OUiS operates a network of Open Learning Champions, working in partnership with a range of voluntary sector organisations, community learning groups, libraries and others. The aim is to provide open learning in familiar spaces using open educational resources (OER) on OpenLearn and OpenLearn Works, as well as massive online open courses (MOOCs) on FutureLearn. The project has managed to successfully engage with people who may not otherwise consider themselves ‘learners’, and who may face significant barriers to accessing more traditional widening participation programmes.
Lane (2012) suggests that ‘inexperienced and unconfident learners’ may not gain much benefit from open educational resources without the support of a tutor. Open Learning Champions address this absence of support, through offering light touch facilitation and in some cases the possibility of peer support, within an existing and trusted relationship. This can be seen in the context of what Cannell (2016) describes as ‘a movement’ towards developing partnerships which target widening participation groups, and provide contextualised use of OER as well as support. For example, a group of carers may be supported by a carer support worker to undertake a relevant open educational resource, such as Caring Counts – a self-reflection course for carers available on OpenLearn Create.
The OUiS has run a series of workshops for champions to introduce them to open educational resources, develop their confidence in navigating the platforms and supporting learners, and explore different pathways from open educational resources into higher education and other positive destinations. Since June 2015, 17 workshops have taken place and there are now 127 champions from 60 organisations. Initial evaluation of the pilot (Ryan & Hewitt 2015) suggested that each champion may reach eight learners. My presentation at OER17 will present the findings of follow-up evaluation on the impact of the first year, which suggests that each champion is reaching 10 or more learners and that the learners they engage come from more difficult to engage groups, making this an effective widening participation model.
Haven’t checked out the OEPS Hub in a while? Don’t miss the opportunity to browse the latest additions, including a growing number of mini-case studies of best practice across the sector, with advice and tips from people who are experimenting and developing open practices and initiatives across Scotland, as well as a variety of perspectives on openness. Case studies recently released include:
- Natalie Lafferty’s journey to becoming an “advocate of OER” at Dundee University and developing students’ open practices. What were the outcomes of students creating their own OER?
- A chance to find out more about Strathclyde’s FutureLearn MOOC and how a joined up approach to promoting and engaging with the community widens access to Higher Education. Find out more in our interview with Stephanie McKendry;
- Senior Librarian Marion Kelt on the development of Glasgow Caledonian University’s OER policy, what motivated its development and the impact. If your institution is considering developing a policy, Marion’s also got some invaluable advice in this interview;
- At the national level, find out more about Open Scotland and the development of the Scottish Open Education Declaration in an interview with Lorna Campbell;
- Finally, don’t forget to read our interview with Lesley Bryce, one of the first students to use the Open University in Scotland open course for carers Caring Counts, and the impact of this confidence building OER.
Thanks to everyone who has taken part in an interview to date; it’s been great to capture your thoughts and experiences. If you enjoyed reading these, and would like to talk with us about your own open practices and what’s happening where you are, please get in touch! You can tweet me @BeckPitt or contact the OEPS project.
Photo/Picture credits (from top left): Natalie Lafferty (via Twitter), Lorna Campbell (via her blog, CC-BY 3.0), Stephanie McKendry (via her Strathclyde profile), “Open, Open, Open” (CC-BY 4.0 International, Beck Pitt), “Life is Sharing” (CC-BY 2.0, Alan Levine)
by Beck Pitt and Caroline Anderson (OEPS project)
Beck, Bea and Caroline were at Citizen M, Glasgow on Monday for the The Open University (OU) in Scotland’s symposium to launch Caring Counts in the Workplace, an exciting new open educational resource (OER) to enable managers to support carers in balancing their caring and work roles. Nicely timed at the beginning of Carers Week and also in the year that Carers Scotland celebrates its 50th anniversary, the day brought together carers, support workers and employers to learn about the new course, find out more about how it was developed, its benefit to both employer and employee, and its potential for transforming lives. This post aims to act as a snapshot overview of some of the rich and interesting discussion and events from the day.
Caring Counts in the Workplace builds on the success of, and accompanies Caring Counts: a reflection and planning course for carers, which launched in July 2014 and was created in conjunction with 20 carers (“developed with and for carers”). Caring Counts in the Workplace is created for managers and policy makers and developed in collaboration with the Equal Partners in Care (EPiC) project (Scottish Social Services Council and NHS Education for Scotland) and with Carers Scotland, the course is aimed at employers who recognise that fostering an environment where every member of staff feels supported in the workplace is good employment practice, and who understand the benefits of having carer-supportive policies. Both courses provide the opportunity to earn OEPS open badges which demonstrate that you have participated in the course.
James Miller (Director of the OU in Scotland) and Jamie Hepburn (MSP, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health) kicked off proceedings. Jamie Hepburn reiterated the Scottish Government’s commitment to carers and young carers, to supporting them to ensure they have the same opportunities to fulfil their potential, balancing their life goals with caring, and creating carer-friendly communities. The Minister talked about the Carer Positive kite mark, a Scottish Government funded initiative operated by Carers Scotland which currently involves over 50 organisations across Scotland, before congratulating the OU on achieving the first ‘Engaged’ level of the kite mark. The OU is the first of Scotland’s universities to achieve the Carer Positive kite mark, and Tony O’Shea Poon accepted the award on behalf of the Open University. In his thanks Tony highlighted that the rights of the carer must be aligned with the responsibilities of the employer.
Next we heard from Professor Allison Littlejohn (OU) on research highlighting Ten things skilled professional learners do differently before a range of speakers officially launched Caring Counts in the Workplace. During this session we heard from carer Lesley Bryce who talked about her own experiences: from recognising herself as a ‘carer’ to the impact that Caring Counts: a reflection and planning course for carers had on her. As Lesley has described it elsewhere:
“I think you definitely lose confidence if you have to give up a career, for whatever reason. Reflection helps you realise your potential, which can get lost in your caring role” (p8, Open Pathways to Education).
We also heard how Caring Counts in the Workplace is already having an impact: Seonad Hoy of social housing provider the Wheatley Group reported that 10 managers had already signed up to participate in a pilot of the course whilst ongoing support for carers at the organisation includes events during Carers’ week and flexible working practices. Wheatley Group are also actively working towards progressing to the next level of the Carer Positive Kitemark. The need for employers to support carers in varied ways was also highlighted by Gill Ryan who noted that the Scottish Courts Service provides services such as free Power of Attorney to its employees.
After lunch we heard about the amazing work of the Bridges Programmes which has been supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Glasgow since 2002. Maggie Lennon highlighted the importance of reflection for everyone they support and described the role and impact of the Reflecting on Transitions OER (also carrying OEPS badges) which was developed to enable their clients think about their current situation, previous experiences and think about next steps.
Prior to the plenary session, where we explored next steps and takeaway points, a number of parallel sessions enabled us to explore different initiatives in more depth. Participants had the opportunity to hear more about the content and structure of the new Caring Counts course, find out more about Carer Positive and the Kitemark and the new Open Pathways to Higher Education which has been designed to help support learners explore OER available on the OU’s OpenLearn platform in a structured way. The session also introduced the idea of Open Learning Champions and supporting others use of OpenLearn materials.
Beck has produced a quick Storify to capture in more depth the speakers’ thoughts and participant contributions and the research team are looking forward to working with Lindsay Hewitt and the Caring Counts team to document the impact of Caring Counts over the coming months. Presentations, photos and more from the day will also be available via the Caring Counts blog shortly and we’ll be adding further resources, blog posts etc. on the event as they go live!