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Equality and diversity and open education

Guest blog by David Bass, Scotland Programme Manager, Equality Challenge Unit


I recently had the pleasure of attending the OEPS conference and participating in an insightful conversation on inclusive and democratic learning. Pete Cannell (full disclosure – we’ve worked with Pete and OEPS on our own open resource) talked about the centrality of open approaches to the future of widening access, and Maha Bali invited us to question who benefited from open arrangements, and whether access to open resources equalled increased participation.

What struck me were the similarities with our conversations at ECU on equality in colleges and Higher Education Institutions. I think applying this same framework or critique of open access to our work on equality (an ‘open lens’ if you will) leads to valuable insights and learning. It’s also likely that open resources themselves could be important tools in mainstreaming and effectively involving more people in equality initiatives and activities.

The current model of education, as with equality and diversity, is centralised. For instance, colleges and Higher Education Institutions just published 2017 mainstreaming reports (required reports on how equality is embedded in the functions on an institution and published every 4 years under the Scottish specific duties of the Equality Act). In the reports, a lot of the activity focused on raising awareness and engagement in equality and diversity took the form of large scale training for staff and students.

And so the questions that OEPS were asking themselves about their attempts to encourage and increase participation seemed valuable in an equality context as well. How accessible and democratic is our work on equality? We may be reaching a wider pool of people, but are we changing minds, removing barriers and truly increasing participation in this work?

Let’s take unconscious bias training as an example. I feel like as a sector we’ve talked a lot about unconscious bias, and we know it’s one of the more well-documented social psychology findings (For instance, have a look at the UC San Francisco review of unconscious bias). However, training on unconscious bias can be frustratingly ineffective, and we are still learning how to engage people, how to change behaviour, and how to teach each other what initiatives have been effective in different contexts and why. Open resources then, as far as they can enable local ownership and development, could be a possible tool for getting more people involved in ways relevant to their local context, and perhaps, for actually changing people’s behaviours in relation to unconscious bias. Interestingly, these seem like the same factors that lead to more effective training outcomes (read Harvard Business Review’s recent take on making unconscious bias training more effective).

This logic could be applied just as well to intersectionality or equality impact assessments, or to supporting more engagement in equality areas that have historically been on the periphery of institutional activity (have a look at Strathclyde University’s online course on understanding violence against women).

The promise of open education then, is more about an approach, and an attitude towards learning than it is about technology. Open resources could be a way of developing shared ownership and engaging the different communities in our universities and colleges about what equality and diversity means for them, and about how we make all forms of education truly open and inclusive.


This guest post from David Bass is published as one of many celebrating Open Education linked to the OEPS final event, The Promise of Open Education. Join the conversation with the hashtag #BeOpen or view the conference proceedings

OEPS Final Report launched!

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.


Pete Cannell

OEPS Co-Director


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.

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

Guest post by David Porter, CEO, 

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. 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 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. 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


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’. 

#BeOpen – the value of sharing knowledge through social media

Guest post by Sue Beckingham, National Teaching Fellow and Senior Lecturer (Business Information Systems and Technology) at Sheffield Hallam University. 

I’d like to share with you how I went about developing a valued learning network through the sharing of knowledge using social media. The first thing to mention is that it took time and patience. As I learned to navigate different social spaces and developed connections with other educators, I did a lot of listening. Some may refer to this as lurking; however I’m not a fan of the term and prefer to describe this learning activity as positive silent engagement. We learn by listening and online it’s no different.

My online informal learning space began with Twitter. I developed my network by looking at who other educators followed and began to add them to my own personal learning network. I noted how helpful individual’s bios were; indicating what individual’s interests were, often including links to other profiles, for example LinkedIn, blogs and websites. Over time as my own network grew, I was blown away with the many informal learning opportunities at my fingertips; shared by the educators I was connecting with. Peers spread across the globe, were sharing articles, books, presentations, reflective blog posts, educational videos and podcasts. I was learning from educators spanning many disciplines. I also realised that Twitter and other social media spaces each have powerful search engines and alongside Google present exciting results when looking for topics of interest.

I started to share others work whenever I read something interesting that I thought would also be of interest to those within my own network. Responding to tweets indicated that I’d read them. Such interactions might start with a like and then progress to a comment or question. Letting people know you have an interest in their work can make their day! It also leads to further conversations.

As my confidence developed I began to share my own work. From the start I wanted to make this accessible to others and gave my presentations a Creative Commons licence when I uploaded them to SlideShare. These were then shared via my LinkedIn profile, Twitter and Google+. Peers started to take an interest in these and as a result I was able to get valuable feedback which helped me to further develop my thinking. I made a concerted effort to add my publications and projects to my LinkedIn profile, ResearchGate,, and my own university’s research archive repository SHURA. Within these spaces you have the option to upload files, making your work more accessible to a wider community.

Coming back to Twitter as an open sharing space for sharing knowledge, I’d recognised the value of tweetchats which were being used in the US by educators as a forum for discussions. In 2014 with my friend Chrissi Nerantzi we started a pilot tweet chat called #LTHEchat Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Chat. It soon became popular and continues to take place every Wednesday at 8pm (with the exception of short breaks over the summer, Christmas and Easter). Each week we discuss a different topic relating to learning and teaching suggested by a guest, who also composes six questions. This is a fun and engaging way to share knowledge relating to the topic. You can follow @LTHEchat for updates on forthcoming chats.

When attending conferences and events, check out the hashtag that is being used. Start making connections on Twitter and LinkedIn with the people you meet in person. It’s a great way to extend your network and gain access to more openly shared knowledge. I hope this encourages you to find new ways to share your knowledge and to #BeOpen through social media.


This guest post from Sue Beckingham 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’. 





Save the date! OEPS final event

Save the date: 11th September OEPS final event at Dynamic Earth

OEPS final event save the date (by Anna Page, CC BY NC SA 4.0)

‘The promise of open education’ conference is the final event of the OEPS project. It will take place on Monday 11th September in Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh. Further details about the event will be made available soon, however please save the date in your diaries.

‘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 (”


Learning the Hard Way: Lessons in Designing OER in, for and through Partnership

OEPS is presenting at the annual Association of Learning Technologies Conference (ALTC) on 6 September 2016.

The presentation shares our experiences so far of working in partnership with external organisations to create OER and enable them to explore open educational practices in the process.  The OEPS project has been adapting the existing tried and tested Open University course production models to partnership collaboration.

The full abstract and references can be found below in a downloadable PDF and the slides are available on slideshare.

Macintyre and Page: Learning the Hard Way: Lessons in Designing OER in, for and through partnership

Impressions and Thoughts Post #OEPSForum3

By Ronald Macintyre

OEPS Forum 3

OEPS Forum 3

Any record of an event where your main function is to keep time is likely to be imperfect and impressionistic. However, even as we head towards replacing imperfect human memory with digital memories I still think there is a role for forgetting, for a recollection system that seems to highlight the frequent and the exceptions. So here are my recollections of the day and the main themes.

The problem of alignment on came up frequently. At the moment it is not clear where openness sits, it is partly a function of the multiple interpretations of open, from the affordances of the learning objects (licence or design) to questions around conceptions of openness based on ideas around equity and social justice. These multiple interpretations make it difficult for people to see where it fits. For example, is being open about; international strategy, outreach strategy, marketing strategy, (dare I say) a Widening Participation Strategy. All but the final one came up frequently through the day, and the question was about alignment, about ensuring whatever function being more open served it would only serve that function if it was appropriately aligned to the strategy of the organisation. Inside these conversations about how to and what openness enables for organisations and absent presence was the sense of what it might enable for students. The alignment needs to match the resources capabilities and aspirations of the organisation, otherwise they will not be able to embed open practices. However, there is also a need to think about how well aligned those are to the wants and needs of students. Perhaps we need to ensure the student voice is much more clearly articulated and physically present at future events.

World café session

World café session

One thing that was noted more than once was how silent everyone was, few questions, and I agree with the comment that we had a lot to think about, big challenges to rise to. I also think it relates to this question of matching the internal and external environments of each organisation. As organisation look to align openness with these internal and external drivers they develop their own sense of openness, and in the end I think we each create openness in our own image. It is only right, but the diverse communities that came to the event, might also have contributed to a reluctance to “speak out” to place a mark in an uncertain landscape. For me those diverse readings of openness worked in the small groups, but not in the open floor session – lesson learnt.

However, one question that arose for me at the end of the day is – are there basic ideas or principles we ought to adhere to within open educational practice, and related, what is the role of policy. Where and how does bottom up and top down meet, both within the individual institution and within the broader education landscape. A couple of anecdotes here. In one of the two workshops the OEPS team ran in the afternoon one participant talked about getting his institution to sign up to the OpenScotland declaration, something which was clearly on folks minds. The nature of the OpenScotland declaration, the evolving nature of OEP and the culture within the Open Community (indeed one of key qualities) is the acknowledgement things are in a constant state of becoming.  The individual wondered how you would ever get the management to sign up to an agreement that was not fixed – jokingly noting management are likely to dismiss this with, “lets see what our lawyers say”. A clash of culture. Amusing, possibly, disappointing, definitely.

The second also come from an OEPS workshop, someone from one of the Scottish Ancients noted with dismay that the socio-economic profile of OER users was just a symptom of a wider malaise in Widening Participation, HE providers seems to be getting worse at this and the focus on younger learners was welcome but risked neglecting those who need a second chance. I know, I am sharing depressing anecdotes about clashes of culture and education providers reproducing inequalities through outreach programmes. But I think tensions are bound to arise, we will not change anything if we do not accept it is not all good news.

Allison Littlejohn's keynote speech

Allison Littlejohn’s keynote speech

This is a somewhat fractured account of the day, impressions and bits of questions, I am not going to attempt to draw this together into a neat package at the end. Instead I want to close with some thoughts about what Allison Littlejohn said about how individuals and organisations develop their understanding of OER, from learning about the objects and the licence and how to share, to embedding these in practice and reflecting on the implications for the educator and the learner of changes to educational practice. It is when the questions of objects, affordances, and licences become tacit, become routine that educators and organisations can start to explore what it means for them. I have probably tweaked Allison’s words to my own ends here, but you can read the “real thing” here. So how we do step up as education providers, producing things, doing things is part of it, but as someone noted at the end of the day if all that was achieved by a focus on OEP was making things they would not be satisfied, what we really needed to do as a community was look at how we manage and enable individuals and organisations to change.

The role of free open online content in Widening Participation (WP) and life-wide learning

by Ronald Macintyre (OEPS project)

Recently as part of an Open University wide exploration of digital strategy I had cause to reflect on a question that is often obscured within the discussions on what social and economic contribution free and open educational content makes. Diana Laurillard has asked on a number of occasions (the most recent I have seen was at the ALT SIG on MOOCs, if free and open HE level education is the answer, what is the question. She thought the question was, what can we do to ensure middle class well educated professionals have access to free Continuing Professional Development (CPD)? I paraphrase of course but this the very nub of the issue, an issue which causes angst for education providers whose strategy, culture and norms see education as a common good.

This angst arises from the way variations in access to and use of digital technology alters people’s ability to access those technologies – social inequality; with the price of unequal access becoming ever more acute as access to affordable goods and key services becomes increasingly “digital by default”. It is a question of social justice, and the factors that distance people from the digital world are not too different from the kinds of factors that distance people from education. These themes are ones that people in the Widening Participation community might recognise, from confidence, to “not for the likes of me”; from low income (as a cause and effect), to low levels of educational attainment.

As internet connection, and device availability, has increased it is tempting to pretend some of these issues have gone away; or that it is something that is only experienced by older people and refuseniks. However, while the first divide (the connectivity divide) is being overcome we are seeing the emergence of a “Second Digital Divide”, the participation divide. Let me provide you with an example from some work I was doing on energy in social housing. When you visited a home they were all connected through numerous devices to the internet. Yet many participants still had card meters, did not use price comparison websites, nor saving tips like paperless billing. The benefits of being online were not realised. Of course we helped people realise those benefits, albeit a small number of people in discrete geographic locales.

Somethings in the Water: Perpetually waiting for free open and online to transform educational opportunities

Somethings in the Water: Perpetually waiting for free open and online to transform educational opportunities

The point is, just like the adoption of the devices themselves the benefits offered by the internet are often not realised by those that need it most. Does this sound familiar? If we look at the educational profile of those accessing free and open online materials it is clear these people are the “educational haves”.  I have worked for the OU for about a decade now, and even as we embrace the online world we tread softly, a tacit recognition of the potential for excluding the already excluded. Thus even as we run towards the challenge presented by digital inclusion, we are often also in retreat. In part for me this is because we have tended to simplify digital inclusion, looking at infrastructure, or using overly facile simplifications like “Digital Natives”, and have not taken on emerging work on use and participation divides. Of which the recent GO On “heat map” is a useful example. Partly it is because we have not been willing to grasp hard onto the challenge, the challenge of being digital advocates, of saying it is not acceptable that the benefits of being online accrue to those well-educated early adopters.  A failure to articulate a narrative about access to and use of online and free and open materials is a matter of social justice; in part because of the benefits of being online often slip away in overblown promises of a world just around the corner – a revolution perpetually waiting.

As an OU employee I am probably drifting dangerously “off message”. However, I am not just talking about the OU I am talking about HE and free and open resources more generally. Online free and open have been in a constant state of becoming a revolution, of always being about to change the face of education, of being just about to democratise access to, and creating, a new world where everyone can access education. But it has not, and while it may be round the corner again, I think it probably isn’t. It isn’t, because at present it seems to be reproducing the inequities in access and use it has the potential to overcome. In part this relates to underlying inequalities within society and in part it relates to the structure and process of HE itself. For me these are issues we need to grasp tightly if we are to ensure that the benefits of free open and online education is realised in a just and equitable manner.

Big questions, and I know I have muddied the waters around online open and free. But I thought it was useful as a means to stimulate discussion. Discussion is what we are looking for in the flexibility and technology strand at the Widening Participation Conference, HE: Transforming lives through life-wide learning on the 27th and 28th of April 2015  and I look forward to receiving your submissions which are due on on the 27th of November 2015.

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 and or join the conversation by responding to this blog.