Tag Archives: OpenEdFeed

Changing Perspectives on OER⤴

from

In case you missed it, this blog post outlining my OER18 keynote appeared on the conference website last week.

Being invited to keynote is always a privilege, but I was particularly honoured to be asked to present at this year’s OER18 Conference in Bristol, not least because I’ll be following in the footsteps of the three inspirational women who presented last year’s keynotes; Diana ArceMaha Bali and Lucy Crompton-Reid. You see, OER is my conference, I’ve attended every single one since the conference launched at the University of Cambridge in 2010, and in 2016 I had the pleasure of chairing the conference at the University of Edinburgh with my inspiring colleague Melissa Highton.

To my mind, the success of the OER Conference has always been founded on its willingness to examine and renegotiate what “OER” means, and this is one of the themes I’ll be exploring in my keynote.  And by that, I don’t mean defining the specific attributes of what constitutes an Open Educational Resource, I mean critically reflecting on what openness means in relation to education at different points in time and from different perspectives, because as Catherine Cronin reminds us in Open Education, Open Questions, “openness is a constantly negotiated space”.   Open education looks very different to each and every one of us, and our perspective will depend entirely on where we are standing and the privilege of our vantage point.  And of course it is inevitable that our perspective will change as our roles and careers develop over time.

Gabi Whitthaus has already written a thoughtful personal reflection on her journey through the OER conferences and, like Gabi, the changing themes and fluctuating interpretations of “OER” have influenced and reflected my own development and perspective as an open education practitioner over the last decade.

In my current role I have the privilege to work with a great team of people at the OER Service at the University of Edinburgh, an institution with a strong commitment to openness and a vision for OER.  This commitment is squarely aligned to the University’s mission to provide the highest quality learning and teaching environment for the greater wellbeing of our students, and to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing. During my keynote I’ll be exploring some of the ways that the university encourages learners to engage with and co-create open education through a wide range of initiatives including internships, playful learning activities, Wikipedia in the classroom assignments, and outreach and engagement courses.

I strongly believe that engaging learners and equipping them with the digital skills necessary to participate in open education is key to ensuring that OER and open education is collaborative, diverse, accessible and participatory. Because ultimately that is what openness is about.  Openness is not just about attributes, definitions and licences, openness is also about creativity, access, equality, and inclusion and ultimately it’s about expanding access to education, supporting social inclusion and enabling learners to become fully engaged digital citizens.

When the conference first launched eight years ago, I approached open education and OER from a rather different perspective.  In 2010 the JISC / HEA UKOER Programme was well underway and the first OER keynote was presented by JISC’s Executive Secretary Malcolm Read.  At the time, I was working for the JISC Innovation Support Centre CETIS, where I led the team that provided strategic and technical support to the UKOER Programme.  My focus then was on how we could harness lightweight web technologies and new Web 2.0 platforms to create a sustainable OER infrastructure without relying too heavily on the monolithic systems and formal education technology standards mandated by previous programmes.

Two years later in 2012 I sat in the audience with my colleague Joe Wilson, then Head of New Ventures at SQA, and listened to Sir John Daniel, talking about the UNESCO / COL initiative Fostering Governmental Support for OER Internationally, one of the outputs of which was the influential Paris OER Declaration. In a rather roundabout way, that keynote and the subsequent Declaration inspired us to launch the Open Scotland initiative and, together with colleagues from across the open education community, to draft the Scottish Open Education Declaration. And it was through this initiative that I started to re-frame my perspective on OER and open education in terms of personal ethics and the wider policy landscape.

2012 was also the year that the UKOER Programme came to an end and the education technology sector in the UK faced an unprecedented and prolonged period of change and restructuring. Many predicted the demise of the OER Conference at that time, particularly when open education discourse was increasingly becoming dominated by commercial MOOC providers and their promise to disrupt! education.  However, far from being swept side by the avalanche, the OER conference continued to thrive and to push the boundaries of open education to incorporate open pedagogy, policy, research and practice, and when ALT stepped up to support the event in 2015, its future was assured.

While it is crucial that we continue to critically negotiate and reassess openness, it is also important that we don’t lose sight of some of the fundamentals of open education.  And I would argue that one of those fundamentals is that publicly funded educational resources should be freely and openly available to the public.  As open education discourse shifts to focus on open policy, open practice, open textbooks, one might be forgiven for thinking that open educational resources are done and dusted, but that is very far from the case and this is another theme that I want to expand on in my keynote.

In addition to expanding its focus, the OER Conference has also made real and tangible efforts to expand its community, and to ensure that the event is diverse, inclusive, accessible and welcoming.  The conference has become increasingly international and has gone to significant lengths to ensure that it really is open and accessible to as diverse a community as possible.  ALT is to be applauded for its commitment to providing a wide range of channels and opportunities to enable colleagues to participate in the conference virtually and remotely, and the event has not shied away from asking difficult questions about who is included and excluded from open spaces and conceptualisations of openness.

One perspective that has sometimes been missing from open education discourse is the voice of the learner.  That is not to say that the OER Conference has not made an effort to ensure that the student voice is included and represented.  Two officers of the National Union of Students have presented keynotes; Toni Pearce at OER13 (standing in for Rachel Wenstone) and Wendy Carr at OER14.  However I’m particularly encouraged to see that this year’s conference is squarely addressing learner inclusion by focussing on how open education and open practice can support learners, foster learner diversity and inclusion, and help students develop important digital literacy skills.

At the University of Edinburgh, students have always played a key role in shaping the institution’s vision of openness.  Together with senior colleagues within Information Services, it was the Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) that provided the initial impetus for the development of an OER policy at the university, and in 2014 EUSA’s Vice President for Education, Dash Sekhar, attended the conference in Cardiff along with colleagues Melissa Highton and Stuart Nicol to talk about this student-led OER policy.  I’m delighted that EUSA’s current  Vice President for Education, Bobi Archer, will be attending the conference this year, and several of my Information Services colleagues will be coming along to present papers highlighting innovative and creative examples of student engagement across the university. Edinburgh’s vision of openness encourages both staff and students to engage with the use and creation of OER and open knowledge, to enhance the quality of the student experience while at the same time making a significant, contribution to the cultural and digital commons.

Over the years, my own journey as an open education practitioner has followed a similar trajectory to the OER Conferences; my focus has shifted from national technology strategy, to institutional policy and practice, and personal ethics and politics.  One thing that has not changed however is that I still believe passionately that open education and OER are necessary to provide diverse and inclusive education and to ensure that education really is Open to All.

CC BY City of Glasgow College

From Scotland to Morocco⤴

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One of the great things about openness is that when you release something under open licence, you never quite know who’s going to pick it up and what’s going to happen to it. I know this is one of the things that can make some colleagues apprehensive about using open licences but to my mind this serendipitous aspect of openness is one of it’s unique benefits.

One lovely example of this is that following the Morocco Open Education Day hosted by Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech as part of the OpenMed project, a forum of Moroccan scholars came together to draft the OER Morocco Declaration, which is based partially on the Scottish Open Education Declaration which I had a hand in writing in 2014.

Colleagues in Morocco have made significant progress since then, so I was delighted to be invited by Dr Khalid Berrada to attend the 2nd Morocco Open Education Day, which is taking place in Marrakech today, to give a talk about the Scottish Declaration.  Unfortunately due to work and family commitments I’m not able to attend in person, but thanks to the University of Edinburgh’s fabulous Media Hopper Create service I was able to record this video contribution to the event.

The Scottish Open Education Declaration is an output of the Open Scotland initiative which is supported by the University of Edinburgh and ALT Scotland.

Open Education and OER – A guide and call to action for policy makers⤴

from

Towards the end of last year I had the pleasure of working with ALT to develop a policy briefing on Open Education and OER.  Open Education and OER – A guide and call to action for policy makers was co-authored by Maren Deepwell, Martin Weller, Joe Wilson and I and it can be downloaded from the ALT Open Access Repository here https://repository.alt.ac.uk/2425/

Executive Summary

ALT has produced this call to action to highlight to education policy makers and professionals how Open Education and OER can expand inclusive and equitable access to education and lifelong learning, widen participation, and create new opportunities for the next generation of teachers and learners, preparing them to become fully engaged digital citizens.

Open Education can also promote knowledge transfer while enhancing quality and sustainability, supporting social inclusion and creating a culture of inter-institutional collaboration and sharing.

One of ALT’s three strategic aims is to increase the impact of Learning Technology for the wider community and we are issuing this call to action for policy makers to mandate that publicly funded educational resources are released under open licence to ensure that they reside in the public domain and are freely and openly available to all.

This will be of wide benefit, but in particular will enable education providers and learning technology professionals to:

  • Keep up to date with the rapid pace of technological innovation
  • Develop critical, informed approaches to the implementation of Learning Technology and the impact on learners
  • Scale up knowledge sharing and its benefits across sectors.

CC BY @BryanMMathers for ALT

CMALT Reflection and Thanks⤴

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Earlier this year, after years of procrastinating, I was very proud to finally become a certified member of ALT. This is my short reflection on my experience of CMALT accreditation and my way of thanking all those that supported me along the way.

Since 2015 I’ve been fortunate to work in Information Services at the University of Edinburgh which provides bursaries and dedicated support to enable learning technologists to become Certified Members of ALT.  The support is provided by my colleague Susan Greig in the form of advice, guidance, feedback and facilitated writing retreats.  Although the scheme includes dedicated writing time, I found that due to other work commitments I ended up writing much of my portfolio in my own time.  That’s okay though, when it comes to reflective writing, I think I probably work better at my own time and pace.  Writing on demand is something I’ve always struggled with.  I did spend a couple of days writing with my colleague Phil Barker which I found really helpful.  Phil and I have written together for donkey’s years and aren’t afraid to be rude about each others writing, which was really helpful in the early stages of drafting my portfolio!

As an open education practitioner, I decided that I wanted to practice what I preach and develop my portfolio as an open resource.  I had originally planned to blog about my experience of developing my portfolio in the open but, perhaps unsurprisingly, I didn’t have time to do this. However I did develop my whole portfolio in the open, building it up here on my blog, piece by piece.

ALT’s CMALT Portfolios Open Register proved to be an invaluable resource and I found it really helpful to have access to portfolios written by members in non-traditional learning technology roles and senior management positions.  Maren Deepwell’s portfolio was a continual inspiration to me and I referred back to it countless times when I was planning and writing my own portfolio.  A lot of my portfolio focuses on the development of policy and strategy, so it was incredibly useful to have access to an exemplary portfolio which also covered these areas. I also have to credit Sheila MacNeil for the idea of doing my contextual statement as a video!

The #CMALT community on twitter also proved to be enormously supportive and I benefitted from numerous helpful and encouraging comments from members.  People seemed genuinely keen to share their experience of undertaking CMALT and to help others along the way.

When it came to providing evidence for the portfolio it was really useful to have all the information readily available on my blog. I’ve written before about the importance of my blog for keeping track of my career and my professional practice and boy did that really come home to me when I was organising my portfolio.

As I suspected, the section I found most challenging to write was Core Area 2: Teaching, learning and assessment processes. Although I do see myself as an educator of sorts, I’m not a teacher and I’ve never taught in formal contexts, so I had to think a bit creatively, particularly when it came to demonstrating an understanding of my target learners.  For this section I chose to focus on my peers and colleagues who are part of the connected community of open learners and networked scholars who I engage with as an open practitioner.

Although I wasn’t able to get to any of Susan’s CMALT writing retreats I did benefit enormously from her feedback prior to submitting my portfolio. The advice she provided on how to be explicit about evidencing my portfolio was invaluable and I think it’s a direct result of that feedback that I was able to pass first time around, so thank you Susan!

I was so thrilled to receive an e-mail from ALT confirming that I’d been awarded CMALT in July that I actually didn’t notice the assessors comments attached to the mail :}  When I did finally notice these I have to confess that I was completely bowled over. I was particularly touched by the comment that my commitment to open education demonstrated its potential for “revolutionary, humanising praxis”, as described by Paul Prinsloo.  Thank you, I’m humbled.

And as if that wasn’t enough, I also got a shiny new badge to go with my conference shoes!

matchy matchy

In late November, I was also delighted to be invited to a CMALT celebration event where Susan and Maren welcomed all the new CMALT members at the University of Edinburgh with fizz and cakes.  And I’m proud to say that we now have more CMALT members than any other university in the country!

CC BY, @ammienoot

So that’s my CMALT journey, it was certainly hard work, but I found it to be an immensely positive experience.  It’s not often that we have the time to step back and reflect on our work and CMALT provides us with the prefect opportunity to do just that.  It’s also an excellent way to connect with an incredibly helpful and diverse group of colleagues who really do exemplify the best in peer support.  So if you’ve ever been wondering whether CMALT is the right path for you, I can recommend it without reservation.

Innovating with Open Knowledge⤴

from

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of working with Morna Simpson, of Girl Geek Scotland, on Innovating with Open Knowledge, an IS Innovation Fund project at the University of Edinburgh, that aims to provide creative individuals, independent scholars, entrepreneurs, and SMEs with the  information literacy skills to find and access free and open research outputs and content produced by Higher Education.

Since the Finch Report and RCUK’s Policy on Open Access,  universities increasingly make their research outputs available through a wide range of open channels including Open Access journals and repositories, data libraries, research explorer services, and research and innovation services.

Free and open access to publicly‐funded research enables the research process to operate more efficiently, disseminates research outputs more widely, fosters technology transfer and innovation, and provides social and economic benefits by increasing the use and understanding of research by businesses, governments, charities and the wider public. Open Access is also in line with the government’s commitment to transparency and open data, and it contributes to the global Open Knowledge movement more generally.

However it’s not always easy for those outwith academia to know how to access open research outputs, even though they are freely and openly available to all.  In order to improve technology transfer we need to do more to disseminate Open Access research, open knowledge and open content to the general public, creative individuals, entrepreneurs and SMEs.  This is the challenge that the Innovating with Open Knowledge project sought to address.

Innovating with Open Knowledge has produced a series of eleven open licensed case studies featuring a wide range of innovative individuals and companies that have used the University of Edinburgh’s open knowledge outputs to further their projects, products and initiatives.  The case studies are composed of video interviews, supplementary text transcripts, learning activities and search tasks, and they demonstrate how entrepreneurs and creative individuals can find, use and engage with Open Access scholarly works, open science, images and media, physical resources and maker spaces, open data and open-source software.

Case Studies

Innovating with Open Knowledge also features expert guidance on finding and accessing open knowledge from the University’s Centre for Research Collections and OER Service, and from the National Library of Scotland.

Please feel free to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute these open resources.

Innovating with Open Knowledge, CC BY-SA, University of Edinburgh

This project was funded by the University of Edinburgh IS Innovation Fund, with generous support from Gavin McLachlan, CIO,  and Hugh Edmiston, Director of Corporate Services. The project was steered by Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal Online Learning, and managed by Lorna M. Campbell, Learning, Teaching and Web Services.  All video and text resources were created by Morna Simpson, Girl Geek Scotland and Enterprise Porridge Ltd. Graphic design by Interactive Content Service, University of Edinburgh.

MozFest Reflections⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 4 minutes

This post was also posted on the Association for Learning Technologists blog.

This year was my fourth trip to MozFest – the annual global gathering of the Mozilla Foundation. The event has been held in Ravensbourne College in London for the last 7 years and is a nine stories high extravaganza of participatory sessions and speaker talks covering hacking, making, data, digital art and culture, ethics and privacy, the open web, open science, data journalism, social justice, access and inclusion and many other things too numerous to list. This year there were 338 sessions spread across two days. The programme is available online to browse for a flavour of the sessions on offer.

Sessions take place in themed areas within the venue, with each space aligned to an area of strategic focus for Mozilla:

  • Decentralization
  • Digital Inclusion
  • Open Innovation
  • Privacy and Security
  • Web Literacy
  • Youth Zone

MozFest isn’t heavily marketed to the HE sector, and so I suspect a number of colleagues aren’t aware of it. However this event is the one that breaks me out of my Higher Education bubble and into thinking about open and the impact of the web in the broadest sense. I leave fired up and excited having learned completely new things and collected practical ideas and information that I can I contribute back into my own institution.

MozFest is also the most diverse event that I attend. Participants come from across the world and can be all ages and all languages. Although the event is conducted in English, participants are actively encouraged to flag other languages that they speak via stickers on their badges or in their session descriptions. Travel to London is surely prohibitive for many still, but there is usually better representation from the global south at this event than at any other I go to.

MozFest 17 slogan. Photo by @ammienoot CC-BY 4.0

Each year there’s a slightly different emphasis, and this year the overall theme was about what makes a healthy internet.

Today, the concept of Internet health reaches far beyond the realm of open source code: it’s linked to civil liberties and public policy, free expression and inclusion. Discussions about the state of the web include engineers, but now also teachers, lawmakers, community organizers and artists.

(Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation)

It was noticeable this year that there were more sessions on data sovereignty and combatting fake news. Online privacy and web literacy have been a strong focus of MozFest since the start, but it felt like this year there was a bit of an inflection point – the events of the past 12 months have brought these issues into sharp focus perhaps, making it clear that they are societal challenges and not niche issues. Developing information literacy skills has been a core part of learning in an Higher Education environment and digital literacy is probably in all our graduate attributes in some form or another. These talks and sessions brought into sharp relief how much more quickly we need to move on developing these skills within our institutions, particularly as we consider new areas of activity such as learning analytics.

MozFest 17 FakeNews Poster. Photo by @ammienoot CC-BY 4.0

Whilst there was no dedicated digital arts and culture track this year, there was still strong representation through 5 digital artists in residence for the weekend, and a whole programme of hands-on activities in the Youth Zone (not just for kids!).

There is so much choice in terms of sessions that it can be overwhelming, so on Saturday after an excellent first session crowd-sourcing ideas for pathways and career tracks into civic technology, I spent a couple of hours exploring each of the spaces. I picked up a copy of the Mozilla Internet Health Report and had an interesting conversation about how one goes about trying to measure such a thing and the feedback that they are using to develop the next iteration of it.

I also picked up a Data Detox kit developed by the Tactical Technology Collective at a Data Detox Bar (part of the larger “The Glass Room” project – a series of interactive exhibits that pose questions about our relationships with technology). The kit is an 8 day program, beautifully designed, printed onto cards and packaged in a small box. Chatting to the “barrista” at the Detox Bar he explained that the kit is designed to tap into our emotional response to technology products, in particular the sort of “unboxing” pleasure that comes with something like a brand new Apple product. Part of the problem they had identified was the inaccessibility of many existing online InfoSec and privacy resources both in terms of language and design. In this case they had found that a well designed physical resource was getting more traction with less technical audiences. They also had a great tips sheet outlining how to run Data Detox sessions in libraries, based on some experience within the Swedish public library system.

I visited the Meme Lab (exploring how memes are made and a little about the relationship of memes to social movements) and the Humans of the Internet podcast lounge and then it was pretty much time to run my own session “Wikipedia Games” along with Alice White, the Wikimedian in Residence from the Wellcome Library.

Saturday was rounded off with a Virtually Connecting session featuring Josie Fraser, along with ALT’s very own Maren Deepwell and Martin Hawksey – both themselves fresh from running a session on professional development for learning technologists.

Sunday started (for me) with a series of short talks by Audrey Tang, Emily May and Nighat Dad covering topics around using technology for civic engagement, practical tips for combating online harassment, and a sobering reminder that access to the web is not available without consequence for everyone.

My next session choice was NefertitiBot – exploring the possibilities for museum artefacts to curate themselves via chatbots, rather than being constrained to the interpretation given to them by museum curators. We had a lively discussion about the extent to which bots could break free of being scripted and the potential for them to develop in ways that we might not like. With an increasing interest in chatbots in Higher Education in student support roles it was a useful and practical discussion and left me wondering about the extent to which we need to ‘perfect’ such bots versus be open about exactly what they are.

The final speakers session that I went to on Sunday was opened by Gillian Crampton Smith who talked about the emotional elements of technology design and where artists fit into the technology development process. It reminded me again of the Data Detox conversation the day before. She was followed by Sarah Jeong and Emily Gorcenski in conversation with each other talking about fake news and fake data. It served to remind me once again of how vital events like this are, where not only are the issues discussed, but solutions are crowd-sourced, discussed and hacked out across various sessions.

MozFest Data Poster. Photo by @ammienoot CC-BY 4.0

 

 

 

OER 18 Keynote⤴

from

I’m absolutely delighted to have been invited by co-chairs Viv Rolfe and David Kernohan and the Association for Learning Technology to present one of the keynotes at the OER18 Conference in Bristol next year. The theme of the conference is Open for All and I’ll be talking about how we can engage students in open education, why we need policies to support OER, all wrapped up in a personal reflection of what openness means to me.

Opening OER16, CC BY SA 2.0, Anna Page.

We all have one conference which is our conference, the one event we never miss year after year, where we go to recharge and reconnect with our people. For me that conference has always been OER. I’ve never missed an OER conference and it’s been a real pleasure to see how the event has grown and developed over the years, under the careful guidance of ALT.   So it’s a real honour to be invited to present a keynote at OER 18, particularly as I’ll be following in the footsteps of so many inspirational women who have had such a profound influence on my own career as an open education practitioner; Maha Bali, Catherine Cronin, Josie Fraser, Melissa Highton, Sheila MacNeil to name just a few.

Thanks to everyone for all the enthusiastic and supportive messages on twitter yesterday, I’m on annual leave this week, so I missed the actual announcement!  As soon as I get back I’ll look for forward to talking to you all about what we as open educators can do to ensure that education really is Open for All.

 

The Benefits of Open Education and OER⤴

from

This is a transcript of a talk I gave as part of the Open Med Project webinar series.

What is open education?

Open education is many things to many people and there’s no one hard and fast definition.

  • A practice?
  • A philosophy?
  • A movement?
  • A licensing issue?
  • A human right?
  • A buzz word?
  • A way to save money?

This is one description of the open education movement that I particularly like from the not for profit organization OER Commons…

“The worldwide OER movement is rooted in the human right to access high-quality education. The Open Education Movement is not just about cost savings and easy access to openly licensed content; it’s about participation and co-creation.”

Open education encompasses many different things. These are just some of the aspects of open education

  • Open textbooks
  • Open licensing
  • Open assessment practices
  • Open badges
  • Open online courses
  • MOOCs (debatably)
  • Open data
  • Open Access scholarly works
  • Open source software
  • Open standards
  • Open educational resources

Open educational resources (OER)

Open educational resources are central to open education. UNESCO define open educational resources as

“teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.”

OER World Congress

And the reason I’ve chosen this definition is that UNESCO is one of a number of organisations that actively supports the global adoption of open educational resources and just a few weeks ago UNESCO and the Government of Slovenia hosted the second OER World Congress in Ljubljana  which brought together 550 participants, 30 government ministers, representing 111 member states.

The theme of the Congress was “OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education: From Commitment to Action” and there was a strong focus on how OER can help to support United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4.

 “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”

The main output of the Congress was the UNESCO Ljubljana OER Action Plan and accompanying Ministerial Statement.  Central to the OER Action plan is the acknowledgement of the role that OER can play in supporting quality education that is equitable, inclusive, open and participatory. The Action Plan outlines 41 recommended actions to mainstream OER and to help Member States to build knowledge societies and provide quality, lifelong education.

In his summing up at the end of the congress UNESCO Assistant Director for Education Qian Tang said

“to meet the education challenges, we can’t use the traditional way. In remote and developing areas, particularly for girls and women, OER are a crucial, crucial mean to reach SDGs. OER are the key.”

Creative Commons

One of the key characteristics of open educational resources is that they are either in the public domain or they are released under an open licence and generally that means a Creative Commons licence.

However not all Creative Commons licences are equal and only resources that are licensed for adaptation and reuse can really be considered as OER.  Resources that are licensed with the “No Derivatives” licence can not strictly be regarded as OER, and there is some debate about the status of “Non Commerical” licenced resources.

At the recent OER World Congress, Creative Commons CEO Ryan Merkley emphasized that free is not the most important thing about OER, it’s the permission to modify and adapt resources that is most important, because that is what allows us to adapt educational resources to allow us to meet the specific and diverse needs of our learners.

University of Edinburgh OER Vision

At the University of Edinburgh we believe that open educational resources are strongly in line with our institutional mission to provide the highest quality learning and teaching environment for the greater wellbeing of our students, and to make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world, promoting health and economic and cultural wellbeing.

Our vision for OER has three strands, building on our excellent education and research collections, traditions of the Scottish Enlightenment and the university’s civic mission.  These are:

  • For the common good – encompassing every day teaching and learning materials.
  • Edinburgh at its best – high quality resources produced by a range of projects and initiatives.
  • Edinburgh’s Treasures – content from our world class cultural heritage collections.

This vision is backed up by an OER Policy approved by our Learning and Teaching Committee, which encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience.  This OER Policy is itself CC licensed and is adapted from an OER Policy that has already been adopted by a number of other institutions in the UK, so please do feel free to take a look and adopt it or adapt it as you see fit.

And we also have an OER Service which provides staff and students with advice and guidance on creating and using OER, and which provides a one stop shop where you can access open educational resources produced by staff and students across the university.  Because we believe its crucially important to back up our policy and vision with support.

I want to focus now on some of the benefits of OER and I’m going to highlight these benefits with case studies from the University of Edinburgh.

OER ensures longevity of access to resources

So firstly open licences help to ensure longevity of access to educational resources.  It’s very common to think of open licensed resources as primarily being of benefit to those outwith the institution, however open licenses also help to ensure that we can continue to use and reuse the resources that we ourselves have created.  I’m sure you’ll all have come projects that created content only for those resources to be come inaccessible once the project ends or great teaching and learning materials belonging to a colleague who has subsequently retired or moved on, and nobody quite knows if they can still be used or not. Unless teaching and learning resources carry a clear and unambiguous open licence, it is difficult to know whether and in what context they can be reused.  This is a phenomenon that my colleague Melissa Highton has referred to as copyright debt.  If you don’t get the licensing right first time round it will cost you to fix it further down the line.  And this is one of the best strategic reasons for investing in open educational resources at the institutional level. We need to ensure that we have the right use, adapt, and reuse, the educational resources we have invested in.

Continued access to educational resources can be particularly problematic when it comes to MOOCs.  MOOC content often gets locked into commercial platforms, regardless of whether or not it is openly licensed, and some platforms are now time limiting access to content.  So at the University of Edinburgh we are ensuring that all the content we have produced for our MOOCs is also freely available under open licence to download from our Open Media Bank on our Media Hopper platform.

OER can diversify the curriculum

OER can also make a significant contribution to diversifying the curriculum.  So for example A number of studies have shown that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual health is not well-covered in Medical curricula, however knowledge of LGBT health and of the sensitivities needed to treat LGBT patients are valuable skills for qualifying doctors.

Using materials from the commons, a project at the University of Edinburgh sought to address the lack of teaching on LGBT health within the curriculum through OER.  The project remixed and repurposed resources originally created by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Ohio, and then contributed these resources back to the commons as CC BY licensed OER.  New open resources including digital stories recorded from patient interviews and resources for Secondary School children of all ages were also created and released as CC BY OER.

OER improves digital skills

OER can also help to improve digital skills for both staff and students. 23 Things for Digital Knowledge is an award winning, open online course run by my colleague Stephanie Farley. 23 Things, was adapted from an open course originally developed by the University of Oxford, and it is designed to encourage digital literacy by exposing learners to a wide range of digital tools for personal and professional development. Learners spend a little time each week, building up and expanding their digital skills and are encouraged to share their experiences with others.  All course content and materials are licensed under a CC BY licence and the University actively encourages others to take and adapt the course. The course has already been used by many individuals and organisations outwith Edinburgh and it has recently been adapted for use by the Scottish Social Services Council as 23 digital capabilities to support practice and learning in social services.

OER engages students in co-creation

OER can also engage students in the co-creation of their own learning resources. One initiative that does this is the School of Geosciences Outreach and Engagement course. Over two semesters, students undertake an outreach project that communicates an element of GeoSciences outside the university community. Students have the opportunity to work with schools, museums, outdoor centres and community groups to create a wide range of resources for science engagement including  classroom teaching materials, leaflets, websites, and smartphone/tablet applications.  Students gain experience of science outreach, public engagement, teaching and learning, and knowledge transfer while working in new and challenging environments and developing a range of transferable skills that enhance their employability.

A key element of the Geosciences Outreach and Engagement Course is to develop resources with a legacy that can be reused and disseminated for use by other communities and organisations.  And the University is now taking this one step further by repurposing some of these materials to create open educational resources. For the last two years we have recruited Open Content Creation student interns, to take 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.

For example this resource on sea level variation 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.

OER promotes engagement with the outputs of open research

Open access makes research outputs freely accessible to all. It allows research to be disseminated quickly and widely, the research process to operate more efficiently, and has the potential to increase use and understanding of research by business, government, charities and the wider public.  However it is not always easy for those outwith academia to know how to access these outputs, even though they are freely and openly available.

In order to address this issue and to foster technology transfer and innovation, we’ve created a series of open educational resources in the form of video interviews, case studies and learning materials called Innovating with Open Knowledge.  These resources are aimed at creative individuals, private researchers, entrepreneurs and small to medium enterprises to provide guidance on how to find and access the open outputs of Higher Education.  The resources focus on developing digital and data literacy skills and search strategies and feature case study interviews with creative individuals and entrepreneurs engaging with the University of Edinburgh’s world class research outputs.

Innovating with Open Knowledge demonstrates how to find and use Open Access scholarly works, open research data, archival image collections, maker spaces and open source software, and features interviews about how these resources can be used to support creative writing, visual research, citizen science, community engagement, drug discovery and open architecture.  All these resources are released under open licence and the videos can be downloaded for reuse from this url.

OER contributes to the development of open knowledge

OER can contribute to the development of open knowledge and one great way to do this is to engage with the worlds biggest open educational resource, Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is a valuable learning tool that can be used to develop a wide range of digital and information literacy skills at all levels across the curriculum however it is not without bias.  The coverage of subject matter on Wikipedia is neither uniform nor balanced and many topics and areas are underrepresented, particularly those relating to women.

At the University of Edinburgh we have employed a Wikimedian in Residence whose job it is to embed open knowledge in the curriculum, through skills training sessions and editathons, to increase the quantity and quality of open knowledge and enhance digital literacy. This project is also helping to improve the coverage and esteem of Wikipedia articles about women in science, art and technology, and redress the gender imbalance of contributors by encouraging more women to become Wikimedia editors.  And I’m delighted to say that over that last year 65% of participants at our editathons were women.

 OER enhances engagement with content and collections

This rather obscure 17th century map of Iceland was digitized by the University’s Centre for Research Collections and because it was released under open licence, one of our colleagues was able to add it to the Wikipedia page about Iceland.  Now Iceland’s Wikipedia page normally gets about 15,000 hits a day, however in June 2016 Iceland’s page got over 300,000 hits in a single day.  That was the day that Iceland put England out of the Euro 2016 championship qualifiers, so 300,000 people saw our obscure 17th century map because of a game of football.  This story was subsequently picked up by Creative Commons who included a little feature on the map in their 2016 State of the Commons report, resulting in further engagement with this historical gem.

Open Scotland

We believe that there are many benefits to using and sharing open educational resources within Higher Education and beyond, and this is one of the reasons that the University of Edinburgh support Open Scotland, a 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 developed the Scottish Open Education Declaration which, in line with the UNESCO OER Action Plan, calls for all publicly funded educational resources to be made available under open licence.  I know colleagues in Morocco are already in the process of adopting a version of this Declaration and I would strongly urge you to follow their example.

Conclusion

I just want to finish up with a quote from one of our Open Content Interns that eloquently sums up the real value of OER. This is from Martin Tasker, an undergraduate Physics student who worked with us last summer and in a blog post titled “A Student Perspective on OER” he wrote:

“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.”

UNESCO OER World Congress⤴

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Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Slovenia to represent the University of Edinburgh and Open Scotland at the UNESCO OER World Congress in Ljubljana.  The theme of the Congress was “OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education: From Commitment to Action” and there was a strong focus on how OER can help to support United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4.

“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”

The main output of the Congress was the UNESCO Ljubljana OER Action Plan and accompanying Ministerial Statement. The Action Plan outlines 41 recommended actions in 5 key areas to mainstream OER and to help Member States to build knowledge societies and provide quality and lifelong education, and I’ll be writing a short blog psot on the Action Plan later.

It would be impossible to summarise such a diverse event in a single blog post so I just want to pick out some of my own personal impressions.

OER World Congress, CC BY Slovenian Press Agency

The first thing that struck me was that the event really lived up to its ambitions to be truly global with over 500 delegates from 111 countries present.  I attended lots of “international” and “global” events when I worked in learning technology standards development but they were always heavily dominated by delegates from the US and the global north.  I think the OER World Congress is the first event I’ve been to that actually felt genuinely global.

That made it all the more disappointing that there were so few delegates present from the UK. The only other UK participants were Joe Wilson (Open Scotland) and Leo Havemann (Open Knowledge), and there was no official representation from either the UK or Scottish Governments. Given that the UK was once at the forefront of innovative OER initiatives with the #UKOER Programme, that’s a pretty depressing state of affairs.

I heard a lot of inspiring and thought provoking talks over the course of the three days, but one that gave me pause for thought, though perhaps not for the right reasons, was Sir John Daniel summing up of a panel discussion on actions and impacts. John suggested that we have a long way to go before OER reaches the tipping point of general use and that there is a “lamentable lack of data on OER use”.  There’s certainly some truth in this, but I don’t think there has been as little progress as he seemed to be suggesting. John also argued that MOOCs have benefits over OER because they are complete courses, before going on to mention how much he enjoyed FutureLearn courses.  This seems to me to be highly debatable given that many (though admittedly not all) MOOCs are neither open nor reusable in any real sense of the word, particularly now that many platforms are time limiting access to course resources.

I was inspired however by CEO of Creative Commons Ryan Merkley’s keynote.  Ryan presented us with a clear and unambiguous message as to why OER is so important.

Ryan Merkley, CC BY Slovenian Press Agency

“We’re living in a less and less free world constantly trying to defend against restrictive copyright regimes that restrict access to creativity to those who need it. We should seek to share knowledge and lift people up, to create a more equitable world. The commons is public good, a platform for all to share and so is education but we’ve lost sight of that. Today’s education models place individual investment over public good; we pay less but we get less for what we pay and in the end we don’t own anything. The public has to pay for the same resources over and over again. Education budgets are tight, so why do we keep spending our money on things we don’t own and can’t reuse? Publicly funded educational resources should be publicly accessible.  We should all own what we pay for.  Free is not the most important thing about OER, it’s the permission to modify and reuse that’s important. We need to put the power of open at the centre of every opportunity.  We need to transform education globally, and disrupt education models based on artificial scarcity. Left to their own devices commercial interests will build their version of the future out of the past. Our focus has to be on improving student learning not protecting old structures.”

Another inspirational moment of the Congress that really made me stop and think came at the end of the Open Data satellite meeting when Leo Havemann reminded us that

“Education should be life long and life wide and should not just have an employability focus.”

The Congress also provided a rare opportunity for members of the Open Education Working Group Advisory Board to meet face to face and I’ve written another blog post about that meeting over at the Open Ed blog.

(L-R) Cable Green, Fabio Nascimbeni, Lorna M. Campbell, Leo Havemann, Virginia Rodés and Sophie Touzé at the OER World Congress, Ljubljana.

And it was also great to meet members of the Open Med project and to pick up a copy of the Declaration du Maroc sur les Ressources Educatives Libres; the OER Morocco Declaration which is based on the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

And you can see a short interview with me talking about the Declaration and open education initiatives in Scotland and at the University of Edinburgh in this interview with Jöran Muuß-Merholz.

Wiki Loves Monuments – An amazing contribution to the commons⤴

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The Wiki Loves Monuments competition came to a close last Friday and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I was still uploading ancient holiday snaps at quarter to midnight.  Who knew I had so many pics of ancient ruins?!  By the time the competition closed, a staggering 14,359 new images of UK scheduled monuments and listed buildings had been uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, over 2000 of which came from Scotland.  And what’s even more impressive is that 1,351 of those image were uploaded by colleagues from the University of Edinburgh 💕 That’s an amazing contribution to the global commons and a wonderful collection of open educational resources that are free for all to use.  Our most prolific contributor was our very own Wikimedian in Residence Ewan McAndrew, who we have to thank for spurring us all on, closely followed by Anne-Marie Scott, who contributed some glorious images of Pheobe Traquair’s murals at the Mansfield Traquair Centre.  And the diversity of the images uploaded is just incredible.  Everything from castles, cathedrals, country houses, churches, cemeteries, chambered cairns, terraces, fountains,  bars, bridges, brochs, botanic gardens, and even a lap dancing club (thank you Ewan…) I managed to upload a modest 184; my oldest monument was the Callanish Stones on my home island of Lewis and most modern was a picture of Luma Tower in Glasgow that I took out the window of a passing bus!  You can see all my pics here, and not one of them was taken with an actual camera :}