As part of Open Education Week I’m delighted that Maren Deepwell, CEO of ALT, and I have an article published in WonkHE on Openness in education: a call to action for policy makers. The article introduces the recent ALT policy guide, highlights some of the benefits of OER, and articulates why we need policy makers to embrace open education.
In case you missed it, this blog post outlining my OER18 keynote appeared on the conference website last week.
Being invited to keynote is always a privilege, but I was particularly honoured to be asked to present at this year’s OER18 Conference in Bristol, not least because I’ll be following in the footsteps of the three inspirational women who presented last year’s keynotes; Diana Arce, Maha Bali and Lucy Crompton-Reid. You see, OER is my conference, I’ve attended every single one since the conference launched at the University of Cambridge in 2010, and in 2016 I had the pleasure of chairing the conference at the University of Edinburgh with my inspiring colleague Melissa Highton.
To my mind, the success of the OER Conference has always been founded on its willingness to examine and renegotiate what “OER” means, and this is one of the themes I’ll be exploring in my keynote. And by that, I don’t mean defining the specific attributes of what constitutes an Open Educational Resource, I mean critically reflecting on what openness means in relation to education at different points in time and from different perspectives, because as Catherine Cronin reminds us in Open Education, Open Questions, “openness is a constantly negotiated space”. Open education looks very different to each and every one of us, and our perspective will depend entirely on where we are standing and the privilege of our vantage point. And of course it is inevitable that our perspective will change as our roles and careers develop over time.
Gabi Whitthaus has already written a thoughtful personal reflection on her journey through the OER conferences and, like Gabi, the changing themes and fluctuating interpretations of “OER” have influenced and reflected my own development and perspective as an open education practitioner over the last decade.
In my current role I have the privilege to work with a great team of people at the OER Service at the University of Edinburgh, an institution with a strong commitment to openness and a vision for OER. This commitment is squarely aligned to the University’s mission to provide the highest quality learning and teaching environment for the greater wellbeing of our students, and to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing. During my keynote I’ll be exploring some of the ways that the university encourages learners to engage with and co-create open education through a wide range of initiatives including internships, playful learning activities, Wikipedia in the classroom assignments, and outreach and engagement courses.
I strongly believe that engaging learners and equipping them with the digital skills necessary to participate in open education is key to ensuring that OER and open education is collaborative, diverse, accessible and participatory. Because ultimately that is what openness is about. Openness is not just about attributes, definitions and licences, openness is also about creativity, access, equality, and inclusion and ultimately it’s about expanding access to education, supporting social inclusion and enabling learners to become fully engaged digital citizens.
When the conference first launched eight years ago, I approached open education and OER from a rather different perspective. In 2010 the JISC / HEA UKOER Programme was well underway and the first OER keynote was presented by JISC’s Executive Secretary Malcolm Read. At the time, I was working for the JISC Innovation Support Centre CETIS, where I led the team that provided strategic and technical support to the UKOER Programme. My focus then was on how we could harness lightweight web technologies and new Web 2.0 platforms to create a sustainable OER infrastructure without relying too heavily on the monolithic systems and formal education technology standards mandated by previous programmes.
Two years later in 2012 I sat in the audience with my colleague Joe Wilson, then Head of New Ventures at SQA, and listened to Sir John Daniel, talking about the UNESCO / COL initiative Fostering Governmental Support for OER Internationally, one of the outputs of which was the influential Paris OER Declaration. In a rather roundabout way, that keynote and the subsequent Declaration inspired us to launch the Open Scotland initiative and, together with colleagues from across the open education community, to draft the Scottish Open Education Declaration. And it was through this initiative that I started to re-frame my perspective on OER and open education in terms of personal ethics and the wider policy landscape.
2012 was also the year that the UKOER Programme came to an end and the education technology sector in the UK faced an unprecedented and prolonged period of change and restructuring. Many predicted the demise of the OER Conference at that time, particularly when open education discourse was increasingly becoming dominated by commercial MOOC providers and their promise to disrupt! education. However, far from being swept side by the avalanche, the OER conference continued to thrive and to push the boundaries of open education to incorporate open pedagogy, policy, research and practice, and when ALT stepped up to support the event in 2015, its future was assured.
While it is crucial that we continue to critically negotiate and reassess openness, it is also important that we don’t lose sight of some of the fundamentals of open education. And I would argue that one of those fundamentals is that publicly funded educational resources should be freely and openly available to the public. As open education discourse shifts to focus on open policy, open practice, open textbooks, one might be forgiven for thinking that open educational resources are done and dusted, but that is very far from the case and this is another theme that I want to expand on in my keynote.
In addition to expanding its focus, the OER Conference has also made real and tangible efforts to expand its community, and to ensure that the event is diverse, inclusive, accessible and welcoming. The conference has become increasingly international and has gone to significant lengths to ensure that it really is open and accessible to as diverse a community as possible. ALT is to be applauded for its commitment to providing a wide range of channels and opportunities to enable colleagues to participate in the conference virtually and remotely, and the event has not shied away from asking difficult questions about who is included and excluded from open spaces and conceptualisations of openness.
One perspective that has sometimes been missing from open education discourse is the voice of the learner. That is not to say that the OER Conference has not made an effort to ensure that the student voice is included and represented. Two officers of the National Union of Students have presented keynotes; Toni Pearce at OER13 (standing in for Rachel Wenstone) and Wendy Carr at OER14. However I’m particularly encouraged to see that this year’s conference is squarely addressing learner inclusion by focussing on how open education and open practice can support learners, foster learner diversity and inclusion, and help students develop important digital literacy skills.
At the University of Edinburgh, students have always played a key role in shaping the institution’s vision of openness. Together with senior colleagues within Information Services, it was the Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) that provided the initial impetus for the development of an OER policy at the university, and in 2014 EUSA’s Vice President for Education, Dash Sekhar, attended the conference in Cardiff along with colleagues Melissa Highton and Stuart Nicol to talk about this student-led OER policy. I’m delighted that EUSA’s current Vice President for Education, Bobi Archer, will be attending the conference this year, and several of my Information Services colleagues will be coming along to present papers highlighting innovative and creative examples of student engagement across the university. Edinburgh’s vision of openness encourages both staff and students to engage with the use and creation of OER and open knowledge, to enhance the quality of the student experience while at the same time making a significant, contribution to the cultural and digital commons.
Over the years, my own journey as an open education practitioner has followed a similar trajectory to the OER Conferences; my focus has shifted from national technology strategy, to institutional policy and practice, and personal ethics and politics. One thing that has not changed however is that I still believe passionately that open education and OER are necessary to provide diverse and inclusive education and to ensure that education really is Open to All.
One of the great things about openness is that when you release something under open licence, you never quite know who’s going to pick it up and what’s going to happen to it. I know this is one of the things that can make some colleagues apprehensive about using open licences but to my mind this serendipitous aspect of openness is one of it’s unique benefits.
One lovely example of this is that following the Morocco Open Education Day hosted by Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech as part of the OpenMed project, a forum of Moroccan scholars came together to draft the OER Morocco Declaration, which is based partially on the Scottish Open Education Declaration which I had a hand in writing in 2014.
Colleagues in Morocco have made significant progress since then, so I was delighted to be invited by Dr Khalid Berrada to attend the 2nd Morocco Open Education Day, which is taking place in Marrakech today, to give a talk about the Scottish Declaration. Unfortunately due to work and family commitments I’m not able to attend in person, but thanks to the University of Edinburgh’s fabulous Media Hopper Create service I was able to record this video contribution to the event.
Towards the end of last year I had the pleasure of working with ALT to develop a policy briefing on Open Education and OER. Open Education and OER – A guide and call to action for policy makers was co-authored by Maren Deepwell, Martin Weller, Joe Wilson and I and it can be downloaded from the ALT Open Access Repository here https://repository.alt.ac.uk/2425/
ALT has produced this call to action to highlight to education policy makers and professionals how Open Education and OER can expand inclusive and equitable access to education and lifelong learning, widen participation, and create new opportunities for the next generation of teachers and learners, preparing them to become fully engaged digital citizens.
Open Education can also promote knowledge transfer while enhancing quality and sustainability, supporting social inclusion and creating a culture of inter-institutional collaboration and sharing.
One of ALT’s three strategic aims is to increase the impact of Learning Technology for the wider community and we are issuing this call to action for policy makers to mandate that publicly funded educational resources are released under open licence to ensure that they reside in the public domain and are freely and openly available to all.
This will be of wide benefit, but in particular will enable education providers and learning technology professionals to:
- Keep up to date with the rapid pace of technological innovation
- Develop critical, informed approaches to the implementation of Learning Technology and the impact on learners
- Scale up knowledge sharing and its benefits across sectors.
Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Slovenia to represent the University of Edinburgh and Open Scotland at the UNESCO OER World Congress in Ljubljana. The theme of the Congress was “OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education: From Commitment to Action” and there was a strong focus on how OER can help to support United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4.
“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”
The main output of the Congress was the UNESCO Ljubljana OER Action Plan and accompanying Ministerial Statement. The Action Plan outlines 41 recommended actions in 5 key areas to mainstream OER and to help Member States to build knowledge societies and provide quality and lifelong education, and I’ll be writing a short blog psot on the Action Plan later.
It would be impossible to summarise such a diverse event in a single blog post so I just want to pick out some of my own personal impressions.
The first thing that struck me was that the event really lived up to its ambitions to be truly global with over 500 delegates from 111 countries present. I attended lots of “international” and “global” events when I worked in learning technology standards development but they were always heavily dominated by delegates from the US and the global north. I think the OER World Congress is the first event I’ve been to that actually felt genuinely global.
That made it all the more disappointing that there were so few delegates present from the UK. The only other UK participants were Joe Wilson (Open Scotland) and Leo Havemann (Open Knowledge), and there was no official representation from either the UK or Scottish Governments. Given that the UK was once at the forefront of innovative OER initiatives with the #UKOER Programme, that’s a pretty depressing state of affairs.
I heard a lot of inspiring and thought provoking talks over the course of the three days, but one that gave me pause for thought, though perhaps not for the right reasons, was Sir John Daniel summing up of a panel discussion on actions and impacts. John suggested that we have a long way to go before OER reaches the tipping point of general use and that there is a “lamentable lack of data on OER use”. There’s certainly some truth in this, but I don’t think there has been as little progress as he seemed to be suggesting. John also argued that MOOCs have benefits over OER because they are complete courses, before going on to mention how much he enjoyed FutureLearn courses. This seems to me to be highly debatable given that many (though admittedly not all) MOOCs are neither open nor reusable in any real sense of the word, particularly now that many platforms are time limiting access to course resources.
I was inspired however by CEO of Creative Commons Ryan Merkley’s keynote. Ryan presented us with a clear and unambiguous message as to why OER is so important.
“We’re living in a less and less free world constantly trying to defend against restrictive copyright regimes that restrict access to creativity to those who need it. We should seek to share knowledge and lift people up, to create a more equitable world. The commons is public good, a platform for all to share and so is education but we’ve lost sight of that. Today’s education models place individual investment over public good; we pay less but we get less for what we pay and in the end we don’t own anything. The public has to pay for the same resources over and over again. Education budgets are tight, so why do we keep spending our money on things we don’t own and can’t reuse? Publicly funded educational resources should be publicly accessible. We should all own what we pay for. Free is not the most important thing about OER, it’s the permission to modify and reuse that’s important. We need to put the power of open at the centre of every opportunity. We need to transform education globally, and disrupt education models based on artificial scarcity. Left to their own devices commercial interests will build their version of the future out of the past. Our focus has to be on improving student learning not protecting old structures.”
Another inspirational moment of the Congress that really made me stop and think came at the end of the Open Data satellite meeting when Leo Havemann reminded us that
“Education should be life long and life wide and should not just have an employability focus.”
The Congress also provided a rare opportunity for members of the Open Education Working Group Advisory Board to meet face to face and I’ve written another blog post about that meeting over at the Open Ed blog.
And it was also great to meet members of the Open Med project and to pick up a copy of the Declaration du Maroc sur les Ressources Educatives Libres; the OER Morocco Declaration which is based on the Scottish Open Education Declaration.
And you can see a short interview with me talking about the Declaration and open education initiatives in Scotland and at the University of Edinburgh in this interview with Jöran Muuß-Merholz.
— OERinfo (@OERinfo) September 20, 2017
Reflections on open education policy in the UK since the Cape Town Declaration
Paper presented at the OER17 Politics of Open conference.
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.
Last week was the October school holidays so I took my daughter home to the Outer Hebrides to visit family. My trip coincided with the Royal National Mòd which was held in my home town of Stornoway this year so I was able to go along to some of the Mòd fringe events.
On Wednesday I was at the Council Chambers in Stornoway to hear Mr John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, present the Angus Macleod Lecture on The Place of Gaelic in Modern Scotland. (I’ve already written a more comprehensive blog post about the Minister’s lecture for the Open Scotland blog here.) In a wide ranging and really rather inspiring talk Swinney reiterated the government’s commitment to Gaelic stating
“Gaelic belongs to Scotland, hostility to Gaelic has no place in Scotland and we should all unite behind the effort to create a secure future for Gaelic in Scotland.”
In questions after the lecture I also had an opportunity to ask Swinney for his thoughts on the role of ICT in supporting Gaelic education. He answered by re-stating the Government’s commitment to providing 100% network connectivity throughout Scotland and went on to highlight the importance of education technology in broadening the coverage of education provision and ensuring that Gaelic education can reach greater numbers of learners than ever before. In addition he also emphasised the new opportunities that ICT affords young people in the Highlands and Islands, enabling them to expand their education and skills, and seek new careers without having to leave the Gàidhealtachd.
The second fringe event I went to was Manifestos, Mòds and Music, a fascinating talk by Jennifer Gilles on the National Library of Scotland’s digitised Gaelic collections. Jennifer presented a short history of An Comunn Gàidhealach illustrated by a whole host of items from the Library’s collections, ranging from publications and periodicals, to Mòd programmes and ephemera, printed music and even recipe books. I confess I was particularly fond of the “Celtic Terms of Invective” column from one of An Comunn’s early 1900’s periodicals. You can find a short Storify of Jennifer’s talk here.
Jennifer’s talk was followed by a showing of the a 1942 film The Western Isles. Set in Harris, the film depicts scenes of island life during World War II, as a family anxiously awaits news of their son after his ship, the Atlantic Queen, is sunk by a German submarine in the Mid Atlantic. The son, admirably played by a 14 year old motor mechanic from Harris, successfully skippers the lifeboat back to the Hebrides and returns to his family. It was fascinating to recognise many of the places that appeared in the film and many Hebridean families, mine included, can relate similar tales of heroism from the both the Merchant and Royal Navy during the Second World War.
[Previously posted at openscot.net]
Last week the Scottish Government launched their new digital learning and teaching strategy for Scottish schools: Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through The Use of Digital Technology. The strategy outlines:
“a comprehensive approach to deliver the increased effective use of digital technology in education and bring about the equity of opportunity that is the key focus for this government.”
Key themes to emerge form the strategy are closing the attainment gap, developing digital skills, embedding technology right across the curriculum, and using digital technology to improve the assessment process.
The strategy is structured around four strategic objectives that will replace the existing five ICT in education objectives.
- Develop the skills and confidence of educators in the appropriate and effective use of digital technology to support learning and teaching.
- Improve access to digital technology for all learners.
- Ensure that digital technology is a central consideration in all areas of curriculum and assessment delivery.
- Empower leaders of change to drive innovation and investment in digital technology for learning and teaching.
The strategy emphasises that all four objectives must be achieved in order to realise the overarching vision for Scottish Education:
- Excellence through raising attainment: ensuring that every child achieves the highest standards in literacy and numeracy, set out within Curriculum for Excellence levels, and the right range of skills, qualifications and achievements to allow them to succeed; and
- Achieving equity: ensuring that every child has the same opportunity to succeed, with a particular focus on closing the poverty-related attainment gap.
The strategy also outlines what Scot Gov and Education Scotland will do to deliver this vision and identifies action plans for each strategic objective as follows:
Objective 1: Develop the skills and confidence of educators in the appropriate and effective use of digital technology to support learning and teaching.
- Ensure Professional Standards for Registration and for Career-Long Professional Learning reflect the importance of digital technology and skills.
- Ensure that all Initial Teacher Education (ITE) providers instil the benefits of using digital technology to enhance learning and teaching in their students, in line with GTCS Standards for Registration.
- Ensure that a range of professional learning opportunities are available to educators at all stages to equip them with the skills and confidence to utilise technology appropriately and effectively, in line with the GTCS Standards for Career Long Professional Learning.
- Ensure that a range of professional learning opportunities are available to educators at all stages to equip them with the skills and confidence to utilise technology appropriately and effectively, in line with the GTCS Standards for Career Long Professional Learning.
Objective 2: Improve access to digital technology for all learners.
- Continued national investment into initiatives that support digital access in educational establishments.
- Provide guidance at a national and local level around learner access to digital technology.
- Promote approaches to digital infrastructure that put users’ needs at the heart of the design.
- Encourage and facilitate the development of partnerships that will improve digital access and digital skills development opportunities for our learners.
Objective 3: Ensure that digital technology is a central consideration in all areas of curriculum and assessment delivery.
- Ensure aspects of Curriculum for Excellence relating to the use of digital technology and development of digital skills are relevant, ambitious and forward looking.
- Support, develop and embed approaches to assessment that make effective use of digital technology.
- Support, develop and embed approaches to assessment that make effective use of digital technology.
Objective 4: Empower leaders of change to drive innovation and investment in digital technology for learning and teaching.
- Ensure that the vision laid out in this strategy is adequately captured in Professional Standards, self-evaluation guidance and inspections of educational provision in Scotland.
- Support leaders and decision makers to lead change in their local contexts through accessing and sharing relevant research in order to identify effective approaches to the use of digital technology in education.
Implications for Open Education
The Scottish Government has clearly placed raising attainment and achieving equity at the heart of its digital learning and teaching strategy. While it is encouraging that the strategy acknowledges the potential of digital technology to enrich education, enhance learning and teaching, equip learners with vital digital skills and lead to improved educational outcomes, it is disappointing that it does not acknowledge the significant role that open education can play in achieving these objectives. Although this may be regarded as something of a missed opportunity to place openness at the heart of the government’s vision for education in Scotland, it is to be hoped that the new strategy lays a firm foundation on which to build evidence of the role that open education can play in closing the attainment gap, developing digital skills, improving the assessment process, creating new opportunities for learners, supporting social inclusion and expanding equitable access to education for all.
Enhancing Learning and Teaching Through the Use of Digital Technology documents: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/09/9494/downloads
Earlier this week I followed the Wonkhe and HESA conference on the future of the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey on twitter and on the excellent Wonkhe liveblog. Anyone who follows this blog will know that this isn’t my normal territory however I’ve had an increasing interest in HE data since being involved in the development of the New Subject Coding Scheme as part of the HEDIIP programme in 2014/15. And like it or not, how data is gathered and processed across the higher education sector is of increasingly important to all HE institutions.
I want to pick up on three points that got me thinking about my own career and wondering whether or not I would be regarded as a “successful graduate”.
You too could become an accountant!
One theme that panellists returned to repeatedly was that UK graduates are more likely to find employment in fields that are unrelated to their degree. Stephen Isherwood commented
“the UK labour market is completely different to many other countries. Companies are far more likely to employ graduates who did subjects not connected to their occupation, such as recruiting historians into accountancy.”
I have a Master’s degree in Archaeology, and only once sought careers advice while I was an undergraduate. I’ll never forget the careers advisor cheerfully telling me “You could always get a job as an accountant you know!” I never went back. And I never got a job as an accountant, I got a job as an archaeologist and I worked as an archaeologist for the next five years. Of course I did eventually leave archaeology and found my way into web development and then into learning technology. One of the things I’ve always really appreciated about working in learning technology is the wide range of academic backgrounds colleagues have, and the breadth of experience and different perspectives they bring to the domain. So although the careers advice I received was spectacularly unhelpful at the time I do believe it’s a very good thing that people carry the expertise they develop as undergraduates into a wide range of sectors. Domain knowledge is invaluable for academic careers but there’s no doubt that transferrable skills broaden employability prospects.
Measures of success
One presentation and subsequent discussion that particularly interested me was Liz Bromley of Goldsmiths on Capturing the full range of graduate success. Liz questioned what we regard as success and, using the example of Mercury and Turner Prize winning Goldsmiths’ alumni, asked if the six month DLHE would capture them as “successful graduates”. She also suggested that the data should capture what students are doing outside work to give a more rounded picture of what is regarded as “success” and noted
“Salary is immaterial. The highest value jobs do not necessarily pay the best salaries”.
These themes were picked up in the subsequent discussion, particularly with regard to how success can be measured in the creative industries, which may provide significant personal and creative growth and social and cultural capital, but which may also be insecure and lowpaid. The WonkHE liveblog expressed this as
“the challenging ‘cognitive dissonance’ of measuring employment in the creative industries which is both precarious and fulfilling.”
I would argue that this cognitive dissonance isn’t unique to the creative industries; it’s increasingly common in higher education too. I’ve worked in Higher Education for twenty-five years and for the majority of that time I’ve been employed on short term contracts, most lasting 12 months. A lot has been written recently about the stresses associated with working in academia, the casualisation of contacts and the erosion of employment rights; I’m not going to go over those points here, but it does make me wonder whether or not I could be regarded as a “successful graduate”. On the one hand, failing to secure a tenured post after working in academia for over two decades does not look very successful at all, however, barring two short periods of redundancy, during which I worked as a consultant, I have built a reasonable reputation and managed to stay almost permanently employed in a field that is notoriously insecure and changes rapidly. So, how do we measure “success” in a context such as this? I don’t have any answers, but I think this highlights that we need to think carefully about how we identify success and be absolutely explicit about how we evaluate it.
(I also think the issue of how we identify success potentially has implications for how we use learning analytics, particularly with regard to identifying struggling and “failing students”.)
Not in front of the children
Another theme that came up, which I have strong feelings about but which I tend to avoid writing about, is the impact of motherhood on career success.
How motherhood is treated has also been a consistent theme today #NewDLHE
— Dr Sarah Parry (@HE_sarahp) July 4, 2016
Unfortunately this theme didn’t come across strongly on twitter. (Were people not tweeting about it? Did they think it was uninteresting, unimportant or didn’t relate to themselves? Impossible to know without being there.) Again it made me think of my own experience. There is no doubt that having children had a massive impact on my “success”. At the time I had my daughter I did a lot of travel and had a wide network of colleagues in the international standards community around the world. When I was no longer able to travel internationally owing to childcare responsibilities it had a significant impact on my professional network and my employment prospects; I discovered this the hard way when I was made redundant in 2013. I once raised this issue at a workshop for senior managers and was told dismissively by a professor of chemistry that she had forged a successful international career while raising her family. Her advice was to leave your children with family while you travel. That may work for some people of course, but it’s hardly a practical option for all. Another respected colleague simply advised me to hire a nanny. I’d never actually met anyone in real life with a nanny before! Anyway, the point of all this is that I had to find different ways of working and connecting to my peer network, and I did. I was fortunate that social networking took off round about this time enabling me to connect to a global network of open educational technologists through twitter and Skype. My limited ability to travel can still be frustrating but it doesn’t seem like such an insurmountable problem anymore. So once again I think it’s important to consider how we identify and reward success in this context.
I have a lot more thoughts about all of the above, but I’m going a bit off piste here so I had better stop now :}
Defining ‘open’ in the context of education.
Open education has been my passion for a number of years now so when I was invited to write a short piece on why open matters for Teaching Matters I was happy to oblige.
Before trying to explore this question, let me explain what I mean by open education. Open education is a broad catch-all term that includes open education resources (OERs), massive open online courses (MOOCs), open education practice, open assessment practices (e.g. Open Badges), and other approaches.
In the context of education it can be difficult to pin a single definition on the word “open”. The open in open educational resources, is different to the open in massive open online courses.
Open educational resources are digital resources used for teaching and learning (e.g. course material, images, multimedia resources) that have been released under an open licence (e.g. Creative Commons) so they can be reused and repurposed by others. The ability to change and adapt resources is an important aspect of the openness in OER.
MOOCs on the other hand may be free for anyone to join, but frequently the content cannot be accessed or reused outside the course. This sometimes leads to accusations of so-called “open washing”; claiming something is open when really it isn’t.
But why does “open” actually matter in education? This question is addressed by the Scottish Open Education Declaration produced by Open Scotland, a voluntary cross sector initiative supported by the University of Edinburgh as part of their wider commitment to open education and OER. Open education in general and OER in particular are part of a worldwide movement to promote and support sustainable educational development. Open education can expand access to education, widen participation, create new opportunities for the next generation and prepare them to become fully engaged digital citizens.
There is also a sound economic case for open education. Releasing publicly funded educational resources under open licences represents a return on investment on public spending. Institutions are already being mandated to publish publicly funded research outputs under open access agreements; surely there is a strong moral argument that publicly funded educational resources should be published under open licences?
I recently had an opportunity to write a more personal reflection on why I believe open matters in a contribution to the open book Cost of Freedom which aims to raise awareness of the disappearance of detained Syrian internet volunteer and open knowledge advocate Bassel Khartabil.
I believe there is huge creative potential in openness and I believe we have a moral and ethical responsibility to open access to publicly funded educational resources. Yes, there are costs, but they are far outweighed by the benefits of open.
Open education practice and open educational resources have the potential to expand access to education while at the same time supporting social inclusion and creating a culture of collaboration and sharing. There are other more intangible, though no less important, benefits of open. Focusing on simple cost-benefit analysis models neglects the creative, fun and serendipitous aspects of openness and, ultimately, this is what keeps us learning.