Tag Archives: university of edinburgh

2023 End of Year Reflection⤴

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Posting an end of year round up at the end of January might seem a bit daft, but I’m already one step ahead of last year, when I posted my end of year reflection in February! 

The beginning of the year was a succession of real highs and lows.  UCU entered a long phase of industrial action which came at a particularly challenging time for me as January and February is usually when I’m preparing for Open Education Week and the OER Conference.  However I also took some time out for a trip to New York with friends, which turned out to be one of the high points of my year. 

Open Education Week

For Open Education Week we ran a webinar that celebrated 10 years of open course development at the University of Edinburgh and shared the open course creation workflow that we’ve developed and refined over the years. 

 

OER23 Conference

It was great to see the OER Conference returning to Scotland in March when it was hosted by UHI in Inverness.  Inverness is a place that is very close to my heart as it’s the main city in the Highlands and it’s also were we used to go on holiday when I was a kid.  Inverness is still a stopping off point on the journey home when I go to visit family in Stornoway so I had a slightly weird feeling of nostalgia and home-sickness while I was there, it was odd being in Inverness and not traveling on further north and west. 

One of the themes of this years conference was Open Scotland +10 and Joe Wilson and I ran a number of sessions including a pre-conference workshop and closing plenary to reflect on how the open education landscape in Scotland has evolved over the last decade, and to discuss potential ways to advance open education across all sectors of Scottish education. 

Photograph of Open Scotland Plenary Panel at the OER23 Conference.

Open Scotland Plenary Panel by Tim Winterburn.
Here, the closing Panel Plenary session

Generative AI

Like many working in technical, educational and creative sectors I found it impossible to ignore the discourse around generative AI, though I hope I managed to avoid getting swept up in the hype and catastrophising.  In July I wrote an off-the-cuff summary of some of the many ethical issues related to generative AI and LLMs that are becoming increasingly hard to ignore: Generative AI – Ethics all the way down.  I appreciated having an opportunity to revisit these issues again at the end of the year when I joined the ALT Winter Summit on Ethics and Artificial Intelligence which provided much food for thought. Helen Beetham’s keynote Whose Ethics? Whose AI? A relational approach to the challenge of ethical AI was particularly thoughtful and thought provoking. 

Student Interns

Much of the summer was taken up with recruiting and managing our Open Content Curator student interns.  It’s always a joy working with our interns, their energy and enthusiasm is endlessly inspiring, and this year’s interns, August and Mayu, were no exception. I suggested it might be fun for them to interview each other about their experience of working with the OER Service and, with the help of our fabulous Media Team, they produced this lovely video. 

 

I was delighted when August and Mayu were shortlisted for the Student Employee of the Year Award in Information Services Group’s Staff Recognition Awards, in acknowledgement of their outstanding work with the OER Service and their wider contribution to ISG and the University. 

Their Finest Hour

The OER Service welcomed another student intern in the summer, Eden Swimer, who joined us to help run a digital collection day as part of the University of Oxford’s Their Finest Hour, a National Lottery Heritage funded project at the University of Oxford, which is collecting and preserving the everyday stories and objects of the Second World War. Organising and running the digital collection day proved to be a huge undertaking and we couldn’t have done it without the help of 26 volunteers from across ISG and beyond who committed so much time and energy to the project.  

 

The digital collection day took place in Rainy Hall, New College at the end of November and it was a huge success. Over 100 visitors attended and volunteers recorded over 50 interviews and took thousands of photographs, all of which will be uploaded to an open licensed archive that will be launched by the University of Oxford in June this year.  It was a deeply moving event, many of the stories recorded were truly remarkable and the visitors clearly appreciated having the opportunity to share their families stories.  In some cases these stories were being told by the last surviving relatives of those who had witnessed the historic events of WW2 and there was a real sense of preserving their experiences for posterity. 

Their Finest Hour digital collection day by Fiona Hendrie

The collection day was covered by STV and you can see a short clip of their news item here: Second World War memories to be preserved at university collection day

Publications

It was a privilege to work with co-authors Frances Bell, Lou Mycroft, Guilia Forsythe and Anne-Marie Scot to contribute a chapter on the “FemEdTech Quilt of Care and Justice in Open Education” to Catherine Cronin and Laura Czerniewicz’s timely and necessary Higher Education for Good: Teaching and Learning Futures. 

“Quilting has always been a communal activity and, most often, women’s activity. It provides a space where women are in control of their own labour: a space where they can come together to share their skill, pass on their craft, tell their stories, and find support. These spaces stand outside the neoliberal institutions that seek to appropriate and exploit our labour, our skill, and our care. The FemEdTech-quilt assemblage has provided a space for women and male allies from all over the world to collaborate, to share their skills, their stories, their inspiration, and their creativity. We, the writers of this chapter, are five humans who each has engaged with the FemEdTech Quilt of Care and Justice in Open Education in different ways, and who all have been active in the FemEdTech network.” 

I was also invited to submit a paper to a special open education practice edition of Edutec Journal.  Ewan McAndrew, Melissa Highton and I co-authored a paper on “Supporting open education practice: Reflective case studies from the University of Edinburgh.”

“This paper outlines the University of Edinburgh’s long-running strategic commitment to supporting sustainable open education practice (OEP) across the institution. It highlights how the University provides underpinning support and digital capability for OEP through central services working with policy makers, partners, students, and academics to support co-creation and active creation and use of open educational resources to develop digital literacy skills, transferable attributes, and learning enhancement. We present a range of case studies and exemplars of authentic OEP evidenced by reflective practice and semi-structured ethnographic interviews, including Wikimedia in the Curriculum initiatives, open textbook production, and co-creation of interdisciplinary STEM engagement resources for schools. The paper includes recommendations and considerations, providing a blueprint that other institutions can adopt to encourage sustainable OEP. Our experience shows that mainstreaming strategic support for OEP is key to ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

Writing this paper was an interesting experience as Edutec is a research journal that expects evidence to be presented in a very particular way.  As a service division, we support practice rather than undertaking academic research, so the case studies we present are based on authentic reflective practice rather than empirical research, however it was useful to think about this practice from a different perspective. 

Wikimedia UK

In July I was awarded Honorary Membership of Wikimedia UK in recognition of my contribution to the work of the charity during my six years as a Trustee. When my term as a trustee came to an end, I was hoping that I’d have more time to contribute to the Wikimedia projects.  That hasn’t quite happened, I didn’t manage to do any Wikipedia editing in 2023, but I did enjoy taking part in Wiki Loves Monuments again.  I also digitised some pictures I took of the Glasgow Garden festival way back in 1988 and uploaded them to Wikimedia Commons to share them with the fabulous After the Garden Festival project, which is attempting to locate and archive the legacy of the festival. 

Teddy Bears Picnic, sponsored by Moray District Council. CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell on Wikimedia Commons.

ALT

I made short-lived trip to the ALT Conference in Warwick in September.  Unfortunately I  had to leave early as I came down with a stinking cold. I was really disappointed to have to miss most of the conference as it was outgoing CEO Maren Deepwell’s last event and I was also due to receive an Honorary Life Membership of ALT award. It was a huge honour to receive this award as ALT has been a significant part of my professional life for over two decades now.  You can read my short reflection on the award here: Honorary Life Membership of ALT. 

For almost three decades Lorna has been a champion of equitable higher education and an open education activist. Lorna ‘s lifelong commitment to and passion for equality and diversity clearly is evident in her work, yet Lorna tends not to push herself forward and celebrate – or even self-acknowledge – her many achievements. 
ALT press release.

Kenneth White, 1936 – 2023

I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Kenneth White in August.  Despite being an avid reader of Scottish poetry, and having studied Scottish Literature at Glasgow University for a couple of years, I hadn’t come across White until my partner introduced me to him in 2002.  His absence from Glasgow’s curriculum, and indeed his relative obscurity in his homeland, is striking given that he was a graduate of Glasgow University who went on to become the chair of 20th century poetics at Paris-Sorbonne. White, however, has always been a writer who divides the critics, particularly in Scotland. A poet, writer, philosopher, traveller, and self-identified transcendental Scot, White founded the International Institute of GeoPoetics and was a regular visitor to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where I was fortunate to see him read.  To say that White’s writing, particularly his meditations on openness and the Atlantic edge, had a profound effect on me, is something of an understatement. This blog is named after the title of White’s collected poetic works and his lines frequently find their way into more unguarded pieces I’ve written.  I’ll leave you with a few words from the man himself. 

Image of the coast with the words of Scotia Deserta by Kenneth White.

OER23 Conference: Imagining hopeful futures⤴

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I’m a bit late with this OER23 reflection, it’s taken me a couple of weeks to catch up with myself and to let some of the ideas generated by the conference percolate.  

It was fabulous to see the OER Conference returning to Scotland for the fist time since we hosted it at the University of Edinburgh in 2016, and I was particularly pleased to see the conference visit the University of the Highlands and Islands in Inverness.  Inverness holds a rather special place in my heart as the site of many childhood holidays (it seemed like such a big city compared to Stornoway!) and as a stopping off point on annual journeys home to the Hebrides.  I had a slightly weird feeling of nostalgia and home-sickness while I was there, it was odd being in Inverness and not traveling on further north and west. Perhaps not coincidentally, sense of place and community were two themes that emerged throughout the conference. 

As one of the few universities in Scotland, along with Edinburgh, with a strategic commitment to open education, including an OER Policy and a Framework for the Development of Open Education Practices, UHI was a fitting venue for the conference. Keith Smyth and his UHI colleagues were the warmest of hosts and the airy Inverness campus was a beautiful location with plenty of space to breathe, think, and (re)connect. It was lovely seeing so many colleagues from around the world experiencing a Highland welcome for the first time. 

UHI Inverness, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

One of the main themes of the conference was “Open Education in Scotland – celebrating 10 years of the Scottish Open Education Declaration” and Joe Wilson and I ran both a pre-conference workshop and the closing plenary panel to reflect on progress, or not, over the last ten years and to map a way forward.  I’ll be reflecting on these discussions in another post.

Rikke Toft Nørgård opened the conference with a fantastic and fantastical keynote on “Hyper-Hybrid Futures? Reimagining open education and educational resources Places // Persons // Planets” (slides, recording) that challenged us to imagine and manifest transformative speculative futures for education.  Her call for “open hopepunk futures in grimdark times” clearly resonated with participants. Rikke described hopepunk as a sincerely activist approach to fighting for a more hopeful future.  I particularly liked her vision for place-ful OERs; education that has a home, that belongs and dwells in placefulness, being some-where, not any-where. 

Anna-Wendy Stevenson also picked up on this idea of belonging and placefulness in her keynote “Setting the Tone: The democratisation of music eduction in the Highlands and Island and beyond” (recording). Anna-Wendy is the course leader of UHI’s award-winning BA in Applied Music, a blended learning course that enables students to study music in their own communities while providing opportunities for both virtual and place based residencies in the Outer Hebrides and beyond.  Having grown up in the Hebrides I appreciate the importance of having the opportunity to study at home, and the benefits this can bring to students and the community.  I left the islands to go to university and, like many graduates, never returned.  While eighteen-year-old me wouldn’t have passed up on the opportunity to move to “the mainland” in a month of Sundays (IYKYK), I would have jumped at the chance if there had been a possibility to go back home to continue studying archaeology at postgraduate level. It’s wonderful that students now have that opportunity. After Anna-Wendy’s keynote, it was lovely to hear her playing traditional Scottish music with some of her students who have benefited from this place-based approach to music education. 

It was great being able to attend the conference with a group of colleagues from the University of Edinburgh, several of whom were experiencing the conference for the first time. Fiona Buckland and Lizzy Garner-Foy from the Online Course Production Service gave a really inspiring presentation about the University’s investment in open education, which has resulted in 100 free short online courses and over 1000 open educational resources (OER) that have benefited almost 5 million learners over the last 10 years. It makes you proud 🙂

Tracey Madden told the story of the University’s digital badges pilot project and the challenges of developing a sustainable service that assures both quality and accessibility. Stuart Nicol and I shared the university’s experience of transforming the curriculum with OER and presented case studies from the fabulous GeoScience Outreach course and our indefatigable Wikimedian in Residence (slides). We shared a padlet of open resources, along with staff and student testimonies, which you can explore here: Open For Good – Transforming the curriculum with OER at the University of Edinburgh.

 

The Edinburgh team also had a really productive meeting with a delegation of colleagues from a wide range of institutions and organisations in the Netherlands to share our experiences of supporting open education policy and practice at institutional and national level in our respective countries. 

As with so many OER Conferences, hope and joy were prominent themes that were woven into the fabric of the event. Catherine Cronin gave us an update on the eagerly anticipated book Higher Education for Good: Teaching and Learning Futures, which she has been editing with Laura Czerniewicz. 

Prajakta Girme spoke about “Warm Spaces”; open multicultural space, or “pockets of community” for vulnerable communities and non-students within the university environment. Frances Bell and Lou Mycroft asked how we can use feminist posthuman storytelling to promote activism in FemEdTech and open education, challenging us to develop “productive approaches to exploring uncertain educational futures critically, retaining the pragmatic hope offered by Posthuman Feminism.”  Frances had brought one of the Femedtech quilts (it was lovely to see my Harris Tweed square at home in the Highlands) and she invited us to write speculative futures for the quilt assemblage.  You can read my micro-speculative future on femedtech.net here: Reconnecting with Joy.

Frances Bell and the Femedtech quilt, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

I also had a really lovely conversation with Bryan Mathers of Visual Thinkery about our shared experience of reconnecting with our Gàidhlig / Gaeilge language and culture. His Patchwork Province zines had me laughing and nodding along in rueful recognition. 

I always leave the OER Conferences inspired and hope-full and this year it was lovely to end the conference by sharing a quiet, reflective train journey with Catherine, Joe and Louise Drumm, who captured this beautiful image as we traveled home through the Highlands.

 

 

Better late than never! 2022 end of year round up.⤴

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Is February too late (or early??) to write an end of year round up post? People often complain about January dragging but I swear it passed in the blink of an eye this year, and somehow we’re already half way through February. This is way, way, after the fact, but there are a few things I did at the end of last year that I don’t want to get lost in the churn. 

Although I didn’t manage to write an end of year review for this blog, I did write one for Open.Ed, the University of Edinburgh’s OER Service, which you can read it here if you’re interested: OER Service 2022 Roundup

EDEN NAP Webinar

In early December I was invited to take part in an EDEN NAP webinar on Institutional Approaches to Supporting Open Educational Resources, which explored the different ways that Universities are building open education capacity and acting as enablers of innovative open practice. I spoke about our experience of embedding strategic support for open education and OER at the University of Edinburgh. The other speakers were Professor Daniel Burgos, Universidad Internacional de La Rioja (UNIR), Dr Carina Ginty, Atlantic Technological University, and Fiona Schmidbauer, DHBW Karlsruhe. There was an impressive turnout of over 160 participants from all over Europe.  The webinar was recorded and I’ll link to it here once it’s online. 

ENCORE+ Webinar

I also took part in another webinar on OER and credentialing, run by the European Network for Catalysing Open Resources for Education (ENCORE+) Project. ENCORE+ is an ERASMUS+ Knowledge Alliance project, funded by the European Commission, which supports the uptake and innovation of open educational resources for education and business.  Earlier in the year I was interviewed by Dai Griffiths as part of a series of interviews exploring innovative approaches to credentialing learning in the European OER ecosystem, the opportunities that they offer, and the barriers to their application.  During the interview we discussed strategic support for OER at the University of Edinburgh, the role (or not) of OER repositories, and benefits for students creating open education resources and open knowledge as part of their accredited courses.  The webinar brought together several of the interviewees to discuss some of the themes that had emerged in the interviews in more depth.  You can read my interview here: ENCORE+ Interview.

Femedtech

At the beginning of December I took over from Maren Deepwell as administrator of the femedtech Twitter account.  Maren has managed the account and our guest curators for the last year and I’m hugely grateful for the simple and efficient process she handed over to me.  Clearly we need to question the ongoing viability of Twitter as a platform for femedtech given the (lack of) ethics of its current proprietor and the degradation of the platform itself. Femedtech has always been a loose collective with multiple channels and I know that some of our curators this year will be exploring how we can use those other channels, including femedtech.net, and potentially Mastodon, going forwards.  In the meantime, we’re going to continue curating the femedtech account and hashtag on Twitter, so if you’d like to put your name down for a curation slot you can volunteer here: Get involved with femedtech

I also did my own curation slot during December, the first time I’d curated for a couple of years. (You can read my reflection on my last curation slot here: Reflections on @Femedtech Curation.) I had planned to open a discussion about the ethics of remaining on twitter, and the logistics of moving to another platform such as Mastodon, but I got sidetracked by the ongoing debate about the ethics of AI art algorithms, their use of art works scraped from the commons, and the harmful stereotypes that appear to be inherent in the datasets and algorithm themselves. 

Critical Ignoring

I think the real highlight of my curation slot was coming across this paper by Anastasia Kozyreva, Sam Wineburg, Stephan Lewandowsky, and Ralph Hertwig on Critical Ignoring as a Core Competence for Digital Citizens.  

Low-quality and misleading information online can hijack people’s attention, often by evoking curiosity, outrage, or anger. Resisting certain types of information and actors online requires people to adopt new mental habits that help them avoid being tempted by attention-grabbing and potentially harmful content. We argue that digital information literacy must include the competence of critical ignoring—choosing what to ignore and where to invest one’s limited attentional capacities.

Critical ignoring is not a concept I’ve come across before but it’s something I’ve been consciously practising for the last couple of years.  If you spend any amount of time online it’s really hard not to get sucked into spirals of negativity, outrage and despair, especially when social media algorithms actively promote “controversial” content and push it into our feeds. Some people I know have sworn off social media altogether or take regular breaks to decompress.  I make frequent use of block and mute functions, and I also try to make a conscious decision as to whether it’s worth expending valuable emotional energy engaging with posts that will only anger or upset me.  I’ve also made more of an effort to separate my “work” and “non-work” time online.  It’s not always easy to know where the boundary lies but on days that I’m “not working” I log out of my main twitter account and ignore any e-mail sent to my work address.  This does mean that I sometimes miss personal messages sent through these channels, but I’m trying not to feel too guilty about that.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  The irony in all this is that I haven’t actually read beyond the first page of the Critical Ignoring paper…

UCU Industrial Action

I can’t finish this post without mentioning the latest round of UCU industrial action, which will see university staff striking for 18 days throughout February and March in protest at pay erosion and inequality, precarity, unsustainable workloads and pension theft. The first quarter of the year is always a really busy time for me because several open education events, including Open Education Week and preparation for the OER Conference fall in this period, so I find it really stressful not being able to work.  It’s going to be a long couple of months and the financial impact is going to be painful, but the alternative, just buckling down and doing our best in a system that is increasingly inequitable and exploitative is no longer sustainable. 

Photograph of statue of Donald Dewar surrounded by banners during Right to Strike rally.  Buchanan Street, Glasgow.

Right to Strike rally, Glasgow, February, 2023. CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

OEG Voices Podcast⤴

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This post originally appeared on the Open.Ed blog.

Back at the beginning of the summer, my colleague Charlie and I had the very great pleasure of joining Alan Levine for an OEG Voices podcast to talk about the University of Edinburgh’s award winning open policies and GeoScience Outreach OERs.

OEG Voices picture of Lorna Campbell, Charlie Farley, Alan Levine and Paul Stacey.Charlie talked about the GeoScience Outreach course where students co-create teaching and learning materials that are then adapted by Open Content Creation interns and shared on TES Resources as a curated collection of OERs aligned to the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence.  These award winning open resource have already been downloaded over 100,000 times by teachers all over the world.  You can read more about the success of the GeoScience Outreach course in this blog post on Teaching Matters by Kay Douglas, Andy Cross, Colin Graham, Erica Zaja, Bonnie Auyeung, and Frederik Madsen – Geoscience Outreach: What we do, how we assess, and client/student reflections.

I discused the university’s commitment to developing and sharing open policies for learning and teaching, and role of Learning Technology Policy officer Neil McCormick, who leads the development of many of these policies.  Open.Ed has shared a suite of five open policies and guidelines, including our Lecture and Virtual Classroom Recording policies, our OER Policy, and our Digital Citizenship Guide, developed by Dr Vicki Madden.

You can listen to the podcast here – OEG Voices 040: Charlie Farley and Lorna Campbell on Two Award Winning Projects from University of Edinburgh

Adventures in Hybrid Conferencing⤴

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I’ve been to three hybrid conferences over the course of the last few months so I thought it might be interesting to write a bit of a reflection on my experience of being both a delegate and a speaker at these events, what worked, what didn’t, and what I learned in the process. 

OER22 Conference

The first event was the OER22 Conference run by ALT at the end of April. This conference marked a return to in-person events for ALT for the first time since the pandemic started, and I know that there was some understandable anxiety about bringing people together for a face-to-face event. The conference ran for three days; kicking off with a day of in-person talks and parallel sessions in London, followed by a day of recorded online talks, and finally a day of live online parallel sessions. About 80 people attended the in-person day of the conference, with around twice that number taking part online.  ALT have a wealth of experience when it comes to running both in-person and online conferences and, despite having a very small staff team, their events invariably run like clockwork.  As expected, ALT handled the logistics of bringing people back together with real sensitivity and empathy, with plenty of space at the venue so that people never felt crowded, and plenty of time in the programme for people to network and socialise.

For the online component of the conference ALT used the same suite of technologies that they’ve used for several previous online events, which includes Streamyard, YouTube and  Discord, all of which worked well. The programme was easily accessible and simple to navigate, and it was possible to move between sessions if you wanted to catch presentations that were taking place in parallel. I did have a bit of trouble getting into my own online presentation session, due to some technical weirdness, but ALT dealt with the hitch smoothly, and it didn’t detract from my experience as a presenter.  A Discord server provided a social space where delegates could share slides and resources, and meet and chat informally throughout the conference.  There was also a dedicated channel for help and support. I confess I was not enthusiastic when ALT first started using Discord as part of their online conference platform, primarily because it’s a channel I use a lot outside work, however I have to admit that it works really well and it really adds to the online conference experience.  I’ve written a longer reflection on the OER22 here: OER22 In Person & Online.

University of Edinburgh Learning & Teaching Conference

Like OER22, the University of Edinburgh’s internal Learning & Teaching Conference ran as a hybrid event after having run online for two years during the pandemic.  The first day of the event took place in the magnificent McEwan Hall and surrounding buildings, and consisted of an exhibition space, posters, keynotes and parallel sessions. The second and third days took place online and consisted of parallel tracks of online talks.  I don’t know how many people attended the conference but I’d guess maybe 60 – 80 people were present for the in-person day of the event.  The content of the conference was excellent, all the sessions I attended online and in person were really thoughtful and thought provoking.  The exhibition space in particular provided a great opportunity for colleagues to network and socialise after so long apart, and I appreciated that the breaks were long enough not to feel rushed.  

The conference platform was based on Eventscase and Zoom and this is where some problems crept in.  The platform could be accessed via the web, but we were also asked to download an app and a QR code to join the conference.  Normally I avoid loading work apps onto my personal devices, so I wasn’t mad keen on having to do this, however as it turned out, I didn’t need to use either the app or the QR code after downloading them. Navigating the programme on Eventscase was tricky; the schedule was available as a web page and in a calendar view, which also allowed delegates to book on to specific sessions.  However because the calendar view only showed sessions that had to be booked, you had to go back to the webpage to find information about keynotes and plenaries, so there was a bit of confusion about what was happening where and when during the first day.  Also while I appreciate the reasons for encouraging delegates to book onto online sessions, it didn’t seem to be possible to change sessions, to listen to different presentations running in parallel, even when there were still places available, which was more than a little frustrating.  Presenters had to book on to their own sessions in order to be able to present, but getting into the sessions wasn’t always straightforward, and in some cases session chairs had to e-mail speakers Zoom links instead.   The session chairs were unfailingly helpful though, as were all the conference helpers who directed delegates around the campus on the first day of the event. Although I really enjoyed the conference the Eventscase platform did feel unnecessarily complicated and at times seemed to be more of a hindrance than a help. 

ALT Scotland Annual Conference

The ALT Scotland Annual Conference was a much smaller event, which provided a really interesting opportunity to experiment with a different kind of hybrid conference; one where some participants attended online and some attended in-person simultaneously.  The event, which ran for one day, was hosted by City of Glasgow College, and brought together learning technologists and policy makers from across all sectors of Scottish education.  Again, I’m not sure exactly how many people attended, but I’d estimate there were c.20 people attending in person and perhaps the same number again online. The conference took place on the day of a national rail strike which meant that quite a lot of folk who had planned to attend in person, had to join online instead. The event was facilitated using Thinglink, Zoom, and a double screen and camera set up that had been donated to the college by a vendor whose name I didn’t catch. We had one person chairing the event in the room and another coordinating Zoom online.  The screens at the front of the room showed Zoom but unfortunately it was difficult to see the online discussion from where I was sitting.  Several of the attendees in the room also joined Zoom from their laptops so they could participate in the online chat with colleagues who were attending remotely.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get on to Eduroam so I wasn’t able to join the online interaction, and it did rather feel like I was missing out.  Several of the presenters joined remotely via Zoom which worked well for participants both online and in person.  I gave a short talk in-person, which was a bit of an odd experience.  Standing at the front of the room facing the camera meant that the screens were behind me, so I couldn’t help feeling like I’d turned my back on the online participants.  This also meant that I couldn’t see the Zoom chat which meant that some of the remote participants felt as though their questions were being ignored.  When I finished speaking, the camera stayed locked on to me and followed me all the way back to my seat, which was a little disconcerting! 

As a group of learning technologists, the conference gave us an excellent opportunity to experiment with the kind of technologies that might be used to facilitate hybrid teaching and learning, and we had a really interesting discussion at the end of the day about the pros, cons and practicalities of running hybrid events like this.  I think we all agreed that it’s not easy, and we need a lot more practice to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Joe Wilson, who chaired the event in-person commented that it would have been impossible to coordinate everything, online and in-person, without the help of Louise Jones who was managing Zoom.  Sheila MacNeill has written an interesting blog post about the ALT Scotland Conference, which includes some reflection on a questionable “attention tracking” feature of the conferencing system, which I hasten to add we didn’t experiment with during the event.

Reflection

In terms of my takeaways from these three quite different hybrid events I’d say that running conferences that have in-person and online components on different days is a good way to ensure that an event is accessible to as many people as possible.  I did really appreciate being able to get together with colleagues in person, and I wouldn’t want to lose that again, however there are many advantages to having an online component too.  Online events are generally more accessible, convenient, they reduce the necessity to travel and as a result they’re better for the environment.

In terms of the technology, simple is better. It’s often more convenient to have the conference programme available on a simple web page rather than in an interactive calendar that takes multiple clicks to navigate. Also requiring delegates to download apps onto their personal devices is not a good idea for numerous reasons. 

When it comes to running events online and in-person simultaneously, we still have a lot to learn. As is so often the case, it’s not necessarily the technology that trips us up, it’s the human interactions that really make a difference, and clearly we still need a lot of practice to ensure that simultaneous events provide an equitable experience for everyone involved. 

Open for Good – New brochures from the OER and Online Course Production Services⤴

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I’m very excited that the OER Service has a new brochure to celebrate 5 years of support for open education at the University of Edinburgh. Writing the text and gathering the images for this brochure has taken up a lot of my time over the last couple of months and I’m really pleased with the way at turned out, thanks to the fabulous design skills of Nicky Greenhorn from Information Services Group’s Graphic Design Service.

Open for Good: OER at the University of Edinburgh tells the story of five years of support for OER and open knowledge at the University of Edinburgh.  The brochure includes information about our award-winning open policies, our outreach activities, and our commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  It also features case studies of student engagement and OER in the curriculum from across the University, along with a timeline of significant open education developments and events.

We worked alongside our Online Course Production Service, who also produced their own brochure: 

Short Online Courses unpacks our open course development process from a learning design perspective, covering our commitment to accessibility, continuing professional development, and learner-centred approaches to online learning. The brochure highlights our partnerships with Coursera, EdX and Futurelearn, and provides access to a wealth of online courses, and free resources, including open course production templates and Creative Commons licensed media.

Both brochures showcase open licensed images from the University’s unique archives and collections, and feature forewords by Dr Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal and Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services, along with testimonials from our staff and students. 

We’re planning to make online versions of both brochures available to browse and download shortly.  If you would like printed copies in the meantime, please e-mail open.ed@ed.ac.uk or course-production-team@ed.ac.uk.

OER22 In Person & Online⤴

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Last week I was at the OER22 Conference, and I was actually at the conference because for the first time in two years the OER Conference was in person and online.  OER22 was a hybrid conference in every sense of the word; the first day took place in London, the second day featured recorded online presentations, and the final day was live sessions online.  The event was organised seamlessly by ALT and chaired by the GO-GN Network.  The opening day of the conference in London was the first opportunity many of the OER community had to get together in person since the OER19 Conference in Galway, so it was understandably an emotional experience and a little overwhelming.  ALT handled the logistics of bringing people back together with real sensitivity and empathy, with plenty of space at the venue so that people never felt crowded, and plenty of time in the programme for people to network and socialise. 

Sketch of a cartoon penguin in blue pen against a white and blue backgroundBryan Mathers opened the conference with a thoughtful and humorous illustrated talk that gave us all a much needed opportunity to ease our way back into in-person conferencing.  It culminated with everyone drawing their own version of the GO-GN penguin and sharing them in the fabulous Visual Thinkery ReMixer.  Bryan set the tone for the conference perfectly and I think the little drawing exercise helped everyone overcome any residual anxiety they may have had about participating in an in person event.  Everyone said my penguin looked scary, but honestly he’s just a bit shy. 

The themes of the conference were; Pedagogy in a time of crisis – what does an ‘open’ response look like? Open textbooks: making the most of their potential; Open in Action: open teaching, educational practices and resources; and Open research around any aspect of open education. 

I took part in two panels, the first with Jane Secker, Catherine Cronin, Leo Havemann and Julie Voce focused on the approaches adopted by our various institutions and projects to support and develop open educational practices. These include teaching a module on open practices as part of a Masters in Academic Practice, creating open education and copyright literacy policies that signify institutional commitment to open practices, modelling open approaches in sharing our own teaching and learning resources, and advocacy work with organisations at a local, national and international level, to promote better understanding of open practice and copyright literacy.  I spoke about how the University of Edinburgh’s OER Policy, supported by the OER Service, enabled and encouraged open practice across the institution, and the importance of supporting digital skills development around copyright literacy.  Slides from the panel are available here: Open in Action

Image by Jane Secker on Twitter.

I was also invited to take part in a plenary panel discussion on open textbooks along with Gary Elliot-Cirigottis (Open University), Dhara Snowden (UCL Press), and Jane Secker (City University London), chaired by Beck Pitt (Open University) who was previously involved in the UK Open Textbooks project. Our institutions all had very different experiences of supporting and engaging with the use and creation of open textbooks so it made for an interesting and wide ranging discussion, covering how open resources enabled institutions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of the pandemic on the cost of resources, the role of open textbooks and our vision for OER in UK HEIs.  A recording of the plenary panel will be available shortly.

Image by Josie Fraser on Twitter.

I also attended a couple of other interesting sessions on open textbooks including Catrina Hey talking about the University of Sussex’s Open Press which is based on Pressbooks and informed by NUI Galway’s Open Press and the Jisc’s New University Press Toolkit.  I also really enjoyed hearing about the Open Pedagogy Project Roadmap: A Resource for Planning and Sustaining Open Educational Practices at Penn State University from Bryan McGeary and Christina Riehman-Murphy.  Their examples of student co-created open textbooks (e.g. Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature.) were really inspiring and gave me some ideas for initiatives we could explore at the University of Edinburgh.  

Other highlights for me included Javiera Atenas talking about the importance of professional conversation as a fundamental aspect of open practice during her presentation about creative project design for open education practitioners.  Slides from this session are available here: Creative Project Design.   There was also some really lively and thought provoking discussion around what open technology platforms do with your data during Javiera and Leo’s session on Co-creating a framework for platform governance in open education – policy, data ethics and data protection.  Leo and Javiera made the point that it isn’t enough for platforms, technologies and textbooks to be free, they must also resist surveillance and other forms of intrusion. Josie Fraser raised a pertinent counter point that this has to be balanced against benefit, noting that some school children had no contact with their teachers at all during the pandemic as some schools adopted an overly cautious approach to online conferencing platforms due to fears over how they store and use data.  

On the last day of the conference, I gave an online presentation on our Open eTextbooks for Access to Music Education project.  Along with our student interns, we gave a talk about the early stages of this project last year at OER21, so this year I was back to reflect on the project outputs and what we learned along the way.  Unusually, we had all kinds of technical gremlins during the session, which Maren dealt with in her own calm and professional manner.  We got there in the end and I was really touched with the positive comments on this student co-creation project. Slides and transcript of this talk are available on our project blog. 

Sadly I had to miss a lot of day 2 and 3 of the conference due to juggling meetings and other work commitments, but I did enjoy catching up with discussions and resources on the conference Discord, and I’m looking forward to dipping in to the recorded sessions.

One final reflection more generally…Given that one of themes of OER22 was open textbooks, it was perhaps understandable that over the course of the conference the term OER was often used to refer specifically to open textbooks. I still had to do a bit of mental adjustment as I tend to think of OER as being a much wider class of thing, with open textbooks being just one form of open educational resources among many.  While I’m really exited about the possibility of open textbooks taking off in the UK, particularly if they are co-created and founded on open practice, I am a little concerned that we might lose sight of the broader understanding of OER.  Over the last few months I’ve seen a few think pieces and comments about the crisis in etextbook costs, which suggest that there has been little adoption of OER in the UK.  While it’s true that there has been less adoption of open textbooks by academic libraries in the UK than in the US, (though this is changing rapidly), there has of course been considerable engagement with open education resources and practices supported by learning technologists across the sector.  With more and more institutions launching open presses and libraries exploring the affordances of open textbooks, I hope they’ll work together with learning technologists, open education practitioners, and academic colleagues who have a wealth of experience of supporting and engaging with open education resources and practices of all kinds. Otherwise we may run the risk of recreating OER repositories the wheel. 

Being among the OER community again, among good friends and colleagues, was a much needed breath of fresh air.  It really made me appreciate the hope that co-chairs Catherine Cronin and Laura Czerniewicz left us with at the end of OER19 in Galway, and how much it sustained us through the last two years. 

Open Education and OER in the Curriculum⤴

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Principles of Open Education and OER 

This blog post was originally posted on the University of Edinburgh’s Curriculum Transformation Hub.

The principles of open education were initially outlined in the 2008 Cape Town Declaration [1], which advocates that everyone should have the freedom to use, customize, and redistribute educational resources without constraint, to nourish the kind of participatory culture of learning, sharing and cooperation that rapidly changing knowledge societies need. 

Broadly speaking, open education encompasses teaching techniques and academic practices that draw on open technologies, pedagogical approaches and open educational resources (OER) to facilitate collaborative and flexible learning. This may involve both teachers and learners engaging in the co-creation of learning experiences, participating in online peer communities, using, creating and sharing open educational resources (OER) and open knowledge, sharing experiences and professional practice, and engaging with interdisciplinarity and open scholarship. 

Although open education can encompass many different approaches, open educational resources, or OER, are central to this domain. The UNESCO Recommendation on OER [2] defines 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.” 

Open Education and OER at the University of Edinburgh 

At the University of Edinburgh, we believe that open education and OER, are fully in keeping with our institutional vision, purpose and values, to discover knowledge and make the world a better place, while ensuring that our teaching and research is diverse, inclusive, accessible to all and relevant to society.   In line with the UNESCO Recommendation on OER, we also believe that OER and open knowledge are critical to achieving the aims of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals [3].   

To support open education and the creation and use of OER, the University has an Open Educational Resources Policy [4], 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, expand provision of learning opportunities, and enrich our shared knowledge commons.  We also have a central OER Service [5], based in Information Services Group, that provides staff and students with advice and guidance on creating and using OER, engaging with open education and developing digital and copyright literacy skills.  Understanding authorship, copyright, and licensing is increasingly important at a time when both staff and students are actively engaged in co-creating digital resources and open knowledge.    

Benefits and Risks of Openness  

Open education approaches, such as collaborative flexible learning and co-creation of learning experiences, can be beneficial in many different contexts, but they are particularly well suited to hybrid teaching and learning, where no separation is made between digital and on campus student cohorts, and students are brought together by the way teaching is designed, enabling them to move between digital and classroom-based learning activities. 

Engaging with open education, OER and open knowledge through curriculum assignments can help to develop a wide range of core disciplinary competencies and transferable attributes including: 

  • Digital, data and copyright literacy skills, 
  • Understanding how knowledge and information is created shared and contested online, 
  • Collaborative working and collective knowledge creation, 
  • Information synthesis, 
  • Critical thinking and source evaluation, 
  • Writing as public outreach.  

However, it’s also important to consider the risks of openness, as any understanding of openness is highly personal, contextualised and continually negotiated. We all experience openness from different perspectives, depending on different intersecting factors of power, privilege, inclusion and exclusion.  

In his 5Rs for Open Pedagogy [6] Rajiv Jhangiani identifies Risk as being one of his values for Open Pedagogy. 

“Open pedagogy involves vulnerabilities and risks that are not distributed evenly and that should not be ignored or glossed over. These risks are substantially higher for women, students and scholars of colour, precarious faculty, and many other groups and voices that are marginalized by the academy.” 

Many systemic barriers and structural inequalities exist in open spaces and communities; open does not necessarily mean accessible to all.  When engaging with open education, we need to be aware of our own privilege and be sensitive to those who may experience openness differently, and we need to address the systemic barriers and structural inequalities that may prevent others from engaging with open education and to enable everyone to participate equitably, and on their own terms. 

The University has an invaluable Digital Safety and Citizenship Web Hub [7], that offers comprehensive information and resources on a range of digital safety and citizenship-related issues, including training and events, and advice on being an informed digital citizen.   

If we’re sensitive to these risks and inequities and work to mitigate them, integrating open education and OER into the curriculum can bring significant benefits, including building networks, relationships and communities, fostering agency and empowerment, developing strong societal values and an appreciation of equity, intersectionality and social justice. 

Open Education in the Curriculum 

Wikimedia in the Curriculum 

One way to engage with open education and the creation of open knowledge is by contributing to Wikipedia, the world’s biggest open educational resource and the gateway through which millions of people seek access to knowledge.  Working together with the University’s Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, colleagues from a number of schools and colleges have integrated Wikipedia and Wikidata editing assignments into their courses.  Editing Wikipedia provides valuable opportunities for students to develop their digital research and communication skills, and enables them to contribute to the creation and dissemination of open knowledge. Writing articles that will be publicly accessible and live on after the end of their assignment has proved to be highly motivating for students, and provides an incentive for them to think more deeply about their research. It encourages them to ensure they are synthesising all the reliable information available, and to think about how they can communicate their scholarship to a general audience. Students can see that their contribution will benefit the huge audience that consults Wikipedia, plugging gaps in coverage, and bringing to light hidden histories, significant figures, and important concepts and ideas. This makes for a valuable and inspiring teaching and learning experience, that enhances the digital literacy, research and communication skills of both staff and students. 

Talking about a Wikipedia assignment that focused on improving articles on Islamic art, science and the occult, Dr Glaire Andersen, from Edinburgh College of Art commented 

“In a year that brought pervasive systemic injustices into stark relief, our experiment in applying our knowledge outside the classroom gave us a sense that we were creating something positive, something that mattered. As one student commented, “Really love the Wikipedia project. It feels like my knowledge is actually making a difference in the wider world, if in a small way.”   

Other examples include Global Health Challenges postgraduates collaborating to improve Wikipedia articles on natural or manmade disasters. History students re-examining the legacy of Scotland’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade and presenting a more positive view of black British history. Digital Education Masters students collaborating to publish a new entry on Information Literacies. And Reproductive Biology Honours students work in groups to publish new articles on reproductive biomedical terms. 

Wikimedia in the Classroom assignment, Aine Kavanagh, Reproductive Biology, by Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence, University of Edinburgh, CC BY SA.

Our Wikimedian in Residence provides a free central service to all staff and students across the University, further information including testimonies from staff and students who have taken part in Wikimedia in the Curriculum assignments is available here: Wikimedian in Residence. 

Open Education and Co-creation – GeoScience Outreach 

Another important benefit of open education is that it helps to facilitate the co-creation of knowledge and understanding.  Co-creation can be described as student led collaborative initiatives, often developed in partnership with teachers or other bodies outwith the institution, that lead to the development of shared outputs.  A key feature of co-creation is that is must be based on equal partnerships between teachers and students and “relationships that foster respect, reciprocity, and shared responsibility”[8]. 

One successful example of open education and co-creation in the curriculum is the Geosciences Outreach Course, which provides students with an opportunity to work with a wide range of clients including schools, museums, outdoor centres, and community groups, to design and deliver resources for STEM engagement. Students may work on project ideas suggested by the client, but they are also encouraged to develop their own ideas.  This provides students with the opportunity to work in new and challenging environments, acquiring a range of transferable skills that enhance their employability. They gain experience of science outreach, public engagement, teaching and learning, and knowledge transfer while at the same time developing communication, project and time management skills.  

A key element of the course is to develop resources with a legacy that can be reused by other communities and organisations. Open Content Curation student Interns employed by the University’s OER Service repurpose these materials to create open educational resources aligned to the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence, which are shared online through Open.Ed and TES Resources [9] where they can be found and reused by school teachers and learners.  These OERs, co-created by our students, have been downloaded over 58,000 times and the collection was recently awarded Open Education Global’s Open Curation Award [10].  

Open Education Awards for Excellence: Open Curation / Repository – University of Edinburgh by Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, CC BY SA. 

OER Assignments – Digital Futures for Learning 

OER creation assignments are also incorporated into the Digital Futures for Learning module, part of the MSc in Digital Education, where students create open resource that critically evaluate the implications of educational trends, such as the future of writing, complexity in education, and radical digital literacy.  Creating genuinely open resources that are usable and reusable requires careful attention to issues such as accessibility, structure, audience, and licensing. The students need to critically consider and apply their learning, and in doing so are able to create practical re-usable resources, while demonstrating a range of transferable skills and competencies.  

Commenting on this OER creation assignment, course leader Dr Jen Ross 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.” [11] 

Reusing and Repurposing OER 

Reusing and customising existing open educational resources can help to diversify and expand the pool of teaching and learning resources available to staff and students. 

LGBT+ Resources for Medical Education 

In 2016 undergraduate medical students developed 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. This project remixed and repurposed resources originally created by Case Western Reserve University, and then contributed them back to the commons as OER. New open resources including digital stories recorded from patient interviews and resources for Secondary School children, were also created and released as OER. In a recent blog post on Teaching Matters [12], Dr. Jeni Harden, Senior Lecturer in Social Science and Health, reflected on how these resources have contributed to the medicine curriculum over the past five years. 

Fundamentals of Music Theory 

Fundamentals of Music Theory [13] is an open textbook co-created by staff and students from the Reid School of Music with support from the University’s OER Service.  This Student Experience Grant funded collaborative project [14] repurposed existing open licensed MOOC content and blended-learning course materials to co-create a proof-of-concept open textbook. The project enabled our student partners to develop digital and copyright literacy skills, an understanding of OER and open textbooks, familiarity with ebook applications, and experience of working with educational media and content. Their input enhanced the original teaching materials and brought about further teaching and learning enhancement. Open textbooks have the potential to benefit universities in the post-pandemic world by reducing textbook costs, benefit staff by providing access to easily customisable open textbooks, and benefit students by providing free, high quality digital learning materials. Furthermore, open textbooks and OER have the potential to facilitate the democratic reshaping of teaching materials through student engagement and co-creation. 

Further Information  

These are just some examples of ways that open education and OER have already been integrated into the curriculum here at the University of Edinburgh.  They demonstrate how valuable co-creating open knowledge and open educational resources through curriculum assignments can be to help students develop essential digital skills, core competencies and transferable attributes, and enable our learners to become fully engaged digital citizens. 

For further information about open education and OER please visit the University’s OER Service at Open.Ed or e-mail us at open.ed@ed.ac.uk.  

References 

  1. Capetown Open Education Declaration https://www.capetowndeclaration.org/read/
  2. UNESCO, (2019), Recommendation on Open Educational Resources, http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=49556&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html
  3. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals https://sdgs.un.org/goals
  4. University of Edinburgh Open Educational Resources Policy, https://www.ed.ac.uk/files/atoms/files/openeducationalresourcespolicy.pdf
  5. OER Service, https://open.ed.ac.uk/
  6. Jhangiani, R, (2019), 5Rs for Open Pedagogy, Rajiv Jhangiani, Ph.D. Blog, https://thatpsychprof.com/5rs-for-open-pedagogy/
  7. Digital Safety and Citizenship Web Hub, https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/help-consultancy/is-skills/digital-safety-and-citizenship
  8. Lubicz-Nawrocka, T., (2019), An introduction to student and staff co-creation of the curriculum, Teaching Matters Blog, https://www.teaching-matters-blog.ed.ac.uk/an-introduction-to-student-and-staff-co-creation-of-the-curriculum/
  9. University of Edinburgh Open.Ed Hub, TES Resources, https://www.tes.com/teaching-resources/shop/OpenEd
  10. OE Awards for Excellence https://awards.oeglobal.org/awards/2021/open-curation/open-ed-collection-of-geoscience-outreach-oers-and-more-on-tes/
  11. Ross, J., (2019), Digital Futures for Learning: An OER assignment, Open.Ed Blog, https://open.ed.ac.uk/digital-futures-for-learning-an-oer-assignment/
  12. Farley, S. and Harden, J., (2021), Five years on: The LGBT+ Healthcare 101 OER, Teaching Matters Blog, https://www.teaching-matters-blog.ed.ac.uk/five-years-on-the-lgbt-healthcare-101-oer/
  13. Edwards, M., Kitchen, J., Moran, N., Moir, Z., and Worth, R., (2021), Fundamentals of Music Theory, Edinburgh Diamond, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2218/ED.9781912669226
  14. Open eTextbooks for Access to Music Education Project, https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/opentextbooks/

2021 – Finding a way⤴

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At the end of each year, I used to write a round up of significant work and life events over the previous 12 months.  That didn’t happen last year.  Just getting to the end of the year felt like an achievement.  That was enough.  I’ve kept this blog ticking over for the last year, though I’ve written fewer posts here than in previous years.  It’s partly that I’ve been blogging elsewhere, on the OpenEd, Teaching Matters, and Open Textbooks blogs. But it’s also a question of bandwidth; surviving in the midst of a global pandemic, and taking care of those around you, be they family, friends, or work colleagues, takes up a lot of emotional energy, so there often wasn’t much energy left over to reflect on what I was actually doing.  I’m still committed to using this blog to share my practice though, so I want to end the year on a hopeful note with a blog post about all the things I’ve done that I didn’t manage to write about at the time, or that I only touched on in passing. 

Open eTextbooks for Access to Music Education

Fundamentals of Music Theory open textbook coverAt the start of the year I was awarded a University of Edinburgh Student Experience Grant, and together with Dr Nikki Moran and three brilliant student interns from the Reid School of Music, we undertook an experimental project to repurpose open resources from an existing MOOC and on-campus course to create a prototype open textbook, Fundamentals of Music Theory.  Working with Nikki and the students was a delight and we learned a lot about different publishing platforms and the process of editing and creating ebooks in different formats. My InDesign skills are basic at best, but my old HTML skills came in very handy!  We gave a talk about the project at the OERxDomains Conference, The Scale of Open: Repurposing Open Resources for Music Education, and it was great to receive such positive feedback on the importance of working together with students on projects like this. In his final reflection on the project our intern Ifeanyichukwu Ezinmadu wrote;

“This project has got me inspired towards creating an independent OER project in music theory based on the ABRSM theory syllabus. To achieve this new goal of mine, I look forward to deploying skills developed on this project such as collaboration, research, design thinking, and other technical skills. I will dearly miss the entire team that has made this Project a possibility – Lorna, Charlie, Nikki, Kari, and Ana – and I look forward to engaging with other opportunities within and beyond the University of Edinburgh to learn and contribute meaningfully towards music education projects.”

You can read more about the project on our blog here: Open eTextbooks for Access to Music Education, and download our open textbook here: Fundamentals of Music Theory.

Learn Ultra Base Navigation Upgrade

Another project I was involved in earlier this year was the Learn Ultra Base Navigation Upgrade project, which investigated the implications and feasibility of upgrading to UBN in advance of a full upgrade to Learn Ultra.  I’m not usually directly involved in supporting and delivering our Learn VLE service, but we were short handed so I was drafted in to do some of the project management. Although it was a bit of a steep learning curve for me, it was a really good opportunity to connect with colleagues who maintain and support the Learn Service and the Learn Foundations project, and it was interesting to have a preview of UBN and the functionality it provides. 

OER Policy update

On more familiar territory, I enjoyed working with our Education Technology Policy officer Neil McCormick to review and revise the University of Edinburgh’s OER Policy.  The University’s original policy was approved in 2015 and five years later, in September this year, our new policy was approved by Education Committee.  This new policy, which has adopted UNESCO’s definition of OER, strengthens the University’s commitment to open knowledge and achieving the aims of the Agenda for Sustainable Development.  You can read about the new OER Policy on Teaching Matters here: A new OER Policy for the University, and access the policy itself here: University of Edinburgh OER Policy

Open Education Global Awards

The OER Policy is just one of a sweet of open policies for teaching and learning that the University shares under Creative Commons licence, and we were delighted when these policies were awarded Open Education Global’s Open Policy Award as part of their 2021 Awards for Excellence.  Edinburgh rather swept the boards at the awards, also winning the Open Curation Award for our collection of OERs on TES Resources, co-created by GeoScience Outreach undergraduates and our fabulous Open Content Curation interns.  Melissa Highton won the Open Leadership Award, and Wikimedia intern Hannah Rothman won the Open Student Award.  We didn’t win the Open Resilience Award, but Charlie and I made a very cool video for our entry so I’m sharing it here anyway 🙂

ALT, Wikimedia UK, Creative Commons

I’ve continued serving as a trustee for ALT and Wikimedia UK and it’s always an honour to give something back to both these organisations, given their ongoing commitment to  openness, equity, community engagement and knowledge activism. This year I was privileged to sit on the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Awards panel, which is always an inspiring experience, and the recruitment panel for the new ALT CIO. I also stepped briefly into the role of interim Chair of Board for Wikimedia UK, when Nick Poole’s term came to an end and before our new chair Monisha Shah took up the role.  With my Wikimedia UK hat on, I contributed to the Creative Commons working group on the ethics of open sharing, chaired by Josie Fraser.  You can read the outputs and recommendations of this working group here: Beyond Copyright: the Ethics of Open Sharing.

Knowledge Activism

I made my own small contribution to knowledge activism at the beginning of the year, when the University’s Disabled Staff Network and Staff Pride Network decided to run an editathon for LGBT History Month, I suggested HIV and AIDS activism in Scotland as a topic. As a result of the HIV Scotland Editathon, six new articles were created and several others improved, making a significant contribution to representing the history of HIV and AIDS activism in Scotland on Wikipedia.  I created a new article about Scottish AIDS Monitor and I also wrote and article about Jill Nalder, the Welsh actress who inspired the character of Jill in Russel T. Davis’ drama Its a Sin. Later in the year, Gary Needham invited me to present a webinar on Knowledge Activism: Representing the History of HIV and AIDS activism on Wikipedia for the University of Liverpool’s School of the Arts.  Gary and I have a formative shared queer history that goes back many years, so it really meant a lot to me to be able to speak to him and his colleagues about the challenges of representing queer lives and experiences in this way. 

A different kind of knowledge activism was provoked by the BBC drama series Vigil, which opened with distressing scenes of a fishing trawler being sunk by a nuclear submarine off the West Coast of Scotland.  I certainly wasn’t the only one who noted similarities to the sinking of the fishing vessel Antares by hunter killer submarine HMS Trenchant off Arran in 1990, despite the BBC denying that the incident was based on any specific real life event.  At the time, there was no Wikipedia entry about the sinking of the Antares and HMS Trenchant‘s entry made only a veiled reference to the incident, so I fixed that.  It’s important that we remember tragedies like this and equally important that we remember who was responsible. 

And while we’re on the subject of activism and loss of life at sea, please consider supporting the Royal National Lifeboat Institution if you can.  Their volunteers risk their own lives to save those who find themselves in peril at sea, and they are facing increasing hostility and abuse for their selfless courage and humanity. 

COP26

Activism of a different kind was going on all over Glasgow in November to coincide with COP26.  I can’t say I’m hugely optimistic about the outcomes of the conference or the will of global leaders and developed nations to enact meaningful change to halt the climate crisis, however it was hugely inspiring to hear the voices of so many young indigenous community activists.  These are the radical voices we need to listen to and make space for.  Also kudos to my daughter for snapping what surely has to be the most accurate photograph of the conference and the crisis we face, when we joined the climate march through Glasgow on 7 November. 

COP26 Climate Crisis March, Glasgow, CC BY NC SA, Rhuna McCartney

Open Scotland

Another area where we’ve made less progress than I would have hoped is with Open Scotland.  As a purely voluntary initiative Open Scotland hasn’t been particularly active for a number of years now, but many of those involved are still supporting open education, open practice and OER through other initiatives and activities. We remain committed to the aims of the Scottish Open Education Declaration and we haven’t given up hope that one day, the Scottish Government will wake up to the benefits and affordances of sharing publicly funded educational resources under open licence.  In March this year, with support from Creative Commons, we made another attempt at engaging the Cabinet Secretary for Education with the the UNESCO Recommendation on OER and the Scottish Open Education Declaration, but again we were disappointed to receive a generic response from a civil servant.  At a time when inclusive and equitable access to quality education and lifelong learning opportunities has never been more important, Scottish Government’s continued failure to engage with open education and OER is disappointing to say the least. 

Hello Helo

On a more positive note, we got a new kitten this year.  This is Helo and he behaves more like a puppy than a cat.  He’s very cute, but he’s also an absolute menace.  My two long suffering adult cats are getting no peace. 

Helo, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

Home

I got home to the Hebrides in the summer for the first time in two years.  It was a joy to see family again and when I finally got to the beach (yes, that beach) I felt like I could breath again for the first time in months.

Traigh na Berie, Isle of Lewis, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

Hope

In what has been a difficult and challenging year on many levels, I’ve been privileged to continue working with so many kind, compassionate, fierce and committed open education practitioners and open knowledge advocates.  You give me hope. 

It seems fitting to end with a quote from the late, great bell hooks, whose courage and clarity touched so many and whose words provide hope for us all.

“My hope emerges from those places of struggle where I witness individuals positively transforming their lives and the world around them. Educating is a vocation rooted in hopefulness. As teachers we believe that learning is possible, that nothing can keep an open mind from seeking after knowledge and finding a way to know.”

~ bell hooks (1952 – 2021)

A Culture of Sharing: Strategic Support for OER at the University of Edinburgh⤴

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Many thanks to P-8 Digital Skills Project “Strengthening Digital Skills in Teaching”, ETH Zürich and ZHAW for inviting me to speak at their OER Conference 21. Slides and transcript of my talk, which highlights the work of Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, GeoScience Outreach students and Open Content Curation Interns, are available here.

Before we get started I just want to quickly recap what we mean when we talk about open education and OER.

The principles of 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 that was updated 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.

There are numerous definitions and interpretations of Open Education, some of which you can explore here.

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.”

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.”

And you’ll see that this definition encompasses a very wide class of resources, pretty much anything that can be used in the context of teaching and learning, as long as it is in the public domain or has been released under an open licence.

This definition is taken from the UNESCO Recommendation on OER, which aims to facilitate international cooperation to support the creation, use and adaptation of inclusive and quality OER.  The Recommendation states that

“in building inclusive Knowledge Societies, Open Educational Resources (OER) can support quality education that is equitable, inclusive, open and participatory as well as enhancing academic freedom and professional autonomy of teachers by widening the scope of materials available for teaching and learning.”

Central to the Recommendation, is the acknowledgement of the role that OER can play in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and particularly Sustainable Development Goal 4: to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. 

OER at the University of Edinburgh

Here at the University of Edinburgh, we believe that open education and the creation of open knowledge and open educational resources, are fully in keeping with our institutional vision, purpose and values, to discover knowledge and make the world a better place, while ensuring that our teaching and research is diverse, inclusive, accessible to all and relevant to society.  The University’s vision for OER is very much the brain child of Dr Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal Online Learning and Director of Learning and Teaching Web Services. Our student union were also instrumental in encouraging the University to support OER, and we continue to see student engagement and co-creation as being fundamental aspects of open education. This commitment to OER is more important now than ever, at a time of crisis and social change, when we are emerging from a global pandemic that has disrupted education for millions, and we’re embracing new models and approaches to teaching and learning.  

OER Policy

In order to support open education and the creation and use of OER, the University has an Open Educational Resources Policy, which was first approved by our Education Committee in 2016 and reviewed and updated earlier this year.  Our new policy has adopted the UNESCO definition of OER, and the update also brings the policy in line with our Lecture Recording and Virtual Classroom Policies. The policy itself has been shared under open licence and is available to download along with several of our other teaching and learning policies.

As one of the few universities in the UK with a formal OER policy, this new policy strengthens Edinburgh’s position as a leader in open education and reiterates our commitment to openness and achieving the aims of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which the University is committed to through the SDG Accord. 

It’s important to be aware that our OER Policy is informative and permissive. It doesn’t tell colleagues what they must do, instead its aim is to encourage staff and students to engage with open education and to make informed decisions about using, creating and publishing OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience, expand provision of learning opportunities, and enrich our shared knowledge commons. Investing in OER and open licensing also helps to improve the sustainability and longevity of our educational resources, while encouraging colleagues to reuse and repurpose existing open materials expands the pool of teaching and learning resources and helps to diversify the curriculum. 

OER Service

In order to support our OER Policy we have a central OER Service, based in Information Services Group, that provides staff and students with advice and guidance on creating and using OER and engaging with open education. The service runs a programme of digital skills workshops and events focused on copyright literacy, open licencing, OER and playful engagement.  We offer support directly to Schools and Colleges, work closely with the University’s Wikimedian in Residence, and employ student interns in a range of different roles, including Open Content Curation interns.  The OER Service also places openness at the centre of the university’s strategic learning technology initiatives including lecture recording, academic blogging, VLE foundations, MOOCs and distance learning at scale, in order to build sustainability and minimise the risk of copyright debt.

And we also manage Open.Ed a one stop shop that provides access to open educational resources produced by staff and students across the university. We don’t have is a single central OER Repository as we know from experience that they are often unsustainable, and it can be difficult to encourage engagement.  Instead, our policy recommends that OERs are shared in an appropriate repository or public-access website in order to maximise their discovery and use by others. The OER Service provides access to many channels for this purpose on both University and commercial services, and we aggregate a show case of Edinburgh’s OERs on the Open.Ed website.

We don’t have is a formal peer review system for open educational resources.  The review process that different materials will undergo will depend on the nature of the resources themselves. So for example we trust our academic staff to maintain the quality of their own teaching materials. Resources created for MOOCs in collaboration with our Online Course Production Service, will be reviewed by teams of academic experts. OERs created by students in the course of curriculum assignments will be formally assessed by their tutors and peers.  And if these resources are shared in public repositories such as our GeoScience Outreach OERs, which I’ll come on to say more about later, they may also undergo a second review process by our Open Content Curation Interns to ensure all third-party content is copyright cleared and no rights are being breached.  While open content shared on Wikipedia is open to review by hundreds Wiki admins, thousands of fellow editors, and millions of Wikipedia users.

OER in the Curriculum

As a result of this strategic commitment to OER, we have a wide range of open education practices going on across the University, but what I want to focus on today are some examples of integrating open education into the curriculum, through co-creation and OER assignments.

 Engaging with OER creation through curriculum assignments can help to develop a wide range of core disciplinary competencies and transferable attributes including digital and information literacy skills, writing as public outreach, collaborative working, information synthesis, copyright literacy, critical thinking, source evaluation and data science.

Wikimedia in the Curriculum

One way that colleagues and students have been engaging with open education is by contributing to Wikipedia, the world’s biggest open educational resource and the gateway through which millions of people seek access to knowledge.  The information on Wikipedia reaches far beyond the encyclopaedia itself, by populating other media and influencing Google search returns. Information that is right or wrong or missing on Wikipedia affects the whole internet and the information we consume. Sharing knowledge openly, globally and transparently has never been more important in building understanding, whether about the Covid pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, or other critical issues. And the need for a neutral platform where you can gain access to knowledge online for free has never been more vital in this era of hybrid teaching, remote working, and home schooling.

Working together with the University’s Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, a number of colleagues from schools and colleges across the University have integrated Wikipedia and Wikidata editing assignments into their courses.  Editing Wikipedia provides valuable opportunities for students to develop their digital research and communication skills, and enables them to contribute to the creation and dissemination of open knowledge. Writing articles that will be publicly accessible and live on after the end of their assignment has proved to be highly motivating for students, and provides an incentive for them to think more deeply about their research. It encourages them to ensure they are synthesising all the reliable information available, and to think about how they can communicate their scholarship to a general audience. Students can see that their contribution will benefit the huge audience that consults Wikipedia, plugging gaps in coverage, and bringing to light hidden histories, significant figures, and important concepts and ideas. This makes for a valuable and inspiring teaching and learning experience, that enhances the digital literacy, research and communication skills of both staff and students.

Here’s Dr Glaire Andersen, from Edinburgh College of Art, talking about a Wikipedia assignment that focused on improving articles on Islamic art, science and the occult.

“In a year that brought pervasive systemic injustices into stark relief, our experiment in applying our knowledge outside the classroom gave us a sense that we were creating something positive, something that mattered.

As one student commented, “Really love the Wikipedia project. It feels like my knowledge is actually making a difference in the wider world, if in a small way.”  

Other examples include Global Health Challenges Postgraduate students who collaborate to evaluate short stub Wikipedia articles related to natural or manmade disasters, such as the 2020 Assam floods, and research the topic to improve each article’s coverage.

History students came together to re-examine the legacy of Scotland’s involvement in the TransAtlantic Slave Trade and look at the sources being used in evaluating the contributions of key figures like Henry Dundas but also balancing this against and presenting a more positive view of Black History by creating new pages such as Jesse Ewing Glasgow.

And Reproductive Biology Honours students work in groups to publish new articles on reproductive biomedical terms. Being able to write with a lay audience in mind has been shown to be incredibly useful in science communication and other subjects like the study of law.

And I want to pause for a moment here to let one of our former Reproductive Biology students to speak for herself. This is Senior Honours student Aine Kavanagh talking to our Wikimedian Ewan about her experience of writing a Wikipeda article as part of a classroom assignment in Reproductive Biology in 2016.

And the article that Aine wrote on high-grade serous carcinoma, one of the most common and deadly forms of ovarian cancer, which includes 60 references, and diagrams created by Aine herself, has now been viewed over 130,000 times. It’s hard to imagine another piece of undergraduate coursework having this kind of global impact.

Last year, in collaboration with Wikimedia UK, the UK chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation, our Wikimedian co-authored the first ever booklet dedicated to UK case studies of Wikimedia in Education which you can download under open licence here.   Also many of the resources Ewan has created during his residency, including editing guides and inspiring student testimonies, are freely and openly available and you can explore them here.

Open Education and Co-creation – GeoScience Outreach

Another important benefit of open education is that it helps to facilitate the co-creation of knowledge and understanding.  Co-creation can be described as student led collaborative initiatives, often developed in partnership with teachers or other bodies outwith the institution, that lead to the development of shared outputs.  A key feature of co-creation is that is must be based on equal partnerships between teachers and students and “relationships that foster respect, reciprocity, and shared responsibility.”

One successful example of open education and co-creation in the curriculum is the Geosciences Outreach Course.  This optional project-based course for final year Honours and taught Masters students, has been running for a number of years and attracts students from a range of degree programmes including Geology, Ecological and Environmental Sciences, Geophysics, Geography, Archaeology and Physics.   Over the course of two semesters, students design and undertake an outreach project that communicates some element of their field.  Students have an opportunity to work with a wide range of clients including schools, museums, outdoor centres, science centres, and community groups, to design and deliver resources for STEM engagement. These resources can include classroom teaching materials, websites, community events, presentations, and materials for museums and visitor centres. Students may work on project ideas suggested by the client, but they are also encouraged to develop their own ideas. Project work is led independently by the student and supervised and mentored by the course team and the client.

 This approach delivers significant benefits not just to students and staff, but also to the clients and the University.  Students have the opportunity to work in new and challenging environments, acquiring a range of transferable skills that enhance their employability.  Staff and postgraduate tutors benefit from disseminating and communicating their work to wider audiences, adding value to their teaching and funded research programmes, supporting knowledge exchange and wider dissemination of scientific research.  The client gains a product that can be reused and redeveloped, and knowledge and understanding of a wide range of scientific topics is disseminated to learners, schools and the general public. The University benefits by embedding community engagement in the curriculum, promoting collaboration and interdisciplinarity, and forging relationships with clients.

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

A key element of the Course is to develop resources with a legacy that can be reused by other communities and organisations. Open Content Curation student Interns employed by the University’s OER Service repurpose these materials to create open educational resources which are then shared online through Open.Ed and TES where they can be found and reused by other school teachers and learners.  These OERs, co-created by our students, have been downloaded over 69,000 times.

Here’s Physics graduate and one of this year’s Open Content Curation Interns, Amy Cook, talking about her experience of creating open education resources as part of the Geoscience Outreach course.

 

We’re hugely proud of the high-quality open education resources created and shared by our GeoScience students and Open Content Curation Interns, so we were delighted when this collection won the Open Curation Award as part of this year’s OEGlobal Awards for Excellence.

Conclusion

These are just some examples of the way that open education and OER have been integrated into the curriculum here at the University of Edinburgh, and I hope they demonstrate how valuable co-creating open knowledge and open educational resources through curriculum assignments can be to develop essential digital skills, core competencies and transferable attributes.  There are many more examples I could share including academic blogging assignments, open resource lists, student created open journals, open textbooks, and playful approaches to developing information and copyright literacy skills.  Hopefully this will provide you with some inspiration to start thinking about how you can integrate engagement with OER in your own courses, curricula and professional practice.