OER22 In Person & Online

Last week I was at the OER22 Conference, and I was actually at the conference because for the first time in two years the OER Conference was in person and online.  OER22 was a hybrid conference in every sense of the word; the first day took place in London, the second day featured recorded online presentations, and the final day was live sessions online.  The event was organised seamlessly by ALT and chaired by the GO-GN Network.  The opening day of the conference in London was the first opportunity many of the OER community had to get together in person since the OER19 Conference in Galway, so it was understandably an emotional experience and a little overwhelming.  ALT handled the logistics of bringing people back together with real sensitivity and empathy, with plenty of space at the venue so that people never felt crowded, and plenty of time in the programme for people to network and socialise. 

Sketch of a cartoon penguin in blue pen against a white and blue backgroundBryan Mathers opened the conference with a thoughtful and humorous illustrated talk that gave us all a much needed opportunity to ease our way back into in-person conferencing.  It culminated with everyone drawing their own version of the GO-GN penguin and sharing them in the fabulous Visual Thinkery ReMixer.  Bryan set the tone for the conference perfectly and I think the little drawing exercise helped everyone overcome any residual anxiety they may have had about participating in an in person event.  Everyone said my penguin looked scary, but honestly he’s just a bit shy. 

The themes of the conference were; Pedagogy in a time of crisis – what does an ‘open’ response look like? Open textbooks: making the most of their potential; Open in Action: open teaching, educational practices and resources; and Open research around any aspect of open education. 

I took part in two panels, the first with Jane Secker, Catherine Cronin, Leo Havemann and Julie Voce focused on the approaches adopted by our various institutions and projects to support and develop open educational practices. These include teaching a module on open practices as part of a Masters in Academic Practice, creating open education and copyright literacy policies that signify institutional commitment to open practices, modelling open approaches in sharing our own teaching and learning resources, and advocacy work with organisations at a local, national and international level, to promote better understanding of open practice and copyright literacy.  I spoke about how the University of Edinburgh’s OER Policy, supported by the OER Service, enabled and encouraged open practice across the institution, and the importance of supporting digital skills development around copyright literacy.  Slides from the panel are available here: Open in Action

Image by Jane Secker on Twitter.

I was also invited to take part in a plenary panel discussion on open textbooks along with Gary Elliot-Cirigottis (Open University), Dhara Snowden (UCL Press), and Jane Secker (City University London), chaired by Beck Pitt (Open University) who was previously involved in the UK Open Textbooks project. Our institutions all had very different experiences of supporting and engaging with the use and creation of open textbooks so it made for an interesting and wide ranging discussion, covering how open resources enabled institutions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of the pandemic on the cost of resources, the role of open textbooks and our vision for OER in UK HEIs.  A recording of the plenary panel will be available shortly.

Image by Josie Fraser on Twitter.

I also attended a couple of other interesting sessions on open textbooks including Catrina Hey talking about the University of Sussex’s Open Press which is based on Pressbooks and informed by NUI Galway’s Open Press and the Jisc’s New University Press Toolkit.  I also really enjoyed hearing about the Open Pedagogy Project Roadmap: A Resource for Planning and Sustaining Open Educational Practices at Penn State University from Bryan McGeary and Christina Riehman-Murphy.  Their examples of student co-created open textbooks (e.g. Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature.) were really inspiring and gave me some ideas for initiatives we could explore at the University of Edinburgh.  

Other highlights for me included Javiera Atenas talking about the importance of professional conversation as a fundamental aspect of open practice during her presentation about creative project design for open education practitioners.  Slides from this session are available here: Creative Project Design.   There was also some really lively and thought provoking discussion around what open technology platforms do with your data during Javiera and Leo’s session on Co-creating a framework for platform governance in open education – policy, data ethics and data protection.  Leo and Javiera made the point that it isn’t enough for platforms, technologies and textbooks to be free, they must also resist surveillance and other forms of intrusion. Josie Fraser raised a pertinent counter point that this has to be balanced against benefit, noting that some school children had no contact with their teachers at all during the pandemic as some schools adopted an overly cautious approach to online conferencing platforms due to fears over how they store and use data.  

On the last day of the conference, I gave an online presentation on our Open eTextbooks for Access to Music Education project.  Along with our student interns, we gave a talk about the early stages of this project last year at OER21, so this year I was back to reflect on the project outputs and what we learned along the way.  Unusually, we had all kinds of technical gremlins during the session, which Maren dealt with in her own calm and professional manner.  We got there in the end and I was really touched with the positive comments on this student co-creation project. Slides and transcript of this talk are available on our project blog. 

Sadly I had to miss a lot of day 2 and 3 of the conference due to juggling meetings and other work commitments, but I did enjoy catching up with discussions and resources on the conference Discord, and I’m looking forward to dipping in to the recorded sessions.

One final reflection more generally…Given that one of themes of OER22 was open textbooks, it was perhaps understandable that over the course of the conference the term OER was often used to refer specifically to open textbooks. I still had to do a bit of mental adjustment as I tend to think of OER as being a much wider class of thing, with open textbooks being just one form of open educational resources among many.  While I’m really exited about the possibility of open textbooks taking off in the UK, particularly if they are co-created and founded on open practice, I am a little concerned that we might lose sight of the broader understanding of OER.  Over the last few months I’ve seen a few think pieces and comments about the crisis in etextbook costs, which suggest that there has been little adoption of OER in the UK.  While it’s true that there has been less adoption of open textbooks by academic libraries in the UK than in the US, (though this is changing rapidly), there has of course been considerable engagement with open education resources and practices supported by learning technologists across the sector.  With more and more institutions launching open presses and libraries exploring the affordances of open textbooks, I hope they’ll work together with learning technologists, open education practitioners, and academic colleagues who have a wealth of experience of supporting and engaging with open education resources and practices of all kinds. Otherwise we may run the risk of recreating OER repositories the wheel. 

Being among the OER community again, among good friends and colleagues, was a much needed breath of fresh air.  It really made me appreciate the hope that co-chairs Catherine Cronin and Laura Czerniewicz left us with at the end of OER19 in Galway, and how much it sustained us through the last two years. 

2021 – Finding a way

At the end of each year, I used to write a round up of significant work and life events over the previous 12 months.  That didn’t happen last year.  Just getting to the end of the year felt like an achievement.  That was enough.  I’ve kept this blog ticking over for the last year, though I’ve written fewer posts here than in previous years.  It’s partly that I’ve been blogging elsewhere, on the OpenEd, Teaching Matters, and Open Textbooks blogs. But it’s also a question of bandwidth; surviving in the midst of a global pandemic, and taking care of those around you, be they family, friends, or work colleagues, takes up a lot of emotional energy, so there often wasn’t much energy left over to reflect on what I was actually doing.  I’m still committed to using this blog to share my practice though, so I want to end the year on a hopeful note with a blog post about all the things I’ve done that I didn’t manage to write about at the time, or that I only touched on in passing. 

Open eTextbooks for Access to Music Education

Fundamentals of Music Theory open textbook coverAt the start of the year I was awarded a University of Edinburgh Student Experience Grant, and together with Dr Nikki Moran and three brilliant student interns from the Reid School of Music, we undertook an experimental project to repurpose open resources from an existing MOOC and on-campus course to create a prototype open textbook, Fundamentals of Music Theory.  Working with Nikki and the students was a delight and we learned a lot about different publishing platforms and the process of editing and creating ebooks in different formats. My InDesign skills are basic at best, but my old HTML skills came in very handy!  We gave a talk about the project at the OERxDomains Conference, The Scale of Open: Repurposing Open Resources for Music Education, and it was great to receive such positive feedback on the importance of working together with students on projects like this. In his final reflection on the project our intern Ifeanyichukwu Ezinmadu wrote;

“This project has got me inspired towards creating an independent OER project in music theory based on the ABRSM theory syllabus. To achieve this new goal of mine, I look forward to deploying skills developed on this project such as collaboration, research, design thinking, and other technical skills. I will dearly miss the entire team that has made this Project a possibility – Lorna, Charlie, Nikki, Kari, and Ana – and I look forward to engaging with other opportunities within and beyond the University of Edinburgh to learn and contribute meaningfully towards music education projects.”

You can read more about the project on our blog here: Open eTextbooks for Access to Music Education, and download our open textbook here: Fundamentals of Music Theory.

Learn Ultra Base Navigation Upgrade

Another project I was involved in earlier this year was the Learn Ultra Base Navigation Upgrade project, which investigated the implications and feasibility of upgrading to UBN in advance of a full upgrade to Learn Ultra.  I’m not usually directly involved in supporting and delivering our Learn VLE service, but we were short handed so I was drafted in to do some of the project management. Although it was a bit of a steep learning curve for me, it was a really good opportunity to connect with colleagues who maintain and support the Learn Service and the Learn Foundations project, and it was interesting to have a preview of UBN and the functionality it provides. 

OER Policy update

On more familiar territory, I enjoyed working with our Education Technology Policy officer Neil McCormick to review and revise the University of Edinburgh’s OER Policy.  The University’s original policy was approved in 2015 and five years later, in September this year, our new policy was approved by Education Committee.  This new policy, which has adopted UNESCO’s definition of OER, strengthens the University’s commitment to open knowledge and achieving the aims of the Agenda for Sustainable Development.  You can read about the new OER Policy on Teaching Matters here: A new OER Policy for the University, and access the policy itself here: University of Edinburgh OER Policy

Open Education Global Awards

The OER Policy is just one of a sweet of open policies for teaching and learning that the University shares under Creative Commons licence, and we were delighted when these policies were awarded Open Education Global’s Open Policy Award as part of their 2021 Awards for Excellence.  Edinburgh rather swept the boards at the awards, also winning the Open Curation Award for our collection of OERs on TES Resources, co-created by GeoScience Outreach undergraduates and our fabulous Open Content Curation interns.  Melissa Highton won the Open Leadership Award, and Wikimedia intern Hannah Rothman won the Open Student Award.  We didn’t win the Open Resilience Award, but Charlie and I made a very cool video for our entry so I’m sharing it here anyway 🙂

ALT, Wikimedia UK, Creative Commons

I’ve continued serving as a trustee for ALT and Wikimedia UK and it’s always an honour to give something back to both these organisations, given their ongoing commitment to  openness, equity, community engagement and knowledge activism. This year I was privileged to sit on the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Awards panel, which is always an inspiring experience, and the recruitment panel for the new ALT CIO. I also stepped briefly into the role of interim Chair of Board for Wikimedia UK, when Nick Poole’s term came to an end and before our new chair Monisha Shah took up the role.  With my Wikimedia UK hat on, I contributed to the Creative Commons working group on the ethics of open sharing, chaired by Josie Fraser.  You can read the outputs and recommendations of this working group here: Beyond Copyright: the Ethics of Open Sharing.

Knowledge Activism

I made my own small contribution to knowledge activism at the beginning of the year, when the University’s Disabled Staff Network and Staff Pride Network decided to run an editathon for LGBT History Month, I suggested HIV and AIDS activism in Scotland as a topic. As a result of the HIV Scotland Editathon, six new articles were created and several others improved, making a significant contribution to representing the history of HIV and AIDS activism in Scotland on Wikipedia.  I created a new article about Scottish AIDS Monitor and I also wrote and article about Jill Nalder, the Welsh actress who inspired the character of Jill in Russel T. Davis’ drama Its a Sin. Later in the year, Gary Needham invited me to present a webinar on Knowledge Activism: Representing the History of HIV and AIDS activism on Wikipedia for the University of Liverpool’s School of the Arts.  Gary and I have a formative shared queer history that goes back many years, so it really meant a lot to me to be able to speak to him and his colleagues about the challenges of representing queer lives and experiences in this way. 

A different kind of knowledge activism was provoked by the BBC drama series Vigil, which opened with distressing scenes of a fishing trawler being sunk by a nuclear submarine off the West Coast of Scotland.  I certainly wasn’t the only one who noted similarities to the sinking of the fishing vessel Antares by hunter killer submarine HMS Trenchant off Arran in 1990, despite the BBC denying that the incident was based on any specific real life event.  At the time, there was no Wikipedia entry about the sinking of the Antares and HMS Trenchant‘s entry made only a veiled reference to the incident, so I fixed that.  It’s important that we remember tragedies like this and equally important that we remember who was responsible. 

And while we’re on the subject of activism and loss of life at sea, please consider supporting the Royal National Lifeboat Institution if you can.  Their volunteers risk their own lives to save those who find themselves in peril at sea, and they are facing increasing hostility and abuse for their selfless courage and humanity. 

COP26

Activism of a different kind was going on all over Glasgow in November to coincide with COP26.  I can’t say I’m hugely optimistic about the outcomes of the conference or the will of global leaders and developed nations to enact meaningful change to halt the climate crisis, however it was hugely inspiring to hear the voices of so many young indigenous community activists.  These are the radical voices we need to listen to and make space for.  Also kudos to my daughter for snapping what surely has to be the most accurate photograph of the conference and the crisis we face, when we joined the climate march through Glasgow on 7 November. 

COP26 Climate Crisis March, Glasgow, CC BY NC SA, Rhuna McCartney

Open Scotland

Another area where we’ve made less progress than I would have hoped is with Open Scotland.  As a purely voluntary initiative Open Scotland hasn’t been particularly active for a number of years now, but many of those involved are still supporting open education, open practice and OER through other initiatives and activities. We remain committed to the aims of the Scottish Open Education Declaration and we haven’t given up hope that one day, the Scottish Government will wake up to the benefits and affordances of sharing publicly funded educational resources under open licence.  In March this year, with support from Creative Commons, we made another attempt at engaging the Cabinet Secretary for Education with the the UNESCO Recommendation on OER and the Scottish Open Education Declaration, but again we were disappointed to receive a generic response from a civil servant.  At a time when inclusive and equitable access to quality education and lifelong learning opportunities has never been more important, Scottish Government’s continued failure to engage with open education and OER is disappointing to say the least. 

Hello Helo

On a more positive note, we got a new kitten this year.  This is Helo and he behaves more like a puppy than a cat.  He’s very cute, but he’s also an absolute menace.  My two long suffering adult cats are getting no peace. 

Helo, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

Home

I got home to the Hebrides in the summer for the first time in two years.  It was a joy to see family again and when I finally got to the beach (yes, that beach) I felt like I could breath again for the first time in months.

Traigh na Berie, Isle of Lewis, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

Hope

In what has been a difficult and challenging year on many levels, I’ve been privileged to continue working with so many kind, compassionate, fierce and committed open education practitioners and open knowledge advocates.  You give me hope. 

It seems fitting to end with a quote from the late, great bell hooks, whose courage and clarity touched so many and whose words provide hope for us all.

“My hope emerges from those places of struggle where I witness individuals positively transforming their lives and the world around them. Educating is a vocation rooted in hopefulness. As teachers we believe that learning is possible, that nothing can keep an open mind from seeking after knowledge and finding a way to know.”

~ bell hooks (1952 – 2021)

Fundamentals of Music Theory – Adventures in open textbooks

Fundamentals of Music Theory open textbook coverLast week I was delighted to see a project that I’ve been working on since the beginning of the year come to fruition with the publication of the Fundamentals of Music Theory open textbook on the University of Edinburgh Library’s new ebook platform Edinburgh Diamond.  The open textbook was created by the the Open e-Textbooks for Access to Music Education project, which was funded by a University of Edinburgh Student Experience Grant. Led by Dr Nikki Moran and I, the project was a collaboration between the University’s OER Service, and staff and student interns, Kari Ding, Ifeanyichukwu Ezinmadu and Ana Reina Garcia, from the Reid School of Music.

The aim of the project was to explore the creation of an open etextbook using existing content from the Reid School of Music’s Fundamentals of Music Theory course. This course covers the fundamentals of Western music theory, from absolute basics to more advanced concepts, and provides learners with the skills needed to read and write Western music notation, and to understand, analyse, and listen informedly. The course uses content originally created for a successful Coursera MOOC, in addition to new materials developed more recently for an on campus blended learning course, addressing global decolonisation issues around music theory and music education. These high-quality resources were ideally suited to further repurposing to create an open textbook, increasing the use of this tried-and-tested content, and making it available to teachers and learners in an accessible format ideally suited to hybrid and online learning.   

The project provided us with an opportunity to evaluate a range of open textbook platforms and to gain valuable hands-on experience of the process and practicalities of creating an open textbook.  This experience is particularly valuable at a time when universities are increasingly moving from print to digital textbooks and are facing rapidly rising textbook licensing costs. Open textbooks have the potential to benefit the University by reducing textbook costs, benefit staff by providing access to easily customisable open textbooks, and benefit students by providing free, high quality digital learning materials. 

The project also enabled our student interns to develop valuable digital and copyright literacy skills including an understanding of open educational resources, open licenses and open etextbooks, familiarity with current etextbook applications, and experience of working with existing digital content and educational resources across a range of platforms. 

One of the first tasks undertaken by the project was to evaluate a range of different hosting options for our ebook; Manifold, PressBooks, GitHub and the University Library’s new ebook platform, Edinburgh Diamond, based on Open Monograph Press.  Balancing the pros and cons of each platform and considering the constraints of time and funding, we decided to publish our open textbook on Edinburgh Diamond. Open Access Publishing Officer Rebecca Wojturska, provided us with invaluable support in getting our textbook onto the platform and providing ISBN and DOIs. 

The project wasn’t without it’s challenges; the whole project had to be undertaken online due to COVID-19 restrictions, some of our student interns were working in different time zones, and I had no prior experience of producing the ePub formats required by the ebook platform, so it was a steep learning curve on my part!  I also had to dust off my rusty html and css skills which I haven’t used for years.  Despite the challenges, the project successfully demonstrated that it is possible to take existing MOOC and on-campus course content and repurpose it into an open textbook.

All in all, this was a hugely rewarding project, not least because of the enthusiasm and dedication of the team at the Reid School of Music.  It was a real joy to work with Nikki, Ana, Ifeanyichukwu and Kari.  One of the high points of the project was listening to our student interns presenting about their work at the OERxDomains Conference –  The Scale of Open: Re-purposing open resources for music education.  Our talk was really well received, with lots of delegates commenting on how important it was to hear students’ voices.  We learned a great deal from this small project and I hope that Fundamentals of Music Theory will be the first of many open textbooks published by staff and students across the University. 

Fundamentals of Music Theory is shared under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) licence and can be downloaded from Edinburgh Diamond in the following formats: Word, PDF, EPub (reflowable), ePub (fixed layout).  An HTML version will be available shortly. In order to make the open textbook as accessible and reusable as possible, users can download the book in its entirety, or topic by topic.

ISBN: 978-1-912669-22-6
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2218/ED.9781912669226

Header and cover image adapted from a free to use image by Geralt on Pixabay.