Blog Archives

Battle for Open book published

by Pete Cannell (OEPS)

Martin Weller spoke on the ‘Battle for the Open’ at the first OEPS Advisory Forum in October (see and His book of the same name has now been published. It’s an open access book available in a number of formats – for details go to

OEPS hub workshop at the advisory forum

by Anna Page, OEPS project team

Andrew with a group discussing OEPS hub user stories

Andrew with a group discussing OEPS hub user stories

We ran a workshop on the OEPS hub at the advisory forum in October 2014 as part of the requirements gathering exercise for project objective C ‘Development of an online hub to encourage and share best practice in open education’. In early project team meetings and a brainstorming session we had come up with some features of the hub and I had worked these into a series of user stories. Andrew Law (Co-director of OEPS) and I decided to use the workshop as an opportunity to get user feedback from potential users on the user personas and stories to help us identify the priorities for development.

We thought that the main user groups will broadly be Practitioners (practitioners/providers/researchers) and Learners (browsers/informal learners/students). Some user stories were relevant to everyone, some more important to practitioners and some for learners. We asked each group to discuss the user stories amongst themselves from the perspective of Learner or Practitioner, make notes and try deciding if they were high, medium or low priority. Each group gave a brief summary of their discussions and asked questions.

I had explained earlier during the OEPS project team panel session that the existing OpenLearn Works platform, which provides a free public space for people to run their own free learning projects, will be further developed to fully support the OEPS hub. Planned features include adding content on good open educational practice including case studies, clearer guidance on creating and uploading OER and improvements which support communities and organisations to make the most of OER (which will include improving the user profile features, better search functionality and a recommender tool). Other important features include making the platform mobile friendly, interoperable with other platforms and technologies and support for alternative formats. The workshop gave a little more detail about these aspirations and naturally triggered plenty of questions.

commenting on the draft user stories for the OEPS hub

commenting on the draft user stories for the OEPS hub

What became clear from the discussions at both workshops was that people needed reassurance that the hub will not be just another repository (which most wouldn’t find, especially if their default search tool was Google) when there are plenty of OER repositories available already. Existing repositories are not necessarily known about by those new to OER and therefore some might be suffering from low usage.  Instead the hub aims to introduce people to the concept of open educational resources, how to use OER in practice and connect users with each other. It also aims to re-aggregate search of existing OER repositories such as JORUM, Re:Source and Solvonauts. This means the hub will need to facilitate the building of strong supportive communities of OER users and provide those communities with sandpit space for them to experiment with OER. People were very concerned that the OEPS hub would not be a silo, instead it needs to be a pool of connectedness and some people saw it as a node rather than a hub. Others cautioned us to ensure that the development of communities supported by the OEPS hub will need to come from grassroots development and growth, because such communities are likely to be much more successful than top down initiated communities. The concept of a sandpit space for practitioners was embraced.

Doug making good points about the OEPS hub

Doug making good points about the OEPS hub

OEPS hub workshop discussion group

OEPS hub workshop discussion group

One group pointed out that we had missed a persona group who have the ability to make considerable contributions to the hub – the learning technologists. This user group may want to contribute tools and code towards the further development of the hub to benefit both learners and practitioners, possibly via a learning technologist community space in the hub.

The recommender tool concept was extended – in one workshop it was pointed out that a star rating wasn’t sufficient for users whose primary goal is to find or recommend good OER – there needs to be a facility for people to feedback on how an OER had been used and what people are doing with it. This wasn’t explicit in the recommender tool user story, though had in fact already been identified as necessary functionality by the IT analyst. Most teachers would evaluate the quality of a resource before using it themselves, so finding a trustable practice-based resource which others had used successfully in their particular context was really important to them, and community building would help inform their choices of OER.

Feeding back views on OEPS hub user stories to Anna

Feeding back views on OEPS hub user stories to Anna

High priorities for the OEPS hub which emerged were:

  • Provide good trustworthy search facilities coupled with a recommender tool which guides user choice of OER they find via the search
  • Host online events to stimulate discussion, using targeted marketing to different community groups so it isn’t just the ‘usual suspects’ involved in discussing OER
  • Publish good case studies of OER and OEP
  • Provide comprehensive user guidance and good open educational practice (this would be targeted for the different user groups of the OEPS hub)
  • Mobile optimisation is essential
  • Provide information about how and why OER applies in a Scottish context, why are we investing in it
  • Provide space and guidance for practitioners to put their OER or experimental OER because a significant percentage of users are unlikely to have access to an institutional space for creating and sharing OER

People were less sure about the updates needed to the existing profile functionality, unless this development was integral to the community building feature of the OEPS hub and were keen to allow users to login using a third party profile.

For the perspectives of two people who attended the OEPS hub workshops, see and

The project team are discussing the outcomes of the OEPS hub workshops as we work towards the first IT developments to bring these aspirations for an OEP community space for Scotland into reality.

OEP in a Scottish Context

by Ronald Macintyre, OEPS project team

OEPS in the Scottish context

OEPS in the Scottish context

The question of what OEP looks like in Scotland arose at the start of the OEPS advisory forum and the end of the day – with the question of underlying values to the fore. I had alluded to some thoughts on my short slot in the morning where I looked back to an older tradition of Openness in Education within Scotland, citing miners and weavers in the C18th, and including a quote from the 1790 Statistical Account about the uncommonly high levels of literacy in Scotland that pointed to a much older tradition of education in Scotland being seen as “common social good”; a focus on access and equity ought to shape OEP in Scotland.

The Statistical Account for Scotland, from Scottish Book Town Wigtown, circa 1790 noted [uneasily] increased literacy meant … “Servility of mind, the natural consequence of poverty and oppression, has lost much of its hold here. …. An attention to publick affairs, a thing formerly unknown among the lower ranks, pretty generally prevails now.” (p17 Rose 2002)

Rose J. (2002) “The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes”, Yale University Press, New Haven

Pete Cannell built on this in his reply looking at the way structures in Scotland like credit frameworks and the fact that Scotland is a wee place and people work together which makes for distinctive educational practices. However, when we look at OEP in a Scottish context from outside we might well listen to @UKOER managed by @dkernohan

On one level he is right, there has not been a Scottish specific OER focus, even though many of us engaged and been differentially drawn into OER/OEP through broader engagement programmes. Here I am thinking of people from JISC/CETIS, ALT, and notably GCU who have been key players in OER/OEP in the UK and Europe with numerous other education providers and individuals who have been drawn in to OEP. So perhaps one could say we have been lead and lagged behind, in that way I am not sure how different our OEP is from anywhere else. Though perhaps, with our tradition of access to education and our scale, our report card might say “could do better”

Another way to look at it might be about opportunities to do better. For example, in the UK, our telephony and most of our data is wired, while, as has well documented, some African countries have leapfrogged this intermediate and messy solution and gone straight to mobile devices. Perhaps OEP in a Scottish context can “leapfrog” lots of issues encountered by OER early adopters; certainly the narrative shift from resources onto practices tells us something, it suggests a maturing context. In the workshop, with the help of giant coloured post it notes, we mapped what the focus on Open and Educational Practice might mean in a Scottish context. As noted on twitter, messy.

Tag Cloud of OEP in Scottish Context

Tag Cloud of OEP in Scottish Context

While one might question how valid an analysis a tag cloud is, it certainly helps clear things up a bit. Stripping out words like ‘Education’, ‘Practice’ what seems to stand out is; ‘Access’, ‘Collaboration/Sharing/Cooperation’, ‘RPL/APL’, and writ large ‘Learning’ and ‘Learners’. Looking through the actual comments what seems to emerge is Access in relation to the accessibility of resources but also what they might enable educators and learners to access, and this is often linked to questions around RPL/APL. Comparing this with my notes from the workshop we seemed to hang on the [Scottish] “Enlightenment” post it and the sense that in Scotland education is a something open to all and whose benefits are shared by all. These values were taken as a given, and people quickly moved on to what does Open enable Educational Practices to do. Yes, sharing and collegiality between educators in Scotland, it’s a wee place; we can work together, but to what end. Does being open do something, something we cannot otherwise achieve? What seemed to emerge was that openness allows educators to share good practice and enhances the learners experience, but in order for the benefits of that learning to be shared by all the community we need to engage with the thorny issue of how we recognise that learning, and beyond recognition, accreditation.

What does this tell us about OEP in a Scottish context? My sense is that what emerged from the day was a stage that we can “leapfrog”, partly because some of those in Scotland have experience of those early battles, and partly because some do not. It means the discourse accounts for, but is no longer simply about how we enable openness, but a maturing focus on what openness enables. It is an acknowledgement that Scotland is a wee place and links between sectors allow us to “do things” that might not work elsewhere, a focus on the learner, and the learning journey, and questions around how openness supports and enhances the journey. I suppose my underlying sense is of the start of the conversation about what this means.

For more information about developments in RPL in Scotland see

Photos of the OEPS advisory forum 2014

A selection of photos of the OEPS advisory forum and project launch:

OEPS advisory forum photos on Flickr

OEPS Advisory forum on social media

Following the first OEPS advisory forum meeting on Monday 13th March, we’ll be publishing a series of blog posts about the event.  To whet your appetite you can get a taste of what took place as documented on social media by some of those who attended (the hashtag for the event is #OEPSforum14):

Heather Gibson’s storify

Beck Pitt’s storify and blog post

Doug Belshaw’s blog post

Sheila MacNeill’s blog post and flickr notes

Joe Wilson’s blog post


Martin Hawksey (who was unable to attend) has helpfully archived the #OEPSforum14 tweets from the day – see

OEPS advisory forum and project launch

The formal project launch and a keynote by Professor Martin Weller headline the first
OEPS advisory forum meeting on Monday 13th October 2014 in Edinburgh. The aim of the project advisory forum is to create a dialogue between the Opening Educational Practices in Scotland project and key stakeholders in Scotland and beyond.

In addition to Martin Weller’s keynote and the project launch, the programme for the day includes plenaries, a panel session and workshops. The workshops will explore some of the detail of different facets of the project and these will be followed by an interactive session when we will actively seek your ideas, advice and feedback.  The hashtag for this event is #OEPSforum14.

This face to face event is free and includes lunch. You do need to register in advance if you wish to attend.

The programme of the day:

10:00 – 10:15 Welcome by Dr James Miller, Director OU in Scotland
10:15 – 10:30 Formal project launch by Laurence Howells (Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council)
10:30 – 11:15 So what is OEPS all about and what is the project going to achieve?
Panel: The OEPS Project Team
11:15 – 11:30 Refreshments
11:30 – 12:15 The Battle for Open by Professor Martin Weller
Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University & ICDE Chair in OER
12:15 – 12:30 Plenary
12:30 – 13:00 Lunch
13:00 – 13:45 Workshops*
  • a. Open educational practices in the workplace
  • b. The OEPS online hub
  • c. Open educational practices in a widening participation context
  • d. The realities of badging
  • e. Informal learning for professional development [cancelled until Spring 2015 Advisory Forum due to illness]
13:45 – 14:30 Workshops repeated*
14:30 – 15:30 Over to you: a highly interactive session to gather your thoughts and seek your advice
15:30 Thank you and Close, Tea/coffee

* You can choose a total of 2 workshops – one in each session

Eventbrite - OEPS Advisory Forum

For more information, contact:
Kate Signorini, Interim OEPS Project Manager
Tel: 0131 549 7162 (internal ext: 71162)
Email: and
Follow us on twitter @OEPScotland