Guest post by David Porter, CEO, eCampusOntario.ca.
This blog is a remix of a remix. A good thing in my view.
Since 2013, I’ve built upon a presentation that Clint Lalonde of BCcampus created and titled Beyond Free. The original was licensed CC BY-SA, and I’ve since added to it and updated and localized its message to suit different audiences. It remains a winner that consistently inspires instructors to rethink their practices and take a leap into the open realm.
The great thing about Clint’s original presentation was that it stated five great reasons to use OER, beyond the simple, “because it’s free” mantra. What he did in Beyond Free was to build upon the five freedoms (permissions) expressed by David Wiley in his now famous baseline definition of open content. Clint added context to those theoretical freedoms in a way that demonstrated real practice and conveyed a message of possibility to even the most reluctant open educator. The five reasons to move beyond free remain a great explanation for the open education community, and the original presentation remains a reusable and remixable template for anyone to use. Thanks, Clint.
I’m going to reprise those five great reasons in a shortened prose format. The graphic presentation version has many benefits and far more illustrations than appear here. Here are five benefits (reasons) to use open resources and open practices.
There is no better way make resources your own than to develop them yourself. But a close second is to exercise the provisions of Creative Commons licenses by clicking on the license logo and reading the plain language provisions of the human readable deed. No letters to authors needed, just acknowledgement of the creator with a straightforward citation. A simple, practical, generous starting point to customize an existing learning resource.
Benefit #2: Access to customized resources improves learning
Studies, journal articles, and research papers are pointing out what might seem obvious: when you have access to free and open learning resources at the start of your course or program, you’ll likely be successful in your studies. No financial pressures, no workarounds. You are able to concentrate on your course and give it your full effort from day one. More detailed studies are beginning to investigate the effects of localized and customized resources versus the generic textbook approaches aimed at a broadly defined population of learners. I expect localized versions of case studies, illustrations that reflect your culture, and images that engage students because they are relevant to their experience will all contribute to better open resources.
Benefit #3: Open provides opportunities for co-creation and more authentic resources
Terry Greene at Fleming College in Peterborough, Ontario has been engaged in a co-creation project with peers over the past year, soliciting exemplars and advice from seasoned veteran educators to provide a sourcebook for new faculty and instructors who will need support and guidance as they take on their teaching responsibilities.
The Open Faculty Patchbook: Patching Pedagogy Together, for Each Other is a contribution space by faculty for faculty, and carries on open invitation to educators to contribute their authentic experiences and advice for a new generation of higher education instructors. A printed copy of the current “patchbook” was given to new faculty at their orientation session in August 2017. It is a work in progress. Help build it.
Benefit #4: Collegial collaboration helps build the commons
My colleagues at BCcampus are pioneers in the use of “sprints” and professional networking among institutions to quickly and purposefully build team capacity and open resources for learners through collegial collaboration. They’ve done it all:
- How to turn a great idea into an open textbook in just four days
- The Great Psychology Testbank Sprint offers new OER for instructors
- Four ways librarians are essential to the future of open textbooks and OER
Research, teaching and service are three key principles that guide higher education institutions. Many institutions have experimented with freely available courses in the form of MOOCs. But few have actually done so with freely available open resources and a mechanism for gaining credit through a challenge exam or prior learning assessment and recognition.
OERu.org is a consortium of 30+ higher education institutions from around the globe who have come together to prototype alternative pathways to recognized credentials for learners. The OERU.org partners are working together to provide courses from their own institution as contributions to a first-year program of study that will invite learners to participate in university level courses and also apply for assessment leading to credit towards a certificate, diploma or degree.
Every piece of content, software, and infrastructure supporting the OERu is open source or openly licensed. OERu.org is a demonstration of openness in support of the service mission of its institutional partners. OERu partners walk the open talk.
Open education is more than freely available, openly licensed content resources. It is also about people, like-minded educators who see the benefits of rethinking the status-quo, and who are willing to see what will happen when we bring teaching and learning into the open.
David Porter, CEO
This guest post from David Porter 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. Sign up for the event or join the conversation before, during and after the event with the hashtag#BeOpen’.
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.
by Rosemarie McIlwhan and Anna Page (OEPS project)
To say that the open community are just a little bit in awe of Josie Fraser might not be too much of an exaggeration. Where most of us struggle to convince our colleagues or if we’re really ambitious our institutions to engage with open educational practice, Josie has instrumental in the DigLitLeicester programme which has created a sea change in secondary education within Leicester City Council schools. So OEPS were delighted to welcome her as the keynote speaker at the fourth open forum on 9th March in Stirling #OEPSforum4. Her presentation on ‘Connecting Open Practice’ was all the more relevant as it was also Open Education Week.
Rather than repeating her speech here (when you can just see it on Youtube) we thought it more useful to reflect on some of the issues which she raised. As Josie highlighted the rise of open education practices is rather reminiscent of the development of web 2.0 and social media, and more recently online education; which raises the question of what can we learn from these movements? Probably key among the learning is that each of these have involved a seismic culture shift that has started small, with even early adopters not really predicting the ultimate sea change we’ve seen in how these things have changed not just education but society as whole. Consider for a moment the rise of the hashtag from microblogging to ubiquitous across all forms of online engagement and into real life. This has created social change, not only in how we use and engage with technology but also how we find, search, organise and share information. This presents exciting opportunities, particularly when we think about ‘open’.
It gives us the opportunity to develop and promote good educational practice (at all levels of education) in a way that we haven’t easily been able to before. However this rapid pace of change has meant that educational policies haven’t kept up with educational practice (with a few notable exceptions such as Leeds University, Glasgow Caledonian University, and the University of Edinburgh, who now all have OER policies). It is perhaps only with a shift in policy that the multitude of educators who are blissfully unaware of the potential of open education, or as Josie suggested those who have ‘open blindness’, will realise the potential of open to facilitate not only their own learning and develop their educational practice but also that of their students. This mismatch in expectations of what students and educators know and what they need for their daily practice must be addressed. This isn’t just a role for education providers but also for teaching and student unions, governing bodies and institutional leaders, and for local and national governments.
Such bodies might wonder how to achieve this but guidance on what might be achieved can be found in the Open Scotland Declaration and on how it may be achieved can be seen in the activities of sector leaders such as Leeds University, Glasgow Caledonian University, the University of Edinburgh and the Open University with OpenLearn / OpenLearnWorks amongst others, and of course the work of DigLitLeicester. Josie highlighted the pedigree of Scottish education being at the forefront of technology support education innovation; and suggested that we pay heed to paragraph 7 of the Open Scotland Declaration which states “The next step forward is to join up these initiatives and develop policy support and guidance to enable the culture shift required to embed open education practice across all sectors of Scottish education.”.
Josie suggested that whilst as individuals we might be anywhere in the paradigm between…
- Does it matter if we use an open licence?
- Do we have permission to use an open licence?
- Does it matter what open licence we use?
- Does it matter how we cite openly licensed resources?
…as a country we are still very much at the first stage. To move on, educators need to be given permission and support to use open educational practices, and as open educators we need to engage with the governing bodies and institutional leaders, the teaching and student unions, and local and national governments to discuss open educational practice. This will help to create a society which is more equitable and fair, with improved digital literacy and improved quality of education; which in turn will bring social and economic benefits and as one person commented in response to Josie’s questions ‘Using OER makes you feel good!’.
However there’s quite a road to travel yet, whereas 75% of US educators use and understand open educational resources and creative commons licenses, Josie suggests that the same figure only applies to UK educators in terms of the number of OERs used, with many being unaware that they are even using OERs. This is despite open educational practice being used every day through the use of Wikimedia, TES resources and TED talks being openly licensed, and even Google drawing on Wikimedia for its searches.
Josie posed some interesting questions to the forum, which she simultaneously also put into the open via Twitter. These reflected many of the common responses about OER, ranging from ‘I’ve never heard of those’, to ‘My resources aren’t good enough / are too good to share’, to ‘That just sounds like extra work for me’. There was a sense in the forum and on Twitter that these are fears that we can easily allay, provided a change in culture is created. Albeit there is a chicken and egg situation of can the culture change be created first, or does it come about by virtue of individual change. If we can persuade people and institutions that open education is nothing to fear and indeed it’s something that many are already doing without even realising it; that it is a means of enhancing quality and reputation; and that the investment in open education will benefit students, educators, institutions and the wider community well beyond our original investment then we can begin to win the battle for open. However Josie highlighted that change starts with us, as she said ‘today’s a good day to start changing your practice’– what are you waiting for?