OER17 – The Distance Travelled

Reflections on open education policy in the UK since the Cape Town Declaration

Paper presented at the OER17 Politics of Open conference.

[slideshare id=74455916&doc=distancetravelled01-170405150403]

2017 has officially been designated the “Year of Open”.

The Year of Open is a global focus on open processes, systems, and tools, created through collaborative approaches, that enhance our education, businesses, governments, and organizations … Open represents freedom, transparency, equity and participation … During the Year of Open, we want to capture and display these efforts to increase participation and understanding of how open contributes to making things better for everyone.

This initiative is backed by many of the major international players in the field of open education, including Creative Commons, the Open Education Consortium, OER Africa, etc.

And the reason that this is the Year of Open is that we have a number of important anniversaries

It’s the 15th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, and it’s also the ¨ 15th anniversary of the release of the first Creative Commons licence.

It’s the 10th anniversary of the Cape Town Declaration which laid the foundations of the “emerging open education movement” and advocated the development of open education policy to ensure that taxpayer-funded educational resources are openly licensed. And if you haven’t read the Cape Town Declaration recently, I can highly recommend revisiting it, it’s really quite inspiring and inspiring statement.

And it’s also the 5th Anniversary of the UNESCO Paris OER Declaration which, five years after Cape Town, strengthened this call by encouraging governments and authorities to open license educational materials produced with public funds in order to realize substantial benefits for their citizens and maximize the impact of investment.

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ALTC Connect, Collaborate, Create Highlights

ALTC used to be one of those conferences I only attended every second or third year, but over the last couple of years it really has become unmissable.  Whether you attend in person or participate virtually, it undoubtedly provides the best way to get a broad overview of technology enhanced learning in the UK together with plenty of opportunity for in depth discussion around many of the issues currently affecting the sector.  And this years conference Connect, Collaborate, Create co-chaired by Nicola Whitton and Alex Moseley, at the University of Warwick was no exception.

I’m not going to attempt to blog a summary of the conference, as the ALT team has already rounded up a whole host of excellent conference reports here Enabling the Connection, so I’m just going to pick out a few or my own personal highlights.

Lets get the team back together

I was delighted that ALT invited Rich Goodman, Chris Bull and I back to join Martin Hawksey and the conference social media team again this year. Live tweeting the conference keynotes from the official ALT account can be more than a bit daunting but it’s also an extremely rewarding experience and it was great to be joined this year by Kenji Lamb and Sandra Huskinson.

tweet tweet tweet - me & Rich Goodman by www.chrisbullphotographer.com

tweet tweet tweet – me & Rich Goodman by www.chrisbullphotographer.com

Trolls, myths, privilege and freedom

Josie Fraser’s keynote In The The Valley of the Trolls took an intelligent look at the thorny subject of trolling and didn’t shy away from addressing Gamergate head on.  (By contrast, aside from a single comment about gender imbalance in the games industry, Ian Livingston failed to address the issue of representation, sexism and harassment in the gaming community.)  Lia Commissar gave a highly entertaining keynote on Education and Neuroscience: Issues and Opportunities, which exploded a whole host of neuromyths common in education, ranging from learning styles and right / left brain thinking to the magical power of fish oils.  Jane Secker’s thoughtful and thought provoking keynote Copyright and e-learning: understanding our privileges and freedoms touched on many issues that are of deep personal concern to me, including privilege, equality and the enclosure of our cultural commons.  I actually found myself getting quite over emulsional while Jane was talking :}

Me fangirling Jane Secker's  keynote by www.chrisbullphotographer.com

Me fangirling Jane Secker’s keynote by www.chrisbullphotographer.com

The issues

Although I didn’t manage to get to nearly as many sessions as I would have liked, because I was running around doing so many other things, my impression is that some of the main issues to emerge from the conference this year were learning analytics, policies for lecture capture, and games in education.

Open education

It was great to see so many presentations on different aspects of open education, particularly at a time when there is so little external funding going into OER.  My impression is that openness is slowly starting to become embedded across the sector,  with more institutions starting to consider the sustainability of the resources their staff and students create. I gave a presentation Into the Open – a critical overview of open education policy and practice in Scotland and I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who provided enthusiastic comments and feedback.

ALT Scotland SIG

And talking of Scotland….we had a very successful meeting of the ALT Scotland SIG.  It was great to see so many new faces!  You can find out more about ALT Scotland and join out mailing list for updates.

Learning Technologist of the Year Awards

The University of Edinburgh was acknowledged twice in the Learning Technologist of the Year awards.  The Open Education Team, which I work with, was placed third in the team awards and the Education Development and Enhancement team was highly commended.  The awards were great fun and it was a real honour to join so many of the award winners from 2007 – 2016 on the stage.

ALT Learning Technologists of the Year by  www.chrisbullphotographer.com

ALT Learning Technologists of the Year by
www.chrisbullphotographer.com

ALT Trustee

I’m delighted to have joined the ALT Central Executive Committee as a Trustee and look forward to hopefully making a positive contribution to the organisation.

Virtually Connecting

I took part in a great Virtually Connecting session with Fiona Harvey, Teresa MacKinnon, Nadine Aboulmagd and others.  We discussed a wide range of topics including the risks and privileges associated with openness.

#altc #play

Despite patiently explaining to co-chair Nicola Whitton that I am #notagamer she insisted that I joined her team for the Actionbound School of Rock challenge. Yes really. I have to admit it was a lot of fun and we had the most awesome team.  Also this happened…

Ed Tech Cool, edit by James Clay

Ed Tech Cool, edit by James Clay

We should have won.  We were robbed.

 

International Women’s Day – Acknowledging the role of Women in OER

IWD-logo-portaitjpgI was surprised and delighted to be included in a blog post from the Open Educational Practices in Scotland project today marking International Women’s DayWomen in OER.  The post celebrates some of the women the project has worked with and I’m honoured to be named alongside such influential open education practitioners as Laura Czerniewicz, Josie Fraser and my old colleague Allison Littlejohn.

The post acknowledges the potential of open education to

“…widen access to education for women and girls, enabling them to access global thought leaders and subjects that might not be available to them locally. It also provides a platform by which women and girls can share their own knowledge and experiences.

There is a role for open education to contribute to closing the gender gap now, to ensure that all genders are treated equally, to facilitate women and girls achieving their ambitions, to challenge discrimination and bias in all forms, to promote gender balanced leadership, to value contributions equally, and to create inclusive and flexible cultures.”

If I can make even a small contribution towards furthering these aims I will be very proud indeed.

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.

Open Education Consortium: Open Education in Scotland

(Cross posted to Open Scotland)

Last month’s Newsletter from the Open Education Consortium focused on open education in Europe and featured the following article on Open Education in Scotland written by Joe Wilson of SQA and I.  Many thanks to Igor Lesko for inviting us to contribute!

oec_logo_4

 

“The use of technology in our future learning framework will continue to grow and be supported by the growth of open educational resources, providing greater learning opportunities without barriers.”

– Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning

Open Scotland[1], is a cross sector initiative led by the Centre for Education Technology, Interoperability and Standards (Cetis)[2], the Scottish Qualifications Authority[3], the Jisc Regional Support Centre in Scotland[4] and the Association for Learning Technology’s Scotland Special Interest Group[5]. The aim of this unfunded initiative is to raise awareness of all aspects of open education and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education. Scotland has a distinctive and highly regarded tradition of education, however policies to support and embed open education are in their infancy and, to date, there have been no open funding calls to support open education across the sector.

Despite the absence of top down strategic drivers, a considerable number of open education initiatives have emerged across the Scottish education sector including MOOCs[6], OER repositories[7], OER guidelines for staff and students[8], and adoption of Open Badges[9]. Building on these developments, and experiences gained from supporting open education programmes elsewhere in the UK, Open Scotland aims to encourage the sharing of open educational resources, embed open educational practice and lobby for policies that support open education at the national level. In order to achieve these aims Open Scotland has hosted a number of events including the Open Scotland Summit[10], which brought together senior managers, policy makers and key thinkers to explore how openness can help to address key strategic priorities including curriculum change, knowledge transfer, quality assurance, change management and articulation; and Open Education, Open Scotland[11] which provided a platform for practitioners from all sectors of Scottish education to share their experiences of adopting and promoting open education practices.

Inspired by the UNESCO Paris OER Declaration, Open Scotland has also launched the Scottish Open Education Declaration[12], which builds on the principals of the UNESCO declaration, but expands its scope to encompass all aspects of open education practice. The Scottish Open Education Declaration, http://declaration.openscot.net/ is an open community draft, which we encourage all those with a commitment to open education to contribute to and comment on.

In a parallel development to the grassroots Open Scotland initiative, the Scottish Funding Council has allocated £1.27 million to the UK Open University to establish the Opening Educational Practices in Scotland (OEPS) project[13], which aims to facilitate best practice in open education in Scotland. The OEPS project launches on the 13th of September and we anticipate that it will engage with other open education initiatives across Scotland. We hope that all those with a commitment to open education can work together to develop Scotland’s unique education offering to support social inclusion and inter-institutional collaboration and sharing, and enhance quality and sustainability.

References

[1] Open Scotland, http://openscot.net
[2] Cetis, http://cetis.ac.uk
[3] Scottish Qualifications Authority, http://sqa.org.uk
[4] Jisc RSC Scotland, http://www.jiscrsc.ac.uk/scotland
[5] ALT Scotland SIG, https://www.alt.ac.uk/get-involved/special-interest-groups/scotland
[6] MOOCs at the University of Edinburgh, http://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/online-learning/moocs/moocs
[7] Re:Source, http://resource.blogs.scotcol.ac.uk/
[8] Glasgow Caledonian University Library Guidance on Open Educational Resources, http://www.gcu.ac.uk/library/usingthelibrary/copyright/openeducationalresourcesandlibraryguidance/
[9] Borders College Case study, http://www.rsc-scotland.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/23042013bordersOB.pdf
[10] Open Scotland Summit, http://openscot.net/event-reports/open-scotland-report-and-actions/
[11] Open Education, Open Scotland, http://openscot.net/event-reports/open-education-open-scotland-report-presentations/
[12] Scottish Open Education Declaration, http://declaration.openscot.net
[13] Opening Education Practices in Scotland, http://oepscotland.org/

Thoughts on #OEPSforum14 and the Battle for Open

(Cross posted to Open Scotland.)

This rather crowded map of open education in Scotland is the product of a brief ten minute brainstorm I took part in at the launch of the Open University’s Opening Education Practices in Scotland (OEPS) project in Edinburgh last week.

open_scot_map_3

Open Education in Scotland
Contributors:  Linda Creanor, Natalie Lafferty, Heather Gibson, Peter Cannell and Lorna M. Campbell

My scribbles may not be very legible, and the geography is questionable, but even if you can’t read the text, this map does give a good impression of the sheer breadth of open education practice already taking place across all sectors of Scottish education. And it also gives a good impression of the significant task facing the OEPS project if they are to effectively engage with existing open education initiatives in Scotland. This is a point that Sheila MacNeill and Joe Wilson have already raised in two thoughtful blog posts (Stuck in the middle with…open and #Oepsforum14 #Openscot Reflections.) Though supportive of the project and enthusiastic about its potential, both Sheila and Joe have raised valid questions about how OEPS plans to support existing open practice in Scotland, and how it will construct a distinctly Scottish narrative of open education.

During a typically thought provoking presentation on The Battle for Open, Martin Weller warned us that if we don’t engage with open education practice now, we’ll be sold a packaged version of what it is. To my mind, engagement with existing open education initiatives in Scotland will be key to the success of the OEPS project. It is critical that the project engages practitioners in creating a Scottish narrative of open education, rather than delivering a packaged alternative.

 I’m not going to attempt to summarise the entire meeting, you can get a good flavour of the event from Sheila and Joe’s blog posts, this storify put together by Heather Gibson of QAA Scotland and Martin Hawksey’s TAGS archive. There are a couple of points I want to reflect on however.

The OEPS Online Hub

One of the objectives of the OEPS project is to build an “online hub to encourage and share best practice in open education”. This hub, which will be based on the OU’s existing OpenLearn Works platform, is being developed by members of the OEPS team based at the OU’s Open Media Unit in Milton Keynes. In a parallel session focused on the hub, we were asked to prioritise user stories and requirements, devised by the project team, from the perspective of practitioners and learners. The group I was part of went a bit off piste with this task and in the process raised some valid questions regarding the role of the hub.   There was some confusion as to the exact nature of the online hub, and whether it was intended to be an OER repository. One participant questioned whether there was a real need for another online repository in Scotland when we already have Jorum and Re:Source, and the uptake of centralised repositories generally is notoriously low. The project team explained that although the hub will aggregate resources from other OER collections and enable users to export content, it is not intended to compete with existing OER repositories such as Jorum and OER Commons, it’s aim is primarily to support a community of open education practitioners. While there was a suggestion that this approach sounded a little bit “if we build it they will come”, it’s reassuring to know that OEPS will be focusing on supporting practitioner communities rather than on building another platform in what is already a very crowded space. Questions were also raised regarding the users stories and requirements drafted by the project team, with one participant asking whether a requirements gathering exercise had been undertaken in Scotland to determine the sector’s specific need for an online hub.

The Thorny Issue of Funding

The second point I want to reflect on is the rather thorny issue of funding, or more precisely, the relationship between funding and open education. This is an issue that Martin Weller touched on during his Battle For Open presentation. Martin pointed out that most battles are about money, and that there is a lot of money at stake in open education. This is certainly a point I would agree with, in some quarters at least. Martin also introduced the concept of “guerrilla research” which he contrasted with traditional research as follows…

guerilla_research

from The Art of Guerilla Research by Martin Weller

While this is an attractive model, (and I <3 Beaker) I can’t help wondering how guerrilla research is supported; after all, it’s hard to “Do research” without funding at some level. And the same applies to open education, we all know that open doesn’t equal free, and that funding is required to support open education practice. Sheila MacNeill has written compellingly on this subject in her earlier blog post Open education practice, luxury item or everyday essential?  I’m not going to re-hash Sheila’s arguments, but I think there are a lots of undercurrents relating to the relationship between openness and funding that we still need to surface.

Which brings me back to the scribbled map at the top of this post. Many of the open education initiatives in Scotland are unfunded, voluntary, or funded on institutional shoestring budgets. It’s commendable that Scottish education has done so much with so little, and perhaps this is what sustainable open education practice looks like, but it does make me wonder how much more could be achieved if funding was available to support open education right across the sector. While it’s hugely encouraging that the Scottish Funding Council has made a significant investment in open education by funding the OEPS project, and I have every confidence that the project team will make a significant contribution to supporting open education practice in Scotland, I can’t help holding on to a glimmer of hope that at some stage in the future SFC will launch an open education funding call that is open to all sectors of Scottish education.