Tag Archives: higher education

How is it almost August?⤴

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This is another of those blog posts that starts “Where the hell have the last two months gone?!”  I’ve been sorely neglecting this blog since early May, not because I’ve got nothing to write about, quite the opposite, I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to get near it!  I’m about to go off on annual leave for a couple of weeks but I wanted to post a quick round up of the last two months before I go, so here’s wot I have been up to.

Innovation Projects

UoE OKN, CC BY Natalie Lankester-Carthy

A lot of my time has been tied up with two Information Services Innovation Fund projects.  The UoE Open Knowledge Network was a small project that aimed at drawing together the University’s activities in the area of Open Data, Open Access, Open Education, Open Research, Open Collections and Archives, to support cross-fertilisation and promote the institution’s activities in these areas. We ran three events, with the last one taking place in early July.  This event focussed on discussing priorities, ideas for the future and how we can sustain the network going forward.  You can read about the first two events on the project blog here: UoE Open Knowledge Network and I’ll be writing up the July event when I get back from leave in August.

The aim of the second project was to develop a MOOC for entrepreneurs, creative individuals, and SMEs to help them develop the knowledge and skills to find and access free and open licensed research, data and content produced by universities and higher education. I was lucky enough to recruit Morna Simpson of Geek Girl Scotland to work on the project however despite our best efforts and an incredible amount of work on Morna’s part the project faced a number of challenges which we struggled to overcome.  Rather than go ahead with a MOOC we will be releasing a series of twelve case studies on the theme of Innovating with Open Knowledge demonstrating how individuals and organisations can access and use the open outputs of University of Edinburgh research.  These case studies should be finished by early August so watch this space!

Media Hopper Replay

The University of Edinburgh is in the process of rolling out a new state of the art lecture recoding service, Media Hopper Replay, which will see 400 rooms enabled to deliver lecture recording by 2019.  As part of a training programme for staff, my colleague Charlie Farley and I have been developing training sessions on preparing for lecture recording covering accessible presentation design, copyright basics, and using open educational resources.

ALT

City of Glasgow College, CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

I was honoured to be invited by ALT to join the selection panel for the prestigious Learning Technologist of the Year Awards.  The quality and diversity of the entries was really inspiring and while I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the entries it wasn’t easy to pick the best from such a strong field.  The winners of the awards will be announced at the ALT Annual Conference which this year takes place at the University of Liverpool.  I’ll be there rejoining my old partner in crime Richard Goodman to provide social media coverage of the conference for the third year running.

In June I also helped to organise ALT Scotland’s annual conference which focused on sharing strategy, practice and policy in learning technology.  We had really interesting talks on lecture recording policy and practice from the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow and Joe Wilson reported back from two European open education policy events he recently attended on behalf of Open Scotland.  The real star of the show however was City of Glasgow College’s new state of the art campus where the event took place.

Celtic Knot Conference

In early July I was busy helping UoE’s Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, plan the University of Edinburgh / Wikimedia UK Celtic Knot Conference.  The conference showcased innovative approaches to open education, open knowledge and open data to support and grow Celtic and Indigenous language communities, and explore how our cultural heritage can be preserved as living languages.  The conference was attended by delegates from all over Europe and was an enormous success.  It was a real privilege to be involved in this event and as a Gael, I found the conference to be both moving and inspiring.  I may have got a little starry eyed listening to delegates talking animatedly in Gaelic, Welsh, Breton, Basque and too many other languages to mention.  And as an indication of the collaborative and supportive nature of the event, it was great to see all 50+ delegates come together to provide input and advice to Wikimedia Norge on how to support Sami language Wikipedia.

 

Wikimedia UK

Last weekend I was at the Wikimedia UK AGM and Board Meeting in London where it was a real pleasure to see Josie Fraser voted in as new chair of the Wikimedia Board and our very own UoE Wikimedia in Residence Ewan McAndrew awarded a very well deserved joint Wikimedian of the Year award together with Kelly Foster.  It was also great to hear that Sara Thomas has been appointed as the new Wikimedian in Residence at the Scottish Libraries and Information Council.

CMALT

And on top of all that I somehow managed to submit my CMALT portfolio at the end of May! Although it was a lot of hard work, and although I went right to wire (of course), I actually enjoyed the process of putting my portfolio together and I found it really useful to step back and reflect on my experience of working as a learning technologist in the broadest sense of the word. I would still like to write a proper post reflecting on my experience of developing my portfolio in the open but that will have to wait until the autumn.

That’s just a few of the things that have been taking up most of my time over the last couple of months.  I’m now off for a fortnight’s holiday during which we are going to attempt to coax our aged VW van to take us all the way to Brittany.  If we make it to the Borders we’ll be lucky!   I’ll be back in early August with a new role at the University of Edinburgh as Learning Technology Team Leader in the Department of Education Development and Engagement.

International Open Science Conference report⤴

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A brief report on the International Open Science Conference held in Berlin in March, presented at the University of Edinburgh Open Knowledge Network event on 28th April 2017.

The Open Science Conference held in Berlin in April was the 4th international conference sponsored by the Leibniz Research Alliance and it grew out of the former Science 2.0 Conference.

The stated aim of the Open Science Conference is to bring together three communities; the research community engaging in open science, the library community and the computer centres who maintain and run the infrastructure.  Participants included researchers, librarians, practitioners, politicians, and other stakeholders.  Many of the delegates I spoke to were librarians and and it was interesting to note that many of them were familiar with the work of the Digital Curation Centre here at the University, and spoke highly of the service they provide.

The conference was co located with the Open Science Policy Platform (OSPP)  which advises the European Commission on how to develop and implement the European Open Science policy an initiative is being led by Germany and the Netherlands.

The conference featured two days of presentations, lightning talks, poster sessions, workshops, panels and a barcamp which provided a forum to discuss putting Open Science into practice.

This year the special thematic focus of the conference was Open Educational Resources which is why I was invited along to speak. ¨ My talk Crossing the Field Boundaries looked at the interface between OER, open data and open science and our experience at the University of Edinburgh of promoting open education through the School of GeoSciences Outreach and Engagement course. Some of you may have seen Colin Graham’s talk on building student capital through student led outreach and engagement at our last Open Knowledge Network event and it was a real honour to be able to present a case study on this innovative course at such a prestigious conference.  There was a lot of interest in the co-creation of learning model developed by the Geosciences Outreach and Engagement Team and also in the Open Content Internship project that subsequently repurposed the student produced materials into Open Educational Resources.  As a result of this presentation and a subsequent conversation at the OER17 conference a team from the University of Louvain are hoping to come to Edinburgh to learn from our experience of implementing and supporting a digital strategy for open knowledge and open education.

The first day of the conference, which unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend, focused primarily on open science and the main themes appeared to be open science policy, the development of a European open science cloud, federated infrastructure, altmetrics and open peer review.  One lengthy panel on open peer review seemed to get particularly heated but I confess I’d rather lost the thread of the argument at that point.

It was really on the second day that the agenda switched to open education. There was a panel on the impact of open education on HE and society and a couple of talks on a German OER programme the Federal government is currently funding.   ¨ Dirk van Damme, Head of the Innovation at OECD in France presented the findings of the OECD commissioned report OER a catalyst for innovation in education and Marco Kalz UNESCO chair of Open Education at the OUNL also explored open education as a driver for innovation from a critical perspective. Marco acknowledged that reuse and adaptation are notoriously hard to track and measure, as are direct and indirect effects of OER. Quoting Sian Bayne and Jeremy Knox’s research Marco agreed that “discussions of OER too often tend to optimism and lack of critique” and he argued that the open education field must move from being advocacy driven to become more research driven.

Two specific points struck me about the discussions around open education and OER at the Open Science Conference.  The first was the tendency to conflate OER with education technology more generally, this resulted in some sweeping statements about the power of OER to transform education which rang all sorts of alarm bells.  Although I don’t believe it’s necessarily beneficial to nail down the semantics of open education, it’s also unhelpful to equate OER with education technology. Similarly, it’s unrealistic to claim that OER alone can transform education, OER certainly has a role to play, but such sweeping generalization can result in raising expectations to unrealistic levels.

The second point was the repeated emphasis on the importance of quality standards to encourage OER uptake.  Quality has always been a cornerstone of the European education technology landscape, but to be honest I think this is a bit of a red herring, particularly when it comes to OER.  Primarily because quality is less an inherent property the resource itself and is more a result of the context of use.  So for example a high quality open education resource, can be used in an inappropriate context resulting in a poor quality learning experience.  Admittedly several delegates did argue this very point, but there was still more emphasis on Qualty than I think is necessarily helpful.

On a more positive note one other broad theme that emerged was recognition of the importance of bringing open science into the class room as education doesn’t just create scientists it creates citizens and I think this is one reasons why the Geosciences Outreach and Engagement Course case study went down so well.  It was noticeable that one strand that ran through all the presentations and discussions I saw was an unshakable belief in the responsibility of open science to contribute to the global pool of open knowledge.

If you’d like to find out more about the conference most of the papers are available from the conference website here.   In addition the Open Knowledge Open Education Group hosted a webinar with myself and Guido Scherp, coordinator of Leibniz Research Alliance Science 2.0 where we discussed and reflected on some of the conference themes, and you can access a recording of that webinar here.

CMALT – Advice from the community⤴

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Last week I wrote a reflective blog post about starting out on the CMALT journey, What do you do?, and was delighted to get lots of really helpful practical input from the ALT community on twitter.  I’ve captured the advice and discussions in a Storify here Starting CMALT – Advice from the community so I can look back on them and in case they’re of use to others. Here’s some of the highlights.

Matt Cornock had useful advice on completing Section 3 if you’re not in a teaching role.

Phil Barker kicked off an interesting discussion about how long it takes to complete a portfolio.

Working together with a colleague seems to be a good way to make progress

Kate Mitchell was particularly interested in the tensions of our role:

While Martin Hawksey may have blow my cover 😉

Open Pedagogy – A view from a distance⤴

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I’ve been thinking on and off for the last few days about the fascinating discussions going on around Open Pedagogy. Maha Bali has curated a diverse and thought provoking series of posts on the topic here and has organized a hangout to discuss What is Open Pedagogy? later today. Other than commenting on a few blog posts here and there, I haven’t contributed much to this debate and it’s taken me a little while to figure out why.

To some extent this is bound up with a post I wrote last week What do you do? That post is an off the cuff reflection prompted by my first attempt to make a start on my CMALT portfolio, but it does relate, if only tangentially, to the question of open pedagogy too. I think one of the reasons that I’ve felt slightly distanced from the open pedagogy discussions is that to my mind pedagogy is intrinsically bound up with the theory and practice of teaching and although I’ve worked in Higher Education for years, I’ve rarely been involved in teaching and I have never considered myself to be a teacher or an academic. This is one of the issues I was trying to grapple with, all be it facetiously, in my What do you do? post. I’ve very rarely taught staff or students, though I do hope that people have learned things from me along the way. I do help to support teaching and learning, but even then, I’m several steps removed from the pedagogy and the teaching process. I don’t do teaching so I’ve always felt I don’t really do pedagogy either.

What I do consider myself to be is an education practitioner. I participate in the process and practice of education and hopefully, some way further down the line, this contributes to teaching and pedagogy. Perhaps more importantly for my own personal and professional identity, I see myself as an open practitioner. I try very hard to practice my profession in the open, I try to learn from other open practitioners, I try to listen and learn and engage, and I try to be guided by the principals of openness and inclusivity.

This is why I identified so strongly with the questions Josie asked in her blog post Waves not Ripples

“I’m suspicious of the current distinction between open pedagogy and open practice, and in particular, how little explanation is being given to the privileging or even just use of the term pedagogy over the term practice. Is the use of pedegogy being used as shorthand for educational practice? Is it being used to underline the importance of formal education, or the primacy of teaching? Why not open heutagogy? Is it being used as a form of interpellation, a signal to include and exclude specific groups within open education? What is wrong with ‘practice’? How do we benefit from continuing to insist on a break between theory and practice, or theory and politics? Is this distinction as harmful as the disavowal of the relationship between the personal and the political?”

Josie’s questions also called to mind the point Amber Thomas made in her wonderful blog post Perhaps I’m not one, which I linked to from my earlier post. Amber’s blog post is primarily a reflection on what makes a learning technologist, but she also includes this thought, which still resonates with me three years later.

“And another thing: I’m not an academic and I don’t teach. I consider myself to be a para-academic. (Like a paralegal, or a paramedic ). I have a particular skillset which has a place in universities. I’ve lost count of the number of sessions I’ve been in at elearning conferences over the year where the presenter asks “how many people in the room actually teach?”. Cue a few hands raised and the majority looking down at their feet, embarrassed, as if the 5/10/15 years experience in education counts for nowt. Universities are multi-professional places and learning technologists, in all their flavours, have a rightful place at the table. People like me shouldn’t have to pretend to be something we’re not.”

Like Amber, I’m not an academic and I don’t teach, so I’m not sure how much I can contribute to discussions about pedagogy. It’s not that I’m disinterested, far from it, it’s more that when people talk about pedagogy is often feels like they’re talking about something I don’t do, something I haven’t thought deeply enough about.

Of course that may simply be a massive misconception on my part, but there’s no denying that I tend to feel I have more to contribute to discussions about open practice, policy and politics than discussions about open pedagogy. Josie asks whether open pedagogy is being used as a signal to include and exclude specific groups within open education. I’m not sure I would go as far as to say that I feel excluded, but I do feel slightly distanced.

I don’t know how to draw this post to a sensible conclusion, because I don’t really know if I have one, but I suspect I’ll continue thinking about these issues of identity, experience, inclusion and exclusivity for some time to come. And perhaps if I can joint the hangout later today I’ll find out whether there is anything I can contribute to the discussions about open pedagogy, and whether this feeling of distance is just a misconception on my part after all.

A view from a distance

“What do you do?” – Starting out on CMALT⤴

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“So what do you do?” can be a bit of a difficult question to answer when you work in the domain of learning technology.  And depending on which area of learning technology you work in it can be a harder question to answer for some than others.  My default answer tends to be “I work at a University” followed by “I work in education technology”, often with the added explanation “It’s about the use of new technology in education.”  “Open education” tends to get you blank looks outwith academia (now there’s a topic for discussion), and thank god I don’t work in “education technology interoperability standards” these days.

My family have defaulted to telling people that I’m a spy on the basis that they don’t actually know what I do, other than travel a lot and disappear for days at a time. It’s hard to argue with them tbh.

Lorna Campbell – Spy

Sometimes I think it’s easier to explain what I don’t do; I don’t teach, I don’t do formal academic research, I’m not a programmer, I don’t develop or implement systems, I don’t provide help desk services, I don’t run the VLE.   I do manage projects and provide advice to colleagues. I provide input to policies. I support networks and disseminate practice.  I write a lot, talk a lot and present a lot.  I facilitate events and chair conferences.  I sit on boards, steering groups and executive committees. Maybe it is easier to tell people I’m a spy.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this is that after months of procrastination, I’m finally making a start on my CMALT application.  I had hoped to do this towards the end of last year but two new projects took precedence, so CMALT went on the back burner.

I had mixed feelings about CMALT for a number of years, primarily because for a long time I didn’t really seem to fit any recognisable definition of what a learning technologist is.  I tried to explain this anxiety in a blog post I wrote in 2014 Thoughts on ALT’s CPD Rebooted.  That post also refers to a brilliant piece written by Amber Thomas Perhaps I’m not one,  which I identified with strongly at the time, and still do.  The main point I was trying to make in CPD Rebooted was that formal certification can be difficult for people whose roles don’t neatly fit into the kind of boxes that make up accreditation frameworks.   This is doubly true for those on short term contracts, who have to jump from project to project and rarely have much time for formal CPD.  I ended that blog post with a question I asked on twitter:

Things have changed a lot for me since 2014, both professionally and personally.  Our understanding of what it means to be a learning technologist has matured and become more inclusive, and although contracts in higher education have become increasingly precarious, I’m very lucky that my own employment situation is more secure than it was three years ago.  In fact I’m incredibly fortunate to work for an institution that not only allows dedicated time for CPD but that also actively promotes and supports CMALT membership. Information Services at the University of Edinburgh offer bursaries to enable learning technologists to become Certified Members of ALT and my colleague Susan Grieg supports colleagues to help them prepare their portfolios.

Having spent the day pouring over the CMALT guidelines I can see that ALT have worked hard to create an accreditation framework that is as broad as it is inclusive.  However I’m still sitting here sifting through projects, webinars, presentations, papers, twitter conversations and reflective blog posts wondering how the hell I’m going to fit all this into that. How on earth can I demonstrate an “understanding of my target learners” when I don’t actually teach?  Of course the answer is that I’m going to have to think creatively.  I may not have a teaching role, but hopefully all those webinars and talks and blog posts do help my peers and colleagues to learn and to develop their professional practice.  I’m still at the stage where I’m struggling to fit my experience into the CMALT framework, but hopefully if I keep thinking about it and reflecting on what I actually do, it will all start to fall into place.  Having access to the CMALT Portfolio Open Register is already proving to be enormously helpful but I’d be very interested to hear how others have approached this.

Organising my CMALT portfolio like

(Belatedly realising I have no idea how to licence memes….)

OER17 – The Distance Travelled⤴

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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.

The Paris declaration was an output of the World OER Congress held at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris in June 2012 and to mark this anniversary, UNESCO, in collaboration with the Government of Slovenia and the Commonwealth of Learning will host the 2nd World OER Congress in Lubljana in September this year.

This event will bring together government ministers, policy makers and open education practitioners in order to:

  • Examine solutions to meet the challenges of mainstreaming OER
  • Showcase best practices in OER policies and initiatives
  • Provide recommendations for the mainstreaming of OER

In advance of this event, the Commonwealth for Learning are undertaking a series of regional consultations in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and the Pacific and in addition, to these consultations, COL have circulated a questionnaire to government education ministries and stakeholders focused on OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education.  Both the consultations and survey are ongoing, so I don’t have figures for the number of governments that have participated, but I want to come back to this initiative later.

There’s no denying that there have been significant advances in open education in the ten years since the Cape Town Declaration.  And you only have to look at the programme of this conference to get an idea of the diverse range of open education initiatives that are going on worldwide. Even the International Open Science Conference had a special focus on OER this year. During that conference Dirk Van Damme of OECD gave a great talk on how OER can act as a catalyst for innovation.  Much of Dirk’s presentation was based on  this OECD report, which I can highly recommend.  One of the figures Dirk quoted was this one; out of 33 countries that responded to a 2012 survey undertaken by OECD, 76% of them had policies to support OER production and use. 76% is a pretty impressive figure, particularly if it’s representative.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if 76% of governments worldwide had OER policies?  But if we look at this map you’ll notice that one of the countries highlighted is the UK and the UK does not in fact have any government policies that support the creation and use of open licensed educational content. And neither do the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales.  In fact government support for open education has arguably declined since this survey was undertaken.  To be fair to OECD, I suspect the UK was originally included in these figures as a result of the UKOER programme, which came to an end in 2012.  UKOER did not result in the creation of government policy, that was never it’s aim, though it did result in the creation of institutional OER policies, and again, I want to come back to that later.  Funding for UKOER did come through government channels, but I don’t think that’s quite the same thing as actually having government policy on OER.

To my knowledge, the Westminster Government has not invested any further direct funding in open education since the end of the UKOER Programme and in the intervening years, central support for open education has diminished.  Jisc, the organization that coordinated and supported UKOER and once led the field in technology innovation for open education, is no longer active in this space and, as I’m sure many of you will be aware, last year they closed Jorum, the UK’s central OER repository. Selected resources from Jorum have been migrated to the new Jisc Store, which is intended to host both open licensed and paid for content, a move that resulted in some discussion and concerns about open washing when the prototype was launched last year.

As many of you will be aware, Scotland did not participate directly in the UKOER programme, as funding came from the Higher Education Funding Council for England and therefore, quite rightly, only English institutions were eligible to bid.  It’s my understanding that the Scottish Funding Council were invited to contribute to the pot, but for reasons that remain obscure, chose not to.  Some of us, who were involved in supporting the UKOER programme and happened to be based in Scotland, thought that was rather short sighted of SFC so we launched the Open Scotland initiative as a result. I’m not going to say too much about Open Scotland as I suspect many of you will have heard me talk about it before, but just briefly, Open Scotland is a voluntary cross sector initiative that aims to raise awareness of open education, encourage the sharing of open educational resources, and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education. Open Scotland has been supported by a number of organisations over the years, most recently ALT Scotland and the University of Edinburgh.

One of the main outputs of the Open Scotland initiative is the Scottish Open Education Declaration, which is based on the Paris OER Declaration of 2007, but which broadens the scope of the original to include all aspects of open education. And again, I’m sure some of you will have heard me speak about the Declaration before. Open Scotland has been lobbying the Scottish Government since 2013 to encourage them to endorse the principals of the Declaration and recommend the use of open licenses for educational resources produced with Scottish public funding. I’ve been personally involved in leading this initiative and after four years I can stand here with my hand on my heart and say that despite our best efforts we have had next to no influence on government policy.  We have contacted three consecutive Ministers for Education, and although two made vaguely encouraging noises about the Declaration, they had no inclination to support the principals of the Declaration.

I should add at this point that the Scottish Government isn’t completely blind to the concept of open education.  In 2014 the then Cabinet Secretary for Education, Mike Russell,  allocated £1.3 million to the Open University to launch the major Opening Educational Practices in Scotland Project.  That project, which has had considerable success in engaging the third sector in open education, is coming to an end on July this year and some of the team are here at the conference if you want to find out more about this initiative.

The Scottish Government’s lack of interest in open education can be seen at policy level too. In September last year Scot Gov launched their new digital learning and teaching strategy for Scottish schools.  Key themes are closing the attainment gap, developing digital skills, embedding technology across the curriculum, and using digital technology to improve the assessment process. While it’s encouraging that the strategy acknowledges the potential of digital technology to enhance learning and teaching, and equip learners with digital skills, it’s disappointing that it doesn’t acknowledge the significant role that open education can play in achieving these objectives. Similarly, the Government’s “refreshed” Digital Strategy makes no mention of open education, though it does talk about open data and digital education.

And remember the Commonwealth for Learning’s Regional OER Consultation and Survey I mentioned earlier?  Open Scotland liased closely with COL to facilitate Scottish Government participation in this initiative. Again, we had no response, the government did not send a representative to the consultation and to my knowledge they have not participated in the survey either.   ¨ Open Scotland did actually send a representative to the consultation, Joe Wilson attended on our behalf, and in actual fact Joe was the only person who attended from the UK.

To be fair, both the UK and Scottish governments have had other things on their mind recently, but this lack of engagement with international open education initiatives strikes me as being both short sighted and rather depressing.

So why is this?  Why is it that open education generates barely a flicker of interest at government level? In Scotland at least, there is a perception that open education is peripheral to government priorities, primarily because there is a lack of statistical evidence base supporting the impact of open education on learners.

This is not a new issue, many open education practitioners and scholars have highlighted the need for more evidenced based research into the impact of open education. In a challenging talk at the recent Open Science Conference Marco Kalz, UNESCO chair of Open Education at the OUNL, acknowledged that reuse and adaptation are notoriously hard to track and measure, as are direct and indirect effects of OER, and he pointed out, there are no studies that show a direct correlation between OER and innovation. Quoting Sian Bayne and Jeremy Knox’s research at the University of Edinburgh, Marco agreed that “discussions of OER too often tend to optimism and lack of critique” and he argued that the open education field must move from being advocacy driven to become more research driven.

That’s not to say that there is no high quality research into the impact of open education, I’ve already mentioned the work of the Digital Education team at the University of Edinburgh and of course there’s the OER Research Hub at the Open University who do sterling work.  There’s also a lot of good research being undertaken in the US, however much of this focuses on the significant cost savings associated with the adoption of open textbooks. However these figures don’t easily translate across the Atlantic and it has proved much harder to quantify the benefits of open education in sectors that are less reliant on textbooks.  Impressive though the figures are, knowing for example, that Maricopa Community College district saved students $5 million over 5 years isn’t going to cut the ice with education ministers if learners aren’t expected to buy costly textbooks in the first place.

So it’s not so much that there’s no research, its that we need more of it, we need more diverse research and we need research that directly addresses strategic government priorities.   One of the most frustrating things about all this is that we actually have an excellent evidence base for research on the long term impact of open education here in the UK.  The UKOER programme ended in 2014, but very little in depth research or evaluation has been undertake on its impact and outputs. This is primarily because the end of the programme coincided with JISC’s transition from government quango, to not for profit company and its subsequent shift in priorities.   Of course the political and education landscapes have changed radically since the end of the UKOER programme but I still believe there is useful research to be done here. After all, you don’t have to look far to see the continued impact of the programme.  Many people predicted the demise of the OER conference when the HEFCE funding came to and end, and yet here we all are participating in the biggest most diverse OER conference ever and despite all the funding cuts, despite all the political doom and gloom we are making progress.  We may not have had a significant impact on Government policy yet but there are a wealth of open education and OER initiatives going on all over the UK.

Several Higher Education institutions, including the University of Edinburgh[1], have formally adopted OER policies, policies I should add which have their roots in the UKOER programme, and there have been notable successes in the public sector with charities such as the Wellcome Trust and public institutions such as the National Library of Scotland and the British Library taking positive steps to make their collections more open and to support openness at scale. Other organisations such Wikimedia UK and ALT have also stepped in to play an important role in supporting open education policy and practice across the UK. And it’s been really encouraging to see ALT placing openness right at the heart of their new strategy.

Ten years ago the Cape Town Declaration identified a number of barriers to realizing the vision of open education

  • Educators remain unaware of the growing pool of open educational resources.
  • Governments and educational institutions are either unaware or unconvinced of the benefits of open education.
  • Differences among licensing schemes for open resources create confusion and incompatibility.
  • The majority of the world does not yet have access to the computers and networks that are integral to most current open education efforts.

Clearly some of these barriers remain to be overcome and on the evidence of our experience in the UK, I would argue that there is still much to be done to convince governments of the benefits of open education.  Some governments are really starting to get it though.

We may still be struggling to convince the Scottish Government of the benefits of open education but I was delighted to hear just a few days ago, that as a result of the Open Med project the Moroccan Government plans to endorse and adapted version of the Scottish Open Education Declaration making it the first country in Africa to have an open education policy I believe.  It’s perhaps not the kind of impact we envisaged for the Open Scotland initiative but I think it’s a brilliant example of the unexpected, serendipitous aspect of openness and I hope that where Morocco leads, the UK will, eventually, follow.

OER17 – Come and find me!⤴

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Image credit: Taro Taylor, CC-BY-NC, https://flic.kr/p/3pQWP

The OER17 Politics of Open Conference is taking place in London this week, and I can hardly believe it’s been a year since Melissa and I chaired last year’s conference in Edinburgh!  As always, I’m looking forward to catching up with friends from all over the world and meeting some long standing online colleagues irl for the first time.  I’ve got several sessions lined up up over the course of the two days, so if you want to catch me, this is where I’ll be. Come and say hello!

Perspectives on Open Education in a World of Brexit & Trump
Wed, Apr 5 2017, 11:20am – 12:40pm
Panellists: Maha Bali, Lorna Campbell, James Luke, and Martin Weller

Like the Internet itself, the Open Education movement, including OER and OEP, has grown in a world of globalised capitalism that has been dominant in North America and Europe, and indeed, developed and growing economies. The Brexit vote, Trump’s election, and shifts toward nationalist-right parties elsewhere are changing the political landscape. At a minimum, the rhetoric of these movements, both in support and opposition, has altered public discourse and often attitudes toward higher education. These political shifts have complex and multifaceted implications for the open education movement.

This panel aims to stimulate deeper thought beyond our initial reactions to these political movements. We will provide diverse, multiple perspectives on the relationship between Open Education and the political changes represented by Brexit and the Trump election. Many questions arise, including:

  • What challenges do these political movements pose for Open Education? What opportunities?
  • Open Education movement has largely embraced values of inclusiveness, sharing, connectedness, equity, voice, agency, and openness. How might these values be furthered under these new regimes? How might these values be hindered?
  • Will our work in the open education movement change?
  • In what ways can we shape the future of the Open Education Movement?

The Distance Travelled: Reflections on open education policy in the UK since the Cape Town Declaration
Wed, Apr 5 2017, 1:30pm – 2:50pm
Author: Lorna Campbell

Ten years ago the Cape Town Declaration laid the foundations for what it described as the “emerging open education movement” and called on colleagues to come together to commit to the pursuit and promotion of open education and to overcome the barriers to realizing this vision.  Among the barriers the Declaration recognized were “governments and educational institutions that are unaware or unconvinced of the benefits of open education” and it went on to advocate the development of open education policy to ensure that taxpayer-funded educational resources are openly licensed.  Five years later, the Paris OER Declaration 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.

This paper will provide an overview of the advances and mis-steps in open education policy and practice in the UK in the ten years since the Cape Town Declaration, while comparing and contrasting the UK experience with developments elsewhere in Europe and North America. The paper will include a case study on the Scottish Open Education Declaration and the efforts of the Open Scotland initiative to lobby the Scottish Government to endorse the principles of the declaration and adopt open licenses for publicly funded educational content.

Virtually Connecting
Wed, Apr 5 2017
With Martin Hawksey, John Robertson and Lorna Campbell

End of day session, from 1730-1800. With onsite buddy Teresa MacKinnon and virtual buddies Nadine Aboulmagd and Simon Ensor.

Shouting from the Heart 
Thu, Apr 6 2017, 11:40am – 12:40pm
Author: Lorna Campbell

This lightning talk will be a short polemic reflecting on political and personal events that have led me to both question and strengthen my commitment to open education over the last two years.  These include the detention and disappearance of Syrian open knowledge advocate Bassel Khartebil, and the project that created an open book dedicated to his life and work The Cost of Freedom: A Creative Enquiry.  The privilege of co-chairing the OER16 Open Culture Conference. The result of the UK’s European Membership referendum, announced the day after a meeting of European colleagues to discuss how we could work together to join up open education policy and practice across the Europe.  The appointment of the first Gaelic language Wikimedian in Residence by Wikimedia UK and the National Library of Scotland. The surge of horror and shout of rage following the results of the US presidential election.

My response to these disparate, seemingly unconnected events was to write, to blog, to try to find words to make sense of events and my reaction to them, and to reassert my belief that we have a moral responsibility to work together to improve education opportunities for all, not just the privileged few.

I can’t promise this talk will be neutral or balanced, but it will be honest and from the heart, and ultimately it will be open.

EDEN Webinar – How To Be More Open: Advice for Educators and Researchers⤴

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It’s Open Education Week and I’m delighted to be participating in a special EDEN webinar on How To Be More Open: Advice for Educators and Researchers.  I’ll be joining Fabio Nascimbeni, Catherine Cronin and Chrissi Nerantzi to discuss a range of questions including:

  • Why should I be more open in my practice and profession?
  • How do you practice openness (as researcher, teacher, student)?
  • How do we deal with the “publish or perish” reality?
  • What if my institution doesn’t allow me to be open?
  • I want to be more “open” as a teacher, researcher, or student. Where do I start? Advice from panelists.
  • What platforms/environments do you recommend in supporting my practice as an open academic?

The webinar, facilitated by EDEN Vice-President Lisa Marie Blaschke, takes place on  Wednesday 29th March, 14:00-15:00 CET and you can register here.

Crossing the Field Boundaries: Open Science, Open Data & Open Education⤴

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Last week I was invited to speak at the International Open Science Conference in Berlin which this year had a special focus on OER.  My talk featured a case study of the University of Edinburgh’s Geosicence Outreach and Engagement Course so I’d like to thank Colin Graham and all those involved in the course for allowing me to present their inspirational work.

This talk focuses on the interface between OER, open data and open science and our experience at the University of Edinburgh of promoting open education through the School of GeoSciences Outreach and Engagement course.

The title of this paper, “Crossing the field boundaries”, comes not from the domain of GeoScicences though, but from Maryam Mirzakhani, professor of mathematics at Stanford University and the first female winner of the Fields Medal.  In a 2014 interview Maryam said

“I like crossing the imaginary boundaries people set up between different fields—it’s very refreshing. There are lots of tools, and you don’t know which one would work. It’s about being optimistic and trying to connect things.”

A Tenacious Explorer of Abstract Surfaces, Quanta Magazine, August 2014

I am not a mathematician, or a scientist, but I do have some experience of crossing field boundaries, and since open education is all about breaking down boundaries and cutting across fields, this seems like a nice metaphor to hang this talk on.

I’ve worked in open education technology for a long time now, but like most education technologists my background is not originally in either education or technology. In my case I started out as an archaeologist.  I studied archaeology at the University of Glasgow and after working there as a field worker and material sciences technician for a number of years, I decided to cross over into another field, and by rather circuitous routes I found myself working in open education technology.  Over the intervening years I’ve developed a strong personal commitment to openness in education, and I firmly believe that we have a moral and ethical responsibility to open access to the outputs of publicly funded education, research and science.

We’ve already heard a lot about the benefits of OER over the last two days so I’m not going to labour the point, however I just want to highlight this quote from the Scottish Open Education Declaration as it neatly encapsulates the affordances of OER:

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. In addition, 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.

Scottish Open Education Declaration

Institutions are already being encouraged to adopt open research policies and to publish publicly funded research outputs under open licences; similar policies and initiatives are required for open educational resources. Although open access, open education and open data have all made significant progress in recent years, there has been a tendency for these domains to progress in parallel with little sign of convergence. In the UK, Research Council mandates may have had a positive impact on open access and open research data, however the connection has yet to be made to open education and as a result there is a tendency to end up with “open silos”.  Indeed open access mandates may even have a negative impact on open education, as institutions focus their efforts and resources on meeting these requirements, rather than on ensuring their teaching and learning materials are appropriately licensed and shared online as OER.  So while it’s great that institutions are now thinking about how they can link their open research data with open access scholarly works, we also need to focus attention on linking open data to open education.

While the benefits of open data are widely recognised in relation to scientific and scholarly research, open data also has considerable value in the context of teaching and learning.  Many governments, non-governmental organisations and research centres are already producing large volumes of open data sets that have the potential to be used as open educational resources. Scenario based learning involving messy, real world data sets can help students to develop critical data literacy and analytical skills. Using open data introduces an invaluable element of realism and complexity as the data is flawed and inconsistent.  Students come up against challenges that it would be difficult to reproduce artificially and, as a result, they learn to deal with the kind of problems they will encounter in the real world.  And perhaps more importantly, working with real world open data from real governments and communities doesn’t just help students to develop data literacy skills, it also helps to develop citizenship, social responsibility and community engagement.

In an influential report by the Open Knowledge Open Education Working Group, Javiera Atenas and Leo Havemann noted that

Educators who make use of Open Data in teaching and learning encourage students to think as researchers, as journalists, as scientists, and as policy makers and activists. They also provide a meaningful context for gaining experience in research workflows and processes, as well as learning good practices in data management, analysis and reporting.

Open Data as Open Educational Resources: Case studies of emerging practice, Javiera Atenas & Leo Havemann (Eds)

Despite these acknowledged benefits, there is still a tendency to conceptualise OER as what Atenas and Havemann describe as “educator-produced learning materials” – resources created by teachers for use by students.  However if we simply replicate existing academic modes of production through open education, then we’re missing a trick.  One of the most important aspects of openness is the ability to break down boundaries and cut across fields.  So I want to present a case study from the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinbrugh that does just that.

Open knowledge, open access and open education are central to the University of Edinburgh’s Strategic Vision. In support of this vision, the University host a range of open initiatives and services including an Open Knowledge Network, an Open Research Repository, an Open Data Repository, a Wikimedian in Residence, a Citizen Science and Crowdsourced Data and Evidence Network, open archives and collections, a wide range of MOOCs, and Open.Ed a one stop shop providing access to the University’s open educational resources.

The University’s vision for open educational resources builds on three strands:

  • The history of the Edinburgh Settlement.
  • Excellent education and research collections.
  • Traditions of the Enlightenment and the University’s civic mission.

The University has established an OER Service that provides support frameworks to enable staff to share OER created as a routine part of their work, and to find and use high quality teaching materials developed within and beyond the University.

The service showcases Edinburgh at it’s best, highlighting the highest quality learning and teaching; identifying collections of learning materials to be published online for flexible use, and enabling the discovery of these materials to enhance the University’s reputation.

And as a contribution to the University’s civic mission Edinburgh is opening access to its treasures, making available collections of unique resources to promote health, economic and cultural well-being; digitizing and sharing major collections of unique archives and museum resources to encourage public engagement with learning, study and research.

In order to ensure Edinburgh’s OER Vision is sustainable and supported across the institution, the University has an accompanying OER Policy that encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience and to help colleagues make informed decisions about creating and using open educational resources in support of the University’s OER Vision.

One of the key aspects of Edinburgh’s open strategic vision is to engage with and benefit communities outwith the institution.  The university is not alone in this; there are moves towards increasing community engagement right across the higher education and research sector.  At the same time, universities are rethinking how degree programmes are structured and are moving beyond traditional knowledge based courses in order to accommodate self directed learning, enable learning for life, empowering students to co-create their own education and build student capital.

initiative that does just that is the School of Geosciences Outreach and Engagement Course developed by the Geoscience Outreach Team. (list members on slide). This optional project based course for final year Honours and taught Masters students, has been running for a number of years and attracts students from a range of degree programmes including Geology, Ecological and Environmental Sciences, Geophysics, Geography and Archaeology.  Over the course of two semesters, students design and undertake an outreach project that communicates some element of the field of GeoSciences outside the university community.  Students have the opportunity to work with a wide range of clients including schools, museums, outdoor centres, science centres, and community groups, to design and deliver resources for science engagement. These resources can include classroom teaching materials, leaflets, websites, smartphone/tablet applications, community events, presentations or materials for museums and visitor centres. Students may work on project ideas suggested by the client, but they are also encouraged to develop their own ideas. Project work is led independently by the student and supervised and mentored by the course team and the client.

This approach delivers significant benefits not just to students and staff, but also to the clients and the University.

Students have the opportunity to work in new and challenging environments, acquiring a range of transferable skills that enhance their employability. They also gain experience of science outreach, public engagement, teaching and learning, and knowledge transfer while at the same time developing communication, project and time management skills.

Staff and postgraduate tutors benefit from disseminating and communicating their work to wider audiences, adding value to their teaching and funded research programmes, supporting knowledge exchange and wider dissemination of scientific research.

The client gains a product that can be reused and redeveloped, new partnerships are formed, new education resources created, and knowledge and understanding of a wide range of scientific topics is disseminated to learners, schools and the general public.

The University benefits by mainstreaming community engagement, and embedding it within the curriculum.  The course also provides the opportunity to promote collaboration and interdisciplinarity across the University and helps to forge relationships with clients.

In the words of GeoSciences Brian Cameron, MBE:

 “the University and the students create a legacy of knowledge transfer and cooperation that benefits all.”

The Geosciences Outreach and Engagement course has proved to be hugely popular with both students and clients.  The course has received widespread recognition and a significant number of schools and other universities are exploring how they might adopt the model.

Here’s just a few quotes from students who have taken the course;

“It has been good to take my learning out into the community and give something back”

“By taking this course, not only was I, as the student, able to learn about the values and excitement of public engagement with other disciplines, but I also developed a working tool for further scientific engagement for a new audience.” (Jane Robb)

“Geoscience Outreach and Engagement is one of the most interesting courses I have undertaken in my 5 years at Edinburgh. Not only do I get the opportunity to find new and exciting ways to inform people of all ages about Geosciences, I’m also learning valuable skills to enhance my future career after university. This course has taught me that everyone has a different way of learning, and instead of following one strict path, we should expand our ideas on how to effectively communicate science to the general public.” (Rebecca Astbury)

Feedback from the clients was equally enthusiastic:

“The student has done a wonderful job and we now have a new resource that we can use for years to come” (Class teacher)

“We have appreciated the joint work with the School of GeoSciences and the experience has given me a new avenue in my own teaching to explore vis-à-vis practical hands-on experiments. S1 classes all did a practical demonstration of the erosion processes in rivers for example.” (Class teacher)

“She was an excellent ambassador not just for the university but for women in science and I feel she set a good example for a few of the girls in the class who are embarking upon geography and earth science studies and who may well now add geology to their subject choices. ” (Class teacher)

A key element of the Geosciences Outreach and Engagement Course is to develop resources with a legacy that can be reused by the client and developed and disseminated further for use by other communities and organisations.  The University is now taking this one step further by repurposing some of these materials to create open educational resources.   Last year we recruited an Open Content Creation intern, undergraduate Physics student Martin Tasker, whose job it was to take some of the materials created by the Geoscience students, make sure everything in those resources could be released under open license and then share them in places where they could be found and reused by other teachers and learners.

So here for example is a resource on sea level variation developed by student Roseanne Smith.  The resource covers glaciation, global warming, and isostasy and it includes a lesson plan, a PowerPoint presentation, printable photographs and questions, a student workbook, and a timeline to illustrate geological timescales.  The course is designed for students learning Geography at third and fourth level of the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence and it can be downloaded under a CC BY Share alike license from Open.Ed and TES. And there are other resources of this kind.

One of the things that was really inspirational about this initiative is that as part of his internship, our student was asked to reflect on his experience of the project and what he learned from it, and I think it’s worth taking a little time to listen to Martin’s thoughts.

This first quote is taken from a blog post our student wrote at the start of his internship where he talks about how he had already engaged with OER.  Before becoming an undergraduate, he had looked at MOOCs and OERs from various universities to find out more about subjects and course he was interested in.

“Open education has played such an integral part of my life so far, and has given me access to knowledge that would otherwise have been totally inaccessible to me. It has genuinely changed my life, and likely the lives of many others. This freedom of knowledge can allow us to tear down the barriers that hold people back from getting a world class education – be those barriers class, gender or race. Open education is the future, and I am both proud of my university for embracing it, and glad that I can contribute even in a small way. Because every resource we release could be a life changed. And that makes it all worth it.”

A Student’s Perspective on Open Education, Martin Tasker

So that was the place where our student intern started out form, he was obviously every much on board with open education and OER right from the start.   And this second quote is from his final blog post “Wrapping up my time as open content intern”

“Open Education is a large part of the reason I’m at Edinburgh studying physics, and I firmly believe that it is one of the keys to widening participation in education in a meaningful way. The proliferation of the internet among all classes in society means that a savvy university can reach those that would previously have had little access to education beyond their school years. And with our work in OERs, we can hopefully feed back some of the expertise of our academics into the classroom, raising the standard of teaching and taking some of the pressure off extremely overworked teachers.”

Wrapping Up: My Time as an Open Content Curator Intern, Martin Tasker

One of the things I really like about these two quotes is that, I have worked in open education for over ten years now but I don’t think I could have articulated any more clearly why open education and OER is so important. The Geosciences Outreach and Engagement course provides an excellent example not only of community engagement and knowledge exchange up also of involving students in the co-creation of their learning experience more widely.

Additional References

International Open Science Conference⤴

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This week I’m looking forward to presenting an invited talk on OER at the International Open Science Conference in Berlin.

My talk, Crossing the Field Boundaries will explore the interface between open education, open data and open science. The talk will highlight the Open Knowledge Open Education Group‘s influential study of Open Data as OER by Javiera Atenas and Leo Havemann, and using examples from the University of Edinburgh’s GeoScience Outreach and Engagement Course will highlight how student created open educational resources can be used to widen participation and encourage knowledge transfer and community engagement in science education.  I’ll post my paper and slides when I get back later in the week.

Thanks to the conference organisers for making these cute twitter cards!