Search Results for union learning
by Ronald Macintyre (OEPS project)
Over the last 6 months the OEPS team has been working closely with Scottish Union Learning (SUL) to explore the use of Open Educational Resources. Specifically we have been looking at the role that Union Learning Representatives (ULRs) might play in enabling the use of free and open online education materials.
Readers of this blog may not be familiar with the role of a ULR so it is worth saying a little bit about them. Trade Unions (TU) see engagement with learning as an extension of their role representing their members. Trade Unions have a right to have a ULR in a workplace. Once selected and they have been through training the ULR has a functional statutory ability to survey learners needs, arrange training and support and liaise with the employer about learning. ULRs typically see their role as about reaching those learners who are hard to reach or target learners who are often neglected within staff development programmes. It is a complex role, and certainly a tension exists between ULRs providing training and support to people and the role of the employer to provide appropriate on the job training so that people can fulfil their role.
For OEPS the opportunity to work with SUL started with the shared sense of wanting to reach out to those distanced from education and the recognition of a familiar pattern. Just like training in the workplace the benefits of free open online content tended to be accrued by the educational haves, the very people who employers tend to and society already has invested in anyway. We wanted to look at models of how we might broaden the social and economic base of who benefits from free open online learning. We had been to the SUL annual conference at the tail end of 2014and ran workshops on OEP and Open Badges. URLs had a general level of awareness of OEP, and we had detected a great deal of interest in the use of free and open materials, some fledgling approaches and some trepidation.
Based on the feedback from these sessions it seemed that potential barriers to use were partly about content, and like many in the widening participation (WP) community we wondered whether the style and subjects matched the needs of those distanced from education. We also felt it might be about models, and wondered whether the TU ULR focus on collective learning might provide an extra dimension to the use of free open and online materials, enabling the benefits of free open and online materials to be experienced more widely. With SUL we agreed to attend each of the area learning forums in Scotland (n=8). We ran two workshops at each venue, one series in June and one in October. During those we worked with just under a hundred ULRs.
The first workshop introduced free and open material and pointed to some of the sites they might be using like Wikipedia or YouTube more generally and specific sites like OpenLearn, FutureLearn, Coursera etc. It then made use of a short bit of free and open video on Goffman’s theory of performativity and asked participants to reflect on the role of a ULR in light of Goffman’s “all the worlds a stage” (see Erving Goffman and the Performed Self) to explore the roles they perform and the different faces they might wear. People drew out some of the tensions noted earlier, between serving the needs of those distanced from education but being careful not to end up compensating for staff development policies and practices that did not meet the needs of employees – the ULR is not the HR Department. People also wondered about their role in relation to the values of the TU movement, while people might want “holiday Spanish” ought they actually deliver classes on employment rights. However, the most difficult discussions concerned the role ULRs perform in relation to educational materials. Some saw their role as collecting the data, putting in applications to the learning fund and organising rooms for paid tutors. Others felt they had a more pastoral role, exploring routes into learning, formal and informal, in small groups and facilitating learning opportunities.
We gave them a series of scenarios and asked them to sketch out a more informal approach to what facilitating learning opportunities might look like. These scenarios focussed on informal learning with one asking them to consider how to facilitate a group exploring digital literacy, another looked at how numeracy and literacy issues affect use of online resources, and another was more political scenario looking at discourses on poverty and inequality in the mainstream media and how free and open content might help a facilitator to structure a discussion. The scenario’s allowed us to tease out the potential role of a ULR in enabling the use of free and open content, and also began to touch on the barriers. Not just workplace barriers around getting space and time to explore these issues, or even barriers to learners, but critically barriers for ULRs such as barriers based on their own confidence and ability to take on and develop an unfamiliar role. We closed by pointing to them a far from perfect online resource about how to use OpenLearn to facilitate learning.
Then we waited, and in October we ran a series of follow up workshops, by this time we knew that most of the ULRs, despite good intentions, had not worked their way through the course or picked up a “Badge”. We decided rather than simply asking them to study the module we would use non participation to explore what enabled and what stood in the way of online learning. We asked people to draw out the peaks and troughs of their learning journey and their engagement with the resource. To think about why they never started, why they gave up, why they wanted to get to the end. Then take their personal experience of (non-)completion and reflect on what it had taught them about supporting others. For those in Widening Participation some familiar themes emerge, “life gets in the way”, it was “not for the likes of me”. Time was a big factor, as was structure, being able to study any time meant never studying, others missed support. Some thought about their peers who they knew were also doing it and wanted to finish it, some wanted a badge. Structure came up frequently, a sense that without a structure and a group of peers to interact with it was difficult to say motivated. Others talked about their own inexperience in this world and then extended it out to ask questions about how to effectively communicate the benefits of digital participation to learners. This stretched into reflections on how one might sell this to employers increasingly reluctant to provide time and space for learning. Others wondered about the role of the URL as a facilitator of learning, about whether they had the skills to facilitate learning.
From these discussions emerged a sense of what an approach might look like: where a group of learners worked with a ULR to identify a subject area, looked for suitable free and open content. Where a ULR role was about facilitating the opportunity to discuss content. Creating a structure, finding space and time and working with the group to structure discussion. It was a facilitation role.
We still have a lot of questions to address around how this is going to work and what support ULRs might require but we have a group of interested ULRs who want to work with us to develop our understanding of how collective approaches to learning in the workplace might broaden the socio-economic base of those using free and open educational resources.
The aim of this free workshop is to introduce Union Learning Representatives in Scotland to how they can use open resources as part of their remit to support the engagement of their workplace colleagues with informal and formal learning opportunities. Participants are encouraged to reflect on their role and on methods for engaging their workmates and are introduced to a range of resources that have been developed to support their role. The workshop has been developed with Scottish Union Learning.
Outcomes for those attending
By the end of the workshop ULRs should:
- Be clear about their role (advice, support and facilitation not teaching)
- Have explored some simple models of supporting individuals and groups in the workplace.
- Have been introduced to the support available through the Scottish OEP Hub ULR community and signed up for the forum.
In addition they should:
- Be able to explain the differences and connections between informal and formal learning and give examples of each and what they offer.
- Understand the differences between OpenLearn, OpenLearnWorks and FutureLearn and what each offers them and their members.
- Be familiar with the idea of the new Badged Open Courses (BOCS) and the support offered through the Pathways to Learning pack.
- Have committed to studying the Badged OER ‘Open Learn: Learners Guide’ which is designed for people who have roles in supporting others into informal learning.
The workshop pack is available for reuse and licensed for revising, remixing and redistributing. Please share back how you’ve used it.
by Ronald Macintyre (OEPS project)
Recently the OEPS project was invited to run a workshop on #openbadges at the Scottish Union Learning Conference #sul14. The conference is attended by Union Learning Representatives (ULRS) from public and private sector workplaces all over Scotland. ULRs and activists were all familiar with non/informal learning: those wee bits of training that you get in work that you need to do your job but that mostly carry no credit or recognition. They also knew first-hand what is widely reported in the literature on work and learning: accredited or expensive learning in work tends to be focused on those with qualifications – the educational ‘haves’. Now here is where things might get difficult for greater use of Open Educational Resources in the workplace, as the big story of OER use is not so different from the work and learning one – educational ‘haves’ having more, and I was open about this.
The workshop did not shy away from the “what if”question. “What if” OER is just another example of learning that does not alter internal/external employability. Certainly it could be, and we wanted to test the proposition that recognition using #openbadges to account for small bits of learning might counter this and might enable something very different. As you can tell we were not in the room to sell #openbadges, but rather to consider whether they had a role in recognising informal and non-formal learning, and perhaps a route to credit.
I think there was quite rightly a great deal of suspicion in the room of what appears to be a bit of a techie solution, and perhaps even a dangerously faddish one. What fun collecting badges, but what if the fun obscures the underlying problems of inequitable access to training investment. After a quick presentation (10 minutes, see link below) for the next hour we broke people into 8 groups of at least 6. As we went round the tables we found plenty of questions around whether these badges could address the underlying issue of people with no “bits of paper” and how they find routes to those “bits of paper”. The answer seemed to be “it depends”. I do not want to labour the suspicion, as the “it depends” concerned constructive questioning of the approach. Questions like, who issues them, how do we trust the issuer, and how do we trust the quality – questions that are asked about everything open.
What seems to have happened in OER is those organisations with reputations (e.g. providing formal accredited learning) who have engaged with openness are seen as trusted sources, and in the room the sense I got was that if one of the Trade Unions, or an education provider they knew and trusted issued a badge then it would have value. Of course value was the next thing, it is not just the learner and the issuer who has to value it, it needs to be valued more widely if it is to have currency. Part of the sense of value and currency comes from who issues it, but overall what people felt was “it is only worth something if people think it’s worth something” – the inevitable comparison was with the pound issued by Scottish banks.
Did I convince people #openbadges solved the problem? I hope not, the intention was not to convince, it was to introduce an idea, share my own question and then listen. In the end people thought that having something that recognised smaller bits of learning that sit outside existing frameworks, either too small, or too specialist were useful, something stable and recognised as having value. That something could be #openbadges. People thought that if those “it depends”points were met the barriers to acceptance in the workplace would be low.
My big question was “where do they lead”, or more accurately “how do they lead to credit”. I thought a lot would hang on the idea of swapping them for credit, and the important enabling statement from SQA, amazingly/tellingly still doing the Twitter rounds one year later – but no. As ULRs their experience was that non-formal learning in the workplace was crucial to building skills and confidence, an important step that did not always need credit, but needed to be a route to formal learning and credit – those “bits of paper”. So, if we are going to link #openbadges and learning in the workplace we need to establish value and currency, not easy, and a lot rests on “it depends”.
You can find the workshop presentation and further information at http://prezi.com/dhevasrwnnzk/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy
The latest OEPS open educational resource (OER) Supporting collective learning in workplace and community settings is now live. The course will support anyone involved in organising informal learning in the workplace or in community settings, for example Union Learning Representatives, support workers, volunteers with third sector organisations or people with similar roles in their workplace or community. The course explores how groups of learners can use free online courses. The course draws on the experiences of the OEPS project in working with a wide range of informal educators in using open educational practices and resources.
Commenting on the launch of the course, OEPS Co-Director Pete Cannell, said: “We’re delighted to launch this course which pulls together the good practice of many informal educators across Scotland. Open courses like this one enable individuals who can’t access college/university to engage in learning at a time, place and pace that suits them, this in turn widens access to education and if they want, can be a stepping stone to formal education. We’ve openly licensed this course so it can be shared, adapted and rebranded by other organisations such as unions and charities to use in their own ways without copyright restriction which we hope will widen its reach even further.”
Previous events hosted by OEPS are noted below. The materials from the events are openly licensed so please reuse, revise, remix and redistribute them (they are accessed via the links below). Please share back to @OEPScotland how you’ve reused them.
OEPS forums – 4 events bringing together open education practitioners and those interested in open education to discuss key issues in open educational practice in a face-to-face environment
‘Thinking about open‘ workshops – half-day workshop exploring what openness and open educational practices are.
‘Developing open practice‘ workshops – full-day workshop introducing the concept of learning design and the learning journey, supporting participants to think how to use open educational resources in their own context.
Learning for sustainability workshop (co-hosted with the Learning for Sustainability Scotland) – full-day workshop exploring the role of free open online learning material in supporting the work of Learning for Sustainability (LfS) practitioners in Scotland
Union Learning Representatives workshop (developed in partnership with Scottish Union Learning) – full-day workshop introducing Union Learning Representatives in Scotland to how they can use open resources as part of their remit to support the engagement of their workplace colleagues with informal and formal learning opportunities
‘The Porous University’ symposium (co-hosted with the University of the Highlands and Islands) – 2 day conference providing a critical exploration of openness, space and place in Higher Education.
The Opening Educational Practices in Scotland (OEPS) project advise, co-develop and collaborate with a wide range of organisations regarding the development of open content and open courses.
All courses are self-paced and openly licensed so resources can be remixed and reused. All courses can be accessed in the Opening Educational Practices in Scotland collection.
The badged open course Becoming an Open Educator was developed by the OEPS project team and community reviewed. With a focus on open educational practices (OEP) the course explores how becoming more open in your practice might impact on learning and teaching. This course is aimed at educators, facilitators and administrators across all sectors.
Read more about the course’s development. The course was launched in September 2016.
Introduction to Dyslexia and inclusive practice
Introduction to dyslexia and inclusive practice is the first of three linked modules written by the and Dyslexia Scotland. It aims to provide teachers and local authority staff with an awareness of what dyslexia is, its impact and how it can be supported within an inclusive school community. It also supports the General Teaching Council for Scotland’s professional standards.
The course was launched in March 2017.
Supporting dyslexia and inclusive practice is the second of the three linked modules. It develops the themes introduced in the ‘Introduction to dyslexia and inclusive practice’ module and builds upon these, particularly in relation to literacy. This module was launched in September 2017.
Pre-register for the follow-on module on dyslexia:
- Dyslexia: Identification and support (forthcoming early 2018)
Supporting collective learning in workplace and community settings
Supporting collective learning in workplace and community settings was created by the OEPS team building on the learning and good practice collected whilst working with informal educators across the duration of the OEPS project.
The course provides support for anyone involved in organising informal learning in the workplace or in community settings. The course looks at how and where to find resources appropriate for your learners and explores how to set up study groups. This course may be of particular interest to Union Learning Representatives, support workers, volunteers with third sector organisations or people with similar roles in their workplace or community.
The course was launched in June 2017.
My Seaweed Looks Weird
Co-created with the Scottish Association for Marine Sciences (SAMS) at the University of the Highlands and Islands the open course My Seaweed Looks Weird takes a deep dive into the latest marine science research to help participants identify seaweed parasites. This course is aimed at anyone involved in seaweed production and cultivation.
The course was launched in May 2016.
Working together with Parkinsons UK the open badged course Understanding Parkinson’s was launched in May 2016. The course is aimed at health or social care professionals who are providing support for people with Parkinson’s and their families.
You can also read our Preliminary findings: Evaluation of a Pilot Cohort studying Understanding Parkinson’s
The second course Parkinson’s Managing palliative and end of life care was launched in September 2017. It is aimed at health professionals working with people with Parkinson’s. The course aims to encourage early conversations about advance care planning, and the need to make decisions about treatments which people may or may not wish at the end of their life.
Forthcoming (pre-registration available soon):
- Parkinson’s: Bone health
How to make an open online course
How to make an open online course explains how to design, structure and produce your own open online course. It was written by the Free Learning Team at The Open University and includes sections by the OEPS project team.
Global trends in death and dying
Ever wondered what is death like around the world? How do we know what the causes and circumstances of death are globally? Global Trends in Death and Dying looks at these and other topical questions relating to death. The course was written collaboratively and produced as part of research led by the End of Life Studies Group at the University of Glasgow and supported by the Wellcome Trust.
The course was launched in July 2017.
These two experiments enable secondary school pupils and teachers to look at genetic variations and try genetic testing and to analyse pesticides using gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy. The experiments were developed by the Open Science Lab project.
The courses were launched in July 2017.
A further two courses developed with OEPS partners are in production.
- ‘Gender equality in STEM‘ produced in partnership with the Equality Challenge Unit
- ‘Scots language’ produced in partnership with the Open University in Scotland
Grow your own loaf
Inspired by attending an OEPS forum, the Royal Highland Education Trust developed Grow your own loaf to provide you with everything you need to grow your on loaf. (*seeds and soil not included). Read what the media said about this course.
Picture credits: All badge images used with permission.
From August 2014 to July 2017 the Opening Educational Practices in Scotland project organised 77 workshops with colleges, universities, third sector organisations and trade unions. The workshop materials are openly licensed and can be found under the resources tab in the OEPS legacy collection.
The workshops included:
- Thinking about open
- Developing open practice
- Open education for Union Learning Reps
- Open education and learning for sustainability
A number of other workshops were offered including open research, OER research, learning design and making OER and MOOCs accessible to all, however these workshops were less popular than those listed above.
OEPS delivered 77 workshops as follows:
|Year||Number of workshops delivered|
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
This is the first of what we plan to be weekly updates on the project’s partnership and outreach activity. Normally we’ll cover the last five days but this time we thought we’d include the previous week too!
In the week beginning 23 February we had a number of discussions about using open educational materials to support democratic participation in Scottish society. We’ll be pursuing these in the coming months. Pete Cannell had an initial meeting with the Poverty Alliance and joined a discussion organised by Scottish Union Learning where we shared ideas about the development of Open Learning Champions with project workers from some of the main unions in Scotland. We also hosted the regular meeting of the OEPS Steering group where we reported on the progress of the project to date, including the plans for the OEPS hub website. A written report will be published on this blog shortly.
Ronald was putting the finishing touches to a report on the work we have been doing with rural schools in the Highlands using OER and OpenScienceLab, in part prompted by the upcoming deadline for OER15 http://oer15.oerconf.org/ where we are presenting on Wed the 15th of April, and partly so that we can assess what worked within the pilot and look at the next steps.
Ronald was also at the Scottish Union Learn Everyday Skills conference running a workshop to explore how we might encourage digital participation through and for education, it was a very insightful event and we learnt a great deal about how to support Union Learning organisers. It was a rich conversation and you can find more at the twitter hashtag #sules15
This week Pete met with the E-Learning Alliance and Pete and Ronald started discussions on how to produce an OER version of gender equality materials produced by the Teacher Education in Malawi project. Pete’s also developed a draft of a workshop and materials to support the development of Open Learning Champions which we will revise and refine following feedback from all those involved.
Looking ahead we have preparations to make around a series of workshops in Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, where we will be running a series of events in communities throughout the park using an enterprise OER Rural Entrepreneurship Scotland to structure a series of sessions exploring some of the complex problems facing remote and rural communities
Preparations for the OEPS Advisory forum on the 19th March are well in hand and we are looking forward to welcoming everyone who has signed up for this free event. We have space for a few more people to join us, so if you haven’t already booked your place, please register via Eventbrite. You can choose 2 of the 4 afternoon workshops to participate in as well as the project update and the keynote by Professor Laura Czerniewicz in the morning. For more information including workshop descriptions and the programme for the day, please read the Advisory Forum 2 blog post.