Category Archives: Progress

Some Thoughts on Open Badges, Recognition and Credit

The use of open badges as a way of recognising a short episode of learning is on the increase in Scotland. There have been significant changes since we started working on the OEPS project in summer 2014. It may be useful to categorise the use of badges in three ways.

  1. Awarding badges for the recognition of activity that contributes to continuing professional development (CPD). Examples of organisations taking this approach include Borders College (an early adopter), City of Glasgow College, Scottish Social Services Council and some Health Boards.
  1. The recognition of co-curricular and extra curricular activity; The University of Abertay is using open badges in the former context for its Law students and is considering whether badges might be integrated with the HEAR statement to recognise extra curricular achievements.
  1. To reward the successful completion of an openly licensed online course; The Open University now offers a suite of eleven such badged online courses (BOCs). A further 10 courses in the same style are scheduled for release during the rest of 2016. A small number of other badged courses have been developed through the OEPS project in partnership with Scottish Universities and Third Sector Organisations.   The number of individuals in Scotland with one or more such badges is rising rapidly.

The landscape is evolving and diverse. Open Badges are awarded against a wide range of criteria. In some cases this may simply be for attendance or participation. In others, students are required to submit some evidence of learning such as a reflection on how a workshop had influenced their professional practice. The OU BOC and OEPS badges are typically awarded for successful completion of one or more online quizzes.

While, particularly in the CPD field, digital badges are being awarded for face-to-face activity and traditional forms of learning, certificates are also being used to recognise achievement on online courses. Free courses, offered by MOOC platforms such as FutureLearn and Coursera, and by providers such as ALISON, may supply successful learners with certificates for a fee. This is part of an emerging business model in online education.

It’s unusual for MOOCs or free openly licensed (OER) courses to be a given a level. However, FutureLearn the Open University and the University of Leeds are offering a route from one of their free online courses to study on a degree or MBA programme.

Most forms of study that result in the award of an open badge represent relatively few hours of learning, typically in the range 5 – 25 hours (although there are a few outliers at both ends of the range). Thus, before considering validity and level, the potential credit value of a single badge is normally small. However, the significance of credit is contextual and not necessarily directly related to size. While for a graduate, 2 credit points at SCQF level 7 might not be very relevant, for an adult learner with no, or little, post compulsory educational experience it might be very important.

Currently recognition based on criteria that require evidence of reflection or other complex outcomes is normally assessed manually before the badge is enabled. This can be expensive and sets limits on scale. Online courses with quiz assessments allow for the awarding process to be automated and can therefore deal with much greater numbers. However, although there has been some very creative use of quizzes (see for example ‘Caring Counts’) this method of assessment does curtail the kinds of learning outcomes that can be effectively assessed. So, for example, the Understanding Parkinson’s course developed by OEPS asks learners to engage in significant reflection on practice and on what they have learned through the medium of a log – however, the success criteria for the course are currently based on more restrictive quiz based questions. Evaluation of this and other similar courses suggests that the reflective activity is a strong impetus to learning. The OEPS project is investigating whether it’s possible to develop automated peer assessment that could work at large scale.

As the numbers of participants on badged courses increases there will be individuals who have portfolios of badges in their Mozilla backpack that may add up to a significant investment in learning. What should be the attitude of colleges and universities to this kind of experience? There is potential for much greater use of RPL and where the badged experience could feed into an ‘empty box’ type module that supports the award of credit.

Pete Cannell


Peer Reviewed Publications and Presentations

We have recently updated the links under the Resources Tab on this site. There are now up to date lists of peer-reviewed outputs from the project via two tabs, Publications and Presentations. Our intention from the beginning has been to ensure that project outputs are publicly available and all the listed papers link to either the full text or a Power Point presentation. Topics include discussions of Open Educational Practice and updates on the evolution of the project, widening access and OER, working in partnership to develop open practice, participatory design and educational transitions. The two must recent publications include a paper on barriers to engagement from a widening participation perspective:

Revisiting Barriers to Participation, which is available in HE: Transforming Lives through life-wide learning; and an overview of the first year of the OEPS project

Cannell, P., Page, A. and Macintyre, R. (2016) Opening Educational Practices in Scotland, Journal of Interactive Media Education

These lists will be updated on a regular basis.

Pete Cannell


New case study! Openness, blogging and the power of connection


“I’m interested in how we can do things more in the open just so that they can benefit others”

The latest case study to be released on the OEPS Hub focuses on openness, blogging and building communities through social media. Martin Hawksey, Innovation, Community and Technology Officer for the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), kindly took time out to discuss how and why he got started blogging and offers valuable advice to those considering being more open and sharing their ideas online. Martin also reflects on some of the challenges of becoming more open in your everyday practice and reflects on the nuances of openness.

Read Martin Hawksey: openness, blogging and the power of connection.

Picture credit: Martin Hawksey by Ade Oshineye (used with permission) 

New OER courses launched

One of the aims of OEPS project is to explore good practice through the co-development of exemplar OER courses. Two courses were launched in May. ‘Understanding Parkinson’s’ is a collaboration with Parkinson’s UK. It brings together the clinical and practical knowledge of the UK Parkinson’s Excellence Network with that of people living with, and caring for, people with Parkinson’s to produce a practical and useful course for health and social care professionals. The second course, ‘My seaweed looks weird’, produced in partnership with the Scottish Association for Marine Science at the University of the Highlands and Islands, takes recent research on global seaweed and makes it freely accessible to students and industry across the globe.

Pete Cannell

OEPS project team

Awareness of OER/OEP in Scotland: Preliminary Findings

At the end of 2015 and early 2016 OEPS ran two surveys to find out about the level of awareness of OER and OEP in Scotland. 19 HE institutions and 16 colleges were invited to complete a questionnaire based on research conducted by OER Hub and Babson Survey Research Group. Beck and I presented the preliminary findings at OER16, with one major caveat: the results can only be considered indicative and not representative of the current state of OER/OEP awareness in Scotland, since the bulk of answers comes from only four HE institutions and five colleges –namely University of St Andrews, Scotland’s Rural College, Open University in Scotland, Glasgow University, Edinburgh College, Fife College, Glasgow Kelvin College, New College Lanarkshire and West College Scotland. Ahead of the interim report to be published in the summer, here’s a brief summary of what we discussed in our presentation, a couple of ponderable points:

Not surprisingly, awareness of OER is low in Scottish HE and even lower in the college sector (see slides below). However, when asked about their awareness of licensing mechanisms, the percentages of those who say they are aware of Creative Commons is actually higher that the percentage of those aware of OER (!). In very similar fashion, YouTube is the most popular repository of educational resources, well ahead of OER repositories such as OpenLearn or Jorum, but again use of open repositories does not equal awareness of OER/OEP. Finally, Scottish educators share mostly via their institution’s VLE but seldom openly online; can we encourage conversations to make VLEs more open?

Featured Image: Aware by Nick Fullerton, CC BY 2.0

OEPS at Opened15 – the Impact of Open

by Anna Page (OEPS project)

The annual OpenEdConference, this year with the title “The Impact of Open” is taking place in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada on 18-20 November 2015.  The OEPS project is presenting under the theme “Designing and using open pedagogies that leverage the 5R permissions of OER”, with the following title and abstract:

Designing and using open pedagogies for the 5Rs: the Opening Educational Practices in Scotland experience

Supporting organisations adopt open education practices (OEP) via cross-sector partnerships to enable the design and use of open materials is the purpose of the Opening Educational Practices in Scotland project (OEPS). It builds on previous experiences of collaborative partnership working (Macintyre, 2013, Cannell & Macintyre, 2013). Although Open Educational Resources (OER) could be transformative and widen access to higher education (D’Antoni, 2013) this promise hasn’t been widely realised, with many unaware of the potential benefits of OER and most MOOC users already HE qualified (Edinburgh University, 2013). OEPS endorses the Open Scotland Declaration ( which encourages organisations, teachers and learners to adopt OER.

OEPS is extending the 5Rs of OER (Wiley, 2014) to the wider sector of HE, FE and beyond via partnerships between HE learning design professionals and Scottish organisations with specialist expertise to share but no pedagogic knowledge to create robust OER. It does this via a growing peer support network, workshops, pilot schemes and an online hub for sharing good practice. This supports OER and OEP concept exploration and the extent to which organisations feel able to share resources they develop for the benefit of communities of learners.

OEPS is facilitating more development of OpenLearn Works where users can share OER so learners can retain, reuse, revise, remix and redistribute resources at any time. The platform encourages users to share all resources via a CC BY NC SA licence at the very least. It also supports badged open courses.

This presentation focusses on some of the collaborative partnership-created OER exemplars, some using badging, issues raised during creation, and the first 3 months use of the Opening Educational Practices hub.

Cannell, Pete and Macintyre, Ronald (2013). Reflections on work and learning and flexible curriculum. In: International Enhancement Themes Conference: Enhancement and Innovation in Higher Education, 11-13 June 2013, Glasgow, UK, pp. 4–12.

D’Antoni, S. (2013) ‘Open Educational Resources: Access to Knowledge – A Personal Reflection’ in McGreal, R., Kinuthia, W. and Marshall, S. (eds) (2013) Open Educational Resources: Innovation, Research and Practice. Vancouver: The Commonwealth of Learning and Athabasca University

Edinburgh University (2013) MOOCs @ Edinburgh 2013 Report

Macintyre, Ronald (2013). Openness and practice: innovations through openness in partnership. In: International Enhancement Themes Conference: Enhancement and Innovation in Education, 11-13 June 2013, Glasgow, UK, pp. 90–96.

Wiley, D (2014) ‘The Access Compromise and the 5th R’, on Iterating toward openness (5 March 2014)

The slides can be viewed at

OpenLearn Works to OpenLearn Create

One of the World Cafe sessions at the #OEPSforum3 on 5 November 2015 featured the open platform which the OEPS project is helping develop further.  This is a brief summary of redesign and further development planned for the open platform:

OpenLearn Works (OLW) draws on the Open University’s expertise to facilitate good online pedagogy and open educational practice. OLW is a Moodle platform that allows the creation and delivery of educational content for free. The guiding principles are:

  • That content is available openly and for free to all users (learners and creators) of the platform (unless it is hosted in the closed VLE sections of the site, where other criteria may apply).
  • That the site provides space for users to publish, reuse and repurpose content and comprehensive guidance on how to do this.
  • That content published on OLW should be released under a Creative Commons licence.
  • That the site should promote and share good open pedagogical practices to support users creating OER and learners using OER as a service to users.
  • There is no advertising on the site.

OpenLearn Works enables capacity building for those developing and delivering free and publically available digitally enhanced learning. The site is both a place to:

  • Develop capacity (academy, toolkit & repository) and to
  • Deliver product (courses, resources, product library sub portals)

The site provides free OER hosting facilities for those who don’t have access to an appropriate VLE for their courses, so is ideal for experimenting with ideas and creating courses across institutions or organisations.

Hosting courses

The following hosting options are currently available:

  • spaces for users to set up their own open courses,
  • project spaces which can either be set up by external users (basic functionality) or by the OU (with enhanced features such as badges and OU structured content)
  • a portal facility (which requires design and some IT development to reuse the basic template for new portals)

The following additional hosting options are planned and are currently being piloted:

  • closed spaces for password enrolment for closed cohorts administered by OU or external organisations who need VLE space for their or OU content which is adapted for their CPD purposes

Current functionality

Users can create open courses on OpenLearn Works which can include textual content, images, embedded or linked video and quizzes using core Moodle. The platform has tools for collaboration when creating a draft course (editing, curating and contextualizing materials). There are tools for learners to collaborate with each other when studying a live course such as blogs, forums, interactive glossaries and polls. The platform supports Open Badging which are Mozilla compatible and mirrors the facility on OpenLearn for issuing badges automatically via course completion criteria.

Future developments

OLC creating open courses

OLC creating open courses

OpenLearn Works will become OpenLearn Create (OLC) to more accurately reflect the open course creation facilities it offers. It is proposed that the redesigned OpenLearn Create will have the following enhancements and improvements to existing features:

  • Mobile responsive design
  • Easier to use interface for creating and updating courses which have a logical flow and navigational structure
  • Improved routes and guidance for remixing and re-versioning OER content found both on OLC and on other OER sites
  • A choice of Creative Commons licence options for publishing content (currently only one open licence option or all rights reserved are the only choices)
  • An improved user profile encompassing course creator and learner elements
  • Course user statistics and data dashboard for reports and analytics
  • Digital badging configuration by the course creator (currently digital badges are set up by OpenLearn Works managers) and Statement of Participation template for course creator’s own branding
  • Improved OER search facilities
  • Exportable formats (for those wishing to study a course offline) or to export to another VLE platform
  • Generate alternative formats (for accessibility purposes) from material uploaded to OpenLearn Create
  • Further configuration of multiple language support for administration menus and correct text alignment
  • Further configuration of the peer assessment module
  • RSS/XML feeds of collections of course materials for display on other websites
  • Plugin additional appropriate tools and resources
OLC creating reversioning courses

OLC creating reversioning courses

We are seeking views on the proposed developments for OpenLearn Create at the #oepsforum3 and welcome comments on this blog post about the platform.

An invitation to feedback! Community review our course on open practice

Screenshot of OpenLearn Works (contains image: Alan Levine "Life is Sharing" CC-BY 2.0)

Screenshot of section 1.3 on OpenLearn Works (contains image: Alan Levine “Life is Sharing” CC-BY 2.0)

by Beck Pitt (OEPS project)

I am pleased to announce that a draft of the project’s course on open educational practices (OEP) is now available for review! In a nutshell the course aims to explore and foreground OEP in part through practical advice on the use of open educational practices (OER) whilst simultaneously highlighting examples of best practice and ideas for your own context. The course has been developed to cover the fundamentals but also provides additional material for further exploration in the Further Reading sections.

For the next three weeks (until 26 November 2015) you have the opportunity to feedback on the course and let us know whether it meets your needs, those of your institution and if not, what can be improved. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

The badged four-part course will be openly licensed, available on OpenLearn Works and will launch in January 2016.

Why community review? 

Quite simply in order to make the course better and more relevant for YOU and your colleagues. Previous experiences of this type of open peer review have been incredibly useful: receiving a certain amount of community feedback was essential for the first iteration of the OER Hub’s Open Research course to go ahead.  Being open about the course’s development (e.g. regularly blogging about the course’s development) was also important and reflected the Hub’s own open practices. We had excellent feedback from fellow facilitators and interested parties both via this channel and elsewhere which really helped to tighten up the course structure, content and delivery mechanisms.

What’s involved? 

Reviewing the course could just involve browsing the content quickly or a more detailed read… there’s no obligation to read everything! We’re interested in all types of feedback; from general impressions on what’s covered through to suggestions for additional content and corrections.

  • Does this course look useful and relevant to your and your colleagues?
  • Would you use the course material? If not, why not?
  • Is material covered in sufficient detail? Is there something missing you’d like the course to cover?

We welcome comments on this blog post, comments directly on the material (click on the header links below to go to the relevant Google doc) or even just a vote on our poll (although ideally we’d love to know why too!). I will be monitoring feedback and responding periodically during the three week review period.

So what’s in the course and how is it structured? 

Each section of the course has an accompanying reading list to enable a ‘deeper dive’ into material and each section also has an accompanying activity. These are still work in progress so haven’t been included; however, you can see a sample reading list at the end of the Course introduction and Part One document. We are also in the process of picking out good examples of best practice to include in the final version.

All the content is available below on Google docs and you can comment directly on the material. Or if you would prefer, please comment in response this blog post.

Course introduction and Part One

  • 1.1 What do we mean by “open”?
  • 1.2 Open Educational Resources?
  • 1.3 The Practice of Open Educational Resources
  • 1.4 Open Licensing

Part Two

  • 2.1 Why open educational resources (OER)?
  • 2.2 Where can I find OER?
  • 2.3 Attributing a resource
  • 2.4  The ‘open’ in open licensing

Part Three

  • 3.1 Exploring Open Practices
  • 3.2 Remixing OER
  • 3.3 Why openly license my own material?
  • 3.4 What do I need to consider when creating an OER?

Part Four

  • 4.1 What license should I choose?
  • 4.2 How can I share my resources with others?
  • 4.3 Measuring Impact
  • 4.4 What next?

What isn’t included in his draft of the course? 

As above, please note that best practice examples, some further reading sections and activities for each section are pending.

And last but not least, our course is currently lacking a punchy title! All suggestions welcome : )

Looking forward to hearing from you and thanks for your anticipated input! 

More #OEPSforum3 posters

These posters will also be on display at #OEPSforum3 on 5 November 2015 in Glasgow:

Opening up spaces to support Rural Business in Scotland – Ronald Macintyre

Caring for Vulnerable Children – University of Strathclyde

OEPS OER15 poster – OEPS project team

The role of free open online content in Widening Participation (WP) and life-wide learning

by Ronald Macintyre (OEPS project)

Recently as part of an Open University wide exploration of digital strategy I had cause to reflect on a question that is often obscured within the discussions on what social and economic contribution free and open educational content makes. Diana Laurillard has asked on a number of occasions (the most recent I have seen was at the ALT SIG on MOOCs, if free and open HE level education is the answer, what is the question. She thought the question was, what can we do to ensure middle class well educated professionals have access to free Continuing Professional Development (CPD)? I paraphrase of course but this the very nub of the issue, an issue which causes angst for education providers whose strategy, culture and norms see education as a common good.

This angst arises from the way variations in access to and use of digital technology alters people’s ability to access those technologies – social inequality; with the price of unequal access becoming ever more acute as access to affordable goods and key services becomes increasingly “digital by default”. It is a question of social justice, and the factors that distance people from the digital world are not too different from the kinds of factors that distance people from education. These themes are ones that people in the Widening Participation community might recognise, from confidence, to “not for the likes of me”; from low income (as a cause and effect), to low levels of educational attainment.

As internet connection, and device availability, has increased it is tempting to pretend some of these issues have gone away; or that it is something that is only experienced by older people and refuseniks. However, while the first divide (the connectivity divide) is being overcome we are seeing the emergence of a “Second Digital Divide”, the participation divide. Let me provide you with an example from some work I was doing on energy in social housing. When you visited a home they were all connected through numerous devices to the internet. Yet many participants still had card meters, did not use price comparison websites, nor saving tips like paperless billing. The benefits of being online were not realised. Of course we helped people realise those benefits, albeit a small number of people in discrete geographic locales.

Somethings in the Water: Perpetually waiting for free open and online to transform educational opportunities

Somethings in the Water: Perpetually waiting for free open and online to transform educational opportunities

The point is, just like the adoption of the devices themselves the benefits offered by the internet are often not realised by those that need it most. Does this sound familiar? If we look at the educational profile of those accessing free and open online materials it is clear these people are the “educational haves”.  I have worked for the OU for about a decade now, and even as we embrace the online world we tread softly, a tacit recognition of the potential for excluding the already excluded. Thus even as we run towards the challenge presented by digital inclusion, we are often also in retreat. In part for me this is because we have tended to simplify digital inclusion, looking at infrastructure, or using overly facile simplifications like “Digital Natives”, and have not taken on emerging work on use and participation divides. Of which the recent GO On “heat map” is a useful example. Partly it is because we have not been willing to grasp hard onto the challenge, the challenge of being digital advocates, of saying it is not acceptable that the benefits of being online accrue to those well-educated early adopters.  A failure to articulate a narrative about access to and use of online and free and open materials is a matter of social justice; in part because of the benefits of being online often slip away in overblown promises of a world just around the corner – a revolution perpetually waiting.

As an OU employee I am probably drifting dangerously “off message”. However, I am not just talking about the OU I am talking about HE and free and open resources more generally. Online free and open have been in a constant state of becoming a revolution, of always being about to change the face of education, of being just about to democratise access to, and creating, a new world where everyone can access education. But it has not, and while it may be round the corner again, I think it probably isn’t. It isn’t, because at present it seems to be reproducing the inequities in access and use it has the potential to overcome. In part this relates to underlying inequalities within society and in part it relates to the structure and process of HE itself. For me these are issues we need to grasp tightly if we are to ensure that the benefits of free open and online education is realised in a just and equitable manner.

Big questions, and I know I have muddied the waters around online open and free. But I thought it was useful as a means to stimulate discussion. Discussion is what we are looking for in the flexibility and technology strand at the Widening Participation Conference, HE: Transforming lives through life-wide learning on the 27th and 28th of April 2015  and I look forward to receiving your submissions which are due on on the 27th of November 2015.