Tag Archives: ukoer

The end of Open Educational Practices in Scotland⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

On Monday I was at Our Dynamic Earth, by the Holyrood Parliament in Edinburgh, for a day meeting on the Promise of Open Education. This was the final event of the Open Educational Practices in Scotland project (OEPS), which (according to the evaluation report):

involved five universities in leading a project based in the Open University in Scotland. Its aims were to facilitate best practice in open education in Scotland, and to enhance capacity for developing publicly available online materials across the tertiary education sector in Scotland. The project particularly focused on fostering the use of open educational practices to build capacity and promote widening participation.

 

There have always been questions about this project, notably the funnelling of money to the OU without any sign of an open bidding process, but at least it was there. With the OEPS finishing, two things caught my attention: how do we get political support for open education, and what open educational practice is current in Scotland. To paraphrase Orwell: if there is hope, it lies in the grass roots [hmm, that didn’t end well for Winston].

Open Education in Policy

Good places to start looking for current practice at both policy and operational levels are the ALT-Scotland SIG and Scottish Open Education Declaration. There are strong links between the two: key members of ALT-Scotland (notably Lorna M Campbell and Joe Wilson) are involved in developing and promoting Scottish Open Education Declaration; and OEPS also supported some of this work. The Scottish Open Education Declaration and ALT-Scotland have been successful in supporting policy in Scottish HE around open education, and beyond, but it would be nice if this success were recognised and supported from outside of the Open Education community.

It seems you only get recognised at a political level if you claim to be able solve big problems: local and global inequalities, widening educational participation. Anyone who says Open Education will solve these inequalities is a charlatan, anyone who believes them is gullible. As Pete Cannell of OEPS said, open as in licensing content is not the whole answer (to widening participation) but it is important part of answer.

Open Education in Practice

More hopefully, there is a lot happening at grass roots level that is easy to overlook. Edinburgh University are leading the way,  with central support and a vision. As I saw, they are producing some fine OERs created by student interns.

A similar model for production is being used in my old workplace of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt University, but with less by way of strategic support. A small team of content interns, working under Lisa Scott, have been using open tools (WordPress, H5P, Lumen5) to create learning resources for the new Graduate Level Apprenticeship programme in Software Development. The actual course is closed, delivered in BlackBoard, but the resources are openly licensed and available to all (this not only allows the team to use CC:SA resources in their creation but saves the hassle of setting up access management to the collection).

Like Edinburgh, Glasgow Caledonian University has a policy for OER and a repository replete with resources, but the examples I found seemed locked for local use only. That’s not a criticism (and I may just have been unlucky in what I tried to view) because the important thing is that here is an example of open supporting the work of one of our Universities.

In Dundee, Natalie Lafferty runs a student selected component of the medical course on The Doctor as Digital Teacher for which students create a learning resource. Here’s an example of an iBook created by one student using original and openly licensed resources, and an account of its creation.


There are probably other examples from Scottish F&HE that I don’t know or have forgotten (sorry about that–but do use the comment box below to remedy this), but one of the key messages from the Promise of Open Education meeting was that Open Educational Practice is not just about Universities giving access to resources they create, valuable as that is.  There were great examples presented at the conference of OEPS working with Dyslexia Uk and Education Scotland, and working with Parkinson’s UK. And in the final discussion Lorna Campbell did a great job of highlighting the variety of open educational practice in Scotland, from Scotland’s three Wikimedians in residence and networks such as Girl Geek Scotland. And that really is just the tip of the iceberg.

The end?

So, in conclusion, this was not the end of open educational practices in Scotland. The future lies not just in continuing the legacy of one project, but in the ongoing efforts of a great diversity of effort. But you know what, it would be really nice if those efforts got the recognition and support from national policy makers.

[Acknowledgement: the feature image for this post, which you may see in Tweets etc,  is the conference pack for OEPS Promise of Open Education. Courtesy of OEPS project.]

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Quick notes: Naomi Korn on copyright and educational resources⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

I gate-crashed a lecture on copyright that Naomi Korn gave at Edinburgh University. I’ve had an interest in copyright for as long as I have been working with open access and open educational resources, about ten years. I think I understand the basic concepts pretty well, but even so Naomi managed to catch a couple of misconceptions I held and also crystallised some ideas with well chosen examples.

hand drawn copyright symbol and word 'copyright' in cursive script.
from naomikorn.com

First, quick intro to Naomi. Naomi is a copyright consultant (but not a lawyer). I first met her through her work for UKOER, which I really liked because she gave us pragmatic advice that helped us release resources openly not just list of all the things we couldn’t do. Through that and other work Naomi & colleagues have created a set of really useful resources on copyright for OER (which are themselves openly licensed).

Naomi has also done some work with the Imperial War Museum from which she drew the story of Ethel Bilborough’s First World War diary. It’s there on her website so I won’t repeat here. The key lessons (to me) revolved around copyright existing from the moment of creation until 70 years after the author’s death; copyright is a property which can be inherited; ownership of the physical artifact does not necessarily mean ownership of the copyright; and composite works (the diary contained press cuttings and photos) creating more complex problems with several rights holders. All of these (and the last one especially) are relevant to modern teaching and learning resources.

In general copyright supports the copying and use of resources through permission from the  rights owner (a licence) and various copyright exceptions. However, sometimes it is necessary to fall back on a pragmatic approach of taking a reasonable risk, for example when the rights owner is not traceable.  Naomi described some interesting issues around the use of  copyright resources in teaching and learning. For example, there are exceptions to copyright for criticism, review or quotation and for teaching purposes. However these are limited in that such use must be fair dealing (I learnt this: that fair dealing/fair use is an additional limitation on an exception, not a type of exception). Fair dealing is undefined, and may not include putting materials online. Naomi described how easy it is for use of a resource under an exception to become an infringement in the context of modern teaching as the private space of teaching becomes more public. For example a resource used in lecture which is videoed, the video made public. All the more reason to be careful in the first place; all the more reason to use liberal licences such as creative commons, which are not limited to a specific scenario.

copyright pragmatics

All the way through her talk Naomi encouraged us to think about copyright in terms of being respectful of other people: giving the credit due to resource creators. She left left us with some key points of advice

  • make sure that you know the basics
  • make sure you know who can help you
  • ask when you’re not sure

fun fact

For copyright purposes, software is classed as a literary work.

 

 

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OER17 – The Distance Travelled⤴

from

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.

Reflections on a little bit of open education (TL;DR: it works).⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

We are setting up a new honours degree programme which will involve use of online resources for work based blended learning. I was asked to demonstrate some the resources and approaches that might be useful. This is one of the quick examples that I was able to knock up(*) and some reflections on how Open Education helped me. By the way, I especially like the last bit about “open educational practice”. So if the rest bores you, just skip to the end.

(*Disclaimer: this really is a quickly-made example, it’s in no way representative of the depth of content we will aim for in the resources we use.)

Making the resource

I had decided that I wanted to show some resources that would be useful for our first year, first semester Praxis course. This course aims to introduce students to some of the skills they will need to study computer science, ranging from appreciating the range of topics they will study to being able to use our Linux systems, from applying study skills to understanding some requirements of academic writing. I was thinking that much of this would be fairly generic and must be covered by a hundred and one existing resources when  I saw this tweet:

That seemed to be in roughly the right area, so I took a look at the University of Nottingham’s HELM Open site and found an Introduction to Referencing. Bingo. The content seemed appropriate, but I wasn’t keen on a couple of things. First, breaking up the video in 20sec chunks I fear would mean the student spend more time ‘interacting’ with the Next-> button than thinking about the content. Second, it seems a little bit too delivery oriented, I would like the student to be a little more actively engaged.

I noticed there is a little download arrow on each page which let me download the video. So I downloaded them all and used OpenShot to string them together into one file. I exported this and used the h5p WordPress plugin to show how it could be combined with some interactive elements and hosted on a WordPress site with the hypothes.is annotation plugin, to get this:

The remixed resource: on the top left is the video, below that some questions to prompt the students to pay attention to the most significant points, and on the right the hypothes.is pop-out for discussion.

How openness helps

So that was easy enough, a demo of the type of resource we might produce, created in less than an afternoon. How did “openness” help make it easy.

Open licensing and the 5Rs

David Wiley’s famous 5Rs define open licences as those that let you  Reuse, Revise, Remix, Retain and Redistribute learning resources. The original resource was licensed as CC:BY-NC and so permitted all of these actions. How did they help?

Reuse: I couldn’t have produced the video from scratch without learning some new skills or having sizeable budget, and having much more time.

Revise: I wasn’t happy with the short video / many page turns approach, but was  able to revise the video to make it play all the way through in one go.

Remix: The video was then added to some formative exercises, and discussion facility added.

Retain: in order for us to rely on these resources when teaching we need to be sure that the resource remains available. That means taking responsibility keeping it available. Hence we’ll be hosting it on a site we control.

Redistribute: we will make our version available to other. This isn’t just about “paying forward”, it’s about the benefits that working in an open network being, see the discussion about nebulous open education below.

One point to make here: the licence has a Non-Commercial restriction. I understand why some people favour this, but imagine if I were an independent consultant brought in to do this work, and charged for it. Would I then be able to use the HELM material? The recent case about a commercial company charging to duplicate CC-licensed material for schools, which a US judge ruled within the terms of the licence might apply, but photocopying seems different to remixing. To my mind, the NC clause just complicates things too much.

Open standards, and open source

I hadn’t heard much about David Wiley’s ALMS framework for technical choices to facilitate openness (same page as before, just scroll a bit further) but it deals directly with issues I am very familiar with. Anyone who thinks about it will realise that a copy-protected PDF is not open no matter what the licence on it says. The ALMS framework breaks the reasoning for this down to four aspects: Access to editing tools, Level of expertise required, Meaningfully editable, Self sources. Hmmm. Maybe sometimes it’s clearer not to force category names into acronyms? Anyway, here’s how these helped.

Self-sourced, meaning the distribution format is the source code. This is especially relevant as the reason HELM sent the tweet that alerted me to their materials was that they are re-authoring material from Flash to HTML5. Aside from modern browser support, one big advantage of them doing this is that instead of having an impenetrable SWF package I had access to the assets that made the resource, notably the video clips.

Meaningfully editable: that access to the assets meant that I could edit the content, stringing the videos together, copying and pasting text from the transcript to use as questions.

Level of expertise required: I have found all the tools and services used (OpenShot, H5P, hypothes.is, WordPress) relatively easy to use, however some experience is required, for example to be familiar with various plugins available for WordPress and how to install them. Video editing in particular takes some expertise. It’s probably something that most people don’t do very often (I don’t).  Maybe the general level of digital literacy level we should now aim for is one where people are familiar with photo and video editing tools as well as text oriented word processing and presentation tools. However, I’m inclined to think that the details of using the H264 video codec and AAC audio codec, packaged in a MPEG-4 Part 14 container (compare and contrast with VP9 and ogg vorbis packaged in a profile of Matroska) should remain hidden from most people. Fortunately, standardisation means that the number of options is less than it would otherwise be, and it was possible to find many pages on the web with guidance on the browser compatibility of these options (MP4 and WebM respectively).

Access to editing tools, where access starts with low cost. All the tools used were free, most were open source, and all ran on Ubuntu (most can also run on other platforms).

It’s notable that all these ultimately involve open source software and open standards, and work especially well when then “open” for open standards includes free to implement. That complicated bit around MP4 & WebM video formats, that comes about because royalty requirements for those implementing MP4.

Open educational practice: nebulous but important.

Open education includes but is more than open education resources, open content, open licensing and open standards. It also means talking about what we do. It means that I found out about HELM because they were openly tweeting about their resources. I think that is how I learnt about nearly all the tools discussed here ina similar manner. Yes, “pimping your stuff” is importantly open. Open education also means asking questions and writing how-to articles that let non-experts like me deal with complexities like video encoding.

There’s a deeper open education at play here as well. See that resource from HELM that I started with? It started life in the RLO CETL, i.e. in a publicly funded initiative, now long gone. And the reason I and others in the UKHE know about Creative Commons and David Wiley’s analysis of open content, that largely comes down to #UKOER, again a publicly  funded initiative. UKOER and the stuff about open standards and open source was supported by Jisc, publicly funded. Alumni from these initiatives are to be found all over UKHE, through which these initiatives continue to be crucially important in building our capability and capacity to support learners in new and innovative settings.

 

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Book chapter: Technology Strategies for Open Educational Resource Dissemination⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

A book with a chapter by Lorna M Campbell and I has just been published. The book is Open Education: International Perspectives in Higher Education edited by Patrick Blessinger and TJ Bliss, published by Open Book Publishers.

There are contributions by people I know and look up to in the OER world, and some equally good chapters by folk I had not come across before. It seems to live up to its billing of offering an international perspective by not being US-centric (though it would be nice to see more from S America, Asia and Africa), and it provides a wide view of Open Education, not limited to Open Education Resources. There is a foreword by David Wiley, a chapter on a human rights theory for open education by the editors, one on whether emancipation through open education is theory or rhetoric by Andy Lane. Other people from the Open University’s Open Education team (Martin Weller, Beatriz de los Arcos, Rob Farrow, Rebecca Pitt and Patrick McAndrew) have written about identifying categories of OER users.  There are chapters on aspects such as open science, open text books, open assessment and credentials for open learning; and several case studies and reflections on open education in practice.

Open Education: International Perspectives in Higher Education is available under a CC:BY licence as a free PDF, as very cheap mobi or ePub, or reasonably priced soft and hard back editions. You should get a copy from the publishers.

Technology Strategies for OER

The chapter that Lorna and I wrote is an overview drawing on our experiences through the UKOER programme and our work on LRMI looking at managing the dissemination and discovery of open education resources. Here’s the abstract in full, and a link to the final submitted version of our chapter.

This chapter addresses issues around the discovery and use of Open Educational Resources (OER) by presenting a state of the art overview of technology strategies for the description and dissemination of content as OER. These technology strategies include institutional repositories and websites, subject specific repositories, sites for sharing specific types of content (such as video, images, ebooks) and general global repositories. There are also services that aggregate content from a range of collections, these may specialize by subject, region or resource type. A number of examples of these services are analyzed in terms of their scope, how they present resources, the technologies they use and how they promote and support a community of users. The variety of strategies for resource description taken by these platforms is also discussed. These range from formal machine-readable metadata to human readable text. It is argued that resource description should not be seen as a purely technical activity. Library and information professionals have much to contribute, however academics could also make a valuable contribution to open educational resource (OER) description if the established good practice of identifying the provenance and aims of scholarly works is applied to learning resources. The current rate of change among repositories is quite startling with several repositories and applications having either shut down or having changed radically in the year or so that the work on which this contribution is based took. With this in mind, the chapter concludes with a few words on sustainability.

Preprint of full chapter (MS Word)

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Sustainability and Open Education⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

 

Last week I was on a panel at Edinburgh University’s Repository Fringe event discussing sustainability and OER. As part of this I was asked to talk for ten minutes on some aspect of the subject. I don’t think I said anything of startling originality, but I must start posting to this blog again, so here are the notes I spoke from. The idea that I wanted to get over is that projects should be careful about what services they tried to set up, they (the services) should be suitable and sustainable, and in fact it might be best if they did the minimum that was necessary (which might mean not setting up a repository).

Between 2009 and 2012 Jisc and the HE Academy ran the UK Open Education Resources programme (UKOER), spending approximately £15M of Hefce funding in three phases. There were 65 projects, some with personal, institutional or discipline scope releasing resources openly, some with a remit of promoting dissemination or discoverability, and  there were some related activities and services providing technical, legal, policy support, & there was Jorum: there was a mandate that OERs released through the project should be deposited in the Jorum repository. This was a time when open education was booming, as well as UKOER, funding from foundations in the US, notably Hewlett and Gates, was quite well established and EU funding was beginning. UKOER also, of course, built on previous Jisc programmes such as X4L, ReProduce, and the Repositories & preservation programme.

In many ways UKOER was a great success: a great number of resources were created or released, but also it established open education as a thing that people in UK HE talked about. It showed how to remove some of the blockers to the reuse and sharing of content for teaching and learning in HE (–especially in the use of standard CC licences with global scope rather than the vague, restrictive and expensive custom variations on  “available to other UK HEIs” of previous programmes). Helped by UKOER, many UK HEIs were well placed to explore the possibilities of MOOCs. And in general showed the potential to change how HEIs engage with the wider world and to help make best use of online learning–but it’s not just about opening exciting but vague possibilities: being a means to avoid problems such as restrictive licensing, and being in position to explore new possibilities, means avoiding unnecessary costs in the future and helps to make OER financially attractive (and that’s important to sustainability). Evidence of this success: even though UKOER was largely based on HEFCE funding, there are direct connections from UKOER to the University of Edinburgh’s Open Ed initiative and (less directly) to their engagement with MOOCs.

But I am here to talk sustainability. You probably know that Jorum, the repository in to which UKOER projects were required to deposit their OERs, is closing. Also, many of the discipline-based and discovery projects were based at HE Academy subject centres, which are now gone. At the recent OER16 here, Pat Lockley suggested that OER were no longer being created. He did this based on what he sees coming in to the Solvonauts aggregator that he develops and runs. Martin Poulter showed the graph, there is a fairly dramatic drop in the number of new deposits he sees. That suggests something is not being sustained.

But what?

Let’s distinguish between sustainability and persistence: sustainability suggests to me a manageable on-going effort. The content as released may be persistent, it may still be available as released (though without some sort of sustainable effort of editing, updating, preservation it may not be much use).  What else needs sustained effort? I would suggest: 1, the release of new content; 2, interest and community; 3, the services around the content (that includes repositories). I would say that UKOER did create a community interested in OER which is still pretty active. It could be larger, and less inward looking at times but for an academic community it doing quite well. New content is being released. But the services created by UKOER (and other OER initiatives) are dying. That, I think , is why Pat Lockley isn’t seeing new resources being published.

What is the lesson we should learn? Don’t create services to manage and disseminate your OERs that that require “project” level funding. Create the right services, don’t assume that what works for research outputs will work for educational resources, make sure that there is that “edit” button (or at least a make-your-own-editable-copy button).  Make the best use of what is available. Use everything that is available. Use wikimedia services, but also use flickr, wordpress, youtube, itunes, vimeo,—and you may well want to create your own service to act as a “junction” between all the different places you’re putting your OERs, linking with them via their APIs for deposit and discovery. This is the basic idea behind POSSE: Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere.

The Cost of Freedom – The Open World⤴

from @ Open World

Based on an original painting by Omar Ibrahim, designed by Julien Taquet.

Based on an original painting by Omar Ibrahim, designed by Julien Taquet.

Towards the end of last year, following an invitation from Adam Hyde of booksprints.net, I wrote a contribution for a free and open online book called The Cost of Freedom.  The book is dedicated to Syrian internet volunteer and open knowledge advocate Bassel Khartabil, باسل خرطبيل, who has been detained in Syria since March 2012. On the 3rd October 2015 Bassel’s name was deleted from the Adra Prison’s register where he was detained and no further information has been obtained about his whereabouts.

The Cost of Freedom is not a statement about freedom and culture — it is a primal scream — the sum of our questions and desires. It is the raw expression of our lives. It talks about what is ultimately made through the dream of free culture: us.

~ The Cost of Freedom

The book was written in Pourrières in France during a five day book sprint in early November 2015, with additional contributions being submitted by writers from all over the world. Here’s my contribution, a personal reflection on what openness means to me.

"Bassel Khartabil (Safadi)" by Joi Ito - http://www.flickr.com/photos/joi/4670781482CC BY 2.0

“Bassel Khartabil (Safadi)” by Joi Ito – http://www.flickr.com/photos/joi/4670781482 CC BY 2.0

The Open World

In Open is not a License Adam Hyde has described openness as

‘a set of values by which you live…a way of life, or perhaps a way of growing, an often painful path where we challenge our own value system against itself.’

To my mind, openness is also contradictory. I don’t mean contradictory in terms of the polar dichotomy of open vs. closed, or the endless debates that seek to define the semantics of open. I mean contradictory on a more personal level; openness raises contradictions within ourselves. Openness can lead us to question our position in the world; our position in relation to real and perceived boundaries imposed from without and carefully constructed from within.

In one way or another I have worked in the open education space for a decade now. I have contributed to open standards, created open educational resources, developed open policy, written open books, participated in open knowledge initiatives, facilitated open events, I endeavour to be an ‘open practitioner’, I run a blog called Open World. However, I am not by nature a very open person; my inclination is always to remain closed. I have had to learn openness and I’m not sure I’m very good at it yet. It’s a continual learning experience. Openness is a process that requires practice and perseverance. (Though sometimes circumstances leave us with little choice, sometimes it’s open or nothing.)

And of course, there is a cost; openness requires a little courage. When we step, or are pushed, outside our boundaries and institutions, it’s easy to feel disoriented and insecure. The open world can be a challenging and unsettling place and it’s easy to understand the impulse to withdraw, to seek the security of the familiar.

When large scale open education funding programmes first started to appear, (what an impossible luxury that seems like now), they were met with more than a little scepticism. When a major OER funding initiative was launched in the UK in 2009 (UKOER), the initial response was incredulity (OER Programme Myths). Surely projects weren’t expected to share their resource with everyone? Surely UK Higher Education resources should only be shared with other UK Higher Education institutions? It took patience and persistence to convince colleagues that yes, open really did mean open, open for everyone everywhere, not just open for a select few. One perceptive colleague at the time described this attitude as ‘the agoraphobia of openness’(1).

Although open licences and open educational resources are more familiar concepts now, there is still a degree of reticence. An undercurrent of anxiety persists that discourages us from sharing our educational resources, and reusing resources shared by others. There is a fear that by opening up our resources and our practice, we will also open ourselves up to criticism, that we will be judged and found wanting. Imposter syndrome is a real thing; even experienced teachers may fail to recognise their own work as being genuinely innovative and creative. At the same time, openness can invoke a fear of loss; loss of control, loss of agency, and in some cases even loss of livelihood. Viewed through this lens, the distinction between openness and exposure blurs.

But despite these costs and contradictions, I do believe there is inherently personal and public value in openness. I believe there is huge creative potential in openness and I believe we have a moral and ethical responsibility to open access to publicly funded educational resources. Yes, there are costs, but they are far outweighed by the benefits of open. Open education practice and open educational resources have the potential to expand access to education, widen participation, and create new opportunities while at the same time supporting social inclusion, and creating a culture of collaboration and sharing. There are other more intangible, though no less important, benefits of open. Focusing on simple cost-benefit analysis models neglects the creative, fun and serendipitous aspects of openness and, ultimately, this is what keeps us learning.

In the domain of knowledge representation, the Open World Assumption ‘codifies the informal notion that in general no single agent or observer has complete knowledge’. It’s a useful assumption to bear in mind; our knowledge will never be complete, what better motivation to keep learning? But the Open World of my blog title doesn’t come from the domain of knowledge representation; it comes from the Scottish poet Kenneth White (2), Chair of 20th Century Poetics at Paris-Sorbonne, 1983-1996, and a writer for whom openness is an enduring and inspiring theme. White is also the founder of the International Institute of Geopoetics, which is ‘concerned, fundamentally, with a relationship to the earth and with the opening of a world’ (3). In the words of White:

no art can touch it; the mind can only

try to become attuned to it

to become quiet, and space itself out, to

become open and still, unworlded (4)

disquiet ambient/electronica have recorded a number of the contributions to the book, including mine, which you can listen to here.

References

  1. I cannot remember who said this, but the comment has always stayed with me.
  2. White, K., (2003), Open World. The Collected Poems, 1960 – 2000, Polygon.
  3. White, K., (2004), Geopoetics: place, culture, world, Alba.
  4. White, K., (2004), ‘A High Blue Day on Scalpay’ in Open World. The Collected Poems, 1960 – 2000, Polygon.

Links


The Challenge of OER Sustainability⤴

from @ Open World

Sustaining the outputs of projects and programmes beyond their initial phase of funding is a weel kent problem but it is one that we still struggle to solve. Back in 2009 when Cetis were working with Jisc to scope the technical guidelines for the forthcoming UKOER Programme we attempted to address this issue by recommending that projects deliver their content through multiple platforms. One of the few actual requirements among the programme guidelines was that projects must also deposit their content in JorumOpen, in order to act as a safeguard against resources being lost:

Delivery Platforms

Projects are free to use any system or application as long as it is capable of delivering content freely on the open web. However all projects must also deposit their content in JorumOpen. In addition projects should use platforms that are capable of generating RSS/Atom feeds, particularly for collections of resources e.g. YouTube channels. Although this programme is not about technical development projects are encouraged to make the most of the functionality provided by their chosen delivery platforms.

OER Programme Technical Requirements

Six years down the line and attrition is taking the inevitable toll. Several of the sites and repositories that hosted UKOER content have disappeared and the sustainability of the content hosted by the national Jorum repository remains uncertain following Jisc’s announcement in June that it intended to retire Jorum and “refresh its open educational resources offer”.

These problems were brought into sharp focus by Viv Rolfe (@VivienRolfe) of the University of West England this week when she tweeted

Viv’s tweet sparked a lengthy discussion on twitter that drew in several of the community’s most incisive critical thinkers on open education including Simon Thomson (@digisim), Pat Lockley (@Solvonauts, @patlockley), David Kernohan (@dkernohan), Leo Havemann (@leohavemann) and Theresa MacKinnon (@WarwickLanguage).  

The wide ranging discussion touched on a number of thorny issues relating to OER preservation and sustainability.  I’ve created a Storify of the entire discussion here: The Challenge of OER Sustainability

Self-hosting was seen as one alternative to using institutional or national repositories to host OER, with WordPress being a popular platform in some quarters.  David Kernohan took this one step further, asking if individuals who want to self-host OER should run their own repositories. While this is an interesting idea it was regarded as a rather heavy weight solution to the problem and Pat argued that repositories are the wrong tool for the job as they sit outside standard academic digital literacies.

The discussion then turned to cross-publishing. The LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) approach to digital preservation was regarded as one good way to ensure that content does not disappear.  However if content is deposited in multiple places and scattered across the web then other issues arise relating to how to find and curate content. Pat commented that multiple deposit may solve “lost hosting” but complicates “find”. Aggregators and the dark arts of search engine optimisation clearly play a role here, however search engines’ ability to accurately interpret licence information is still problematic.

The Solvonauts aggregator and OER search engine represents a good example of one sustainable approach to locating OER content.  Solvonauts has aggregated 141867 OERs, it costs around $50 a year to run and the code and database are shared on Github. If Pat falls under a bus tomorrow, it’s business as usual for Solvonauts. (Pat’s phrase, not mine.  Please don’t fall under a bus Pat!)  Of course Solvonauts can only find content that it is there; it can not solve the problem of how to sustain content if servers are switched off or repositories shut down with little or no warning, which brings us right back to the issue of repository sustainability.

Leo Havemann commented that the main problem is lack of funding rather than the failure of repositories per se and Simon Thomson suggested MERLOT as a good example of a sustainable OER repository.  This resulted in a rather heated discussion about whether MERLOT can be regarded as an OER repository as not all the content is CC licensed and there is a cost associated with deposit.  Simon has already blogged an excellent summary of this discussion and the points he made regarding MERLOT which you can find here: The challenges of maintaining OER repositories, but why we must never stop trying.

Ultimately there is no simple answer to the question posed by David.

 Where should I put my OER so people can find and use it?

Pat’s answer may suggest a way forward in the short term.

I would place content into any platform which supported some licensing, or was free hosting, caveated with a bulk download option should the platform close.

Even if there is no easy answer, sustainability of OER is a pressing issue that requires immediate attention and a collective response from the community.  Digital curation and sustainability of OERs may represent a challenge, but as Simon pointed out in his own blog post, we must never stop trying.


The Challenge of OER Sustainability⤴

from @ Open World

Sustaining the outputs of projects and programmes beyond their initial phase of funding is a weel kent problem but it is one that we still struggle to solve. Back in 2009 when Cetis were working with Jisc to scope the technical guidelines for the forthcoming UKOER Programme we attempted to address this issue by recommending that projects deliver their content through multiple platforms. One of the few actual requirements among the programme guidelines was that projects must also deposit their content in JorumOpen, in order to act as a safeguard against resources being lost:

Delivery Platforms

Projects are free to use any system or application as long as it is capable of delivering content freely on the open web. However all projects must also deposit their content in JorumOpen. In addition projects should use platforms that are capable of generating RSS/Atom feeds, particularly for collections of resources e.g. YouTube channels. Although this programme is not about technical development projects are encouraged to make the most of the functionality provided by their chosen delivery platforms.

OER Programme Technical Requirements

Six years down the line and attrition is taking the inevitable toll. Several of the sites and repositories that hosted UKOER content have disappeared and the sustainability of the content hosted by the national Jorum repository remains uncertain following Jisc’s announcement in June that it intended to retire Jorum and “refresh its open educational resources offer”.

These problems were brought into sharp focus by Viv Rolfe (@VivienRolfe) of the University of West England this week when she tweeted

Viv’s tweet sparked a lengthy discussion on twitter that drew in several of the community’s most incisive critical thinkers on open education including Simon Thomson (@digisim), Pat Lockley (@Solvonauts, @patlockley), David Kernohan (@dkernohan), Leo Havemann (@leohavemann) and Theresa MacKinnon (@WarwickLanguage).  

The wide ranging discussion touched on a number of thorny issues relating to OER preservation and sustainability.  I’ve created a Storify of the entire discussion here: The Challenge of OER Sustainability

Self-hosting was seen as one alternative to using institutional or national repositories to host OER, with WordPress being a popular platform in some quarters.  David Kernohan took this one step further, asking if individuals who want to self-host OER should run their own repositories. While this is an interesting idea it was regarded as a rather heavy weight solution to the problem and Pat argued that repositories are the wrong tool for the job as they sit outside standard academic digital literacies.

The discussion then turned to cross-publishing. The LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) approach to digital preservation was regarded as one good way to ensure that content does not disappear.  However if content is deposited in multiple places and scattered across the web then other issues arise relating to how to find and curate content. Pat commented that multiple deposit may solve “lost hosting” but complicates “find”. Aggregators and the dark arts of search engine optimisation clearly play a role here, however search engines’ ability to accurately interpret licence information is still problematic.

The Solvonauts aggregator and OER search engine represents a good example of one sustainable approach to locating OER content.  Solvonauts has aggregated 141867 OERs, it costs around $50 a year to run and the code and database are shared on Github. If Pat falls under a bus tomorrow, it’s business as usual for Solvonauts. (Pat’s phrase, not mine.  Please don’t fall under a bus Pat!)  Of course Solvonauts can only find content that it is there; it can not solve the problem of how to sustain content if servers are switched off or repositories shut down with little or no warning, which brings us right back to the issue of repository sustainability.

Leo Havemann commented that the main problem is lack of funding rather than the failure of repositories per se and Simon Thomson suggested MERLOT as a good example of a sustainable OER repository.  This resulted in a rather heated discussion about whether MERLOT can be regarded as an OER repository as not all the content is CC licensed and there is a cost associated with deposit.  Simon has already blogged an excellent summary of this discussion and the points he made regarding MERLOT which you can find here: The challenges of maintaining OER repositories, but why we must never stop trying.

Ultimately there is no simple answer to the question posed by David.

 Where should I put my OER so people can find and use it?

Pat’s answer may suggest a way forward in the short term.

I would place content into any platform which supported some licensing, or was free hosting, caveated with a bulk download option should the platform close.

Even if there is no easy answer, sustainability of OER is a pressing issue that requires immediate attention and a collective response from the community.  Digital curation and sustainability of OERs may represent a challenge, but as Simon pointed out in his own blog post, we must never stop trying.


OER16 Submissions Open⤴

from @ Open World

oer16_logoI’m delighted to announce that OER16 Open Culture is now accepting submissions for the conference which will take place at the University of Edinburgh on the 19th and 20th April 2016. The call for proposals was launched at the ALT Conference in Manchester at the beginning of September and the submissions site is now open.

Submissions are invited for presentations, lightning talks, posters, and panels and workshops on the themes of:

  • The strategic advantage of open, creating a culture of openness, and the reputational challenges of openwashing.
  • Converging and competing cultures of open knowledge, open source, open content, open practice, open data and open access.
  • Hacking, making and sharing.
  • Openness and public engagement.
  • Innovative approaches to opening up cultural heritage collections for education.

If you have any queries about the conference themes feel free to contact me at lorna.m.campbell@ed.ac.uk / lorna.m.campbell@icloud.com or on twitter @lornamcampbell. Any queries regarding the submission process should be directed to Anna Davidge at ALT, anna.davidge@alt.ac.uk.

Further information about the conference is available here oer16.oerconf.org and you can follow @oerconf and #oer16 on twitter. Look forward to seeing you in Edinburgh in the Spring!