Category Archives: Report
This is the final post on the OEPS blog before it transitions to an archive. As such I’d like to use it to reflect on the big themes that the project set out to address.
I joined the project following more than a decade of work in the Scottish widening participation scene and recent experience of exploring the use of open educational resources with organisations that support non-traditional students attempting to gain access to further and higher education.
OEPS was distinctive in foregrounding social justice and widening participation but I think I underestimated the challenge that this presented. The Open Education movement grew out of a belief that educational material should be a public good. And this belief has informed developments over nearly two decades. However, at the start of the project it was clear that there were very few points of contact between the Learning Technology and Widening Participation communities in Scotland. Although the latter community was beginning to grapple with issues of digital participation, knowledge of the affordances of open education or indeed of the existence of OER was very limited.
So for the project bringing people together from a range of different backgrounds was critical and we prioritised this in organising events and in targeting possible partners. We’ve written more about this elsewhere and the final project report provides a useful summary of this engagement.
As we developed a network of partners it rapidly became clear that, while the language of open education and the technicalities of open licensing were not well known, a broad range of organisations and individuals were grappling with the social consequences of digital technology. In the OEPS final report we note that
‘… in the last ten years there has been a historic shift in the way that society uses digital technology. Ownership of smart digital devices has grown rapidly. An OFCOM report published in 2015 found that 66% of UK adults owned a Smartphone, up from 39% just three years before. This has had an impact on culture, communication and self-directed learning. However, the links between digital engagement and the digital literacies required for learning are not straightforward. In 2009 the JISC report on Learning Literacies in a Digital Age noted that learners in general are ‘poor at deploying their digital skills in support of learning’. This remains the case for young people entering higher education direct from school and evidence collected during the OEPS project suggest that this is also the case for non-traditional students.’
It’s widely accepted that good practice in supporting students from a widening participation and student retention perspective should be part of the mainstream rather than an add on. Taken as whole I would argue that the experience of the OEPS project suggests that this is also true of good Open Educational Practice.
At the outset we were concerned by the skewed demographics of participation in Open Education, which suggested that historic inequity was being reproduced or even accentuated. Looking at open education through a widening participation lens, and working closely with non-traditional learners and with the organisations that support them, helped us develop valuable insights into the way that stubborn and persistent barriers to educational participation are expressed in digital environments. Digital technologies open up new possibilities and new barriers for students. In developing exemplar open courses with a range of partners the OEPS project provides evidence that these barriers can be overcome. Much more work is needed in this field but critical to success and at the core of good practice are a number of simple issues:
- Developing practice that puts student experience and student context at the centre.
- Understanding the challenges that non-traditional students face.
- Making the maximum use of co-design – involving practitioners and students in the process of making or remixing course material, study approaches and assessment.
- Maximising opportunities for social interaction and peer support in course design. Material delivered online can be used in a whole range of online and face-to-face blends.
- Holding firm to a belief that technology can support education but that it’s a means to an end and not an end in itself.
Taking all this on board in a consistent way would be a big step forward. Although not the whole story since, as Maha Bali outlined in her presentation at the final OEPS event, open is always mediated by power and privilege. I would argue that in the digital world that potential students inhabit addressing these issues is a necessity and not a choice if we are to meet the ambitious widening participation targets set by the Scottish Government. But if we can get it right the advantages will accrue to all our students.
 Learning Literacies in a Digital Age, Beetham et al, 2009 https://www.webarchive.org.uk/wayback/archive/20140614200958/http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/briefingpapers/2009/learningliteraciesbp.aspx#downloads
The core message of the final report from the OEPS project is that innovative practice that puts students first can ensure that open education breaks down barriers to participation in education. The report is published today (Monday 11th September) to coincide with the ‘Promise of Open Education’ Conference at Edinburgh’s Dynamic Earth.
The report provides evidence and case studies from across the Scottish sector. It highlights the potential of working across boundaries, an approach that enabled the OEPS project to co-create fifteen new free, open online courses with organisations like Dyslexia Scotland and Parkinson’s UK. OEPS found a high level of interest in the use of these online courses in the informal education sector with almost half of the organisations involved coming from the third sector, trade unions or employers.
The OEPS project was concerned with developing good open educational practice that supports widening participation and social justice. Working with organisations that support non-traditional students provided the team with valuable insights into the barriers that online learning can present. The report links to a range of reports and guidance material designed to help educators, course designers and widening participation practitioners enable the barriers to be overcome.
The report highlights innovative practice from across the Scottish sector but suggests that more needs to be done to provide a policy framework that can embed this practice in the mainstream. It suggests that wherever possible educational materials should be released as open by default.
The report stresses the value of institutional collaboration in the use of open educational resources and recommends that the Scottish Government and the Scottish Funding Council consider systems, support mechanisms and policies that can facilitate and sustain such partnerships.
The report is essential reading whether you’ve never heard of open education before or whether you are a seasoned open educator. We encourage everyone to read the OEPS Final Report.
This post is published as one of many celebrating Open Education in the run up to the OEPS final event, The Promise of Open Education at Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh on Monday 11th September. Join the conversation before, during and after the event with the hashtag#BeOpen’. We are livestreaming on the day via Periscope and there will be a Twitter chat in the afternoon using #BeOpen and @OEPScotland.
In the latest addition to the OEPS collection of reports and briefings we reflect on the ways that institutions are engaging with open education. The report considers emerging models under six broad and often interconnected categories:
- Institutional Profile
- Public Good
- Knowledge Exchange
- Curriculum Development
- Educational Transitions and Widening Participation
- Professional Development and Communities of Practice
The report discusses the opportunities and challenges for institutions and concludes that ‘genuinely sustainable business models will depend on combining policy and practice across a range of different areas of application.’
Workshop Gamestorming by Sebastiaan ter Burg licensed as CC BY 2.0
Tuesday 6th June marked the first day of the 3rd International Enhancement in Higher Education Conference held in Glasgow. The conference coincides with the final year of QAA Scotland’s ‘Transitions’ enhancement theme. At the Enhancement Themes Conference in 2016 the OEPS team explored the relevance of OER and OEP to educational transitions. This year in our presentation we focussed on the question ‘Is open and online reconfiguring learner journeys?’
We noted that learner journeys may involve transitions from informal or self-directed to formal learning, between sectors and between education and employment. These transitions are negotiated in environments where digital technology is becoming ubiquitous. Organisations that support transitions now believe that supporting the development of digital skills is essential and some are making use of open resources. Almost all students, young and mature, now arrive in HE with some digital skills – some may have new forms of credential (open badges). These provide a platform for developing digital literacy and the skills appropriate to learning in higher education.
We raised the possibility that as a result it may be necessary to rethink the pedagogy that underpins transitions and concluded with two questions for reflection:
- Is there a disconnect between pedagogy, practice, student needs and student experience?
- And if there is what does this imply for supporting widening participation transitions?
ET Themes by Pete Cannell, CC BY SA 4.0
The slides for the OEPS presentation can be accessed on slideshare.net
All the presentation slides from the Enhancement Themes conference (keynote and parallel), conference papers and poster presentations are available on the Enhancement Themes website.
In September 2016 we published a post on the openly licensed, online course ‘Foundations for Self Directed Support in Scotland’. The course was commissioned by the Scottish Government and developed by the Open University in Scotland together with the Open University’s Faculty of Health and Social Care.
The evaluation report produced by the development team describes how engagement with the course was fostered through the use of workplace and community ambassadors. The course has been successful in attracting a large number of users. Moreover there is evidence from the evaluation that where learners were able to engage in peer interaction in the workplace levels of retention and achievement were high and had an impact on wider workplace culture.
The course team has now published an annexe to the evaluation report that provides templates for the face-to-face workshops that were used to encourage successful participation. The report and its annexe provide a valuable insight into the value of combining well designed open online courses with supportive and contextualised practice. The annexe includes the full set of six workshop designs as a single pdf document and also as a Word file that is openly licensed and can be disaggregated, edited and reversioned.
The Open Educational Practices in Scotland (OEPS) Project conducted a survey to find out about the level of awareness of open educational resources (OER) and open educational practices (OEP) among college staff in Scotland. In total 236 valid responses were collected in a seven-week period from February 1st, 2016 to March 20th, 2016. The survey was distributed in 24 Colleges, and responses were obtained from 16 of them. However, most respondents came from 5 institutions, making unadvisable any conclusion that these results are necessarily representative of the sector as a whole.
- Awareness of open educational resources (OER) among educators in Scotland’s colleges is very low
- Awareness of CC licenses is lower than public domain or copyright (but awareness of all license types is higher than awareness of OER in general)
- Most educators share teaching materials via their institutions VLE but few share them openly online
- Quality and accuracy are the most important factors influencing educators’ choice of teaching material
- Lack of awareness and not knowing how to use OER are perceived as the highest barriers to adoption of OER
- Staff who attend CPD opportunities are more likely to engage with OER and OEP
- Efforts to raise awareness of OER and OEP among teaching staff in Scotland’s colleges need to be scaled up
- Opportunities for development around the use of OER in the curriculum (and especially the affordances and limitations of open licenses) should be provided
- Colleges should consider the possibility of ‘opening up’ their VLEs, and establish how to best support and encourage their teaching staff to share resources openly
The infographic below highlights some of the survey results.
The Open Educational Practices in Scotland (OEPS) project conducted a survey to find out about the level of awareness of open educational resources (OER) and open educational practices (OEP) among Higher Education (HE) institutions in Scotland. The survey was distributed in 19 HE institutions, and responses were collected in a five-week period from 19th October 2015 to 23rd November 2015.
- Awareness of OER among Scottish HE educators is generally low
- Awareness of Creative Commons (CC) licenses is lower than public domain or copyright (but awareness of all license types is higher than awareness of OER in general)
- Most educators share teaching materials via their institution’s virtual learning environment (VLE) but few share them openly online
- Lack of awareness is perceived as the highest barrier to adoption of OER
- Scottish HE educators use OER to broaden the range of materials available to their students
- Staff who attend continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities are more likely to engage with OER and OEP
- Efforts to raise awareness of OER and OEP among HE teaching staff in Scotland need to be scaled up
- Opportunities for development around the use of OER in the curriculum, and especially the affordances and limitations of open licenses, should be provided
- Institutions should consider the possibility of ‘opening up’ their VLEs, and establish how to best support and encourage their teaching staff to share resources openly
The infographic below highlights some of the survey results.
New report published on the use of a free, online course in workplace and community settings
Evidence from a small number of free, openly licensed courses, developed by staff at the Open University in Scotland prior to the launch of the OEPS project in 2014, has played a part in how the project team has understood open educational practice in the context of life long learning. One such course is ‘KG097 Foundations for self-directed support in Scotland’. The course was commissioned by the Scottish Government, and launched in April 2013, to support the dissemination of knowledge and understanding of self-directed support (SDS) in Scotland. An in depth evaluation of the way in which the course was used and the ways in which a small project team engaged with learners and potential learners has now been published.
In the OEPS project we have tried to understand the barriers to the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and to develop good practice to overcome these. Across the Scottish sector there is significant interest in the use of openly licensed courses for professional development. However, potential learners often assume that learning online will be individualised, isolated and ‘tick box’. The evidence collated in this report provides valuable insights into how such fears can be overcome.
The use of SDS ‘ambassadors’ builds on practice from widening participation that shows the importance of ‘trusted intermediaries’ in encouraging individuals in workplace and community settings to begin studying. The evidence also suggests that combined with this support, and once on course, designing the course material to support reflection in and on practice was crucial. The report shows how workplace settings afford opportunities for social interaction. This was encouraged by the project and by the ambassadors, and was effective in keeping learners engaged. Importantly there is also evidence that the online course was effective in increasing knowledge and understanding and effecting changes in practice. There is also some evidence of transfer of knowledge into the wider workplace setting.
If you are interested in effective practice in the design and use of open, online courses or in learning in workplace and community settings then this report is a valuable and timely resource.
This month is a busy time for the project with ten workshops scheduled between now and the end of September. The majority are learning design events. Two of the design workshops involve the Equality Challenge Unit and a consortium of universities and colleges. The aim is to produce an open course for teachers that supports efforts to increase the number of young women choosing to specialise in STEM subjects. Later in the month we will meet with staff from The University of Strathclyde to work on the first stage of planning a open CPD course for pharmacists. On the theme of teacher CPD we are also facilitating a first stage design workshop for a project aimed at producing a Scots Language course.
However, the design workshops are not simply aimed at OER production. We will also be using participatory design methods to help Unite the Union and the Poverty Alliance think through student centred approaches to the curation of free online resources. In addition we are meeting with members of the Learning for Sustainability network to think through the links between open practice and the specific needs of educators in this inter-disciplinary area with a view to designing a workshop or workshops for a wider audience.
Towards the end of the month we will be running our ‘Thinking about Open’ workshop for the University of the Highlands and Islands in Inverness and the College Development Network in Stirling.