Tag Archives: university of edinburgh

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. 

Fundamentals of Music Theory – Adventures in open textbooks⤴

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Fundamentals of Music Theory open textbook coverLast week I was delighted to see a project that I’ve been working on since the beginning of the year come to fruition with the publication of the Fundamentals of Music Theory open textbook on the University of Edinburgh Library’s new ebook platform Edinburgh Diamond.  The open textbook was created by the the Open e-Textbooks for Access to Music Education project, which was funded by a University of Edinburgh Student Experience Grant. Led by Dr Nikki Moran and I, the project was a collaboration between the University’s OER Service, and staff and student interns, Kari Ding, Ifeanyichukwu Ezinmadu and Ana Reina Garcia, from the Reid School of Music.

The aim of the project was to explore the creation of an open etextbook using existing content from the Reid School of Music’s Fundamentals of Music Theory course. This course covers the fundamentals of Western music theory, from absolute basics to more advanced concepts, and provides learners with the skills needed to read and write Western music notation, and to understand, analyse, and listen informedly. The course uses content originally created for a successful Coursera MOOC, in addition to new materials developed more recently for an on campus blended learning course, addressing global decolonisation issues around music theory and music education. These high-quality resources were ideally suited to further repurposing to create an open textbook, increasing the use of this tried-and-tested content, and making it available to teachers and learners in an accessible format ideally suited to hybrid and online learning.   

The project provided us with an opportunity to evaluate a range of open textbook platforms and to gain valuable hands-on experience of the process and practicalities of creating an open textbook.  This experience is particularly valuable at a time when universities are increasingly moving from print to digital textbooks and are facing rapidly rising textbook licensing costs. Open textbooks have the potential to benefit the University 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. 

The project also enabled our student interns to develop valuable digital and copyright literacy skills including an understanding of open educational resources, open licenses and open etextbooks, familiarity with current etextbook applications, and experience of working with existing digital content and educational resources across a range of platforms. 

One of the first tasks undertaken by the project was to evaluate a range of different hosting options for our ebook; Manifold, PressBooks, GitHub and the University Library’s new ebook platform, Edinburgh Diamond, based on Open Monograph Press.  Balancing the pros and cons of each platform and considering the constraints of time and funding, we decided to publish our open textbook on Edinburgh Diamond. Open Access Publishing Officer Rebecca Wojturska, provided us with invaluable support in getting our textbook onto the platform and providing ISBN and DOIs. 

The project wasn’t without it’s challenges; the whole project had to be undertaken online due to COVID-19 restrictions, some of our student interns were working in different time zones, and I had no prior experience of producing the ePub formats required by the ebook platform, so it was a steep learning curve on my part!  I also had to dust off my rusty html and css skills which I haven’t used for years.  Despite the challenges, the project successfully demonstrated that it is possible to take existing MOOC and on-campus course content and repurpose it into an open textbook.

All in all, this was a hugely rewarding project, not least because of the enthusiasm and dedication of the team at the Reid School of Music.  It was a real joy to work with Nikki, Ana, Ifeanyichukwu and Kari.  One of the high points of the project was listening to our student interns presenting about their work at the OERxDomains Conference –  The Scale of Open: Re-purposing open resources for music education.  Our talk was really well received, with lots of delegates commenting on how important it was to hear students’ voices.  We learned a great deal from this small project and I hope that Fundamentals of Music Theory will be the first of many open textbooks published by staff and students across the University. 

Fundamentals of Music Theory is shared under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) licence and can be downloaded from Edinburgh Diamond in the following formats: Word, PDF, EPub (reflowable), ePub (fixed layout).  An HTML version will be available shortly. In order to make the open textbook as accessible and reusable as possible, users can download the book in its entirety, or topic by topic.

ISBN: 978-1-912669-22-6
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2218/ED.9781912669226

Header and cover image adapted from a free to use image by Geralt on Pixabay.

A new OER Policy for the University of Edinburgh⤴

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This post originally featured on the University of Edinburgh’s Teaching Matters blog. 

In September 2021, the University of Edinburgh’s Education Committee approved a new Open Education Resources (OER) Policy, which revises and updates our previous 2016 policy. Supported by the central OER Service, the policy 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. Investing in OER and open licensing 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 diversity the curriculum. As one of the few universities in the UK to have an OER policy, the new policy strengthens the University of Edinburgh’s position as a world leader in open education and reiterates our strategic commitment to openness and achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Five years of OER at the University of Edinburgh

“Staff and students at The University of Edinburgh produce huge amounts of teaching and learning materials every year. The OER policy helps us to help you make them available for sharing with teachers and students all around the world.”

Dr Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal and Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services (LTW)

In the five years since the first OER Policy was approved, the quantity and quality of open educational resources produced by staff and students across the University has increased enormously. We now have a collection of thousands of media assets, hundreds of OERs, and dozens of massive open online courses that can be used, re-used, adapted and re-shared in sustainable ways. This includes almost 5000 open licensed videos on Media Hopper Create, 243 open resources and collections shared through the Open.Ed OER Showcase, 84 free short online courses, and 67 student-created OERs for school teachers on TES Resources, which have been downloaded over 60,000 times.  The OER Service has run over 230 digital skills workshops, employed ten student interns, won three awards, and our How To Guides have been accessed 109,502 times.

Policy Review

The OER Policy review and revision was undertaken by Neil McCormick, Education Technology Policy Officer, and Lorna M. Campbell, OER Service Manager, both based in Learning Teaching and Web Services in ISG. In reviewing this policy, we considered developments at several other UK and European universities with existing OER practice.

Some institutions mandate the use of a single central OER repository to curate, quality control and monitor the impact of the resources their faculty create. Here at the University we trust colleagues to quality control their own teaching and learning resources, and we do not have a central OER repository because they are often unsustainable, and it can be difficult to encourage engagement. Instead, the Policy continues to encourage colleagues to share their open licensed teaching and learning materials in an appropriate repository or public-access website so that they can be discovered and re-used by others. The OER Service provides access to many channels for this purpose, including the OER Showcase, the Open Media Bank on Media Hopper Create, the Open.Ed Shop on TES Resources, and various channels on Flickr, YouTube, and Sketchfab.  We also have an @OpenEdEdinburgh twitter account that we use to share news, highlight OERs created by staff and students across the University, and connect with the global open education community.

Some universities mandate that any resource considered for internal teaching awards must be open licensed. While we encourage all colleagues to share their resources under open licence, and the sponsors of awards to consider OERs in their award criteria, we didn’t enshrine this in policy.

A third approach adopted by some institutions is that any resource produced in cooperation with the central learning technology service must be open by default. This is often the case in practice here at the University of Edinburgh; the majority of the teaching and learning resources created with support from the Online Course Production Service for our free short online courses are open licensed and are available on Media Hopper Create. In addition, the OER Service’s digital skills programme helps to increase understanding of the benefits of using and creating OERs, encouraging open practice, and improving copyright literacy among both staff and students.

Policy Updates

Following current global practice, the policy has adopted a new definition of OER from the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Education Resources.

“Open Educational Resources (OERs) are learning, teaching and research materials in any format and medium that reside in the public domain or are under copyright that have been released under an open license, that permit no-cost access, re-use, re-purpose, adaptation and redistribution by others.”

The update also brings the OER Policy in line with our Lecture Recording Policy and Virtual Classroom Policy. With the increase in media being recorded, knowledge of data protection has become essential when creating and sharing open content. The policy clarifies what personally identifiable information colleagues should be aware of when creating open resources, including names, images, voices and personal opinions of individuals.

Policy Licence

As with our previous policy, the new OER Policy has been released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) to enable it to be shared, reused and repurposed by others.

Visit the University’s OER Service at Open.Ed to find out more about the new OER Policy and what it means for you.

M&M Podcast on Knowledge Equity⤴

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Earlier this week I had the very great pleasure of joining my colleagues Myles Blaney and Michael Gallagher for their fabulous M&M Podcast to talk about knowledge equity.  I’m a big fan of the M&M Podcast and knowledge equity is a topic that is very close to my heart so I really enjoyed the experience.

In a packed, half-hour conversation we covered everything from what knowledge equity means, improving knowledge equity through open education and co-creation, gatekeeping in open spaces, the impact of algorithmic bias, power, privilege and unconscious bias, learning from other cultures and knowledge structures, and what practical steps institutions can take to improve knowledge equity and inclusion. 

We also went off at a few tangents to talk about COVID vaccines, the historical repression of knowledge equity, how history is constructed and taught, acknowledging the legacy of Scotland’s colonial past, and confusing the twitter algorithm. 

You can listen to the podcast here – M&M Podcast 24: The one where we talk with Lorna Campbell, and like all good things, it’s open licensed of course! 

OERxDomains21 – All Change⤴

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OER21 BadgeThe OER Conference is always one of the highlights of the year for me. I’ve been privileged to attend every single one since conference launched in 2010 and it’s been interesting to see how the event has changed as open education has evolved over the last 11 years. My keynote at the 2018 conference focused on this evolution and explored how themes and trends around open education had developed, and the OER conferences had responded by become more diverse, inclusive, and international. This year the OER conference entered a new phase of its evolution with a new partnership and a new technology platform. OER21 was run in conjunction with the Domains Conference as OERxDomains21 and, instead of Blackboard Collaborate, the event used Streamyard, YouTube and Discord. The event was brilliantly co-chaired by Joe Wilson, Louise Drumm, Lou Mycroft, Jim Goom and Lauren Hanks.

I have to confess I didn’t know quite what to expect as the conference approached, for the first time in years, I wasn’t able to join the conference committee owing to other work commitments. Streamyard was completely new to me, and although I’m very familiar with Discord I was a bit conflicted about using it for work purposes, as it’s one of my main non-work channels; basically, it’s where I hang out with my friends on group chat.  In the event, the technology worked brilliantly, with unflappable support from ALT and the Reclaim Hosting team.   Proving the adage that a change is as good as a rest, the new platform encouraged all kinds of opportunities for discussion and interaction and lots of participants commented that the event had much more of a social feel than other online conferences. Discord really did have the feel of a physical conference space, where everyone came together to chat, share and hang out, and the live Youtube comment facility that accompanied the presentations and keynotes really helped to encourage discussion.  My only small regret is that with so much of the engagement happening across multiple conference platforms, there was less activity on the hashtags on twitter, which makes it a little harder to look back over all the discussions that took place.

It’s not the technology that makes the OER Conference such a special experience though, it’s the community, and this year was no exception.  I was really delighted to be attending with three student interns, Ana Reina Garcia, Ifeanyichukwu Ezinmadu and Kari Ding, to present a paper on our Open Textbooks for Access to Music Education project.  Our presentation got a really positive response and it was great to see how enthusiastically everyone responded to the students’ involvement in both the project and the conference.  You can find a transcript and slides, as well as more information about the project, on our blog here The Scale of Open: Re-purposing open resources for music education.

I also helped to facilitate an Open Space session with Jane Secker, Chris Morrison, Greg Walters and Sarah Barkala exploring the relationship between open practices, copyright literacy and the shift to online teaching. The Open Space sessions ran in dedicated Discord channels, and although the platform is ideal for group chat, participants were a little shy about taking the mic, and without an in-channel chat facility, it meant that there was less discussion than we’d hoped.  However we did collate some useful resources on a padlet around four key questions related to copyright law, literacy and open practice.

I had to dip in and out of the conference owing to a bit of a crazy workload and a lot of meetings, sadly that’s not something that even the best conference organisation can solve, however the new platform did make it very easy for me to catch up with sessions that I’d missed, which I really appreciated.  I made a point of catching as many of the keynotes as possible, and came away truly inspired. Three themes that emerged strongly across the conference were playfulness and creativity, equity and care, and acknowledging the labour of openness.

OER21 bingo cardCreativity and playfulness was very much to the fore in Laura Gibbs keynote #BeyondLMS: Open Creativity, Randomized which focused on the transformative power of encouraging creative writing on the open web.  Not only did Laura randomise her keynote slides she also let participants create randomised bingo cards so we could play along during her keynote.  Believe it or not, I was the first to get bingo! Though of course it’s the taking part that counts, not the winning 😉

Another of the creative highlights of the conference was Eamon Costello and Prajakta Grime’s mind expanding University V is alive! Now open to the closed, the cruel and the dead.  More of an incantation than a presentation, this incredible multimedia experience left participants challenged and bewildered. I missed the live performance but there was such a buzz about it on Discord that I dropped everything to jump over to youtube to watch the recording. 

A powerful ethic of care has been nurtured by the OER conferences year on year and it’s been humbling and inspiring to see seeds planted at previous conferences take root and grow.  Jasmine Robert’s keynote asked Open for Whom?: Revisiting the Global Commitments of Open Education and posed three key questions:

Jasmine reminded us that open is not always culturally appropriate in different cultural contexts and questioned the ease with which we assign authority to white men, while urging us to acknowledge and protect vulnerable scholars and people of colour who are doing the hard work of open scholarship. She closed her keynote by quoting bell hooks

“All the great social movements for freedom & justice in our society have promoted a love ethic. The testimony of love is the practice of freedom.”

And asking for “open education that is focused on a love ethic to move towards a path of global healing.”

In the Q&A session afterwards I asked Jasmine how we can work to ensure that the labour of care and social justice labour is fully acknowledged and more equally distributed?  She replied that we must begin by acknowledging how much we *all* benefit from social justice labour and care.

In the closing keynote, Rajiv Jhangiani also focused on the Curious Contradictions and Open-ended Questions of what it means to be open, who gets to decide what is open enough, and whether openness is always a good thing.  Rajiv cited an example highlighted by tara robertson of an instance where openness raised troubling ethical issues.  When the lesbian porn magazine On Our Backs was digitised and released under CC BY licence, women who had modelled for the magazine felt that work they had created for their own community had been appropriated for uses they had never intended and did not consent to. 

As someone who is passionate about knowledge activism and the representation of queer history in open culture, this really gave me pause for thought, particularly as I recently created a Wikipedia entry for another lesbian porn magazine Quim, which was co-created by a former On Our Backs photo editor.

Rajiv reminded us that:

“Openness can be leveraged for justice, but it can also do harm. Closed practices can also do harm, but there are times when closed is the empowered choice. Choice is key. We must serve justice, rather than merely being open.”

Another point Rajiv made that raised interesting questions for me was that “the OER Community is one where people are more comfortable to be vulnerable.”  This is certainly true, and I speak from experience, though of course we all have different relationships with that community and I wonder if we don’t always appreciate just how deeply uncomfortable vulnerability can make us feel, even within such a supportive community.  This had struck me during an earlier conference session where participants were asked so share, as part of a series of small groups discussions, stories of instances where care or equity had been lacking, and record them on slides to be shared with the larger group.  While sharing stories of this nature in a small group can be cathartic and empowering, it can be difficult and potentially risky for some to share examples from personal practice in public.  The exercise raised some interesting issues of power and inequity, points that the presenters acknowledged.  

For me, as is so often the case, it was Catherine Cronin who really captured the ethic of care that resonated at the heart of the conference by reminding us that

“Care without equity exacerbates inequality”.

To close I want to say a huge thank you to the teams at ALT and Reclaim hosting, the conference co-chairs and committee, and all the participants who made OER21 such a fun, engaging, thought provoking and empowering event.  And special thanks, as always, to Maren Deepwell who really embodies ALT’s commitment to community, care, equity and openness ♡

Those who fought: Representing HIV/AIDS activism on Wikipedia⤴

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LGBT History month is almost over but before the month draws to a close I want to highlight the brilliant work of the HIV Scotland Wikpedia editathon that took place at the end of January.  The event was supported by the University’s indefatigable Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, and organised by the University’s Disabled Staff Network and Staff Pride Network, who were keen to run another editathon following the success of their previous Pride editathon on LGBT+ Books in Scotland and Beyond.  (I’m proud to have created a page for the controversial lesbian magazine Quim as part of that event.)  I suggested HIV / AIDS activism in Scotland as a potential topic as I’d noticed previously that this important history was almost entirely missing from the encyclopaedia.  Scottish AIDS Monitor and PHACE West had no articles at all, and although an article already existed for Derek Ogg, it only touched on his legal career and made no mention of his prominent AIDS activism.  This omission was all the more glaring in light of the belated public conversation about the impact of the AIDS pandemic sparked by the broadcast of Russell T Davis’ series It’s a Sin.  The Network were keen to address this omission and HIV Scotland also came on board to support the event, and I’m pleased to say that six new articles were created and several others improved. You can find out more about the articles created on the event dashboard here: HIV Scotland Editathon.

As part of the event, I wrote an article about Scottish AIDS Monitor, an organisation I first came into contact with in 1992 at an event at the Tramway which coincided with their seminal exhibition Read My Lips: New York AIDS Polemics.  That event and exhibition, which featured works by Gran Fury, Keith Haring, David Wojnarowicz, Felix Gonzalez-Torress and others, left a huge impression on me.  I was aware of the AIDS pandemic, growing up in the 1980s it was impossible to ignore, even in the Outer Hebrides. Who could forget the stigmatising horror of the Don’t Die of Ignorance campaign?  But it was Read My Lips that really brought home to me the deeply personal impact of all those lost lives, the fight for justice and recognition, and the importance of organisations like SAM in raising awareness, providing support and promoting safe sex.

Read My Lips: New York AIDS Polemics

Returning to It’s a Sin, the second article I wrote this month was a biography of Jill Nalder, the actress and activist who inspired the character of Jill Baxter and who played her mother in the series. I know that there has been some criticism of the series for stereotyping women as carers, and for centering the experiences of a woman whose own sexuality and relationships are elided from the show.  While there’s a discussion to be had there, I think it’s important to acknowledge the many many “ordinary” women who played an important role in awareness raising, fund raising, befriending and yes, caring for, people living with AIDS from the earliest years of the pandemic. 

I still have a copy of the Read My Lips exhibition catalogue, which includes a transcript of Vito Russo‘s seminal speech, Why We Fight, from a 1988 ACT UP demonstration.  These lines really resonated with me. 

“AIDS is really a test of us, as a people. When future generations ask what we did in this crisis, we’re going to have to tell them that we were out here today. And we have to leave the legacy to those generations of people who will come after us.

Someday, the AIDS crisis will be over. Remember that. And when that day comes — when that day has come and gone, there’ll be people alive on this earth — gay people and straight people, men and women, black and white, who will hear the story that once there was a terrible disease in this country and all over the world, and that a brave group of people stood up and fought and, in some cases, gave their lives, so that other people might live and be free.”

Wikipedia is the fifth most visited website in the world, with aspirations to provide “free access to the sum of all human knowledge”.   For this reason more than any other it’s critically important that the history of HIV and AIDS activism is represented on the encyclopaedia.  So that those generations that come after will be able understand the legacy and the courage of those who stood up and fought. 

Open for Good – Open education and knowledge equity for all⤴

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This is a transcript of a keynote I gave at the Open University H818 The Networked Practitioner conference. 

The principles of open education were outlined in the 2008 Cape Town Declaration, one of the first initiatives to lay the foundations of what it referred to as 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.  One of the many contributors to the Cape Town Declaration was Wikimedia founder, Jimmy Wales.  Who commented in a press release to mark the launch of the Declaration:

“Open education allows every person on earth to access and contribute to the vast pool of knowledge on the web. Everyone has something to teach and everyone has something to learn.”

The Cape Town Declaration is still an influential document and it 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.

As conceived by the CapeTown Declaration, open education is a broad umbrella term, there’s is no one hard and fast definition.  In the words of open education scholar Catherine Cronin, open education is complex, personal, contextual and continually negotiated.

One conceptualisation of open education that I like is from the not-for-profit organization OER Commons which states that

“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.”

And what I particularly like about this interpretation is the focus on empowerment, equity and co-creation, which to my mind are the most important aspects of open education and open knowledge.

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Owing to its contextual nature, open education encompasses many different aspects however open educational resources, or OER, are of course central to any understanding of this domain. Although there are multiple definitions of the term OER, the one I tend to default to is the UNESCO definition.

“OER are learning, teaching and research materials in any format and medium that reside in the public domain or are under copyright that have been released under an open license, that permit no-cost access, re-use, re-purpose, adaptation and redistribution by others.”

UNESCO OER Recommendation

The reason this definition is significant is that in November 2019 UNESCO made a formal commitment to actively support the global adoption of OER, when it approved its Recommendation on Open Educational Resources.

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

 The Recommendation recognises 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.”

And it outlines five areas of action

  • Building capacity of stakeholders to create, access, re-use, adapt and redistribute OER
  • Developing supportive policy
  • Encouraging effective, inclusive and equitable access to quality OER
  • Nurturing the creation of sustainability models for OER
  • Promoting and reinforcing international cooperation

Equality and diversity is centred throughout the Recommendation with the acknowledgement that

“In all instances, gender equality should be ensured, and particular attention paid to equity and inclusion for learners who are especially disadvantaged due to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.”

Wikimedia Movement Strategy

Elsewhere in the open knowledge domain, and running in parallel with the development of the UNESCO Recommendation, the Wikimedia Foundation has been undertaking its own Movement Strategy exercise to shape the strategic direction of the movement. The movement strategy, comprises 10 recommendations for change, and 10 guiding principles, many of which echo of principals of the UNESCO OER Recommendation. 

Enshrined in the Wikimedia Movement Strategy, are the key concepts of Knowledge as a Service and Knowledge Equity.

Knowledge as a service, is the idea that, Wikimedia will become a platform that serves open knowledge to the world across interfaces and communities.

And knowledge equity, is the commitment to focus on knowledge and communities that have been left out by structures of power and privilege, and to break down the social, political, and technical barriers preventing people from accessing and contributing to free knowledge.

Structural Inequality in the Open Knowledge Landscape

And to my mind it is this commitment to knowledge equity that is key to the open education and open knowledge movements, because as I’m sure we are all aware, the open knowledge landscape is not without its hierarchies, its norms, its gatekeepers and its power structures. We all need to be aware of the fact that open does not necessarily mean accessible. Far too often our open spaces replicate the power structures and inequalities that permeate our society.

For example Wikimedia’s problems with gender imbalance,  structural inequalities and systemic bias are well known and much discussed. On English language Wikipedia just over 18% of biographical articles are about women, and the number of female editors is somewhere between 15 and 20%. Some language Wikipedias, such as the Welsh Wicipedia, fare better, others are much worse. Despite Wikipedia’s gender imbalance being an acknowledged problem, that projects such as Wiki Women In Red have sought to address, too often those who attempt to challenge these structural inequalities and rectify the systemic bias, have been subject of targeted hostility and harassment.   

In an attempt to tackle these problems Wikipedia recently launched a new Universal Code of Conduct intended to make Wikimedia projects more welcoming to new users, especially underrepresented groups who have too often faced harassment and discrimination.   It’s too early yet to know how much impact this Code of Conduct will have but it’s certainly a much-needed step in the right direction.

Wikimedia is not the only open space that suffers from issues of systemic bias and structural inequality.  In a chapter on Open Initiatives for Decolonising the Curriculum, in Decolonising the University edited by Gurminder K Bhrambra, open source software developer Pat Lockley notes that UK universities with the highest percentages of black, Asian and minority ethnic staff are those which spend the least, and in many cases nothing, on open access article processing charges. And he goes on to ask whether Open Access really is broadening and diversifying academia, or merely reinforcing the existing system.

Similarly, in a 2017 survey on open source software development practices and communities, Github, another important open online space, reported huge gaps in representation and concluded that the gender imbalance in open source remains profound. From a random sample of 5,500 respondents 95% were men; just 3% were women and 1% are non-binary.

And there are many other examples of similar structural inequalities in open spaces and communities.

In a 2018 article titled “The Dangers of Being Open” Amira Dhalla, who at the time led Mozilla’s Women and Web Literacy programs, wrote:

“What happens when only certain people are able to contribute to open projects and what happens when only certain people are able to access open resources? This means that the movement is not actually open to everyone and only obtainable by those who can practice and access it.

Open is great. Open can be the future. If, and only when, we prioritize structuring it as a movement where anyone can participate and protecting those who do.”

This lack of equity in the open knowledge landscape is significant, because if knowledge and education are to be truly open, then they must be open to all regardless of race, gender, or ability, because openness is not just about definitions, recommendations and strategies, openness is about creativity, access, equity, and social inclusion and enabling learners to become fully engaged digital citizens.

OER and the COVID-19 pandemic

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic the role of OER in helping to provide access to inclusive and equitable education for all has become ever more critical.

In April last year, at the first peak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, UNESCO estimated that 1.57 billion learners in 191 countries worldwide had had their education disrupted.  In response to this unprecedented crisis, the organisation issued a Call for Joint Action to support learning and knowledge sharing through Open Educational Resources (OER).  The call highlights the important role that OER can play in supporting the continuation of learning in both formal and informal settings, meeting the needs of individual learners, including people with disabilities and individuals from marginalized or disadvantaged groups, with a view to building more inclusive, sustainable and resilient Knowledge Societies. 

OER at the University of Edinburgh

At the University of Edinburgh we believe that both open education and open knowledge are strongly in keeping with our institutional vision and values; to discover knowledge and make the world a better place, and to ensure our teaching and research is accessible, inclusive, and relevant to society. In line with the UNESCO OER Recommendation, we also believe that OER and open knowledge can contribute to achieving the aims of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which the University is committed to through the SDG Accord. 

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

This vision is backed up by an OER Policy, approved by our Learning and Teaching Committee, which encourages staff and students to use, create and publish OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience, expand provision of learning opportunities, and enrich our shared knowledge commons.

The University’s vision for OER is the brainchild of Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal Online Learning, and the student union were also instrumental in encouraging the University to adopt an OER policy, and we continue to see student engagement and co-creation as being fundamental aspects of open education and open knowledge.

To support this policy we also have an OER Service that provides staff and students with advice and guidance on creating and using OER, engaging with open education and developing information and copyright literacy skills. The OER Service places openness at the heart of the university’s strategic initiatives in order to build sustainability and minimise the risk of what my senior colleague Melissa Highton has referred to as copyright debt. The service also maintains a one stop shop that provides access to open educational resources created by staff and students across the university.

This strategic support for OER and open knowledge enabled the University to respond rapidly to the uniquely complex challenges presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic and what I want to do now is highlight some of those responses.

Critical Care MOOC

With support from the Online Learning and OER Service, and from our partners at FutureLearn, the University’s MSc Critical Care team was able to rapidly launch a COVID-19 Critical Care online learning resource for frontline clinical staff supporting critical care patients.  It took a little over a fortnight of working day and night to collate the resources and get them onto the FutureLearn platform, and they went live on the 5th of April 2020, just as many European countries were first going into lockdown.  Over 5,000 learners enrolled on the first day of the course and by the end of the first 6 week run, over 40,000 learners from 189 countries had accessed the learning materials.  The University’s strategic support for OER and open knowledge, and FutureLearn’s willingness to prioritise the project, helped enable us to develop this resource at speed.  The team comprised staff from the University, FutureLearn, NHS Lothian, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and NHS Education Scotland, who came together to make something positive happen at a difficult and stressful time for many, motivated by the knowledge of how valuable this educational resource would be to staff on the frontline of critical care.

Free Short Online Courses

Providing open access to high quality online learning opportunities and widening access to our scholarship has always been an important cornerstone of the University’s commitment to open knowledge exchange and community outreach and we  provide a wide range of online courses including masters degrees, MOOCs and MicroMasters programmes.  Ensuring continued access to course materials for online learners, has always been a priority, and now more so than ever when many learners may find it challenging to meet fixed deadlines as a result of other personal commitments and stresses in their lives. To address this issue, we ensure that the majority of online learning content created for these courses can be released under open licence, this includes over 500 high quality MOOCs videos which can be accessed and downloaded from our Open Media Bank channel. The Open Media Bank hosts legacy content covering a wide range of topics, including some that directly address the challenges of the pandemic, such as videos from our former MOOC Critical Thinking in Global Challenges  which explores important global challenges including epidemics and the spread of serious infectious, and the challenges of human health and wellbeing in the modern world. 

Free Teaching and Learning Resources for Home Schooling

Our commitment to knowledge exchange and community outreach also extends to the school sector.   Through TES Resources the OER Service shares a growing collection of interdisciplinary teaching and learning materials, aimed at primary and secondary school level, covering topics as diverse as climate change, food production, biodiversity, and LGBTQ+ issues.    These fun and creative resources are designed to be easily customisable for different learning scenarios.  When schools are closed as a result of lockdown and parents have to take on homeschooling, the OER Service uses its social media channels to disseminate this ready-made collection of free teaching resources to all who might need them.  One of the really nice things about this collection of open educational resources is that they have all been co-created by undergraduates and student interns in collaboration with colleagues from the School of GeoSciences and the OER Service. So this is a lovely example of the benefits of open education and co-creation in action.

Wikimedian in Residence

At the University of Edinburgh we believe that contributing to the global pool of Open Knowledge through Wikimedia is squarely in line with our institutional mission and that Wikipedia is a valuable learning tool to develop a wide range of digital and information literacy skills at all levels across the curriculum. Our Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, works to embed open knowledge in the curriculum, through skills training sessions, editathons, Wikipedia in the classroom initiatives and Wikidata projects, in order to increase the quantity and quality of open knowledge and enhance digital literacy.  Creating Wikipedia entries enables students to demonstrate the relevance of their field of study and share their scholarship in a real-world context, while contributing to the global pool of open knowledge.  And if you want to find out more about Wikimedia in the Curriculum we’ve recently published this book of case studies which you can download here.

Knowledge Equity

Finally I want to return to the theme of knowledge equity; many of our open education and Wikimedia activities have a strong focus on redressing gender imbalance, centering marginalised voices, diversifying and decolonising the curriculum, and uncovering hidden histories. Some inspiring examples include our regular Wiki Women in Red editathons; Women in STEM editathons for Ada Lovelace Day and International Women’s Day; LGBT+ resources for medical education; open educational resources on LGBT+ Issues for Secondary Schools; UncoverED, a student led collaborative decolonial project uncovering the global history of the university; Diverse Collections, showcasing stories of equality and diversity within our archives; and the award winning Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Wikidata project.

Projects such as these provide our staff and students with opportunities to engage with the creation of open knowledge and to improve knowledge equity, and we often find that this inspires our staff and students to further knowledge activism. 

Conclusion

All these projects are examples of knowledge equity in action; the dismantling of obstacles that prevent people from accessing and participating in education and knowledge creation. Ultimately, this is what knowledge equity is about; counteracting structural inequalities and systemic barriers to ensure just representation of knowledge and equitable participation in the creation of a shared public commons.

Before I finish, I want to return to the UNESCO Call for Joint Action to support learning and knowledge sharing through OER, and this quote which reminds us why engaging with open education and OER is of critical importance to us all.

“Today we are at a pivotal moment in history. The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in a paradigm shift on how learners of all ages, worldwide, can access learning. It is therefore more than ever essential that the global community comes together now to foster universal access to information and knowledge through OER.”