Tag Archives: open education

#OERxDomains21: Just what does it means to be open?⤴

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In the final keynote of the #OERxDomains21 conference, Rajiv Jhangiani asked what does it mean to be open?  After 2 days of sharing, caring, questioning, laughing, at times crying, it was timely reminder that “open” is a multifaceted concept and the practice(s) of open education manifests itself in many ways, and is deeply contextual.  Open educational practice, is as Catherine Cronin so beautifully put it back in 2017a constantly negotiated process.”

As with all conferences (and all other delegates) I had to negotiate and navigate my way through the conference programme and online spaces over the 2 days. I have to confess that at the conference committee meetings when Jim Groom was explaining the broadcast concept of the conference, I didn’t quite get it. But I had faith that it would all be OK.  I just didn’t realise how OK it would actually turn out to be. 

Online conferences are different from face to face, it is harder to connect, to get that “conference buzz”.  I thought ALT did an amazing job last year in extremely rapidly pulling  together the online version of OER20. However this year, the conference platforms were at another level. The combination of Streamyard, Youtube, and Dischord worked  really well. I’m sure I missed a lot of the functionality of Dischord, but I managed! And I did get a real sense of live, hallway chats.

So congratulations to the Reclaim team and ALT for realising an almost seemless online  experience.  I have never chaired a session with an online “producer” before. Having someone dealing with countdowns, pulling in questions from the youtube chat was amazing. I have to say I kind of never want to not have one again!  The way that the “backstage” area for all presentations worked was amazing, and I’m sure some will be share in more detail elsewhere.

Of course any conference is not just about the location. What makes any conference work is its community. It’s what we,  the people,  do in the spaces (online or physical) that makes the difference. People not technology make conferences work. I think it’s fair to say that there is quite a core OER community and quite a bit of crossover between it and the Domains community.  The community aspect of the conference is one of the reasons I keep paying to go to OER conferences. It’s a vital part of my CPD – I don’t have any office buddies to talk to everyday. As we all know, open isn’t free and this is one dose of openness I am more than willing to pay to support. It’s a bit like an extended family reunion.  But we can’t let ourselves become a complacent, clique. We always need to ensure we are welcoming new people to the fold.

This year, there was a very necessary and needed focus on care. It’s been quite a year. People are tired, and need the support that a conference can provide such as sharing different approaches to open pedagogies of care, of social justice.  Brenna Clarke Gray talked about the “tricky truth about care” and the way (institutional) structures are actually indifferent. Where are the structural changes to institutional systems that are truly based on care?  Weekly wellness emails don’t really cut it and don’t deal with the moral stress that so many staff are dealing with.  Developing resilience is a sign of institutional, structural failure not personal failure. I really can’t recommend watching the recording of Brenna’s session enough.

Of course structural change is hard,  but if we can’t take the time to change things now after a global pandemic then when can we? I do have a sense that in HE  we are moving into a future that is being driven by narratives that aren’t based on the contextual realities of learning and teaching right now but more on neoliberal views ofwhat education should be and rosy tinted views of “getting back normal.”

I’ve always been a bit skeptical of phrases like Education 4.0 but I was intrigued by a session called University V is alive! Now open to the cruel and the dead, from Eamon Costello and Prajakta Girme. After finishing day 1 with the marvelous remixed and bingo infused keynote from Laura Gibbs, this was a stark contrast.  Whilst Laura shared a wonderful set of student created stories, Eamon and Prajakta  used a speculative fiction approach to present an unsettling, dystopian view of the open day for  University V,  34 years from now. Kudos to Eammon for his delivery, use of music and mix of visual artefacts and effects to create an unsettling start to day 2. We began to understand how every entrant to University V was indeed a number related to all family numbers and their behaviours that related to points, and value. There were intriguing clues as to who Professor A might be, how she(?) had changed her name to get “to the top”. As Eammon pointed out in the the Q&A the truth is really stranger than fiction, and we don’t have to go to far to discover what others might think only happens in fiction is actually happening in real life.

This came starkly to mind during Jasmine Robert’s powerful keynote. Jasmine’s honesty about her own trauma in the context of the reality of the the Derek Chauvin murder trial was a stark reminder of structures of oppression and who still controls the dominant media narratives. It’s not a huge jump at all to see Professor A as a person from a black, ethnic minority background who has manage to game and play the system to get to the top and protect her/him/they? (because we don’t really know Prof A’s gender) anonymity. The narrative of University V might be very different if it were written using non global north images and based on an alternative historical perspective.

Social justice was a critical theme across the conference, and both Jasmine and Rajiv highlighted it in their keynotes. Both stressed the need for us to let the under-represented voices be included, to support open pedagogies rooted in care and love. Part of that care is to recognise that not everything can or should be open. We need to create safe spaces for our students to have critical conversations, to help them develop their own voices, introduce them to a range of sources – not just “the white men”, and then give them the choice of where, how and when they want to put themselves in the open (as Laura’s keynote illustrated).

As ever it’s so hard to condense a conference experience into a blog post. From the opening plenary discussion keynote, where all the speakers rooted the conference in our current reality, OER x Domains 21 was, for me a very timely and necessary experience. Timely as it’s a year into the pandemic and teaching remotely, necessary as we all need to have space to get together, to share our stories, to learn from each other, to show our support and care for each other in a different space.

For me the overriding sense was of community, of care, of open humaneness (thank you Tutaleni Asino) of focusing on what really matters “we are teaching students not content” as Jasmine Roberts reminded us ; we are not humans “doing”, we are humans “being” said Glasgow College Student President Nicolas Garcia, in the opening plenary keynote . We might still be figuring out just how we can “be” in these still unsettling times, but open education, social justice and care are all great navigation points for this journey.

Many thanks to all the co-chairs, the organising committee, ALT and Reclaim staff , keynotes, presenters and participants alike for creating another great conference. Yes, collectively we all indeed did “do it again”. And it’s not over yet! There are workshops next week so do check them out. I’m delighted to be part of one around the potential future for BYOD4L. Wendy Taleo and Sarah Honeychurch invited everyone to contribute to an open zine in their Collective Hope short recording session. So here’s a little montage of some of my visual highlights.

Guest post for #OERxDomains21 : Being in the OER x Domains Space⤴

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As part of the build up to the OERxDomains21 conference next week, members of the conference committee have been writing a series of guest blog posts. My post has just been published and you can read it over on the conference blog here.

In the post I share some of my thoughts about time and conferences. Why it’s hard to find time to “conference” (particularly during lock-down), why it’s important to find the time to “conference” and a little secret about some of my best times at conferences.

Supporting an open covid pledge for education⤴

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One of the positive aspects of the whole covid-19, lockdown experience has been the refocus on care – care for ourselves, our families,our community, our learners, our colleagues. This manifestation of what I would describe as open educational practice is exemplified in the ALT community resources page which is an ever growing, international resource bank of practice sharing.

Today I am delighted to see the launch of a new initiative ( the brain child of Helen Beetham) to try and ensure that this open sharing of practice, research and data continues. This is what this initiative is all about, and I can’t really put it better than this from today’s ALT announcement.

we need more than shared content: we also need credible evidence on which to base day-to-day decisions in practice and policy. We need urgent research into the experiences of teachers and learners. We need shared know-how, especially from experienced online and distance educators and learning technology specialists. (This summer has seen a generous flowering of blog posts, webinars, infographics and how-to courses – but more will be needed as the ‘new normal’ takes root.) Education globally faces many challenges, not only for the people who work and learn in the sector but for whole organisations and modes of learning. Societies depend on education to improve lives, widen economic participation, and support civic life. Education will be critical to the long-term response to the pandemic crisis.”

So please, if you, your colleagues, your institution is/has/is planning to conduct any relevant research, do join the many individual and organisations who have already signed up, and sign the pledge and help everyone in the education sector and beyond focus on cooperation, not competition so we can all really build a better, research informed, future.

You can find out more and sign the pledge here.

My #OER20 bowl of soup⤴

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One of the main visual icons for the OER20 conference was a can of soup. It’s a really clever visual metaphor which encapsulates the theme of the conference – care in openness.

What could be more caring than a  lovingly made bowl of warming soup? Chicken soup for the soul etc.  However, the image of a can of soup also brings connotations of industrial scale production, commodification, mass consumption, our (global North)  throw away everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame, disposable culture.  As conference co-chair Mia Zamora highlighted, the image of the can of soup neatly encapsulates many of the challenges around open education, and in particular care in education, research and related practice.

Now, I have to say I hadn’t really thought of soup in this way before.  To be honest, I’m not that keen on soup. This is in part due to a mini act of rebellion on my part when I was a child. My parents owned a farm and there was always a pot of soup (typically vegetable broth) on the Aga. The soup, along with countless other dishes, was regularly made with care by my Mum to feed the myriad of people that were working on the farm at various times or who just happened to pop in  – we had a very open kitchen policy!

Everyone loved that soup. So, I think that mini me must have decided that at some point that  just to be different I would not.  I don’t like what I call “bit soup” – so any soup that I can see the bits of veggies or whatever, is generally a no go area for me.  Lucky me to have had the privilege of having access to enough food to be a fussy eater. 

I did however, like one kind of soup – the No. 57 variety that came out of a can. To this day It’s still my favourite soup.  The conference has made me reflect on why that is. Why did I prefer a mass prepared, out of a can experience to the craft, homemade kind? A child’s craving for artificial flavours aside,  I realise it really didn’t have anything to do with the soup, but it had everything to do with care.

 I only ever really got “my soup” when I wasn’t well, when I really couldn’t or wouldn’t eat anything. Quite often it came with with a buttered soft, white roll alongside it. It was “made” with care by my Mum. A visible yet invisible act of love for a sick child, that never failed to bring comfort and in its own way, nourishment.  I still associate a can of tomato soup with a warm hug, with safe places, healing and comfort. There were a number of times when I was really quite ill as a child and tomato soup was always a signal of recovery. 

This seems to echo some of the conversations and experiences around open education, and indeed education in general.  It’s how we show care that really matters. It’s so easy just to “throw a can of soup” at someone, rather than open it (even show people how to open it), heat it up, put in a bowl, garnish, remix, extend and share and most importantly create a safe space to help people to do the same, to share their favourite soup too and, where needed allow people create their alternative to soup.

Over the past 2 days at the OER20 conference I have experienced that same feeling of a warm hug, that soup always brings to mind, many times over.  We are all living in a vary strange time with the COVID crisis. Moving the conference online was a risky, but necessary step which has exceeded all expectations. 

Over 1,000 registered for the event. All the live sessions were packed with people. The emotional connections were palpable. Watching videos like France’s Bells story of the making of the FemEdTech quilt of care and justice reduced everyone in the session to tears. Similarly, during sava saheli singh’s keynote collectively watching Frames made everyone reflect on surveillance, the current impact of social and physical distancing in ways that extended the original premise of the script in totally unforeseen ways.

The KaraOERoke was emotional too – but possibly at the other end of the scale. A great example of having fun whilst physically distancing but really socially connecting and having fun. We so need to ensure that we have fun – that’s a huge part of caring too.

I’m still digesting all my experiences of the conference, and I’m so glad there is an even richer set of OER resources to go back to. For now tho’, I think I am going to find a tin of tomato soup and be thankful for that open hug everyone in involved in the conference from the Co-Chairs and conference committee, to the presenters, the participants, and of course the amazing ALT core staff team who managed the online transition so smoothly, have given me. 

My week in video conferencing – week 1 of the lock down diaries⤴

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Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

Well we’ve not quite finished week 1 of lock down here in the UK, but it does feel like a lot longer.   Zoom is the ‘new normal’ and we are all getting into a routine of queueing to get into the supermarkets. I for one am quite liking the safe distances particularly at the checkouts. I always seemed to have people over eager to get their stuff on the conveyor belt before I had even finished packing never mind paying!

I made a bit of a mental leap last week by thinking about physical not social distancing which is really helping me keep sane about the wider situation.  As I commented in my last post, working for home is my normal status so there’s not been much change on that front, but what and how I am working is evolving. 

If I was wittier, or could sing I would perhaps create a version of the 12 days of Christmas which would go along the lines of  1 teams workshop, 2 google meets, 3 good old skypes, 4 face times, 5 zoo-oo-oooms . . .and a collaborate ultra in a pear tree. 

What has struck me this week is differences in how I am using (video) conferencing technologies, and how my preferences are developing. On Monday Helen Beetham and I ran a workshop with colleagues in Durham University through Microsoft teams. I still feel a bit of a novice with teams and there are some things, like switching been presenting and chatting that I haven’t quite mastered, and feel a bit awkward, but I’m getting there.  The level of engagement we got for participants was fantastic and we incorporated a number of shared google docs which worked well for activities.  In between Helen and I caught up a number of times via Skype which is normal for us, but our daily stories were a bit different as lock down became a reality.   I really enjoyed the ALT drop in session on Friday lunch time (using Collaborate Ultra) – it was a lovely pause from everything just to chat with others and share some experiences. I also had a couple of google meetings with Maren Deepwell about ALT business – but that really is our normal way of communicating.

What has been slightly different for me is the more social side of conferencing. I had a lovely catch up with Allison Littlejohn, Lorna Campbell and Sarah Currier on Wednesday night. I booked a virtual table in our favourite Glasgow hangout and we had a great catch up both despairing at the situation and setting the world to rights, and just sharing what is going on in all our lives right now.

On Thursday I played virtual beetle drive with my niece and sisters. In the middle of that there was the NHS applause event. My sister and niece live in the country so it was lovely to be able to take them “outside” so they could hear and experience the claps, whistles, cheers from my part of the city.  On Friday we all met in again the “virtual foyer” of the Royal Opera House for a drink before a showing of one of the Royal Ballet schools productions on Youtube.  We even got dressed up, so that really changed how we interacted and felt. It’s funny, I don’t really go “out” that much normally, but just following that normal convention of putting on a bit more make up and a smarter top really felt quite exciting and helped to delineate Friday night from the rest of the week.

Like most people I can go for quite a period between seeing friends and family, there is always some level of communication. On reflection, perhaps a bit too much passive interaction through likes and shares on Instagram and Facebook. Now, when it so uncertain when we will actually be able see our family and friends in person the role of video in communication for “seeing” people really is taking on a more heightened significance.

Another first for me this week was doing a virtual fitness class. I normally go to an outdoor class in a local park, but obviously that’s not happening! So they have moved online – with the ubiquitous Zoom. What Facebook is making/doing of my zoom data I dread to think! and I also don’t remember seeing any notification of them about that but of course I guess it’s all in the small print. I’ve been doing 7am sessions and that half an hour has been a great way to start the day.  Again, I’m surprised how quickly I’ve adapted to the format.  Of course there has been an explosion of online “stuff” from online fitness to  music and art lessons, Again all great to see – I wonder how many of these will continue? What will we be the key lessons that we will learn, what will change, what will we forget in our rush to get back to “normal” – or as Kate Bowles in her absolutely beautiful post put it -what will our stories be? Where and how will we share them?

Next week looks like it will be another busy one online with the OER20 online edition. I’m also joining in a panel in a QAA Scotland event. The upside of virtual conferences is that you can be in two locations at once!  

Of course OER20 won’t be on the same scale as the f2f conference but I’m sure there is going to be a flurry of synchronous and asynchronous activity. There is so much learning and sharing of practice  just now – a veritable an explosion of open educational practice –  that I am sure the spaces that the conference will provide will allow for many stories to be shared and created. On a related note, I also recorded a little video message for all our ALT members this week too. Being visible, and having that human face in communication, is so important right now for everyone and every organisation.  

Space, places and time(s) for care: some thougths on COVID19 and #OER20⤴

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Photo by Jonny Clow on Unsplash

My goodness we are indeed living through strange and “interesting” times. The past week has seemed like a whirlwind of change, closures, delays, bans, and sadly deaths.  COVID19 may not be the deadliest of virus to many, but its global impact is wreaking havoc, not least to education. School and college closures, the rush to the online pivot  . . .

In my self employed status I am not as directly impacted as some of my colleagues, but I am experiencing a knock on effect on the work I have planned over the coming months. More closer to home for me has been the decision around the OER20 conference.  It became clear early last week that running the face to face conference was not a viable option and so the decision was made to refund all delegate fees and to host an online “edition” of the conference.  

Frances has written an excellent post summarising her perspective of the conference and what the move to online could (and should entail). I whole heartedly agree that this online conference should not, and cannot replicate the face to face version. That would be impossible – even for the super hero team at ALT who, like so many in my PLN,  are working flat out at the moment. What I think it can and needs to do is to provide a space for re-focused interactions, sharing of practice, support and most importantly care.  

On Friday evening I participated in the online discussion organised by Mia Zamora and Maha Bali  around Continuity with Care – more info here. What struck me as the nearly 30 or so participants introduced themselves and their current situationwas the similarity of experiences: rapid developments of disaster management strategies and their implementation, the uncertainty of what has/is going to happen, the lack of time to “move online”, and the mutual support and relief to have a safe space to share concerns – particularly concerns around care, accessibility, sustainability and humanity.

The ever wise Kate Bowles highlighted the need for focus on care and importantly care not only for our students but also for our ourselves and our colleagues. There was a sense of this move online being done to students and not with them which of course is creating huge uncertainty. Particularly for those at crucial points in their undergraduate programmes (see Catherine’s post for a great example of this and some really useful resources). 

Moving teaching online did seem to be being equated with “just moving lectures to zoom”.  Which, as many of us know is not really the answer.  Again what came out clearly through the conversation was the care and understanding of the reality of this situation for students. If they are not on campus, we cannot assume that all our students will or can be online at the same time as scheduled classes. They may now have other caring responsibilities, have to change their part time working hours, to support themselves, and may not have reliable access to the internet. The Jisc student insight survey highlighted that one of the most important services HE/FE institutions provide is free (at point of access), stable wifi access.  

Synchronous lectures are therefore not really the answer. More focus on asynchronous activities should really be the focus,  or as Alan pointed out in his recent post  “What we are really faced with is coming up with some quick alternative modes for students to complete course work without showing up on campus.”   That might allow a (re)focus on caring aspects, including self care for staff around actually time spent online. That does take time to work with staff to develop their confidence in doing just that. In terms of sustainability, a focus on broader curriculum/learning design would have longer term impact and be far more sustainable.  

In the rush to get “everything online” are we taking time to build in some evaluation of what is happening? What lessons can be learnt and built on once, hopefully some normality is restored.  Is anyone really counting the time that is actually being spent in this rush to move everything online? What is it actually costing? (Another great tip from Kate was https://clockify.me/ – for this very thing). 

So back to OER 20.  Perhaps we need to be looking at some more asynchronous opportunities there too, to allow delegates to interact at times that work better for their circumstances.  ALTs core values as highlighted in our recently launched strategy include community and participation. I really hope that the online edition of OER20 can provide space(s) and places for colleagues to come together as a community,  to participate, to share with, and about, care. What was clear from the conversation of Friday night is that people need spaces to come together.

I feel confident that building on the success of the ALTs established winter online conference, this online edition of OER20 can and will, provide an exemplar of what an online conference can be and how open-ness in all its forms can help us all during these times.   

Why is open education resource creation, management and publishing important?⤴

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A reflection for Open Education Week.

I was asked by Open Book Publishers to write a short statement/testimonial on “why it is important to publish educational resources in Open Access and/or why do you think Open Education is key to the future of learning?” The original is posted on their site with other reflections from people who have published open books. Do read them. I’m cross posting here as part of my own curation.

The suggested subject for this reflection was “why it is important to publish educational resources in Open Access,” but I’m not happy with that emphasis on the end point. It’s important that learning resources are not static once published, rather on publication a resource enters an iterative cycle of revision-reuse-evaluation-reflection.

My starting point for sharing educational resources was that high quality teaching and learning resources are difficult and time consuming to create; and like anything that is difficult and time consuming they are costly in terms of money or, more frequently, unpaid effort. To me, OER made sense as a means of sharing the effort of creating learning resources, dividing work between partners with different skills and viewpoints. It also made sense to get input from a wider range of contributors in such a way that the result is of use to a wider audience, providing a greater return for this effort.

This view has consequences not just for publishing, but for authoring and resource management during an extended lifecycle. Key among these are the need for collaborative authoring processes, tools that support these processes, and publication in formats that are interoperable with these tools. So, it is important to publish educational resources in open access because this supports a sustainable approach to the creation and widespread use of quality educational resources.

Just to expand a little on that final paragraph, I would stress that David Wiley’s ALMS framework is as important as his 5Rs (“Poor Technical Choices Make Open Content Less Open“) and highlight the interoperability of ePub in this context. When it comes to book publishing would like to call out people such as PressBooks, BookSprints and the CoKo foundation for their leadership on tools that facilitate open, collaborative authoring (though I know that this only scrapes the surface of people doing great things in collaborative content creation). Finally, thanks to Open Book Publishers for the excuse to spend a few minutes thinking about this.

The post Why is open education resource creation, management and publishing important? appeared first on Sharing and learning.

Beyond the text book, using learning resources for open educational practice workshop⤴

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Last Friday, 6th February, I had the pleasure of facilitating a workshop at DCU hosted by Dr Eamon Costello, Head of Open Education, NIDL, Dublin City University.

The webinar was one of a series of open workshop events funded by the National Forum taking place across Ireland. Around 25 delegates from a number of universities and colleges gathered at DCU for a morning of sharing the realities, challenges and opportunities of thinking not only open educational resources such as text books, but wider opportunities of developing open educational practice for staff and students.

Often when I am involved in events like this, or when I am just talking about openness in general, people are interested in finding very specific places to go to find “the good stuff” or the “best tools” or the “most inspirational example of openness”. Now, that is quite a challenge to answer as there is a lot of “good stuff” (and equally not so good stuff) out there. One thing that I have to come to realise is that the most inspirational part open educational practice is the generosity of people who share their practice openly. Maha Bali is a great example of this. Her blog is a constant source of ideas, inspiration and she always brings a constructive critique to everything she writes about. Just reading things from a different point of view has had quite a profound effect on my own thinking and practice. Similarly, being involved in running events such as BYOD4L (one day we should bring that back), and trying (I’m not as regular participant as I would like to be) to take part in tweet chats such as #LTHEchat are just some of the ways I try to be open.

The format of the workshop was quite simple, with 2 main objectives – 1) to get people talking and sharing, 2) to use a bit of technology for interaction and sharing. So this is what we did.

Introductions it’s always good to get a bit of an understanding of who people are and why they have come

Digital Pursuits : After discovering this board game developed by Shri Footing based on the original Trivial Pursuits but adapted to use the Jisc Digital Capabilities Framework, I have used it successfully at a number of workshops as an extended ice-breaker type activity. It really does get people talking, and thinking. There is also, for those that want it, an added competitive element. It’s also really interesting observing how different groups of people decide how to play the game.

Sharing realities, challenges, opportunities for OER/OEP: Using a padlet board delegates were asked to share one example of their open practice and one example of a current challenge. Storage, curation, maintenance of resources all still big challenges.

Developing open approaches to curriculum development: The final activity took a step back from resources to thinking more broadly about curriculum development. Using the digitally distributed curriculum model developed by Keith, Bill and myself – we discussed ways in which the values we propose in the diagram are/could be integrated into practice. Again we used padlet to share ideas.

Overall I felt that this worked well, allowing both a bit of focus and flexibility for delegates to talk and reflect on what their own context. It does seems to be harder and harder to find space and time to just think about what we do and how we do it. The funding model from the National Forum, where small pockets of money are given to institutions to run workshops like this, is I think, a really practical and effective way to make some space for thinking. I wish there was an equivalent here in the UK.

Opening Online Learning with OER⤴

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This is the transcript of a talk I gave last week at the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine’s Post Graduate Tutors Away Day at the University of Edinburgh.  Slides are available here: Opening Online Learning with OER

Before I go on to talk about open education and OER, I want you to think about Ra’ana Hussein’s inspiring video where she articulates so clearly why participating in the MSc in Paediatric Emergency Medicine has been so empowering for her. 

Ra’ana said that the course helps her to be better at her work, and that she gains knowledge and learning that she can implement practically. It’s enabled her to meet people from diverse backgrounds, and connect with a global community of peers that she can share her practice with.  She finds online learning convenient, and tailored to her needs and she benefits from having immediate access to support, which helps her to balance her work and study commitments.

I’d like you to try and hold Ra’ana’s words in your mind while we go on and take a look at open education, OER and what it’s got to do with why we’re here today.

What is open education?

Open education is many things to many people.

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

Capetown Declaration

The principles of the open education were outlined in the 2008 Cape Town Declaration, one of the first initiatives to lay the foundations of the “emerging open education movement”.  The Declaration advocates that everyone should have the freedom to use, customize, and redistribute educational resources without constraint, in order to nourish the kind of participatory culture of learning, sharing and cooperation that rapidly changing knowledge societies need.  The Cape Town Declaration is still an influential document and it was updated last year on its 10th anniversary as Capetown +10, and I can highly recommend having a look at this if you want a broad overview of the principles of open education.

Aspects of Open Education

Although there’s no one hard and fast definition of open education, one description of the open education movement that I particularly like is 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 is highly contextual and encompasses many different things. These are just some of the aspects of open education

  • Open online courses
  • Open pedagogy
  • Open practice
  • Open assessment practices
  • Open textbooks
  • Open licensing
  • Open data
  • MOOCs
  • Open Access scholarly works
  • Open educational resources (OER)

OER

Though Open Education can encompass many different things, open educational resources, or OER, are central to any understanding of this domain.

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.”

UNESCO Policy Instruments

And the reason I’ve chosen this definition is that UNESCO is one of a number of international agencies that actively supports the global adoption of open educational resources.  In 2012 UNESCO released the Paris OER Declaration which encourages 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.   And in 2017 UNESCO brought together 111 member states for the 2nd OER World Congress in Slovenia, the main output of which was the UNESCO Ljubljana OER Action Plan.  Central to the OER Action plan is the acknowledgement of the role that OER can play in achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 and support quality education that is equitable, inclusive, open and participatory.

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 means to reach SDGs. OER are the key.”

The Action Plan acknowledges that open education and OER provide a strategic opportunity to improve knowledge sharing, capacity building and universal access to quality learning and teaching resources. And, when coupled with collaborative learning, and supported by sound pedagogical practice, OER has the transformative potential to increase access to education, opening up opportunities to create and share an array of educational resources to accommodate greater diversity of educator and learner needs.

Open Education at the University of Edinburgh

Now all this may sound very aspirational and possibly a touch idealistic, but here at the University of Edinburgh we believe that open education and OER are strongly in line with our institutional mission to deliver impact for society, discover, develop and share knowledge, and make a significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to the Scotland, the UK and the world.

Support for Sustainable Development Goals

It’s also worth noting that the University already has a commitment to Sustainable development goals through the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability and the university and college sectors’ Sustainable Development Accord.  And the new principal has recently re-stated the University’s commitment to meeting this goals.

OER Vision

The University has a vision for OER which 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.

OER Policy

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.  The fact that this policy was approved by the Learning and Teaching Committee, rather than by the Knowledge Strategy Committee is significant because it places open education and OER squarely in the domain of teaching and learning, which of course is the domain we’re focusing on here today.  The University’s vision for OER is very much the brain child of Melissa Highton, Assisstant Principal Online Learning and Director of Learning and Teaching Web Services.  However it’s also notable that EUSA the student union were instrumental in encouraging the University to adopt an OER policy, and we continue to see student engagement and co-creation as being fundamental aspects of open education.  

OER Service

But of course policy is nothing without support, so we also have an OER Service that provides staff and students with advice and guidance on creating and using OER and engaging with open education.  We run a wide range of digital skills workshops for staff and students focused on copyright, open licencing, OER and playful engagement.  And we provide a one stop shop where you can access open educational resources produced by staff and students across the university, including some from this college.   As well as working closely with our students, the OER Service also hosts Open Content Creation student interns every summer.  And if you’d like to talk to me about the advice and guidance the OER Service provides…

Near Future Teaching

Openness is also at the heart of the Near Future Teaching project undertaken over the last two years by a team from the Centre for Research in Digital Education, led by Sian Bayne (Assistant Principal Digital Education).  This project co-created a values based vision for the future of digital education at the University with input from more than 400 staff and students. The project report, published last month, sets out a vision and aims for a near future teaching that is community focused, post digital, data fluent, assessment oriented, playful and experimental, and boundary challenging.  And one of the ways these goals can be achieved is  through increasing openness.  So for example the report calls for boundary challenging digital education that is lifelong, open and transdisciplinary, and the actions required to achieve these objectives are all centered on committing to openness.

So that’s the big picture vision, but what I want to do now is just take a few minutes to look at what’s actually happening in practice, and to highlight some of the innovative open education initiatives that are already going on across the university.

Building Community

Open education is a great way to build community and if you cast your mind back to Ra’ana you’ll remember that she appreciated being part of a connected global community of peers. 

One great way to build community is through academic blogging, and just last year the University set up a new centrally supported Academic Blogging Service. The service provides staff and students with a range of different blogging platforms to support professional development and learning, teaching and research activities.  The service includes existing platforms such as Learn, Moodle, and Pebblepad and a new centrally supported WordPress service, blogs.ed.ac.uk.  To complement the service, we provide digital skills resources and workshops, including one on Blogging to Build Your Professional Profile, we’ve recently launched a seminar series featuring talks from academic blog users around the University, and we’ve been running a mini-series on the Teaching Matters blog.  And I’d like to draw your attention to the most recent blog post in that series from Bethany Easton from the School of Health in Social Science, about The Nursing Blog which was set up in 2014 as a community blog where staff and students from across the Nursing Studies Subject area can share their achievements, research, and work.   And another great example of community blogging is Stories from Vet School which features blogs posts written by current undergraduate veterinary medicine students.  And if you look carefully you’ll see that one thing both these blogs have in common is that they both carry a Creative Commons open licence, which means that the posts themselves are open educational resources that can be reused by other teachers and learners. It’s easy to see how this format could be adopted for use with online postgraduate students as a great way to connect them with their peers and build that all important sense of community so critical for distance learners.

Diversifying the Curriculum

OER can also make a significant contribution to diversifying and decolonizing the curriculum. 

LGBT+ Healthcare 101 was a collaborative project run by EDE and the Usher Institute worked with undergraduate students, to develop a suite of resources covering lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual health. Although knowledge of LGBT health and of the sensitivities needed to treat LGBT patients are valuable skills for qualifying doctors, these issues are not well-covered in the Medical curricula.  Using materials from the commons, this project sought to address the lack of teaching on LGBT health 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 Creative Commons 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 OER.

More recently the OER Service has released a series of resources on Openness, Equality and Inclusion which includes materials from a workshop we ran with EUSA VP of Education, Diva Mukherji, on Decolonising and Diversifing the curriculum with Open Educational Resources.  And again it’s not difficult to see how important diversifying the curriculum is when you’re creating educational resources and learning experiences for global students from a wide range of different cultural contexts.

Access to Resources

Creating and using open educational resources is also an important way to ensure longevity of access to course materials, and this can benefit staff, students, and the university itself.    It’s very common to think of OER 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 great content only for those resources to become 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 the cost and reputational risk to the university could be significant if copyright is breached.   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.  We already have some really innovative open educational resources from the College highlighted on the OER Service website and if you want to learn more about how to use and create re-useable open content without fear of breaching copyright, the OER Service runs a number of digital skills workshops covering this and we have lots of materials available online too.

In the context of online distance learning, using open licensed resources means that students can continue to access and use these resources after they have graduated.  And this is an issue that is becoming increasingly pressing as there have been a number of critical press reports recently about postgraduate students who have lost access to resources after the taught component of their courses has finished but before they have submitted all their course work.

MOOCs and the Open Media Bank

Continued access to educational resources can be particularly problematic when it comes to MOOCs.  Educational content often gets locked into commercial MOOC platforms, regardless of whether or not it is openly licensed, and some platforms are now time limiting access to content. Clearly this is not helpful for students and, given how costly high quality online teaching and learning resources are to produce, it also represents a poor return on investment for the University.  So one of the ways that we’re addressing this here at the University is by ensuring that all the content we have produced for our MOOCs is also freely available to download under open licence from the Open Media Bank channel on Media Hopper Create.  We now have over 500 MOOC videos which are available to re-use under Creative Commons licence, including “Mental Health: A Global Priority” from the School of Molecular, Genetic and Population Health Sciences, and “Clinical Psychology of Children and Young People” from the School of Health in Social Science.

Wikipedia in the Classroom

Another way we can create open knowledge and embed open education in the curriculum is by engaging with the world’s biggest open educational resource, Wikipedia.  Here at the University we have our very own Wikipedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, based in Learning, Teaching and Web Services. Ewan works to embed open knowledge in the curriculum, through skills training sessions, editathons, Wikipedia in the classroom initiatives and Wikidata projects, in order to increase the quantity and quality of open knowledge and enhance digital and information literacy skills for both staff and students.   And one of the ways that Ewan does this is by working with academic colleagues to develop Wikipedia in the Classroom assignments. Creating Wikipedia entries enables students to demonstrate the relevance of their field of study and share their scholarship in a real-world context and at the same time, contribute to the global pool of open knowledge.

To date, 11 course programmes across the University have developed Wikipedia assignments, some of which are now in their second or third iteration. And I know that Ewan is working with colleagues to explore the creation of new Wikipedia assignments for the MScs in Global and Public Health. 

Reproductive Biomedicine have been successfully running Wikipedia assignments as part of their Reproductive Biology Honours course since 2015.  As part of her assignment in 2016, honours student Aine Kavanagh created a new Wikipedia article on high-grade serous carcinoma, one of the most common forms of ovarian cancer.   This article, including over sixty references and open-licensed diagrams created by Áine herself, has now been viewed over 64,000 times since it was published in September 2016, it’s hard to imagine many other student assignments having this kind of impact.  Not only has Aine contributed valuable health information to the global Open Knowledge community, she has also created a resource that other students and global health experts can add to and improve over time.  Creating resources that will live on on the open web, and that make a real contribution to global open knowledge, has proved to be a powerful motivator for the students taking part in these assignments.  

OER Creation Assignments

In addition to the Wikipedia in the Classroom assignments, there are also other examples of open assessment practices from around the University, including assessed blogging assignments and OER creation assignments. So for example, these resources on Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Pets were created by Silke Salavati for an assignment as part of the Digital Education module for the Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) in Academic Practice.  And OER creation assignments also form an integral part of the Digital Futures for Learning course which is part of the MSc in Digital Education.  Commenting on this OER creation assignment in a recent blog post, Jen Ross who runs this course said

“Experiencing first-hand what it means to engage in open educational practice gives student an appetite to learn and think more.  The creation of OERs provides a platform for students to share their learning. In this way, these assignments can have ongoing, tangible value for students and for the people who encounter their work.”

Conclusion

These are just some of the ways that open education and OER is already being embedded and supported across the University and I hope this will give you some ideas as to how open approaches can benefit your online courses ad modules here in the College.  And if you think back to Ra’ana and all the reasons that she appreciated being a student on the MSc in Paediatric Emergency Medicine; ease of access to resources and support, the practical application of knowledge, the ability to share her practice with her peers, being part of a diverse and connected global community, these are all aspects that can be enhanced further by engaging with OER and open education.

 I want to finish with a quote from one of our Open Content Curation student interns, and I make no apology for using this quote almost every time I talk about open education and OER.  This is former undergraduate Physics student Martin Tasker talking about the value of open education

“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.”

Introducing the femedtech Open Space⤴

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This blog post, by Frances Bell and I, originally appeared on the OER19 Conference website earlier this week and I’m cross-posting it here for International Women’s Day.  Frances and I first started discussing the idea of a femedtech Open Space when OER19 launched their call for proposals, and right from the off we knew we wanted to create a space that was as open and inclusive as possible, one that would allow those who were unable to attend the conference to participate, and one that would live on after it.  I was keen to explore the use of the TRU Writer SPLOT template, having previously had a lot of fun with other SPLOT templates through our work at the University of Edinburgh.  Out of these vague ideals, lots of late night e-mail and twitter conversations, and with the generous help of the people acknowledged below, the femedtech Open Space was born. Find out more about this initiative and please consider contributing your voice to our community. 

One of the real strengths of the OER Conferences is that in recent years they have increasingly facilitated an ongoing critical discourse that seeks to question and renegotiate what openness means to educators, teachers and learners within different contexts and perspectives.  This discourse ripples out from the physical and temporal boundaries of the conferences in the form of blogs posts, twitter conversations, research papers and discussions that enable us to trace the evolution of narratives of open from year to year.  OER17 The Politics of Open explored the challenges current political movements posed for Open Education and how they might further or hinder values of inclusivity, sharing, connectedness, equity, voice, agency, and openness. OER18 Open For All sparked discussions around power and marginality, inclusivity, diversity, identity, decolonisation and respect, and these themes will be explored further during OER19.  When Co-Chair Catherine Cronin introduced the themes of OER19 Recentering Open: Critical and Global Perspectives at the end of OER18 in Bristol she stressed the imperative of moving beyond hero narratives and including marginalised voices.

These themes and values align strongly with those of femedtech, an open, inclusive and voluntary network of education technology practitioners informed by feminist principles.  femedtech is committed to creating inclusive online spaces where marginalised voices can speak and be heard. We acknowledge that this is an ongoing work in progress and a learning experience for all of us.

With this in mind, the femedtech network will be facilitating an inclusive Open Space session around OER19 to explore themes and conversations that have emerged from previous OER conferences around power, marginality, equality, diversity and inclusion.  We’ll be seeking to question dominant narratives of “open”, explore whose voices are included and whose are excluded from our open spaces and open practices, whose voices we choose to amplify and whose are silenced. 

Questions we hope to consider before, during and after the OER19 session include;

  • How do we balance privacy, openness and personal ethics?
  • How do we mediate our place in the open community, aspects of which might conflict with our personal ethics?
  • Is openness an act of conformance and / or defiance? And are there performative aspects to openness?
  • Do we feel pressured to be more open than we are comfortable with, or do our boundaries constrain us?
  • How do we manage sustainable spaces for exploring challenging issues around open?

In order to facilitate these discussions and to ensure the widest participation from the community, we are building an online femedtech Open Space, http://femedtech.net/, to gather stories, thoughts, reflections, responses and reactions, in the form of written content, images, audio, and media.  We welcome reflections on all aspects and experiences of openness from feminist perspectives and we encourage participants to raise their own questions and tell their own stories.  We acknowledge that our understanding of openness is highly personal and contextualised, and appreciate that there is no standard definition of openness to which we must comply.  In order to ensure that engaging with the #femedtech Open Space will be as widely accessible and inclusive as possible, participants are able to contribute to these conversations anonymously if they choose.   

Through the femedtech Open Space, we also aim to explore how we build our communities and practices here and elsewhere in the #femedtech network, and evaluate whether this is a sustainable model for growing the #femedtech community and network. Inspired by Dignazio & Klein (2018), we will develop our inclusive values statement iteratively in conjunction with activities on the Open Space and across the femedtech community. 

During the conference session, we will briefly introduce the Open Space for those who haven’t seen it before, and invite delegates and virtual participants to contribute and discuss their own ideas and reflections. We’ll summarise progress to date, invite feedback from session participants, outline future plans, and encourage participants to engage with others’ contributions after the conference. We also hope to encourage remote participation in the conference session.

We invite you to visit the femedtech Open Space to contribute your thoughts, reflections, comments, stories and ideas: http://femedtech.net/

Acknowledgements

This is an extra-institutional project taking place within the broad venture of the femedtech network. 

Thanks to Maren Deepwell and Sheila MacNeill who have contributed to shaping this initiative and will be helping to facilitate our OER19 conference session. 

The femedtech Open Space is generously hosted by Reclaim Hosting.  Reclaim Hosting provides educators and institutions with an easy way to offer their students domains and web hosting that they own and control.   The site uses the open source TRU Writer SPLOT WordPress theme developed by Alan Levine and available on Github. 

Our Code of Conduct is adapted with permission from  PressED Conference run by Natalie Lafferty and Pat Lockley. It incorporates elements from ukmedchat and FOAMed and is intended to be interpreted according to feminist principles.