One of the things I’ll be looking into as part of my new role is key performance indicators for open educational resources. At the University of Edinburgh we have a Vision and Policy for OER that encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience, enrich the University and the sector, showcase the highest quality learning and teaching, and make a significant collection of unique learning materials available to Scotland and the world.
Quantitative indicators are relatively simple to measure in terms of OER produced. It’s not difficult to gather web stats for page views and downloads from the various platforms used to host and disseminate our OERs. For example our open educational resources on TES have been viewed over 2,000 times, and downloaded 934 times, a Wikipedia article on Mary Susan MacIntosh, created during a UoE editathon for International Women’s Day has had 9,030 page views, and UoE MOOCs have reached two and a quarter million learners.
Measuring OER reuse, even within the institution, is much less straightforward. To get an of idea of where and how OERs are being reused you need to track the resources. This isn’t necessarily difficult to do, Cetis did some research on technical approaches for OER tracking during the UKOER Programme, but it does raise some interesting ethical issues, We also discovered during our UKOER research that once authors create OER and release them into the wild, they tend not to be motivated to collect data on their reuse, even when actively encouraged.
There is also the issue of what actually constitutes re-use. Often reuse isn’t as straightforward as taking an OER, adapting is and incorporating it into your course materials. Reuse is often more subtle than that. For example, if you are inspired by an idea, a concept or an activity you ome across in an OER, but you don’t actually download and use the resource itself, does that constitute reuse? And if it does, how do we create KPIs to measure such reuse? Can it even be measured in a meaningful way?
And then there’s the issue of qualitative indicators and measuring impact. How do we assess whether our OERs really are enhancing the quality of the student experience and enriching the University and the sector? One way to gather qualitative information is to go out and talk to people and we already have some great testimonies from UoE students who have engaged with UoE OER internships and Wikimedia in the Classroom projects. Another way to measure impact is to look beyond the institution, so for example 23 Things lornwas awarded the LILAC Credo Digital Literacy Award 2017 and has also been adapted and adopted by the Scottish Social Services Council, and the aforementioned article on Mary Susan McIntosh featured on the front page of English Wikipedia.
I know many other institutions and organisations have grappled with the issue of how to measure the impact of open education and OER. In the US, where OER often equates to open textbooks, the focus tends to be on cost savings for students, however this is not a particularly useful measure in UK HE where course are less reliant on astronomically priced texbooks. So what indicators can we use to measure OER performance? I’d be really interested to hear how other people have approached this challenge, so if you have any comments or suggestions please do let me know. Thanks!
Standard Measures, CC BY SA 2.0, Neil Cummings, https://flic.kr/p/aH8CPV
In 1947, after the devastation of World War II, the founding vision was to reunite people through great art and “provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit”. In these historic early moments, people overcame the post-war darkness, division and austerity in a blooming of Festival Spirit.
“The International Festival would focus on common ground, on undisputed greatness and in so doing would make itself a safe place to come together. This was most symbolically achieved with the reuniting of Jewish conductor Bruno Walter with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.”
“LiberatEd is an initiative created by Edinburgh University Students’ Association and led by Black and Minority Ethnic (BME), Disabled, LGBT+ and Women students from across the University, aimed at challenging the academic establishment to become more diverse, more inclusive, and more critical of historically dominant narratives.”
“We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.” (Charles Mackay – Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds)
I write you from the eye of the storm. It’s festival season again in Edinburgh. If you’ve never been here in August it’s hard to describe. Our city is transformed into a palace of wonder and delight. Every pub is simultaneously an art gallery / comedy venue / popup flophouse. Kitchen cupboards are rented as theatres. For one month streetfood doesn’t mean 2 seagulls fighting over a chip. Comedy stars flock to Edinburgh like competitive sheep shearers to the Golden Shears. A garden square in the heart of the New Town magically turns into a world-class book festival. We illuminate the city, and everyone thinks it’s totally reasonable to go see Jane Austen improv in a giant upside down inflatable cow-shaped theatre.
Locals are marked out by their scowls, tutting, and general frustration with not being able to walk anywhere in the city at speed. Don’t talk about flyers.
Every year it seems too overwhelming. Every year I promise myself some restraint. Not to overcommit. It’s going well this year. If by “well” you mean totally bat-shit-crazy like a cat in a field of nip.
This is my personal reflection on the devastating news that Syrian open knowledge advocate Bassel Khartabil was executed by the Syrian government in 2015.
Qasr al Hallabat, Jordan, CC BY Lorna M. Campbell
Some of you will already know that before I worked in open education I used to be an archaeologist. My main interest was the North Atlantic Iron Age and I spent a lot of time working on excavations in the Outer Hebrides where I was born and brought up. However I also spent one memorable summer working in the South Hauran Desert in Jordan near the Syrian Border. It was a bit of a life changing experience for me, I fell quietly in love with the Middle East and when I got back to Scotland I realised that I was stuck in a rut with my job so I decided to leave archaeology while I still loved the subject and turn my hand to something else instead.
By rather circuitous routes that something else turned out to be open education, and it’s something which I have had a deep personal and ethical commitment to for over ten years now. I never lost my love of archaeology though and I always regretted that while I was in Jordan we didn’t cross the border into Syria to visit Palmyra and Damascus. We had one week free at the end of our fieldwork project and it was a toss up between Petra or Syria. Petra won. Years later I watched in horror as Syria descended into civil war and Palmyra became a battleground. Tragic as the destruction of Palmyra has been, it pales into significance beside the huge number of lives that have been destroyed in the conflict.
Consequently, when I first came across the New Palmyra project I was really inspired. Here was a project that used openness to capture the cultural and archaeological heritage of Syria before it’s lost forever. What a fabulous idea. I vaguely noted the name of Bassel Khartabil among the people involved but at the time I knew nothing more about him
“Bassel Khartabil (Safadi)” by Joi Ito – http://www.flickr.com/photos/joi/4670781482CC BY 2.0
I never met Bassel, but his story touched me deeply. Here was a man who lost his liberty, and we now know lost his life, for doing the very same job that I am doing now. This is why openness, open knowledge, open education, open advocacy matter.
I was on holiday in Brittany when I heard about Bassel’s death via Catherine Cronin on twitter and I was deeply, deeply saddened by the news. I still am, and I’m still struggling to express this in words. At the moment, I’m not sure I can put it better than the words I used at the end of my OER17 lightning talk Shouting from the Heart.
The plight of Bassel Khartabil is a sobering reminder of the risks of openness, proof that open is always political, but it’s also shows why we need openness more than ever, because openness is inextricably bound up with freedom. And in the words of another older declaration, the Declaration of Arbroath.
It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
The view from the office isn’t bad…, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell
Now that I’ve cleared the inevitable post-holiday e-mail backlog I’m ready to start a new role as Senior Service Manager – Learning Technology within Education Design and Engagement (EDE) at the University of Edinburgh. I’ve actually been transitioning into this role for several months now and have been working closely with colleagues in EDE, where the OER Service is based, for some time now. For the last year I’ve been working as OER Liaison – Open Scotland in the Learning Teaching and Web directorate within Information Services. This role involved co-chairing the OER 16 Open Culture Conference together with Melissa Highton, promoting the Open Scotland initiative and the Scottish Open Education Declaration, disseminating the University of Edinburgh’s open education activities, working with our Wikimedian in Residence, and liaising with other international open education initiatives and organisations. Open education will still be central to my new role but I’ll be more focused on embedding open education and OER within the university. In addition to continuing with some of my existing activities I’ll be working more closely with the OER Service and getting more involved in supporting institutional programmes and initiatives and liaising with other departments within the University, such as the Institute of Academic Development, to ensure that openness and OER are embedded across the institution. I’ll also be wrapping up the two IS Innovation Fund Projects that I’ve been managing recently and disseminating their outputs. And of course I’ll still be actively involved with the Association for Learning Technology, Wikimedia UK, and the Open Knowledge Open Education Working Group. I’ll continue to share my experiences here on my blog and on twitter, so watch this space!
Having spent the morning indulging myself in reading a bunch of blogs on the web I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I can’t really keep up, and the distance and the gap to where I am is immense. I’ve mostly been reading back through the archives of people who have been blogging for years. It’s been a really valuable exercise in better understanding the lines of thought behind what those people are writing about at the moment.
I also feel pretty dumb by comparison now.
However, it’s given me real pause for thought in terms of where I want to go with my own foray into blog-land. It wasn’t really ever a consideration to do anything but host my blog myself. I wanted the freedom to do whatever with this space, but I am still working that out. My professional identity is multi-faceted – between paid employment and volunteering work – and how much of my personal life I want to be able to share remains unclear. What I am weighing up most heavily is the implications of putting anything I write into a public space. Reading back over some other blogs there’s a really rich and varied tapestry of topics, thoughts and opinions there, but there’s also strong evidence of privilege. I can’t imagine being able to write so openly on such a wide range of topics. Don’t get me wrong, I know I have privilege of my own – first world problems and all that – but it’s still hard. Imposter syndrome is a thing. Being a woman in IT is a thing. Considering how other people in my story would feel if I wrote about them is a thing. Fundamentally I believe that anything I put out there publicly moves beyond my control immediately and even if I curate my archive over time, become a serial deleter even, it’s too late. Calculating the potential future weight of my words is a bit exhausting.
With that in mind, I’m going to try catch 2 shows in the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas series (part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe). Both by colleagues of mine. See what I mean about an overwhelming abundance of smart people out there. Hopefully I’ll have some more insight.
One of the reasons that I still default to pencil and paper for a lot of my sense-making writing is that I write my thoughts and an ongoing commentary on them at the same time. I annotate a lot. My marginalia is huge.
I’m enjoying the blogging that I’ve been doing, but I’m not enjoying that each blog post is such a static thing once written. Actually I’m finding it pretty frustrating. I want to be able to revisit a post and annotate it with additional thoughts – to note other sources of more info, to make links to other things, or to generally add another layer of critique. I don’t want to change the post itself, just to be able to continue overlaying more thoughts to it as time passes.
Ideally I’d like to be able to do this within WordPress itself, so that I don’t loose that stuff should an external service suddenly disappear. The layer of commentary and marginalia is as vital to me as the main body of the thing.
I’ve had a look at inline comments on WordPress and generally solutions seem to be a reworking of the existing comments functionality on the platform – which isn’t what I want because I still want other people to be able to add comments (actually I want to be able to annotate them too – I’m greedy like that).
So far I haven’t found a good solution, so I’ve signed up for Hypothes.is and installed the plugin on my site so that I have something at least. I’m continuing to be brave and I’ve made my annotations public so others shouldn’t need to login to see them. Let’s see how well this works…
The more I read, the more convinced I am that this NGDLE tale is the Emperor’s New Clothes over again. “Zen like emptiness” anyone? And Jim and Brian’s blog posts both accurately identify what risks being stolen away from us (clue: data). A colleague reminded me of the inevitability of the hype cycle and we are probably at the zenith with this particular one, about to plummet down the slope. Whilst VLE vendors double down on their current positions, and everyone else discovers that this is harder than they thought, I want to expand out on a little of my own thinking under some loosely connected headings for future posterity. We can all laugh together later…
My own concerns are that this current vision for an NGDLE is fundamentally limited in scope and vision. That sounds quite strong, but I’m sticking with it. Until I change my mind.
Absence of student voices
“As part of this research effort, EDUCAUSE conducted a series of conversations with experts to gain insight into the limitations of the current tools and seek ideas for shaping new learning environments. In seven such discussions, we spoke with more than 70 educators, campus-based technologists, and developers from the private sector. Specific voices from the conversations are found in quotes throughout this paper” (1)
This vision for next generation learning environments has from all that I can see, been conceived of by people who are probably at least one generation away from the students of today, talking about what the students of a future generation might encounter. We are all kidding ourselves if we think that our understanding of what it is to be a student today is in any way authentic. Although the report draws upon ECAR research that includes student survey data, no students appear to have been in any of the blue-skies conversational spaces. I hear a fair amount of concern about the extent to which meeting student satisfaction targets is driving the agenda on our campuses, but to exclude students from the conversation entirely introduces a heavy bias from the outset. If the intention of this vision is to provide a more learner-centred environment then the voice of the majority group of learners needs to be incorporated. We need to admit students into the conversation about the development of learning technology (and technology more generally) on our campuses. Far too often we speak for our students instead of giving them a platform to speak for themselves.
Last September I started a major project, with a huge procurement component and we made the decision to include a student on the procurement team. I don’t mean we let some students score the supplier demos (we did that too), I mean that we had a student sitting at the negotiating table along with our senior team, meeting and quizzing each of the suppliers on equal terms. We didn’t always agree with her perspective, she didn’t always agree with ours and there were compromises all round. The overall outcome was better for her being there though. She brought the experience of being a student right now which was enlightening, and she brought an increased level of accountability to the process by not giving us an easy out. I see nothing like that in the production of this vision or in much of the subsequent analysis.
Only what can be wired together technically
“Finding: Interoperability is the linchpin of the NGDLE. The ability to integrate tools and exchange content and learning data enables everything else.” (1)
I’m never going to argue against better and easier interoperability, but my overriding concern with the current definition of the NGDLE is that it fetishes technology to the exclusion of broader thinking about the digital. It is absolutely concerned only with what can be wired together at a technical level. The concept of a Next Generation Digital Learning Environment should be larger than this and admit those things online that can be wired together at a conceptual level. It should also include some conceptual space for things students use that we don’t know about or need to know about. There are significant risks here if we don’t: We will marginalize creative and valuable academic practice, including supporting risky practice, and we continue to neglect the potential to develop truly useful digital literacy skills in our students.
One example in my own context would be the work that we do supporting the use of Wikipedia in the classroom. I defy anyone to explain to me how learning to write for Wikipedia wouldn’t be an excellent example of working in a digital learning environment (I’ll admit it’s not next generation in terms of technology, but actually that’s kind of the point that I’m trying to make) and I absolutely don’t see why we would need to hardwire Wikipedia into a learning environment beyond providing a URL and some scaffolding for the activity students are undertaking. There are valuable lessons in our Wikipedia activities about working with knowledge on the open web that include how you construct your own identity and how you negotiate and conduct yourself within a community. The ‘realness’ that our students enjoy and find motivating is in no small part bound up in the nature of what they are doing and that it lies outside the system, outside the institution in the ‘real world’.
The open web is a thing. Our students will use services on the open web explicitly because they want to work outside of institutional systems, or because they have their own ways of working that they brought with them, or because their finances or circumstances are constrained and they’re just doing what works, or because we gave them their own domain and encouraged them to. Whilst we don’t need to know all the detail, neither should we turn a blind eye. If we admit that all these things are part of the wider NGDLE our students experience then we also have an obligation to consider what kind of support and advice we can provide to help make smart and informed choices.
Part of teaching students digital identity has to be teaching them to be anonymous within the tools they will use outside college.
Educause Review calls for us to be the architects of the NGDLE. I am one of those architects – I have 20+ years of experience building enormous complex systems that integrate things (distributed EPOS systems; enterprise portals; identity and access management systems; edTech). It’s hard, and once you’ve done it is when the real work begins. Because maintenance. Maintenance costs are a stone-cold killer. I’m not talking about the technical integrations, though that’s hard enough. I’m talking about the reality that each LEGO brick in this NGDLE architecture is a moving part (must be Technic LEGO), and they’re all moving at different speeds, shaped by different agendas, communities and commercial realities. Managing the information flow, the release schedule, the updates to training and documentation when change happens – this stuff isn’t sexy innovation, but it’s over 50% of what any team will need to do just to keep the lights on, and it’s the work that is constantly being squeezed to free up more resource for “innovation”. Remember too that our institutions are in the eye of the storm managing this complexity, because they and they alone carry all the risks around failure. When components fail, or change in ways that break workflows, the student experience suffers and our academic colleagues lives are made harder. High maintenance costs and risky student experience just isn’t something that institutions find easy to stomach.
Talking about this makes for a rubbish conference presentation though. So we rarely do.
Temporary autonomous zones
“The TAZ is like an uprising which does not engage directly with the State, a guerilla operation which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself to re-form elsewhere/elsewhen, before the State can crush it.” (2)
Very little in this vision for an NGDLE deals with issues of consent and control around data and the potential for the chilling effects of increased data collection. Jim has covered this well in his blog post already, but I’d like to push this element on a little further and pick up again on some of the ideas in Amy Collier’s Digital Sanctuary blog post – particularly our habit of hoarding data. Amy highlighted my institution’s Data Protection Policy as a model of good practice, but to me it looks pretty normal. The European environment is very different and generally data protection regulation is seen a public good, rather than interference from government. In May 2018 the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect and it will persist beyond the enormous act of self-harm that is the UK Brexit. Our different data protection environment already makes life fun when negotiating with non-European vendors and I wonder about the extent to which it will influence the direction of travel of the market in the future versus the extent to which some tools and components just won’t be possible for us to use.
“The biggest change is that institutions will be held far more accountable for the data they hold. As well as records of what personal data exist within the organisation, the GDPR requires a documented understanding of why information is held, how it is collected, when it will be deleted or anonymised, and who may gain access to it.”
“The GDPR introduces new requirements on the way new information-handling processes and systems are developed. Data protection must be designed in from the start; systems must have default settings that protect privacy.” (3)
I’ve also seen a flurry of tweets over the last few days espousing the benefits and values of small simple tools, which is pretty exciting. I’m particularly fond of Alan Levine and Brian Lamb’s SPLOTs (a.k.a. the acronym that defies definition) as they are both simple to use and make a positive principal out of not collecting more data than is needed. JISC also toyed with an interesting idea when they talked about the “pop-up VLE” as part of a recent co-design consultation. There seems to be real enthusiasm and creativity around these ideas at the moment, but I think I mentioned already that maintenance is a thing. In my experience the quickly hacked together doo-da that does a neat small thing at point of need has a nasty habit of becoming the thing on the server 3 years later that nobody knows about and just won’t die.
With that in mind, I have been re-visiting Hakim Bey’s concept of the Temporary Autonomous Zone, and whilst I probably can’t subscribe to the full breadth of his anarchist vision in my professional practice, it has got me very interested in the idea of simple, pop-up tools that gather minimal data and delete themselves.
I’m increasingly interested in exploring the idea of an NGDLE which includes a suite of small, simple, lightly managed tools that are easy for our academic colleagues and students to pop-up an instance of and use, but which by their very nature are designed to self-destruct. They may or may not collect and share data, they may be less or more well integrated with other systems, they key thing is that they are explicitly temporary zones. Temporary could be a day, a week, a year, several years, it should be configurable, but all of these instances of tools should have an expiry date. We need to think from the very start about how to keep our environment clean and get into the habit of putting our rubbish in the bin when we are finished. I’d also be interested to see whether “ephemerality by design” changes behaviour. Hopefully I am going to have an opportunity in the next 12 months to put some of these ideas into practice within my projects…watch this space
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.