you, you can send an email to LTAwardsemail@example.com with the subject line #LTA6 or tweet a message with the hashtags #altc #LTA6.
Sorry, it had to be done :} I’m delighted that the Open Education Team at the University of Edinburgh where I work has been nominated for the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Community Choice Awards, and y’know, if you feel that way inclined, you might like to vote for us. You can find out more about the Community Choice Awards here Finalists and Community Choice Voting and you can vote for us by sending an email to LTAwardsfirstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line #LTA6. Or alternatively you can tweet a message with the hashtags #altc #LTA6. Those clever people at ALT have even set up a link to generate the tweet for you 🙂
The Open Education Team at the University of Edinburgh is a virtual team within the Information Services Group, Learning, Teaching and Web Services Division and our role is to coordinate open education and open knowledge activities across the University.
The team is made up of Lorna M Campbell, OER Liaison – Open Scotland, Stuart Nicol, Learning Technology Team Manager, Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, OER Advisor, Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian-in-Residence, Jo Spiller, Head of Educational Design and Engagement, Eugenia Twomey, Student Engagement Officer, Anne-Marie Scott, Head of Digital Learning Applications & Media, Susan Greig, Learning Technology Advisor and Martin Tasker, Open Content Curation Intern.
You can find out more about our work in the video below which, you’ll be relieved to hear, is not filmed in the style of Trainspotting ;}
Earlier this month I went along to the ALT Scotland SIG‘s annual conference, which was held at Dundee and Angus College’s fabulous Gardyne Campus and Learning Lab. This year the theme of the event was Sharing Stories: enablers and drivers for Learning Technology in Scottish Education. I spoke about how the University of Edinburgh is supporting engagement with learning technology through open education, and my colleague Susan Greig gave a presentation about how the university is supporting staff to become Certified Members of ALT.
I’ve linked the recording of the afternoon session below along with my slides, and the recording of the morning session can be accessed from ALT’s YouTube channel.
For once in my life I actually wrote my presentation in advance of the event so I’ve copied my script below too.
Supporting Engagement with Learning Technology Through Open Education at the University of Edinburgh
Earlier this year the University of Edinburgh launched a new strategic vision which outlined where the university is at present and where it intends to be in 2025.
Central to this vision is increased provision of world-leading online distance learning.
It’s an ambitious vision that aims to see up to 10,000 students, learning online by 2020, through MOOCs and postgraduate online learning programmes, and open education embedded right across the institution.
I’m not going to talk today about MOOCs and online masters programmes per se, what I want to focus on today is how the University is supporting engagement with learning technology through a range of open education initiatives and services, focusing particularly on OER.
The University of Edinburgh’s vision for open educational resources builds on three strands:
The history of the Edinburgh Settlement.
Excellent education and research collections.
Traditions of the Enlightenment and the University’s civic mission.
The University has established an OER Service that will create an OER exchange to enrich both the University and the sector; provide support frameworks to enable staff to share OER created as a routine part of their work, and enable staff to find and use high quality teaching materials developed within and beyond the University.
The service will also showcase Edinburgh at it’s best, highlighting the highest quality learning and teaching; identifying collections of learning materials to be published online for flexible use, and made available as open courseware, and enabling the discovery of these materials to enhance the University’s reputation.
And as a contribution to the University’s civic mission it will open access to Edinburgh’s treasures, making available collections of unique resources to promote health, economic and cultural well-being; digitising, curating and sharing major collections of unique archives and museum resources to encourage public engagement with learning, study and research.
In order to ensure Edinburgh’s OER Vision is sustainable and supported across the institution, the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee has approved an accompanying OER Policy that encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience and to help colleagues make informed decisions about creating and using OER in support of the University’s OER Vision.
The Edinburgh OER Policy will look familiar to many of you as it’s based on the policy developed by the University or Leeds and already adopted by Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Greenwich. Edinburgh has made a number changes to this policy including adopting a more active and inclusive definition of OER.
“Digital resources that are used in the context of teaching and learning, which have been released by the copyright holder under an open licence permitting their use or re-purposing by others.”
By focusing on the context of use, this definition encompasses a wide range of resources including multimedia, courseware, and cultural heritage resources.
In order to provide access to its open educational resource the university has launched Open.Ed, a one-stop-shop which provides access to openly licensed content, the OER Vision statement and OER Policy, together with practical support for staff and students in the form of workshops, advice and guidance on finding, using and creating OERs.
I should add that this is not a formal repository Open.Ed is built on WordPress and aggregates OER from other repositories and sites across the university.
In addition to Open.Ed, the University has also launched Media Hopper a new multimedia asset management system which provides all staff and students with space to upload media and publish it to VLEs, websites and social media channels. Not all the content in Media Hopper is openly licensed, but student interns currently working to develop feeds to pull openly licensed content out of Media Hopper and into Open.Ed.
Edinburgh is also working to enhance the biggest open educational resource in the world; Wikipedia. Building on long term engagement with Wikimedia UK, the University has become the first in the UK to employ a dedicated Wikimedian in Residence. As an advocate for openness the WiR delivers training events and workshops to further the quantity and quality of open knowledge and enhance digital literacy, through skills training sessions and editathons.
The University is also committed to supporting open education across the sector and last year announced it’s support for Open Scotland. Scotland is a cross sector initiative that aims to raise awareness of open education, encourage the sharing of open educational resources, and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education. Part of my role as OER Liaison – Open Scotland will be to continue promoting the Scottish Open Education Declaration and hopefully bring it to the attention of the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.
And of course last, but not least, earlier this year we were very privileged to host the OER16 conference with the support of ALT. The theme of the 7th OER Conference, and the first to be held in Scotland, was Open Culture and the conference focused on the value proposition of embedding open culture in the context of institutional strategies.
So to conclude, open education is being used as a key driver to encourage and embed engagement with education technology right across the institution.
The University of Edinburgh’s vision for open education provides a strong foundation for developing a sustainable model for online education at scale, encouraging engagement with learning technology and OER within the curriculum, and improving teachers and learners’ confidence and digital literacy with regard to teaching and learning online. In addition, this affords the University a valuable opportunity to scale up its community engagement, to disseminate the knowledge created and curated within the institution to the wider community and to help shape conversations about the role of learning technology and the future of open education in Scotland.
I’m delighted to announce that OER16 Open Culture is now accepting submissions for the conference which will take place at the University of Edinburgh on the 19th and 20th April 2016. The call for proposals was launched at the ALT Conference in Manchester at the beginning of September and the submissions site is now open.
Submissions are invited for presentations, lightning talks, posters, and panels and workshops on the themes of:
The strategic advantage of open, creating a culture of openness, and the reputational challenges of openwashing.
Converging and competing cultures of open knowledge, open source, open content, open practice, open data and open access.
Hacking, making and sharing.
Openness and public engagement.
Innovative approaches to opening up cultural heritage collections for education.
If you have any queries about the conference themes feel free to contact me at email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @lornamcampbell. Any queries regarding the submission process should be directed to Anna Davidge at ALT, email@example.com.
Further information about the conference is available here oer16.oerconf.organd you can follow @oerconf and #oer16 on twitter. Look forward to seeing you in Edinburgh in the Spring!
Tomorrow I’ll be taking part in the first ALT-C ‘Community Call’ where I’ll be in conversation with ALT’s Chief Innovation, Community and Technology Officer, Martin Hawksey. Among other things, I’ll be talking about my role in open education technology, policy and practice advocacy, my involvement with ALT, and my work with EDINA and LTW at the University of Edinburgh. I’ll also be giving an update on OER16 and outlining the conference themes.
The Community Call is free to join and will be hosted as a Google Hangout On Air at 12.30 PM. You can watch the call from the Google+ page, YouTube Channel or embedded on the ALT website, and you’ll be able to ask questions during the call from the Google+ page or via Twitter by using the tag #altc. I hope you’ll come along and join us!
ETA: In case you missed it, here’s the video of the event. If I look rather bemused and there’s a delay in me answering Martin’s questions it’s because I was hearing everything repeated with a 2 second delay!
Tomorrow I’ll be heading off to Manchester where I’ll be attending the ALT Conference for the first time in several years. Or rather what I should say is that this is the first time for a while that I’ll be attending the conference in person, as for the last couple of years I’ve participated in ALTC remotely. This year however I’ll be on the other side of the ALTC twitter feed. Along with Richard Goodman (@Bulgenen) of Loughborough University, I’ll be taking over the @A_L_T twitter account to live tweet the conference keynotes and invited talks, which will also be live streamed on ALT’s Youtube channel. Last year I found that following the keynotes via the livestream and the twitter feed to be a very rewarding experience (see Marvellous Monsters – thoughts on the #altc 2014 keynotes) so I’m looking forward to helping to make sure that this year’s remote participants are able to enjoy the conference as much as I did last year!
I’ll also be providing updates about OER16 at various stages throughout the conference, so if you’d like to find out more about OER16 and how to participate look out for me and feel free to come and have a chat any time.
I’m very pleased to have added a new string to my bow! As of the beginning of this month I will be working one day a week as OER Liaison – Open Scotland within the Learning, Teaching and Web division at the University of Edinburgh, where I’ll be working with LTW Director and OER16 co-chair, Melissa Highton. I’ll also continue working in my main role as Digital Education Manager at EDINA, while still doing some consultancy work with former Cetis colleagues, so I’m certainly going to be busy!
Edinburgh already has a world class reputation for encouraging innovation in open education and a forward looking vision for sharing open educational materials, so I’m very pleased indeed that the University has chosen to support Open Scotland in this way.
The main activities I’ll be concentrating on over the coming months are planning next year’s OER16 conference, revitalising the Open Scotland initiative, promoting the Scottish Open Education Declaration, and continuing to participate in the Open Policy Network. The Open Scotland blog has been sadly neglected for some time now so hopefully I’ll be able to start updating it again with open education news and developments from across Scotland and beyond, so if you’re involved in an any kind of open education initiative that you’d like to see featured on Open Scotland please feel free to get in touch. You can drop me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on twitter @lornamcampbell.
I’ll also be at ALT-C next week so if you’ve got any thoughts or ideas either for OER16 or for Open Scotland, please do come and find me for a chat.
Doesn’t time fly? It’s almost a fortnight since I joined colleagues at what has now become an annual event in the Scottish education technology calendar; the ALT Scotland one day conference. One of the things I really like about this event is that it consistently brings together colleagues from all sectors of Scottish education to discuss issues relating to open education technology, policy and practice. The theme of this year’s event was Sharing Digital Practice and Policy in Scottish Education, and it was highly appropriate that it was hosted by Glasgow Caledonian University as they have just approved their new institutional OER policy.
Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to put together a storify or write a full summary of the event, however thanks to Martin Hawksey’s fine audio visual skills you can view the entire livestream of the event on the ALT YouTube channel here: AM / PM. I do want to pick up on one of the themes that emerged from several presentations though and that is the problem of blocked pipelines and infinite loops.
Infinite Loop II by Faruk Ateş, CC BY-NC 2.0
Marion Kelt, Senior Librarian: Digital Development and Information Literacy at GCU, was the first to raise this issue in her talk about the lengthy process of getting GCU’s Open Educational Resources policy approved by the university. At one stage this involved being referred to an institutional IPR policy that she eventually discovered did not actually exist! This is just one example the kind of infinite loop it’s very easy to get drawn into when trying to introduce new policy. Often it’s unclear which management structures within the institution have the authority to ratify new policy, particularly if that policy has evolved from the ground up. The danger is that draft documents get endlessly stuck in limbo, waiting for approval that never comes. Thankfully Marion is nothing if not persistent and after going round these loops several times she was eventually successful in getting the policy approved. GCU’s Open Educational Resources Policy, which is based on the University of Leeds‘ OER policy, can be accessed here.
Joe Wilson, of the College Development Network, highlighted a similar infinite loop. When he was appointed as Chief Executive of CDN earlier this year, Joe made it his number one priority to encourage the FE sector to sign up to the principles of the Scottish Open Eduction Declaration, an initiative he has been involved with since its inception in 2013. Joe began by taking the relevant papers to the Committee of Regional Chairs, which is composed primarily of deputy principals of colleges. They were broadly supportive but advised taking the Declaration to the Principals’ Forum. The Principals’ Forum were also very interested and keen to do something, but they in turn suggested that it was the Government’s responsibility to take a stance on open education. Suffice to say, while there appears to be some interest in adopting open education principals and practice in the FE sector, there are still a lot of blockages in the pipeline. As Joe said “we’re still at the stage of I’m not going to show you mine unless you show me yours”. However I’m quite sure that if anyone has the vision and determination to clear these blockages, it’s Joe.
Infinite Loop by Dave Walker, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Which brings me on to my own infinite loop…Earlier this year the ALT Scotland SIG Committee brought the Scottish Open Education Declaration to the attention of Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning. We were pleased to receive the following positive and encouraging response from the Higher Education and Learner Support Division.
“The Open Education Declaration and its aim at implementing wider and more equitable access to education and to lead the way in Europe is a noble initiative with potential to enhance diversity as well as many of our key aims, including widening access to education through free access to high quality education and to redraw traditional boundaries between informal and formal learning.”
“SFC also funds Jisc which supports the development and use of Open Educational Resources through platforms, repositories, and projects.”
However Jisc’s recent announcement that it will be closing Jorum, the UK OER repository for higher and further education and the skills sector, and “refreshing” their approach to open educational resources, does rather beg question who, if anyone, is supporting open education in Scotland?
I have no immediate answers as to how we break out of these infinite loops and clear the blockages in policy pipelines. Sometimes it’s a case of identifying exactly where the blockage lies, sometimes it’s more to do with identifying that one person who has both the vision, the authority and the determination to make a stand and take the decision to move things forwards.
There is one blockage I have been able to clear however. During the meeting several colleagues asked how much longer the Scottish Open Education Declaration would be available only as a draft. They explained that the Declaration’s draft status was preventing them from using the document to promote open education within their own institutions as the draft status meant that senior managers were unwilling to give it serious consideration. As there have been no further comments on the Declaration since draft 0.2 was published towards the end of last year, the status of the document has now been updated from draft 0.2 to edition 1.0. Hopefully I’ll be publishing a short post on this update over at the Open Scotland blog shortly.
Earlier this week I went along to the ALT Winter Conference CPD Rebooted – Creative Professional Development for Learning Technology and, as is always the case with ALT events, I came away with a great deal to think about. There were some excellent presentations; Nic Whitton’s talk on games in education was particularly fascinating. I’m not a gamer myself, but I’m very interested in the affordances of playful learning and games in education.
David Hopkins, Clive Young and James Keift also gave three excellent presentations on CPD for learning technologists, career progression or lack thereof, and routes to CMALT accreditation, however I came away with a nagging feeling that much of their good advice didn’t really apply to me.
In some ways this is related to the debate about “what makes a learning technologist?” that recently took place on the ALT-Members mailing list. I’m not even going to attempt to summarise what was a lengthy, wide ranging and very considered discussion, however one contribution that I particularly identified with came, as it often does, from Amber Thomas. In a blog post called Perhaps I’m not one?, which aimed to “give a voice to other learning technologists who feel like they don’t fit the standard description”. Amber pointed out that learning technologists come in many different flavours and all make a uniquely valuable contribution.
Although I occupy a very different niche from Amber these days, her post really chimed with my experience of working in education technology. In response to her plea that
“People like me shouldn’t have to pretend to be something we’re not.”
“This, a thousand times over! I think it’s much harder to get recognition if you don’t fit neatly into one category or another.”
Which brings me back to the thinky thoughts raised by CPD Rebooted….It seems to me that there is a distinction between the various flavours of learning technologists who are employed by colleges and universities and whose primary remit is to support and develop the use of education technology within the institution, and those that are employed by advisory services, for want of a better word, and who have a more sector facing role. I realise this is a bit of a sweeping generalisation, but I think the former group of learning technologists have quite different opportunities for, and experiences of, career progression and CPD than the latter. In fact I might even go so far as to say that the latter group have very little opportunity for planned career progression and CPD at all. With advisory services being axed left, right and centre (TechDis was the latest in a long line of invaluable service to be despatched this week) many highly experienced professionals are increasingly finding themselves in the position of having to jump from one short term contract to the next. What does effective CPD look like for colleagues who may have little say in how their career progresses and who lack the job security to plan any kind of professional development, continuous, creative or otherwise? Of course you could argue that scrambling from one contract to the next is in itself a form of CPD, if a rather extreme one!
I’ve worked in education technology for over fifteen years, for much of that time as a researcher employed on short term contracts. During that time I’ve undertaken very little formal CPD, although I do try very hard to be an open practitioners and my skills have certainly developed through the many projects I’ve worked on. I’ve never sought any form of accreditation or certification, as these skills don’t seem to fit into the kind of boxes that often make up accreditation frameworks, which circles back again to the points that Amber raised in her blog post.
All of which makes me wonder if there is more of a role for ALT in providing innovative routes to creative professional development for people like me who don’t fit neatly into the boxes and who often have very little control over how their career progresses? I should confess at this stage that it’s a while since I’ve had a proper look at CMALT, so it’s quite possible that CMALT already does all of this and I am just woefully behind the times :} That said, I’d be very interested to hear how other colleagues in a similar position manage, or even just think about, their own professional development.
I wasn’t able to attend the ALT Conference this year, but what with the faultless online coverage and following the back channel on twitter, I think I caught more of the conference than I often do when I’m actually there in person. I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve heard all three keynotes, and I’m very glad I did, as they were all excellent. Congratulations to the ALTC committee for putting together such a thought provoking programme.
Jeff Haywood’s opening keynote, Designing University Education for 2025 began by focusing on the positivity of open education, while adding the caveat that
“Without vision at policy level, at government and senior management level, the system will not transform.”
He acknowledged that changing higher education takes time and needs both persistence and patience, and he concluded by calling for more modest, purposeful pilots and experiments with learning technology that are designed to scale. That final point seemed to resonate with many listeners and was tweeted many times on the conference hashtag. I could help thinking that this is exactly the kind of experimentation that the Jisc development programmes used to facilitate so successfully; we need such purposeful and experimental innovation now more than ever.
Catherine Cronin’s keynote Navigating the Marvellous explored the potential of openness to bridge educational divides. Catherine framed education as a political and ethical act, urging us as educators to use our voice, and exhorting us to “Always speak, always vote.” A timely reminder, if ever there was one.
Quoting the inimitable Jim Groom, Catherine reminded us that “openness is an ethos not a license”. Open means sharing and building community, however the restrictive nature of both space and technology can inhibit open practice; lecture theatres privilege the lecturers voice, and the privileged position of lecturers in VLEs works against building communities and mutuality.
Taking her inspiration from Seamus Heaney’s Lightenings viii, Catherine explored the different formal and informal educational and social spaces we inhabit as learners and educators, asking
“Have you ever found yourself in a learning environment so strange you are unable to breathe? Many students have.”
Open practices and the use of social media can enable us to cross educational boundaries, to overcome “othering” and to “minimise the differential in power between educators and students”.
This latter point raised an important question for me and when I asked on twitter
a lengthy discussion followed, with Helen Beetham arguing that while open practices may democratise participation they can not extend equal participation if learning and digital capital is unequal. Furthermore, while online spaces can disguise or level some kinds of difference and otherness, surely they amplify others? David Kernohan also suggested that social media just holds a mirror up to existing power structures. To my mind, this is one of the most important points Catherine raised in her thoughtful and astute keynote; there are a lot of issues that need further exploration here and I very much hope we can continue this debate.
It’s hard to know what to say about Audrey Watters keynote that could begin to do it justice. We were very lucky to have Audrey present a keynote at the Cetis conference earlier this year and, if I’m honest, I did wonder how she could top such an inspirational talk. It’s fair to say that with Ed-Tech, Frankenstein’s Monster and Teacher Machines Audrey exceeded even her own high standards. Her talk was personal, inspirational and insightful and covered everything from her own grandfather, an alumni of Bletchley Park, Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace, Frankenstein’s monster, the Luddites, Skinner and Rand, by way of fairytales, poetry, storytelling and pigeon-guided missiles. I’m not even going to attempt to summarise the points Audrey raised, if you haven’t heard it already, go and listen to her keynote yourself, it’s worth an hour of anyone’s time. After all, as Audrey reminded us, quoting Hannah Arendt
“Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it.”