OER16 Reflections – The Last Post

I had intended to write one last post to follow up the OER16: Open Culture Conference last month, but the moment passed, the weeks slipped by and I decided I’d left it too late. But then a couple of weeks ago Jim Groom posted a belated OER16 reflections post and I thought dammit, if Jim can do it, so can I!

When I was putting together my OER16 Overview  for the eLearning@Ed conference in May I emailed some of our keynotes and delegates to ask if they’d be willing to share some reflections on their experiences of the conference. I got some fabulous and very thoughtful responses that I really wanted to share, so here they are, after much delay and procrastination. Many thanks to everyone who responded.

It’s almost impossible to summarise so many diverse responses but if I can make an attempt…

Many OER16 participants commented on the strength of community that has grown up around open education. This is a mature and diverse community, which encompasses many different perspectives and interpretations of openness. For some open education is about resources, policy, technology, for others it’s about practice. Some are concerned with supporting and sustaining open education at scale across institutions, for others openness is more of a personal ethos. Some focus on the technologies we use to support open education, others are motivated by the potential of openness to address inequality and exclusion. None of these perspectives are mutually exclusive, none are above criticism, and indeed it appears that as a community we are moving towards a much more critical and nuanced analysis of what it means to be open.

As is so often the case Catherine Cronin put this into words much more eloquently than I can

“I feel a collective sense of “moving on” in the open education community, a willingness to tackle some of the more challenging questions about risk, power and inequality.”

Jo Spiller

Jo Spiller by Brian Mather

Jo Spiller by Brian Mather

Educational Design and Engagement, University of Edinburgh

My two highlights were Catherine Cronin’s keynote on participatory culture, the power of open to influence and celebrate change, especially with the focus on the Gay Marriage vote in Ireland. How it can be playful and moving and everyone can contribute to it.

As a counterpoint to this, Sava Singh on the perils of open scholarship “Open wounds: The Myth of Open as Panacea” was really interesting – that open can also become excluding for different demographic groups and also has both great benefits but also great challenges for academics.

Sara Thomas

Wikimedian in Residence, Museums Galleries Scotland

As the Wikimedian in Residence for Museums Galleries Scotland, I usually work alone, or remotely.  The opportunity to connect to the wider open knowledge community was fantastic – energising, informative and so very valuable.  And we had 4 Residents in a room at once!  This, you have to realise, is a rare thing indeed in the world of Wiki.  I’ve worked primarily in open culture and heritage for the last 16 months, and one of the growth areas has been in the interface between education and culture…. So #OER16 seemed to me so prescient, so perfectly timed.

Martin Weller

The Open University

The sessions I attended at OER16 demonstrated how the field is maturing, and in many ways moving beyond a narrow definition of OER as content. The potential of OER in fields as diverse as Shakespeare and understanding modern slavery was demonstrated, but so too was the nature of open identity, the type of research we should be undertaking, and the need for open infrastructure. The UK OER conference is now much more of an international one and also much more critically reflective of the nature of openness.

Sheila MacNeill

Glasgow Caledonian University

Sheila MacNeil and Martin Weller by Josie Fraser

Sheila MacNeil and Martin Weller by Josie Fraser

One of the things I keep coming back to is Melissa’s description of technical and cultural debt – I am going to try and blog about this but need to think about it a bit more in terms of my political position! But I found her description of them both really useful and thought provoking.

The theme of #oer16 was Open Culture, and it was great to have input from third sector organisations around the potential of open-ness (content, data and practice) outwith the education sector.  Catherine Cronin’s opening keynote  addressed cultural issues around inequality, culture, participation and open-ness head on.   Changing societal, organisational and personal attitudes to open-ness is an ongoing debate in the open education world.

A Tale of Two Conferences: #oer16 and #LAK16

Catherine Cronin

National University of Ireland, Galway

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference – the sessions I attended as well as the many conversations over the course of the 2+ days. I feel a collective sense of “moving on” in the open education community, a willingness to tackle some of the more challenging questions about risk, power and inequality. Though there is much work to do, this move towards more critical analysis is heartening.

Rachel Hosker

Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh

It was great. Really refreshing and challenging in a positive way for collections. It was a fantastic opportunity to share ideas and meet people with different perspectives on sharing collections and how we can all do this.  I also found it useful as a platform for discussing some of the practical things in collections work that need to be done to make things open for use. As an archivist, working in collections I would encourage others in my sector and profession to go to OER and engage with making collections open.

Maha Bali

Center for Learning and Teaching, The American University in Cairo

As a virtual participant who was also doing OLC Innovate at the same time… I only got a glimpse of what was happening. But what I thought was particularly interesting about OER16 was the challenging of two things:

  1. Challenging OER as a key mode openness – Catherine Cronin’s keynote, my presentation with Suzan Koseoglu and one by Andrew Middleton and Katherine Jessen tried to move beyond OER as content as being the main form of openness…which was interesting given the title of the conference
  2. Challenging openness as necessarily a good thing. This again came from Catherine but also Jim and also my session with Suzan. I am sure if Frances Bell presented something it would also challenge that.

I don’t know if this is all normal for OER16… it resonates a little with how OpenEd last year was, but with OpenEd it felt like maybe a majority of attendees were less critical but there was a vocal minority that was critical…

Thank you for embodying true openness in your approach to my virtual participation and Virtually Connecting. We are continually mentioning ALT as one of the organizations that’s supporting us.

Frances Bell

francesbell.com

OER16 was a very friendly conference – with lots of smiling, networking and fun going on. The conference topic Open Culture, expressed through the themes, enabled participants to celebrate and critique openness in the overlapping contexts of cultural heritage and education. The keynote speakers really helped to frame that celebration and critique in conference sessions and informal discussions

by Catherine Cronin, CC BY SA

by Catherine Cronin, CC BY SA

Stuart Nicol

Educational Design and Engagement, University of Edinburgh

At a high level I felt a little that there was an underlying split between the very technical-orientated view of open and OER (I’m thinking Jim Groom’s keynote around infrastructure & indie-web) and then the very human side (several presentations talking about the self as OER). But thinking of this as less of a ‘schism’ and more of the strands that sit under the OER grouping. Strands that can sit comfortably but that maybe we haven’t quite got to a place where we realise they can sit comfortably together?

I think it maybe comes down to a tendancy to try to simplify; that OER is a policy and/or it’s a repository. But actually it’s a digital sensibility that underpins a very wide range of practices … the specific human and technical implementation of OER will be different in different practice contexts … and it’s likely to change over time.

John Johnson

Radio EduTalk

Viv Rolf, John Johnson, David Kernohan by Martin Hawksey

Viv Rolf, John Johnson, David Kernohan by Martin Hawksey

In higher education the idea of open education is now well enough established that the discussions have become quite nuanced. There are a wide range of definitions and directions on the open road. Some look at practical issues around, licensing and searching of resources, others social or technical ideas.

I’ve not seen much evidence that these ideas are penetrating primary or secondary education in Scotland. I do think that open ideas are equally valid here. A good place for school based colleagues to start might be the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

I’ve not got a wide ranging knowledge of the OER world, but it was pretty obvious there are different interpretations of open, many speakers alluded to that. There was a general feeling that the more open a resource the more sustainable it is.

It was delightful to spend time with people who are gathered, not because they want to sell something, but with a shared idea that is aimed at doing good in the world.

Joe Wilson

joewilsons.net

I am prejudiced but I do think some of our most creative educators are interested in open education. All of the sessions I attended inspired me and showed the way forward for all of us in rethinking what education could be. There was something for everyone from policy makers to practitioners.

All of the sessions from Wikimedia offered something for Colleges and adult learners – I can’t do them all justice in a post . But Colleges should be using Wikimedia tools not just as reference materials but as active learning tools.

#OER16 Quick Overview and Some important links for Scottish FE

Anne-Marie Scott

Digital Learning Applications and Media, University of Edinburgh

My major takeaway has been the value of openness. Making educational resources available for many purposes using Creative Commons licenses, building software and infrastructure using open source technologies and licenses, being open about the algorithms we use to evaluate our students’ online activities, being transparent about what data we collect and why, being open and inclusive about the development of standards that will allow us to work better together, all of this activity requires a commitment to being open. Open to scrutiny, open to challenge, open to collaboration, open to cooperation, and open to being part of a community.

The value of being open

And last but not least from twitter….

Stephen Thomas

Michigan State University

#oer16 #sustainability panel had a wide variety of perspectives. Great session!

by Stephen Thomas

Pat vs. Viv by Stephen Thomas

Open Education Policy – blocked pipelines and infinite loops

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

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

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.”

In addition to highlighting the role of the Open University’s Opening Educational Practices in Scotland Project, the response noted that

“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.

Retire and Refresh: Jisc, Jorum and Open Education

Jorum_logo_blueYesterday Jisc announced its intention to retire Jorum in September 2016 and “refresh its open educational resources offer”.   I’ve been involved with Jorum, in one capacity or another, since 2002 when Moira Massey and Sarah McConnell at EDINA, started drafting a proposal for a repository as part of the Jisc eXchange for Learning Programme (X4L), and I’ve also been a member of the Jorum Steering group since it was set up in 2005 to help guide Jorum through its transition to service phase.

I’ve seen Jorum develop through many iterations and technical incarnations and it’s been a long and interesting journey. There have been many stumbling blocks along the way, but we’ve seen real progress and have learned a great deal about the practicalities of education resource description, discovery and management. Both the education and technology landscapes have changed fundamentally since Jorum came into being thirteen years ago and it hasn’t always been easy for the service to adapt to those changes as quickly as the sector sometimes expected.  Despite these challenges, all members of the Jorum Team, both past and present, always remained fully committed to providing a useful service to the community and have shown huge dedication to supporting their users, so I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank every one of them for their efforts.

That said, I do have some concerns about Jisc’s continued involvement in the open education space.  As a result of the Jisc / HEA UKOER Programmes and it’s many precursors, Jisc developed an enviable international reputation for open education innovation.  The fact that there is still a lively and active community of practice around UKOER is testament to the success of the programmes in raising awareness of open education and starting to embed open education practice across higher education.  There’s sill a long way to go of  course, few institutions are actually creating open educational resources in any great volume, evidence of reuse is still slim, and we have so much more to learn about how teachers and learners find, share, and use educational resources.  There is also a danger that the open education community is singing to the choir rather than preaching to the masses.  (Obligatory religious metaphor; cf John Robertson)

University of Leeds Jorum Window

University of Leeds Jorum Window

However there does seem to be a resurgence of interest in sharing resources in both the further and higher education sectors over the last year.  HE institutions are starting to explore the potential value of developing open education policy and Glasgow Caledonian University recently became the first HEI in Scotland to approve an institutional OER policy, based incidentally on a University of Leeds policy originally created as part of the UKOER programme. GCU also plan to implement their shiny new policy through the creation of an institutional OER repository based on the University of Southampton’s EdShare platform.   Leeds are still actively supporting the sharing and discovery of open educational resources through their institutional Jorum Window, a valuable service provided by Jorum that other institutions were beginning to explore. The University of Edinburgh also has an ambitious vision for open education and intends to develop frameworks to enable staff to publish and share their teaching and learning materials as OER in order to enrich the University and the sector.  In addition, the OER Conferences, now supported by ALT, continue to go from strength to strength, despite many predicting their demise once the UKOER funding ran out.

There is also increasing interest in sharing resources in the further education sector, partly as a result of the FELTAG recommendations, the full impact of which have yet to be felt.  Following an ambitious programme of regionalisation in Scotland, colleges are starting to explore the potential of sharing resources within consortia.  This may not be the fully open sharing that many in the sector aspire to, but its a good start.  There is some way to go in the FE sector before the culture of competition transforms into a culture of cooperation and collaboration and this is where the support of organisations such as Jisc and the College Development Network is invaluable.

I’m not going to comment too much on the Jisc App and Content Store yet, as it’s clearly very early days and, as with any agile development, I expect it will go through many iterations before it sees the light of day.  However I will say that talk of customers and App Stores rather concerns me as it brings to mind commercial associations that sit rather uneasily with my conception of open education.

There is still a huge amount of open education knowledge and expertise within Jisc, not just within the Jorum team, but also across their account managers, subject specialists and senior co-design managers, and I sincerely hope that Jisc will build on the invaluable expertise of their own staff and colleagues across the sector to ensure that their new refreshed approach to open education really does meet the changing digital demands of the Further and Higher Education community.

OEPS Forum and ways forward for the Scottish Open Education Declaration

Earlier this month I went along to the second Opening Educational Practices in Scotland Forum where I’d been invited to present an update on the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

OEPS Update

The event began with an update from the OEPS Project team outlining their progress in supporting a network of open education practitioners, developing a Scottish open education hub, collating case studies and supporting the development of new content and practice. There was considerable discussion as to the role of the hub, which has been revised following discussions at the first OEPS forum. Although the hub will facilitate aggregated OER search, it will focus more on being a community hub for open education practice. For a comprehensive update on OEPS progress, the project recently published their first report here: First OEPS Project Report.

 An international perspective on opening educational practices – Laura Czerniewicz

Undoubtedly the highlight of the morning, was Laura Czerniewicz remote presentation from Cape Town on international perspectives on opening educational practices. Laura spoke about how openness and the internet have reconfigured the post traditional education landscape and presented a series of case studies from South Africa. Laura went on to suggest that open education exists in an extremely contested and complex environment. In Africa there has been some scepticism about open education as it is seen as an extension of the commodification of knowledge, however Africa has a strong narrative culture of sharing which can be harnessed to encourage the sharing of open education resources and practice (Jane-Frances Agabu, National Open University of Nigeria). One of the most interesting and challenging points Laura raised in her presentation centred on the legitimacy of piracy as a means of sharing educational content in the face of rising text books costs.

“Is it unethical to want to be educated or is it unethical to charge so much for books? To have to pay that amount when you can’t afford it?”

A valid question indeed.

Towards the end of her talk Laura also discussed the potentially valuable role of open education policy, although she also cautioned:

“Policy is great, but policy without budget can be problematic.”

This is certainly a point I would agree with.  In order to make an impact, policy ideally needs to be backed up by adequate resources and funding, however this also begs the question of how to support unfunded policies that emerge from the community such as the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

The Scottish Open Education Declaration – the way forward

[slideshare id=46373765&doc=openscotdeclarationoeps-150327132415-conversion-gate01]

In the afternoon I presented two workshops on future directions for the Scottish Open Education Declaration. The second draft of the Declaration was published by Open Scotland in December 2014, after receiving a small amount of very welcome funding from the OEPS Project. Shortly afterwards, the ALT Scotland SIG forwarded the declaration to Angela Constance, the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning.  Although Open Scotland has not been in a position to actively promote and disseminate the declaration recently, primarily due to lack of funding, it was evident from participants at the workshops that there still seems to be real appetite across all sectors of Scottish education to continue taking the Declaration forward. Several participants said that they had found the declaration useful for raising awareness of open education within their own institution and for triggering discussions about open education at policy level. The Scottish Funding Council also appear to see some merit in the Declaration and during discussions with workshop participants and members of both Open Scotland and the OEPS Project, we were able to identify several steps to take the Declaration forward.

Evidencing the Declaration

While the Declaration may have some value as an aspirational statement of intent, clearly it will carry considerably more weight if each point can be evidenced by examples of existing practice in Scotland and further afield.   Examples of existing practice could be crowd sourced and collected via the Declaration Comment Press site and collated from evidence gathered by the OEPS Project.

Evidence of Impact

In order to highlight the value of both open education and the Declaration at government level it would be useful to be able to provide evidence of positive impact.  Assessing the impact of open education initiatives is always difficult as quantitative measures have a tendency to miss the bigger picture and, arguably, the ethos of open education.  Gathering qualitative user stories and case studies is likely to be a more useful way to provide evidence of the impact of the Declaration. The case studies being collated by the OEPS Project will hopefully be of particular value here, but continued efforts should be made to gather user stories from across the sector.

Harmonising the Declaration with current policy

When the first version of the Declaration was drafted in early 2014, we made a conscious effort to ensure that it tied in with Scottish Government policies and strategic objectives. Clearly the policy landscape has changed over the last twelve months and it would be useful to revisit the Declaration to ensure that it supports current policy particularly with regard of formal and informal learning, social inclusion and widening access.

Engaging Universities Scotland

A number of bodies and agencies have been identified that could potentially provide valuable support for the Declaration, one of which is Universities Scotland. Although an encouraging number of university colleagues have already made valuable contributions to the declaration, it would be beneficial to engage senior managers to ensure that open education is supported at policy level across the higher education sector.

Engaging schools, colleges and the third sector

It is important that the Declaration represents all sectors of Scottish education; therefore it is critical that we find routes to engage not just higher education but also schools, colleges and the third sector. We would welcome suggestions from colleagues as to how to raise awareness of the Declaration and encourage engagement with open education across all sectors of Scottish education.

The Scottish Open Education Declaration is an open community draft and we continue to encourage all those with an interest in open education in Scotland and beyond to comment on the document here http://declaration.openscot.net/

POERUP: Policy Recommendations for Scotland

poerup_2(Cross posted from Open Scotland.)

Earlier this month the Policies for OER Uptake Project (POERUP), drew to a conclusion and published its final reports and deliverables on the POERUP Referata.  The overall aim of POERUP was to undertake research to understand how governments can stimulate the uptake of OER by policy means. Led by Sero Consulting and involving the Open Universiteit Nederland, Athabasca University, the University of Leicester, Université de Lorraine and EDEN, POERUP ran from 2011 – 2014.  The project’s key deliverables include a final report, thirty-three country reports focusing on the national policy context relating to OER, a comprehensive list of open education initiatives with OER maps, policy advice for universities, colleges and schools and, policy proposals for eight EU countries, plus Canada.

The Country Option Pack for Scotland (pdf) puts forward evidence based policy recommendations for higher education, colleges and schools, though many recommendations are applicable across all three sectors.  The recommendations are directed at the Scottish Government and Government funded education agencies, rather than at individual institutions.

Many of the policy recommendations put forward by Open Scotland are echoed by POERUP and the pack takes the Scottish Open Education Declaration as its starting point.

In particular, the report focuses on the importance of open licensing, and calls on Scotland’s funding bodies to ensure that

“any public outputs from their funded programmes are made available as open resources under an appropriate license.”

 The POERUP team suggest that a small amount of funding investment can go a long way to help create a culture in which open education can flourish, and they recommend that the Scottish Funding Council invests in open education by setting up an innovation fund to support new online initiatives in higher education, further education and the school sector with a commitment to opening up education.

The report also focuses on the potential of developing more flexible approaches to measuring and accrediting knowledge and competences including workbased learning, flexible learning and accreditation of prior learning.

In addition, there is also a welcome emphasis on professional development across all three education sectors, with the report calling for the establishment of an adequately funded

“professional development programme to help lecturers, teachers and administrators understand the benefits and uses of OER and open licensing.”

The report highlights the potential importance of the College Development Network’s  Re:Source OER repository in developing a national quality assurance standard for OER content produced in Scotland and urges the initiative to consider establishing and funding an OER evaluation and adoption panel.

The POERUP report represents a valuable step forward in promoting the development and uptake of policies to support open education in Scotland and it is to be hoped that the Government agencies towards whom it is addressed will take note and act on these recommendations.

Jisc RSC Scotland – a service at the heart of Scottish education

“Putting customers at the heart of what we do: it’s a commitment that many organisations are making, from e-commerce to education.”
Robert Haymon-Collins, Executive director customer experience – Jisc

A few weeks ago I went to the Jisc RSC Scotland annual conference in Glasgow,  I’ve been trying to get to this conference for years now, but due to other commitments that always seemed to get in the way, this was the first year I was able to attend. Colleagues have always spoken very highly about the conference and it certainly lived up to expectations.  It was really inspiring to see such a diverse group of people coming together from across Scottish Further and Higher education to share examples of innovative education practice taking place in colleges and universities right across the country today.  One of the highlights of the conference is always the iTech awards and you only need to look at the wide range of entries this year to see the breadth of education technology innovation across the sector. You also don’t need to look far to see the critical role that Jisc RSC Scotland play in supporting education technology innovation across Scottish education. Indeed for many colleagues Jisc RSC Scotland are Jisc’s real presence north of the border.

Consequently Jisc’s recent announcement (Towards a new-look customer service function for Jisc) that it intends to

‘transform our front of house operations, initially including the current network of regional support centres

rings all sorts of alarm bells.  ‘Front of house service’ seems like an odd way to describe a service as central and critical to the sector as Jisc RSC Scotland.  However it could be that I am not sufficiently au fait with the new customer focused discourse that frames this announcement.

Talk of ‘bringing together customer services’, ‘a unified Jisc presence’ and a ‘core customer service team’ does rather concern me though as it rather suggest the centralisation of Jisc services.  Jisc RSC Scotland’s team of specialist Advisors have an irreplaceable  breadth and depth of experience of the unique character and requirements of Scottish education and any loss or disruption to the services they provide would be a major blow to the sector, particularly at a time when further education is reconsolidating after a period of major funding cuts and regional restructuring.

Such changes could also have a huge impact on the development of open education practice in Scotland as Jisc RSC Scotland have been tireless supporters and promoters of open education through their Open Badges in Scottish Education Group, their CC licensed iTech case studies and their partnership with the Open Scotland initiative.

It’s not entirely clear from the announcement how these changes will affect Jisc RSC Scotland and, to be fair, the blog post does stress that Jisc will enter a consultation process before new roles are recruited in the autumn.  I sincerely hope that Jisc will consult widely with their ‘customers’ throughout the Scottish higher and further education sector and that the Scottish Funding Council will work together with Jisc to ensure that the invaluable service provided by Jisc RSC Scotland is maintained for the benefit of Scottish Higher and Further education as a whole.

College Development Network Librarians Open Developments in Scotland

[Cross-posted from the Open Scotland blog]

Earlier this week I travelled up to the Stirling where I had the pleasure of presenting the keynote at the College Development Network Librarians Open Developments in Scotland event. It was an interesting and lively event and it’s great to see college librarians really engaging with the open education debate. Open education has the potential to be of enormous benefit to the FE sector, and librarians have a critical role to play in raising awareness of open education and advising their staff on the development and use of open educational content and licences.

My slides are available here and I’ve posted a Storify of the event here: Librarians Development Network: Open Developments in Scotland.

[slideshare id=30866932&doc=cdnopenscotland-140205145218-phpapp01]

My presentation was followed by a fascinating talk by Suzanne Scott about Borders College‘s adoption of Mozilla Badges.  There’s been a lot of talk about the potential of open badges recently, so it’s really interesting to see them being used in a real world scenario.   Borders College aren’t just using badges to motivate students and acknowledge their achievement, they are also using them to engage with staff and have replaced all staff CPD paper certificates with Open Badges.  Adopting badges has also had significant reputational benefit and has raised the profile of the college;  Borders College are 4th on Mozilla’s list of international Open Badge Issuers. 

Following Suzanne, Mike Glancey of the National Museums of Scotland gave a talk about SCURL‘s Walk in Access initiative.  Now I have to confess, I had never heard of Walk in Access before, but it sounds like a really valuable initiative.  Walk in Access provides members of the public with on-site access to digital content such as journals and databases, where licensing terms and conditions permit.  Walk in Access highlights libraries commitment to opening access and also helps to widen engagement and provide access to distance learning students. The SCURL Walk in Access report is available here.

In the afternoon we were lucky to have a presentation from the always inspiring Christine Sinclair about the University of Edinburgh’s Coursera MOOCs and her team’s experiences of running the ELearning and Digital Cultures MOOC (). Christine explained that Edinburgh initially got in involved with MOOCs for five reasons: reputation, exploration, outreach, shared experience and, most importantly, fun!  The Edinburgh MOOCs have the support of the principal and the senior management, and the university has invested a considerable amount of funding in the initiative, however a lot the courses still run on “staff goodwill, evenings and weekends.”   It’s too early to say if this is a sustainable approach, Edinburgh are still exploring this.  Although the  team didn’t want to produce “star tutor talking heads” videos they discovered that students still wanted to “see” their lecturers and to form a connection with them. Some students struggled with the  approach, asking “Why aren’t you teaching us? Where are our learning outcomes?”  but others really engaged and came back to act as Community Teaching Assistants the following year.

Christine was followed by Gary Cameron of the College Development Network who gave an inspirational talk calling for his colleagues across the college sector to “Share, Share, Share!” To facilitate this sharing the Re:Source repository has been established for the Scottish college sector as a place to share open educational resources.  CDN are also planning to issue small grants for staff to openly licence resources in key topic areas. Gary ended his talk by reminding us that:

“OER is no longer an option, it’s an imperative, but still need to win battle for hearts and minds.”

The final presentation of the day was from Susanne Boyle, who has recently taken over from Jackie Carter as Director of Jorum and Senior Manager, Learning and Teaching at Mimas.  Susanne is not the only new member of staff to join the Jorum team, within a couple of months, 50% of the  team will be new appointments!  Jorum will be supporting the Jisc funded FE and Skills Programme, and will be creating tools to make it easier for FE practitioners to connect with Jisc and Jorum content.  The team will also be focusing on Health Practice resources and collections, and will be working closely with the North-West OER Network.  I have been involved with Jorum since it was just a wee glimmer of a project proposal, and I have sat on its Steering Group through every phase of its development so it will be very interesting to see what this new lease of life brings!