Category Archives: workshop

Some Reflections on “The Gathering” 2017

At the SCVO Gathering in February we had a stall where we collected information about Third Sector engagement with free open online materials, we used an interactive poster as a survey tool, with a good response rate, and we ran a workshop on day 2, which 21 people came to. A fuller report on the outcomes of this is forthcoming, but we thought it was worth sharing an impressionistic account of the workshop.

OEPS stall at the Gathering 2017

Figure 1: The OEPS stall at ‘The Gathering’ by OEPS CC-BY-NA-SA 2.0

In the workshop OEPS and Parkinson’s UK shared our experience of the opportunities and challenges of working with each other to create OER (for example Understanding Parkinson’s) and we also explored Scottish Union Learn’s work supporting users of OER. We kept it brief, because we wanted to allow space for others to explore this area. We asked two sets of questions, one set were a “what if”, and the second to think about what openness might enable.

In the first set we asked people to imagine a future where education is free and open, and then reflect on what it would enable for them as an organisation that uses, or may produce, resources to support their clients. On the broader scale while people did think it might be empowering and allow some to overcome barriers, they were concerned who would be empowered, and whether it might accentuate inequalities. They saw it would give them reach as organisations and might reduce costs of delivery and development, but were worried about the ability of their organisations to cope.  While they recognised the opportunities for organisations and clients, this concern around capacity was also expressed in relation to delivery. There was a lot of concern expressed about business models of openness and how this might be supported in the long term

In the second set we asked them to dig a little deeper and reflect on what open would enable, getting them to think about what would need to happen to make it happen, what needed to change within their organisation and what it would enable them to do for their clients. There was a focus on strategic leadership within the organisation and the need for resources (both finance and people) to be allocated to the area. There were also responses around lowering the bar, with organisations feeling that developments costs and technical difficulties were still prohibitive. People felt funders would need to recognise the costs of being open and there would need to be clear and transparent ways of establishing the value for their clients. The emphasised that costs should not just be for development work or one off pilots, but also for maintaining and developing their staff and supporting clients on a long-term basis. In some ways this is a broader issue for the Third Sector, with the tendency for funding to be short term being a long-term problem. Thus the concern was not openness, which was seen as positive, but openness without long-term support.

Tag cloud of participant responses in the Gathering Workshop

Figure 2: Tag cloud of participant responses to questions in the Gathering Workshop. OEPS CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

The tag cloud is based on the comments on the big bits of paper on the tables.  It may appear that worries dominated hopes, however, going around the tables and in plenary people were more positive about the possibilities for them and for clients. They recognised that they needed to operate in this space in order to meet the needs of their clients in an increasingly digitised world. They were not approaching it from wide-eyed techno-utopianism, but recognised the challenges for them and their clients. Those challenges relate to open and online in a broader context, of how to support people into the digital world, and questions within the Third Sector more broadly around strategic change, and how to sustain activities. I think this is probably a question we need to ask ourselves in the OER/OEP community.  It is all very well having resource to make something open, but what about the resources to ensure it is used and that it remains useful, so asking how to enable things to be open, what openness enables, and how to ensure it is sustained.

Ronald MacIntyre and Pete Cannell


If you retain, reuse, revise, remix or redistribute these then please tell us what you’ve done with them and share back any remixing or revisions.

Slideshare of the workshop



Storify: OEPS @ the Gathering 2017



Learning for Sustainability workshop

[Walk in] Patrick Geddes Steps, Patrick Geddes was an Edinburgh based architect, planner, and early green thinker often cited as the source of the term “Think Global Act Local”.  Image Source, Jones Bob, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

[Walk in] Patrick Geddes Steps, Patrick Geddes was an Edinburgh based architect, planner, and early green thinker often cited as the source of the term “Think Global Act Local”.
Image Source, Jones Bob, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

OEPS and Learning for Sustainability Scotland will be running a workshop on the 3rd of March at the University of Edinburgh. The purpose of this workshop is to explore the role of free open online learning material in supporting the work of Learning for Sustainability (LfS) practitioners in Scotland. The idea of the workshop arose out of a meeting in late 2016 which a range of LfS partners attended.

At the meeting we were all struck by the overlaps in our approaches to educational practice. On the surface there is a view that questions of sustainability and open education are questions about practice itself, and about changing practice. Our sense of educational practice as something social and situated, and then broader sense of values, a commitment to equity and social inclusion informed our both of our approaches at a deeper level.

It is always pleasing to spend an afternoon with people to who share similar questions about educational practice, but in the end one is left wondering – So What?. In this case ‘So What?’ resulted in a Task Group to explore the questions, see the invitation to join the Task Group and the forthcoming event.

During the day we will – very briefly – share some experiences of working with free and open and our thoughts about those overlaps. However, most of the day will be given over to discussion and exploring the opportunities and challenges around free open online learning materials and to support learning for sustainable development

If you are interested in joining the discussion then we look forward to seeing you on the day, here is a link so you can book your place.

Ronald Macintyre


Reusable Thinking About Open Workshop content out now!

As you might be aware, OEPS have conducted a large number of workshops on different facets of open practice with organisations and institutions across Scotland over the past two years. Perhaps the team has visited where you’re based or you caught taster sessions of workshops at an OEPS Forum?

As part of the OEPS commitment to openness, we’re proud to announce that the first set of reusable workshop content is now available. This content relates to the Thinking about Open workshops that myself and Bea developed and facilitated.  The workshop content is CC BY licensed and we invite you to reuse it in any way you see fit! You could facilitate a similar workshop, reuse any of the activities and content or simply review it for ideas. The choice is yours!

So what is Thinking about Open?

Thinking About Open is a half-day workshop exploring what openness and open educational practices are. The workshop aims to help instigate discussion at your organisation on how openness could make a difference to your own practices whilst acting as a springboard for further discussion on the practicalities of open practice. The workshop utilises a range of case studies and examples of openness to help facilitate discussion.

This workshop is aimed at anyone with an interest in finding out more about openness and how it can make a difference to their own practice. [REF]

Various iterations of the workshop were delivered at 7 different college and higher education institutions across Scotland, as well as as taster sessions at various OEPS forums, over the past 18 months. We received positive feedback about the workshop from participants, for example:

“The ‘Thinking about Open’ session Beck and Bea facilitated for a range of UHI colleagues was both timely and excellent. It broadened and deepened the range of ways in which we could consider and approach open educational practice, and how an open ethos could be reflected in individual and collective practice within our own institutional context. We have already begun to further explore issues and ideas introduced during the workshop, and to identity practical and strategic next steps that we can take.”

Professor Keith Smyth, University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), Inverness (November 2016)

Thank you so much to everyone who hosted and participated in a workshop!

The CC BY licensed workshop pack is comprised of four parts:

We would love to know if and how you reuse any of the workshop pack. All feedback and comments are welcome! Please get in touch or @BeckPitt / @OEPScotland 

‘The Porous University’

“The Porous University – A critical exploration of openness, space and place in Higher Education

Time and venue: Two day symposium in late April/early May 2017 (dates tbc), Inverness Campus, University of the Highlands and Islands

Contacts: Ronald Macintyre (Open Educational Practices Scotland, Open University) and Keith Smyth (UHI)

The idea for this symposium arose out of a series of conversations and reflections on the nature of openness within Higher Education. It started with the observation that openness is increasingly seen as a technical question, whose solution lies in employing the low transaction costs associated with digital technologies with open licences to open up academic content to new groups of learners. Where critical voices have engaged this partial reading they have often rightly critiqued the degree to which this is truly open, for example, drawing on older traditions of open to question the freedoms free content allows for those already distanced from education. However, other questions also arise, what does it mean beyond releasing content? What is the role of open academics in dealing with problems “in the world”, how should staff and students become learners within community contexts, developing and negotiating curriculum based on those contexts? What would it mean for openness as a way to allow new voices into the academy, to acknowledge knowing and ways of knowing outside the academy, and where can and should our open spaces – both digital and physical – intersect?  If we are to advocate allowing learners experience and organisations to inform the academy how open should academics be to the influence of private capital? These are the kinds of questions we want to explore in this symposium.

Further details and a call for contributions and participation is forthcoming in December 2016. Attendance at this event is free.

For further information or to express an interest in becoming involved please contact Ronald Macintyre ( or Keith Smyth (”


Open Educational Resources: an international perspective

Rory McGreal is the UNESCO/Commonwealth of Learning/International Council for Open and Distance Education Chair in Open Educational Resources at Athabasca University. Rory spoke at an OEPS seminar in Edinburgh on 27 September 2016.


Watch all of Rory’s presentation

Rory used two sets of slides. The slides on copyright can be accessed via this link and the overview of OER can be accessed via this link.

We have also created a Storify of the discussion around Rory’s talk. 

Pete Cannell


Ref: Rory’s presentation is on YouTube at

OEPS workshops in September 2016

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.

Pete Cannell


Moving the ‘open’ agenda forward

This is the third and final post on the discussion at the initial workshop at OEPSforum4 in March. The first post considered factors that are encouraging the adoption of OER and OEP, the second focused on challenges and barriers to adoption. In this post we look at what participants had to say on three linked issues: using the Open Scotland Declaration to encourage practical steps towards use of OER and OEP; the engagement of senior policy makers in institutions; and the potential for cross-sector collaboration.

We asked groups to take the Open Scotland Declaration as the starting point in their discussion. As a facilitator I noted the importance that members of my group attached to the declaration, however, only one of the groups made explicit reference to it in their feedback.   In this case the group felt that the declaration was not nuanced enough and as a result had had greater impact in the University sector than in the Colleges.

Across the groups there was strong feeling that, although there are some exceptions, in general there is still a lot of work to be done in order to involve senior management. There was a lot of discussion on how to address this. There was a view that compelling examples of practice in other institutions can be used to put the issue on policy agendas. Some participants qualified this by suggesting that it’s better to explain how OER can address a specific problem, rather than raise the whole open education agenda. Others talked about the questions that you need to be ready for. ‘It’s all about money! What are the financial gains for the University?’ Policy makers, and other staff too, may think that doing ‘open’ is about giving stuff away. So there is a need to develop understanding of the positive advantages of doing ‘open’ and the alternative business models that facilitate this.

Groups also looked at the positive examples that could be used to influence policy makers. It was noted that mandatory requirements for open research have had an important impact on policy and practice and, while this is not the case in learning and teaching, it can provide a good starting point for a discussion of alternative models. The government and the funding council could have a role here in recognising that ‘open’ approaches give value for money and by encouraging such approaches in learning and teaching. It was also felt that students might well start to shape the agenda. Many begin their studies with some prior knowledge of open resources and expectations about how knowledge is shared and disseminated in the open. A delegate commented that student expectations had driven significant change in practice at their institution.

There is a growing interest in open education outside the academy. Particularly in the NHS, unions and the third sector.   It’s not surprising therefore that, in many HEIs, it is staff that have close contacts with these organisations that are leading in the development of open practice.   There was a suggestion that Digital Badges could be part of move to a ‘more agile form of RPL [recognition for prior learning]’. In addition, thinking about the connections between the education sector and broader society, OER and OEP provide powerful new opportunities for knowledge exchange and knowledge transfer. Although these are not necessarily rewarded in the metrics that are currently in use.

The discussion groups had relatively little time to discuss cross-sector collaboration, however connections were made which may bear fruit in the future. The synergy between such an approach and the affordances of OER and OEP is obvious. However, there are cultural and practical barriers that need to be overcome. There is a need to connect resources up so that it’s easier to find and share good resources.   Rather than try to create new forums it was felt the most effective way to move forward was to put open education on the agenda of existing networks that already collaborate on a subject, discipline or specialism basis.

Pete Cannell (for the OEPS project team)



Some of the challenges that confront moves to greater use of OER and OEP

This is the second of a series of posts that draw on discussion from workshop A at OEPS Forum 4. In this workshop we looked at ideas for the strategic development of open education in Scotland. The first post in the series summarised the factors that the workshop participants felt are driving greater use of OER and OEP. However, analysing the feedback from the six workshop groups, it’s very noticeable that as participants articulated the drivers for change they were also thinking about challenges and barriers.

Across the groups there was discussion of bottom up and top down approaches to change. Several groups reflected on the challenge of getting buy-in from senior managers. It was noted that advocates of for change come up against colleagues and policy makers who are unaware of open education. This strand of discussion explored the challenges and opportunities in developing formal institutional policies. Some participants felt that this was essential to make progress, however others cautioned that in a developing field policy frameworks might restrict creativity.

Moving on from policy matters some of the groups discussed the perspective of teaching staff. There was a feeling that relative lack of awareness of issues around openness can be reinforced if staff are working in silos and don’t have opportunities to see the bigger picture. Some of the challenges for staff are technical. For example:

  • Lack of knowledge or confidence about licensing and attribution;
  • Being unaware of tools and techniques that make using, reusing and remixing OER relatively straightforward.

But the discussion made clear that barriers to engagement by teaching staff are not just about technology and technical competence. If levels of knowledge about the issues are low, it’s possible to see ‘open’ as a threat to existing skills and professionalism. The insecurity this causes may be reinforced if pressure to adopt makes it appear that ‘open’ is just ‘one more thing’ to do. There was a strong sense from the discussion that developing practice in the context of OER needs to be seen primarily as a pedagogical issue.

While most of the discussion focused on incorporating OER into the curriculum there were also comments from ‘users’ outside the formal education sector. In particular participants from the public sector with an interest in workplace learning noted that design of resources often doesn’t take into account the fact that many public sector organisations operate strong firewalls. As a result resources that include video may not be useable.

This blog covers some of the areas of challenge as discussed by the Forum 4 participants, however there are many others. Please add your own challenges and solutions in the comments section or email us at

The final post in this series will look at what forum participants said about engaging senior policy makers and ideas for cross-sectoral collaboration.

Pete Cannell – for the OEPS project team

What is driving interest in OER and OEP

Following on from Josie Fraser’s plenary at OEPS Forum 4 in March the remainder of the forum was spent in workshop sessions.  One of the aims of the OEPS forums has been to provide a space where the educational technology, learning and teaching and widening participation communities can come together and share ideas and experiences.  Although not the largest of the four forums, Forum 4 had arguably the widest mix of participants from these three communities and the range of responses to the workshop questions reflects the differing perspectives of the three groups.

Workshop A involved small groups thinking about the challenges of developing a strategic approach to bringing OER and OEP into the educational mainstream in Scotland.  When the OEPS team designed the workshop we had in mind that, while there are excellent examples of OER and OEP in Scotland, interest in Open Education remains confined to a relatively small minority of staff working in further and higher education.  What we hoped to do was engage all those attending the forum with thinking about what such a strategy would look like.

We used the following questions to frame the discussion:

  1. What factors have driven, or are driving, an interest in OER or OEP in your institution or organisation?
  2. Are you aware of examples of how OER/OEP initiatives have started to reach wider layers of staff/students?
    • What are the characteristics of your example and why do you think it has worked – we are interested in whether others could emulate?
    • Where you had difficulties (starting or progressing) what were the barriers?
  3. Looking at the Open Scotland Declaration – in your context which of the themes do you think might be most attractive to take up as an initial practical step in engaging with OER and OEP?
  4. How engaged are senior policy makers in your institution/organisation? What are the key arguments or actions that might encourage greater engagement?
  5. Are there possibilities for cross sector collaboration? If so what – ideas to take forward?

The workshop engaged six groups for an hour.  The notes captured during this time reflected the intensity and range of debate.  Although our first thought was to bring these ideas together in one post we soon realised that there is simply too much.   So to do justice to the discussion this is the first of a short series in which we summarise the responses to each question individually. This post focuses on question one, which asked participants to think about the factors that are driving interest in OER and OEP.

We addressed the factors driving institutional interest in OER and OEP against the backdrop of the Open Scotland declaration.  However, from the perspective of higher education institutions some participants felt interest in MOOCs since 2012 had been the most significant stimulus.  There were references to ‘not wanting to be left out’ and to the way in which MOOCs provide platforms to project institutional profile.  Participants noted that while MOOCs are not normally openly licensed and therefore don’t meet the criteria for OER, nevertheless engagement with developing digital courses in a MOOC environment has spilled over into interest in using online material to engage with external audiences, and in the skills that academics require to create engaging online courses.  The discussion suggested that these developments interact in interesting ways with much greater use of blended learning for campus based students and with moves towards open source and requirements for open research.  Blended learning leads to some lecturers thinking of creative ways to develop resources.  The use of YouTube and Vimeo to share material is increasing although ‘staff doing this are not necessarily aware of licensing issues’. One participant suggested that there’s a view that ‘if you’re putting things online you might as well have them in the open’.  Openness in the research sphere often means that ‘open’ is mandatory but there is also the beginning of a trend to envisage OER as a vehicle for the public dissemination or research outputs.  Running through the discussion of this question was an awareness of tensions in the development of open education in FE and HE.  It was noted that institutional and individual views don’t always align.

Workshop participants working for organisations outside the formal education sectors contributed additional perspectives.  Awareness of OER is patchy, but when people and organisations are aware of the wealth of free, openly licensed resources available it provokes new thinking about how participation can be extended through use of OER and what kinds of practice (OEP) is required to help this happen.  This strand of discussion overlapped with a view from the formal sector that ‘open’ fits with mission and values around widening participation.  New and user-friendlier technology makes a fit between mission and means for widening participation increasingly possible.

Discussion on drivers also focused on students and the skills and expectations they bring with them.  Participants from the formal and informal sectors reflected on the extent to which students (clients, members etc) live in a digital world and the ways in which this exerts pressure for change.

Much of the discussion of drivers for developing OER and OEP was intercut with observations about challenges, barriers and tensions.  For the sake of brevity we’ve omitted these here.  However, they will be addressed in the next post in this series, which will centre on the second workshop question.

If you’ve written on the factors driving adoption of OER and OEP and would like to share or if you have a response to this post do post in the comments or get in touch via

Pete Cannell for the OEPS team

Context Conditions our Approach to Open, but “what if”…

By Ronald Macintyre (OEPS project)

This the fourth of our OEPS forums was focussed on change.  The focus was based on the feedback we had received from previous events, that the OEPS community wanted an opportunity to talk about and reflect on the changes they felt were needed at all levels and scales, from the individual to the national. I led one of the afternoon sessions, it was called “Open education and digital engagement through a widening participation lens”. When I reflected on ‘what change’ and how to put together something meaningful around big terms like Open Education, digital, and widening participation what struck me was the sense in which we often think of how they relate to each other, as enablers, as conditional statements, and as dilemmas.  For example, in the widening participation world, digital technologies and assumptions about ubiquitous access and digital literacies can act as a barrier, at the same time if we are to promote social justice we need to ensure we reach into the digital world. Or we talk about (or at least used to) digital technologies as enabling OER.

Of course my own reflections are based on my context, a context that conditions the way I approach questions. In the workshop I tried to be open about how my context framed the way I address issues and view change. Suggested context (for me) is made up of three things:

  • Our role, what we do and how we (and others) see our role, as facilitator, teacher, builder, or decision maker (all overlapping).
  • Organisational culture, “it’s what we do around here”
  • Personal values, what I believe the value of education is, and how I think about the role of education in creating public value.

Using the following template I asked people to write in a post-it:

In my Context [describe your context] I understand/think of the role of digital technology/open education/widening participation [delete as applicable] as enabling …. [Fill in the blanks]

Crude I know. But here is some of what people said:

  • In my context in eLearning the role of digital technology in open education is enabling but difficult to roll out and increase engagement.
  • In my context as an eLearning manager, University Leftie, I understand the role of widening participation in terms of enabling equality of opportunity
  • In my context as a lecturer I think the role of digital technology as enabling wider student engagement and breaking down barriers through unlimited access
  • In my context s an education adviser in virtual learning, educator, open organisation, Third Sector strategy, policy developer in virtual learning the role of open education as enabling as many health and social care professionals to improve practice on [health issue]

Just a small selection, but they capture the themes, a sense of interlinked nature, with one enabling but creating tensions around another.  Access was prominent, of course open is about access. But we also see concerns and tensions between access to and engagement with, questions about participation and what being open does in the world. In the second exercise we started to tease out those dilemmas and tensions, again crudely I provided a set sentence as an example.

For me the role of digital technology in Open Education is …

For me the role of digital technology in Widening Participation is …

Slightly over the post lunch lull at this point people were getting warmed up, the comforting hubbub of a workshop where people were thinking and talking, and the papers ended up flooded with post it notes.

  • For me the role of digital technology in widening participation is ambiguous access/participation, potentially one useful component
  • For me the role of digital technology in widening participation is like another chance to market
  • The role of digital technology in widening participation is as a tool not a solution
  • Digital technology in widening participation is another way to engage unreached people, a way to provide different learning styles
  • The role of digital technology in widening participation is providing access to education
  • For me the role the digital technology in widening participation requires more digital literacy education
  • Digital technology has the potential to democratise learning but we might just look at cats

Some useful aspirations, and some reservations, what came across in the statements was the sense of digital as part of series of tools, a tool whose position was ambiguous, and not just because of the cats. There is sense of open and online unrealised potential, that it is a challenge which needs to be grasped. In the final exercise we looked at what had to change about their context to enable us to realise our ambitions. I explained that I tend to end up describing a problem and stating some aspirations when I engage in thinking like this. Again using my crude fill in the blanks I asked them to consider

If [open education/digital technology/widening participation] is to enable then …. [Insert here what needs to change in your context] needs to change

This drew some interesting and challenging responses

  • If open education is to enable wider participation then; a whole organisational change is needed to focus on unreached groups rather than focus on “warm contacts”
  • If digital tech is to enable widening participation we need to be willing to value the open and share our work, e.g. be prepared to be filmed talking about our work
  • Top down policies and leadership to allow for OER to be a priority in Educational Institutions
  • Change in context, self-select organisations whose values reflect your own in order to achieve the changes you want!
  • If digital technology is to enable open education then digital literacies need some improvement in the local context (i.e. staff training)
  • If open education is to enable furthering the goal of the common good then the policy ‘open is not the default’ needs to change to ‘open is the default’!

These are the challenges, some top down, buy in from management, open as default, stop using open as way to market “warm contacts”, start getting serious creating a culture of open (or move on as one suggests), engage proactively in digital participation for staff, the learners you do have and more broadly. Some of the things are facing in, a mix of bottom up capacity building and cultural change and top down policy (I will spare reading the post-it suggesting SFC gives more money). Others are about turning to face out, what open does to blur the boundaries between the classroom, the online and the wider community.

It was all a bit rushed, and people wanted more time to talk through the ideas that were emerging, it meant I missed out the last exercise in each of the workshops. So below is the closing exercise.

To close I thought I would ask you to share one of my “What ifs” And invite you to jot down some of your “what ifs” regarding digital technology, open education and widening participation.

Based on Rogers, E. (1962) Diffusion of innovations. Free Press, London, NY, USA, Public Domain

Based on Rogers, E. (1962) Diffusion of innovations. Free Press, London, NY, USA, Public Domain

We know a little bit about innovators and early adopters, they tend to be well educated and have good incomes, they tend to be societies ‘haves’.

If I think about my context I suppose a lot of what we try to do is push things along the segments:

What if I do not accept the benefits of an innovation (like free open online education materials) are not shared equally.

What if I do not accept this distribution is “normal”

I am not sure what the answer is to this, but sometimes you do not have answers to these “what ifs”, they simply are about thinking outside “the facts”, not accepting the context, and looking at how to drive change.

I invite you to note your “what ifs” and share, and to keep thinking about this.