Blog Archives

Looking back and looking forward

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.

Final report

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[1] 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[2] 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.

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Image by Shamina Remesh. Becoming lost in a digital world CC BY-SA 2.0 

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.

Pete Cannell

OEPS Co-Director

 

[1] http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/market-data/communications-market-reports/cmr15/ accessed 29 March 2016

[2] 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

Open 5 X 5: Five open permissions meet five reasons for being an open educator

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.

 

Benefit #1: Full legal control to customize, localize, personalize, update, translate, remix…

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:

 

Benefit #5: Demonstrate the service mission of higher education institutions

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.

In Conclusion

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

eCampusOntario.ca

davidp@ecampusontario.ca

 

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 SeptemberSign up for the event or join the conversation before, during and after the event with the hashtag#BeOpen’. 

Strengthening open educational practices in Scotland

The Opening Educational Practices in Scotland (OEPS) project is pleased to welcome you to our blog.  OEPS aims to facilitate best practice in Scottish open education.  It plans to enhance the Scottish tertiary education sector’s capacity and reputation in developing publicly available and licenced online materials, supported by high quality pedagogy and learning technology.

Funded for 3 years by the Scottish Funding Council, this project provides an opportunity for the higher education sector in Scotland to build on its collaborative ethos and establish a support network for best practice and innovation in developing open educational resources (OER).

There is a great deal of activity already going on in Scotland but it is often fragmentary and is not widely recognised or understood.  OEPS plans to build on existing work and resources, acting as a catalyst for developing a strong Scottish identity in Open Educational Practice.  OEPS will contribute to the new QAA Scotland enhancement theme on transitions.  It will also facilitate working across boundaries to develop new forms of engagement between higher education and third sector organisations, unions and employers.

The opportunities opened up by online resources raise important questions of equitable access and social justice, as use and participation is not automatic just because OERs are available.  The open educational practices (OEP) around development, use and reuse of OER can be more important than the content.  Working in partnership with organisations in the workplace and community settings, OERs can be used flexibly to offer new pedagogically sound models of learning and make them more accessible.

High quality online content is necessary but not sufficient for OER to contribute to widening participation. We will focus on practice and how can we make effective use of content, for widening participation, transitions and supporting social and economic priorities.  OEPS will attempt to model the principles embedded in the Open Scotland Declaration, and it also aims to bring communities of practice together.  This means joining learning technologists with widening participation practitioners, linking both to educational developers and all concerned with enhancing student learning.

The project is organised around six themes: widening participation, rural sustainability, transitions, schools, cross sector and economic priorities.  It has eight primary objectives which include sector wide analysis; events (awareness raising); online hub and development test bed for Scottish OER; targeted new or reworked content; quality, accreditation and badging; developing the concept of ‘open’; developing an evidence base and evaluation of economic models.

Work is being initiated across all these themes, including:

  • The creation of a space in OpenLearn Works that will provide a sandbox for development across the sector.
  • Exploration with HEIs and sector wide bodies into developing new materials and practices in the areas of energy, sustainability, marine science, NHS and Social Services.  These discussions are at various stages of maturity but are likely to involve both the creation of targeted content and partnership work to improve take-up of existing content.
  • The launch on June 9th of a new, badged OER for Carers, created in partnership with carers and carers organisations.  This is the first badge carrying the imprint of the OEPS project (it will be available in the early summer).
  • Development of additional material for the Self Directed Support OER[1] produced by the OU with support from the Scottish Government.
  • The launch of a new OER on rural entrepreneurship[2] and plans to pilot approaches to working with SMEs in the Highlands and Islands and South West Scotland.
  • The production of a series of Badged Open Courses (BOCs) on using OER, widening participation and employability which will be available to the HE and FE sectors for use and re-versioning.
  • Production of a scoping report on the state of play with OEP in Scotland.
  • Development over summer 2014 of a series of good practice case studies that will be shared through a variety of media including the OEPS website.

We welcome your comments and contributions to Opening up Educational Practices in Scotland. You can email us at OEPScotland@open.ac.uk and oepscotland@gmail.com or join the conversation by responding to this blog.


[1]http://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/social-care/social-work/foundations-self-directed-support-scotland/content-section-0
[2]http://www.open.edu/openlearn/money-management/rural-entrepreneurship-scotland/content-section-0