I’m just back from OER14 in Newcastle and it was another fabulous conference. I know that many people sadly predicted the demise of the OER conference after the Jisc / HEA UKOER Programmes ended in 2012, but two years after the end of UKOER the conference really is going from strength to strength. The quality of the papers this year was excellent, and if I have one criticism of the event, it’s that there were so many great presentations that I only got to hear a fraction of the ones I was really interested in! The venue worked well, the conference organisers did a splendid job, there was a really positive feeling of community, it was great to see people from all over the world and, last but not least, it was a lot of fun!

During the conference dinner we were all given little packets of Lego and asked to build something that represented what open education means to us.  The results were as imaginative, eclectic (and occasionally rude) as you might imagine.  Here’s mine, it’s supposed to be Open Scotland and Creative Commons :}  Many thanks Darya Tarasowa for letting me borrow her skirt!


Huge thanks to all those involved in organising OER14 and in particular to conference chairs Simon Thomson and Megan Quentin-Baxter.

OCWC Global Twitter Highlights

I’ve made a storify of a few of my twitter highlights from the recent OCWC Global Conference in Lubljana here: OCWC Global Conference Storify.


Without a doubt my twitter highlight of the entire event has to be from Peter Bryant….

OKF Open Education Working Group Advisory Board

Earlier this month I was delighted to be invited to join the Advisory Board of the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Open Education Working Group. The aim of the group, which is led by Marieke Guy, is “to initiate global cross-sector and cross-domain activity that encompasses the various facets of open education.”  Marieke has invited all Board members to write an introductory blog post for the group so here’s mine. It was published over at Open Education Working Group site last week.


OKF Open Education Working Group

It’s hard to say when my own involvement in open education began. The start of the Jisc / HEA UKOER Programmes in 2009 is an obvious point of reference but many of the programmes and projects I was involved in long before that were concerned with sharing educational resources. Open licences were unheard of when I began working in education technology in 1997 so early projects I was involved with, such as Clyde Virtual University (SHEFC Use of the MANs Initiative) and the Scottish electronic Staff Development Library (SHEFC ScotCIT Programme), took a walled garden approach to sharing. Different methods of sharing, managing and disseminating educational resources were explored and developed over the next decade by a wide range of Jisc development programmes. Some of the ones I was directly involved in include Exchange for Learning (X4L), Digital Libraries in the Classroom, ReProduce, and the Digital Repositories and Preservation Programmes.

It was only with the launch of the Jisc / HEA UKOER Programme that I really got involved with open education as we might recognise it today though. On the surface, the primary aim of the HEFCE funded UKOER Programme was to get openly licenced educational content out there into the public domain, (the metaphor we frequently used was turning on the tap), however the underlying aim to the programme was to raise awareness of OER and embed open education practice within English higher education institutions. In keeping with the experimental and innovative nature of UKOER, Cetis recommended a novel approach to steering the programmes’ technical direction. Rather than identifying specific applications, standards, application profiles and vocabularies, we recommended that the UKOER programmes should adopt an open approach to the use of technology and standards. No descriptive standards, exchange mechanisms or specific technologies were mandated, thus allowing projects the freedom to choose the tools or technologies that best suited their requirements. The only provisos were that all projects should use the programme tag ‘ukoer’ and represent the resources they released in the Jorum national repository.

IntoWildCoverThis open approach to technology and standards enabled us to learn from real world practice and to surface technical issues and problem areas. As a result, Cetis role in the UKOER Programmes was more conversational than directional. We monitored projects’ progress with the adoption and use of a wide range of technologies, applications and resource description approaches and helped to identify common technical issues. At the end of UKOER we synthesised the technical outputs of the programmes and produced an open ebook called Into the Wild: Technology for open educational resources. Even this book was a result of open practice! The book was the result of booksprint using the open source Booktype platform and an open draft was shared with the community for input and comment.

Working with the UKOER Programmes was a hugely rewarding experience and I think its fair to say that we all learned a lot, not just about open education technology, but also about the culture and practice of sharing. Measuring the impact of short-term innovation funding programmes is notoriously difficult, but looking back now, two years after the end of UKOER, it really does look like the programme made a real difference in raising awareness of OER and embedding open educational practice in the English higher education sector.

Since the end of the UKOER Programmes in 2012 I’ve continued to engage with a wide range of open education developments, including the US Learning Registry initiative, Creative Commons, the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative, Wikimedia UK and the Open Knowledge Foundation.

More recently I’ve been involved with the Open Scotland initiative. Open Scotland is a voluntary cross sector initiative, led by Cetis, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, Jisc Regional Support Centre Scotland and the Association for Learning Technology’s Scotland Special Interest Group. The aim of Open Scotland is to raise awareness of open education, encourage the sharing of open educational resources, and explore the potential of open education policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education. To further these aims, we have recently launched the draft Scottish Open Education Declaration. This declaration builds on the UNESCO 2012 Paris OER Declaration but the scope has been widened to focus on open education more generally, rather than OER specifically.



The cornerstone of the Open Scotland initiative is our belief that open education can promote knowledge transfer while at the same time enhancing quality and sustainability, supporting social inclusion, and creating a culture of inter-institutional collaboration and sharing. I believe that open education can expand access to education, widen participation, create new opportunities for the next generation of teachers and learners and prepare them to become fully engaged digital citizens. I know that these are goals and beliefs that the OKF Open Education Working Group shares and I am privileged to have an opportunity to contribute to this group.

Open Scotland Webinar

Last week Joe Wilson of SQA and I presented a short webinar on the Open Scotland initiative and the Scottish Open Education Declaration.  The webinar, which was hosted by Celeste McLaughlin of Jisc RSC Scotland, generated some interesting discussion and debate around open education in Scotland.  A recording of the webinar is available here, and our slides are embedded below.

The Scottish Open Education Declaration was introduced in the context of other open education developments including the UNESCO / COL Paris OER Declaration, the Open Educational Resources in Europe project, and Welsh HEIs statement of intent to work to open education principals. The Open Scotland initiative welcomes participation from individuals and institutions and we encourage all those with and interest in open education to comment on and endorse the Scottish Open Education Declaration.  Joe encouraged participants to get involved as individuals and also to take the Declaration back to their academic boards to raise awareness of the initiative and to get their institutions to sign up.  At this stage, the main aim of the Declaration is to raise awareness of the potential benefits of open education policy and practice, a valuable next step would be to start gathering exemplars that illustrate each statement of the declaration in action.

Joe and I both highlighted examples of open education practice in Scotland and further afield and participants also suggested other examples of communities sharing educational resources including the Computing at School Scotland initiative which aims to promote the teaching of computer science at school, and the fabulously named Magic Physics Pixies and their Scottish Physics Teaching Resources network.  This discussion prompted Tavis Reddick, of Fife College, to ask:

“Are there any illustrative exemplars of, say, OER, which Open Scotland would recommend to show how sharing and remix could work in practice?”

Although Open Scotland hasn’t got as far as recommending specific resources, the UKOER Programmes produced a wide range of resources including the OER Infokit,  and the ALT Open Education SIG recently gathered a series of case studies for Open Education Week.  The University of Leeds have also produced guidelines on developing and using OER for staff and students which have been adopted and repurposed by Glasgow Caledonian University: Library Guidance on open educational resources.

There is also considerable interest in the potential of Open Badges across the sector. Joe flagged up SQA’s commitment to Open Badges  and Celeste highlighted the work of the Open Badges in Scottish Education Group and Borders College’s use of Open Badges to replace paper based certification for continuing professional development activities.

There was some discussion of the Re:Source repository of open education resources for the Scottish college sector, with questions being asked about how extensively it is currently being used and whether a sustainable funding model could be developed. One suggestion was that, in the longer term, recurrent funding for Re:source could potentially come from the things it might replace, such as teaching materials acquisition budgets. One participant noted that their college did not yet have a policy that allowed them to publish OERs to Re:Source, but added that they hoped their board would take an interest soon.

One very valid question raised towards the end of the webinar was “how will we know if we are getting any better at this?” There are currently no benchmarking guidelines or KPIs for open education in Scotland but it would certainly be very interesting to undertake a landscape study of current open education practice across all sectors of Scottish education.  This would act as a baseline against which we could measure progress, but a survey of this nature would require dedicated funding and resources.    We’re already aware of lots of interesting examples of open education practice in Scotland but I’m sure that are many, many more out there, so if you know of any, or if you’re involved in any open education initiatives at your own institution, please do get in touch!

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Open and Flexible Higher Education Conference

Last week I went to the Open and Flexible Higher Education Conference in Paris where I presented two Cetis papers on the Open Scotland initiative and technology challenges from the Jisc / HEA UKOER Programmes. Both papers were well received and there was considerable interest in Open Scotland from colleagues from Norway.  The papers are available to download form Slideshare here:

Technology Challenges from the UKOER Programmes by Phil Barker and Lorna M. Campbell

Open Scotland by Lorna M. Campbell, Phil Barker, Sheila MacNeill and Joe Wilson

EADTU Conference,  Les Cordeliers, Sorbonne

EADTU Conference,
Les Cordeliers, Sorbonne

This is the first time I’ve attuned the EADTU Conference, with its focus on distance education provision in the HE sector, it’s a slightly different community from the one Cetis usually engages with. However there were many well known faces there and it was good to see such a large contingent from the Open University UK present. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to arrive in time to hear the opening keynote presentations however the papers I heard in the parallel sessions were excellent and the closing keynotes on the first day were suitably thought provoking. Inevitably MOOCs were a prevalent theme but I was encouraged that there was still a lot of discussion about other forms of open education practice and open education resources. It was also good to see Li and Stephen’s MOOCs and Open Education Cetis whitepaper quoted by one of the delegates from Lisbon.  Here’s a few of the highlights.

Variable cost minimisation business models in higher education
– Yoram Kalman, Open University of Israel

This excellent talk presented a coherent analysis of the nature and characteristics of business models and exploded many of the myths surrounding the ability, or not, of MOOCs to disrupt HE business models. Yoram’s presentation raised so many relevant issues that I’ll try and write a blog post summarising his main points.

Sketching the user interface of digital textbooks applied to formal learning environments
– Luis Fernandes, Universidade Nova de Lisboa

Unfortunately Luis himself was unable to be present but his paper was ably presented by his colleague Andreia Teles Vieira who demonstrated Luis etexbook implementation based on HTML5, EPub3 and CSS3. The implementation included book marks, annotation, and discussion groups, the ability to share via social media, rearrange and reorganise book content and compare different versions of books. Cetis have recently been discussing the potential of ePub3 and its ability to interoperate with other specification such as QTI, so I hope we can find out more about Luis work.

Do MOOCs announce a new paradigm for higher education?
– John Daniel and Stamenka Uvalic-Trumbic

Daniel suggested that while MOOCs are not a new paradigm for education, they may usher in other new paradigms and are accelerating three trends in HE:

• Shorter courses
• New types of awards such as open badges.
• Accelerate the move to online learning.

In response to these trends universities must develop new policies, execute online courses well and pay attention to quality. Uvalic-Trumbic developed the theme of quality and suggested that new courses and forms of assessment and accreditation need new forms of quality assurance, adding that open badges don’t take quality into account. I’m not sufficiently up to speed with open badges to know if this is actually true, so I’d be interested to hear other’s thoughts on the matter.

While I agreed with some of the points raised by this presentation I strongly disagreed with Sir John Daniel’s assertion that “Most MOOCs are OER with added assessment.” As I see it, most MOOCs have little to do with openness and even less to do with OER!

Foresights on Open Education 2030
– Yves Punie, Institute or Prospective Technological Studies, Seville

Yves presented the outputs of Imagining Open Education 2030 initiative, which called for vision papers covering three sectors; school education, higher education and lifelong learning. The vision papers and outputs of this exercise can be found here: http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/openeducation2030/

The following key tensions were distilled from vision papers and scenarios.

  • At the core of open education 2023 are unbundling, abundance, networking, flexibility and personalised learning
  • Learning services will not necessarily be free, under an open licence and accessible to all.
  • HE institutions will not disappear but need to redefine their role in the open education landscape – existing funding and quality mechanisms are not sustainable.

Yves also highlighted the SURF Policy paper e-InfraNet: ‘Open’ as the default modus operandi for research and higher education which can be downloaded here: http://www.surf.nl/en/publicaties/Pages/e-InfranetOpenreport.aspx

I haven’t had a chance to look at this paper but it does include this diagram illustrating the range of “opens”.

range of open

OpenupEd as a European answer on MOOCs: a student centred approach
– Fred Mulder, OUNL and UNESCO

Fred introduced the EU Opening Up Education initiative, which appears to be gearing up to become a direct competitor to US MOOC providers such as Coursera and Udacity. Opening up education is a subtle change from open education and shows that this is a process; there is no fixed model for education over time, there will always be diversity.
The term open is used widely but is not well defined. OER is one of the few terms that is well defined. The Hewlett Foundation defines OER as:

“OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”

But OER is not open education, there are five components of open education:

Supply side components
1. Open educational resources
2. Open learning services
3. Open teaching efforts
Demand side components
4. Open to learners needs
5. Open to employability and capabilities development

Opening Up Education is a globally linked and decentralised model that will provide a distinctive quality brand with high visibility and marketing potential. Participants will be able to engage with partners’ experience and expertise in developing MOOCs and evaluating and monitoring them from an institutional perspective. In addition partners will also have the opportunity to join cross-national projects with external funding. I also got the impression that there is, or will be an Opening Up Education platform, but that’s something I need to look into in more detail.

Open Scotland Follow Up

Yesterday Sheila and I met with colleagues from the ALT Scotland SIG, Jisc RSC Scotland and Cetis to start taking forward some of the actions we discussed at the Open Scotland Summit in Edinburgh at the end of June. I’d provide a link to my Cetis blog post summarising the event and outlining the deliverables and actions but unfortunately the Cetis blog server is down right now so you’ll have to trust me that I can remember what the actions were :} I’ll post the link as soon as the server gets rebooted. The Cetis blogs have now been restored and you can find the Open Scotland Summit Report and Actions here: http://blogs.cetis.ac.uk/lmc/2013/07/04/open-scotland-report-and-actions/

One of the key actions was to establish a working group, similar to Wales and the Nordic countries, that can stimulate research in the area of open education and hopefully inform future Government initiatives. As several of the delegates who attended the Summit in June expressed an interest in on-going participation, there seems to be a real appetite for taking this forward. In the first instance we’ve agreed to set up an Open Scotland blog to provide the group with an identity and a platform to publish information, articles and commentary on all aspects of openness in education. We’ll also use the blog to link to other related groups, lists and initiatives e.g. the Open Knowledge Foundation, OER-Discuss, the Scottish Open Badges Group, etc. Unfortunately someone is sitting on the openscotland.wordpress.com domain so we’ve had to settle for openscot.wordpress.com. There’s nothing to see there at present, but we hope to have the site up and running by the end of September. Several colleagues have already offered to contribute posts on different aspects of openness and how these relate to education and education policy in Scotland. We also discussed setting up a mailing list to disseminate information but as there was some concern about the proliferation of mailing lists we thought we would try setting up a google group instead.

The second key action from the June summit was to draft a position paper providing evidence of the benefits of openness with examples of how these can impact on Government priorities. As a starting point for this activity we’ve agreed to look at the Scottish Funding Council’s Outcome Agreements for 2013 – 2014 and to highlight areas where different aspect of openness could have a positive impact on the outcome agreement criteria. Once we’ve done a first pass through the Outcome Agreement criteria, we’ll post the resulting draft in a public document that everyone will be welcome to comment on and contribute to. Hopefully this will help us to focus on real tangible benefits of open education policies and practices and demonstrate how these can help to address current strategic priorities and challenges.

Another activity we discussed is to take the 2012 OER Paris Declaration and to start identifying examples of practice, from Scotland and neighbouring countries, that address the ten key points outlined in the Declaration document. I’m also keen to develop some case studies about institutions that have developed open education policies, but that’s an activity that would require rather more resources than we have at our disposal at present.

We also discussed the possibility of future Open Scotland events and hope to be able to build on the success of the June Summit to broaden the debate further. In the short term we have a couple of dissemination opportunities coming up; Joe Wilson of SQA and I will be doing a short presentation on Open Scotland and the work of the ALT Scotland SIG at the Jisc RSC Scotland Joint Forum event on the 31st of October, and earlier in the month we’ll we presenting a paper “Open Scotland – Policies and strategies for opening up education in Scotland” at the Open and Flexible Higher Education Conference in Paris on the 24th- 25th October. (When I say “we” that means that we’re not sure who’ll actually be going along to do the presentation yet!)

If you’re interested in keeping up to date with Open Scotland, keep and eye on the #openscot hashtag and this blog in the interim, or feel free to contact any of those involved.

Phil Barker phil.barker@hw.ac.uk
Lorna M. Campbell lorna.m.campbell@icloud.com
Linda Creanor l.creanor@gcal.ac.uk
Sheila MacNeill sheilamacneill@me.com
Celeste McLaughlin celeste.mclaughlin@glasgow.ac.uk
Joe Wilson joe.wilson@sqa.org.uk