OER15 OEPS developing OER with partners

By Anna Page (OEPS project)

The conference theme for OER15 was Mainstreaming Open Education. The OER movement is coming of age; however awareness of the benefits of OER and open educational practice is still patchy or non-existent in education and beyond the sector. As Cable Green explained in his keynote at the opening of the conference the OER movement still has a lot of OER infrastructure work to do to reduce barriers to education, transform teaching and learning and enable open practices so that OER can truly realise its potential.

OEPS poster at OER15

OEPS poster at OER15

Origins of OEPS

The overriding theme of the OEPS project is the use of OER at large scale to help transitions between the different parts of education and to widen participation, particularly with learners and creators of OER who are not in the traditional bounds of the academy. Our poster gave a snapshot view of this which Pete Cannell explored in more detail during his presentation. In his talk at OER15 Pete explored the origins of OEPS. It stemmed from the Scottish Government policy of encouraging educational institutions to work together with outside partners for mutual benefit. From 2007 onwards partners started asking the OU about OpenLearn and free resources for learners, which excited their interest in producing OER of their specialist materials. However in almost every case revisiting them a few months later revealed they had made little progress because they didn’t know how to go about creating good engaging OER without support. These partnerships which the OU in Scotland pursued brought skills and knowledge from outside the academy and resulted, in some instances, in the co-creation of material with professionals and students. These weren’t large scale initiatives and compared to the wealth of resources the OU was making available on OpenLearn, small individual resources produced with partners was big news to the partners in their contexts, especially when the materials produced went on to influence other sister organisations.

OEPS poster for OER15

OEPS poster for OER15

Open Practice Partnerships

A major strand of the OEPS project involves supporting over 40 partners as they explore OER and OEP, the barriers they face and the good practice they can share. Pete highlighted working with Union Learning Reps (who act as intermediaries between learners and organisations but are often poorly resourced), Parkinsons UK, who have some good hardcopy materials for their face to face accredited workshops but cannot deliver these on scale and the Glasgow University Wellcome Trust funded ‘End of Life care’ programme which has a large community online but no mechanism for sharing the material that people really need in a structured way. He also talked about working with Lomond and Trossachs National Parks, their work with SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) and the dissemination model which OEPS is helping them develop. Partners are very enthusiastic, and bring context, skills and knowledge which is really valuable.

Open Badges

Pete mentioned that the OEPS project is investigating the use of Open Badges. There are already five badges associated with the project (attached to materials hosted on OpenLearn Works, some of which have been developed in partnership between the OU in Scotland and various caring organisations), with more planned in the near future.

OEPS online hub

An online hub for open education practice is being developed as part of the project with the primary focus being on guidance, exemplars and communities rather than creating another repository of OER, though the hub will have a search function which helps users find good OER for their needs by searching many repositories. Pete explained that the hub will sit on top of OpenLearn Works, an OER sandbox and repository site where anyone can create OER. OpenLearn Works was developed by The Open University to complement its OpenLearn site and the OEPS project is inspiring further developments including better user guidance for the site.

Science OER in schools

OER15 OpenScience lab pilot in schools

OER15 OpenScience lab pilot in schools

In the other presentation from the OEPS project (Open Science happens somewhere: exploring the use of Science OER in schools), Dave Edwards explained how, following discussions with Education Scotland, some OpenScience lab resources had been brought into two classrooms in rural Scotland, in a pilot to explore the extent to which these online experiment tools could help overcome some of the very real problems faced by small rural secondary schools when delivering the Science curriculum. For these schools their remoteness means that visiting local universities is impractical, their budgets for lab equipment and materials are constrained and access to the internet is often interrupted because of telecoms infrastructure problems. Additional constraints also included the desire for the pupils to be able to access materials online from home computers but that in some cases no home computer was available.

Following discussions with the teachers about the OpenScience lab tools, it became apparent that the tools in themselves were not sufficient in a secondary school context. The teachers, who knew the curriculum and the capabilities of their pupils, needed wrap-around materials to help prepare the pupils for the tasks, which would give the pupils a different perspective during revision of the topics they had previously covered in class. The pilot team used existing OU OER to prepare this material and it was uploaded to OpenLearn Works behind a password, as a couple of the images used had not been cleared for open use in the short timescale available.

The project team visited the two schools when the resources were being used to observe how the pupils and teachers reacted to the materials. For the Polymerase Chain Reaction experiment, the pupils worked through the preparatory materials, ran the experiments, collected and interpreted data, discussed their interpretations with their teachers and tried ideas out. For the Analysing pesticides in the environment using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, the series of lessons involved the pupils in revising concepts of structural formulae and valencies, learning about mass spectrometry, developing their own hypothesis about how pesticides might be distributed in a tidal bay, devising a sampling plan, collecting data, matching spectra to library data, calculating concentrations and interpreting the results. In both topics these were sophisticated experiments and complex tasks.

Dave reported that feedback from the pupils showed that they saw this as a ‘normal way to learn’ (though they didn’t always like online learning, as Ronald Macintyre mentioned in tweet during OER15), it was convenient, they gained an understanding about experimental work and the equipment, it generated plenty of discussion and they were able to access it from home. It seems from this small pilot free open experiments can be made more accessible to pupils by wrapping them in a VLE-based learning journey.

Open Scotland declaration

There was also a session (Common Ground – an overview of the open education landscape in Scotland), run by Lorna Campbell, about the Open Scotland Declaration which unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend because of parallel session clashes. The OEPS project is working with Open Scotland to develop a strategy for wider buy-in of the Open Scotland Declaration in the longer term; the OEPS project funded the second draft of the declaration.

OER16: Open Culture will be held in Scotland during April 2016, with Lorna Campbell (CETIS, University of Bolton) and Melissa Highton (University of Edinburgh) as co-chairs. The conference themes will offer plenty of opportunity for the Opening Educational Practices in Scotland project to share progress, findings, experiences and good open practices being developed in partnership across Scotland.

Posted on April 20, 2015, in Event and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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