‘I’ve been thinking about my OER story or stories. Where to begin? I wish I had the time and the ability to weave a tale worthy of Scheherazade. One full of poetry, wishes, fantastic voyages and the odd djinn. One that would keep Vice Chancellors awake till just after the midnight hour (aka TEF/REF/NSS results publications). One that would entice them to fully embrace open education. However, if I want to get something done this week all I can do is share my experiences and some reflections my open journey so far.
My involvement in the open education world has been quite long and varied. It started during my time at Cetis. We were supporting open standards and open source, had been part of the whole learning object thang, so OERs and wider open educational practice were a natural addition to our remit. I was involved in our first OER briefing paper, was one of the first OLNet fellows back in 2009 when I went to Mexico to the OCWC conference to find out more about that community. I probably should do a time line of open stuff I’ve been involved in . . .
I think my open story is very much an evolving, personal one. Open practice has become an increasingly important part of my working life. I’ve never been “hard core” open, in the sense that it’s never taken up 100% of my time. Even back when I worked with Cetis I wasn’t involved directly in the support of the Jisc/HE OER programmes, I was of course influenced by them and did try to filter the open element to other Jisc programmes I was involved in at the time.
Sharing has always been at the heart of my professional practice. When we were made to blog at Cetis it actually opened a whole new level of professional interaction and personal reflection for me. At the time I didn’t really consider this as open practice, but now I really do. Openly sharing and reflecting has connected me to so many colleagues across the globe. That has been equally rewarding and enriching. It has lead to conversations and sharing of practice and ideas. This open story of mine probably hasn’t changed that much in the last two years.
I think that my experiences of open learning has been, to use a phrase I don’t really like, “game changing” for me. Back in 2011/12 in the heady days of MOOCs I probably signed up for a few too many of them but I really wanted to understand this aspect of open from a learners point of view. I still am a recovering Mooc-aholic. I still slip off the wagon now and again, but it’s not the same as it was back in the old days . . .
My experience as an open learner really helped me to focus and reflect on my own approaches to learning, my own practice in terms of my approaches to learning design, to learner engagement, to peer support, to assessment. In fact all the things I do now as part of my job. It also introduced me to another set of fantastically diverse, open learners and educators. People like Penny who is one of the organisers of the 101 stories project.
Open-ness is now a habit for me. It’s part of my practice, but it has natural (and at time imposed) peaks and troughs. Not everything can or should be open. I often find it a struggle to keep open on my agenda. I’m still working out my own praxis with open-ness. I’m doing this through the work of many open education researchers, people like Catherine Cronin whose work provokes and inspires me, and leads me to many others who are working in this field.
Open education isn’t a fairy tale, but it does confront some vary salient, moral and ethical issues around education. Including but not limited to: who can access education and publicly funded resources/data/research findings. What rights do staff have over materials they produce whilst working for institutions? Open-ness doesn’t automatically lead to a happy ending. It has many twists and turns, just like the stories of the Arabian Nights. It might be a bit like The Force in Star Wars, surrounding us and binding us. . . but that’s a story for another day.
Today as the UK takes a leap into the unknown and to closing of borders and creation of barriers, we need open stories more than ever. We need these stories to permeate, to keep open on the wider political agenda. To keep people talking about open, in the open.’
This guest post is published as the first 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 symposium will be structured around a number of short provocations that address specific questions or issues, followed by break-out discussion and opportunities to further explore and synthesise the thinking that emerges.
In the spirit of open-ness here is my provocation. It’s much more about stimulating and continuing an already rich dialogue. Please feel free to add any of your thoughts in the comments and will incorporate them into the discussion, or tweet using #porousuni.
What does open mean beyond releasing content?
This blog post from Alan Levine gives a helpful definition of the differences between porosity and permeability.
when you say porosity it really means just the volumetric measure of open space. If you want a metaphor, maybe this is measure of “openness” in terms of 5Rs.
But when you say permeability you are talking about the ease of moving something through that space, and while the amount of space is a factor, others influence whether that can happen. Specifically that could mean if the spaces are well interconnected, like pathways, like networks? Maybe that is practice or pedagogy?
So in terms of the porous university maybe we need to be focusing on the permeability of people (staff, students, the wider community) and the ways we navigate through university spaces, both physical and digital.
So what does open porosity actually look like in practice? Is it about formal (licensed) open content and infrastructures or is it human processes, practice and connections?
During April there has been quite a wide-ranging debate on the definition of open pedagogy facilitated through the Year of Open. Should it be defined and aligned only to the 5Rs of retain, reuse, revise, remix, redistribute? Does using the term pedagogy actual create more exclusion? Is open practice far more permeable, inclusive and powerful?
In these challenging times open has to mean more than content it has to be building and sustaining open networks and connections. However, is an obsession with licensed content, our academic discourse(s), our research outputs actually narrowing the opportunities for open education outwith the academy?
This post was originally published as one of a number of provocations at the Porous University event OEPS co-hosted with the Learning and Teaching Academy, University of Highlands and Islands.
So, that’s the attention-grabbing headline out of the way…
But the evidence is in the numbers. Despite some incredible Open Educational Resources being available, they are simply not used as much as they should; The Open University has enviable retention rates, but only when considered as *distance* education retention rates, far lower than proximate universities; open online courses, the dream of so many liberal practitioners, have some of the poorest retention and success rates of any type of learning and teaching. Ever.
Just making stuff ‘open’ does not work.
It’s not a new argument – being open ensures that only those who are aware, able and capable can actually make use of it. When it is merely open, it is the culmination of a neoliberal wet dream, ensuring a greater filter is placed on social mobility than if explicit characteristics were the determinant. Ironically, the open movement has become a coopted centrepiece of the neoliberal movement – it is possible to claim we are open whilst actively ensuring only some get through.
Conversely, an educational elite utilises ‘open’ to claim scaled benefits through student-centred learning, usually through demonstration and single inspirational examples. It often relies on a techno-progress paradigm of ‘always open’ digital engagement – everyone contributes and is happy to do so leading to amazing things. The technology-as-progress-narrative is heavily utilised and pessimistic voices are not allowed. Normal, ordinary and non-aspirational are not represented here. Again, the open movement is coopted in the construction of this dream.
This provocation claims that the word ‘open’ is the underlying problem – open, on its own, is not enough and never has been.
If open worked, people would be using libraries regularly and successfully.
If open worked, people would be using open courses regularly and successfully.
If open worked, we wouldn’t even be having this ‘conversation’.
And that’s because there is no such thing as ‘open’ in itself. It’s a descriptor and qualifier – a word that describes and changes things it’s attached to. To see that in action go back to the original ideas behind the OU again:
“…to provide education of University and professional standards for its students and to promote the educational well-being of the community generally.”
That was the blank cheque. The vague dream – nothing more. The hard reality required decades of work to ensure both the academic quality as well as the scalability to do what administrators in universities keep forgetting is needed – engage in a form of teaching that allows, promotes and develops learning through personal development.
The model the OU evolved used open as a qualifier – not as a dream or ethical stance. It was a practical, teacher-y thing to do and became known as Supported Open Learning.
In other words, it was realised very early on that open is not enough. You can’t just open doors and say “here’s a bunch of stuff, I’ll be back to subject you to a terrific examination later in your life!”. In fact, simply being open and doing nothing as you allow students fail is arguably worse than being closed (I won’t cite the literature on this because it will make you cry).
Open has to be supported properly because there is not one type of student when you serve a general population. Outside a normal self-selecting university population fraction, a huge range of learning and teaching is required – this is the population for whom normative education is more likely to be less effective.
And that’s before we consider supported open pastoral care, general learning development, additional educational needs, outlying academic communities…
Open education isn’t something that exists in and of itself (except to further the ideologies outlined above).
So I agree with, and give the last word to, @sheilmcn on this: open is something you do.
Guest blog by Derek Jones, Lecturer in Design, The Open University.
This post was originally published as one of a number of provocations at the Porous University event OEPS co-hosted with the Learning and Teaching Academy, University of Highlands and Islands.
Open Education Week 2017 runs from 27th-31st March and is a celebration of the global open education movement. Featuring inspiring initiatives, organisations and people around the world that further open education, OE week offers a myriad of activities, webinars and information to help you connect with and find out more about the impact and benefits of openness in education.
As it happens, the OEPS steering group meeting will take place on 28th March, mid-way through Open Education Week. The OEPS steering group includes five higher education institutions dedicated to furthering open education in Scotland. To celebrate and showcase their work, and that of other organisations they partner with, we thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the exciting open education activities happening across the Group.
University of Edinburgh
- The University of Edinburgh are hosting a number of events as part of OE week. Find out more about the use of open educational resources (OER) at their three pop-up events.
- Head on over to the Open.Ed website for a range of guides, resources and information on OER at Edinburgh.
- Read some of the OEPS case studies about the University of Edinburgh’s open practices. These include a look at how they are embedding open practices in Creating a culture of open and a closer look at the benefits of Wikipedia for learning and teaching in Collaborating to build “a city of information literacy, a city of Wikipedia”.
University of Glasgow
- OEPS have developed a number of case studies with University of Glasgow colleagues including Openness at the University of Glasgow which looks at the promise, impact and process of developing MOOC and Open access and flipped learning at Glasgow University focused on educator created open access videos and their role in a flipped learning context.
- And don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for the forthcoming OER Global Determinants of death and dying.
University of Highlands and Islands
- Does your seaweed look weird? If so, you need the open course My seaweed looks weird which was joint produced by UHI, OEPS and the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).
- Read Steering Group member Frank Rennie’s paper OER (open educational resources): e-tips which reports on the impact of two e-textbooks and associated OER produced by educators at UHI.
- Come and explore “openness, space and place” in HE at UHI on 8 and 9 May 2017. The Porous University is now open for submissions and bookings … don’t forget to mark the date and get involved!
University of Strathclyde
- See how OER and MOOC can contribute to widening participation in HE in the case study Joining the dots: Widening participation at the University of Strathclyde.
Open University in Scotland / Open University
- Access the OU’s open educational resources and courses on OpenLearn or learn how to use open courses via the Open Pathways to Higher Education.
- You can also create and host your own open educational resources for free on OpenLearn Create and you can access other organisations’ resources there too, for example NESTA and the Rockefeller Foundation; World Vision Ethiopia and UNICEF; The Social Partnerships Network; TESS-India and TESSA.
- If you want to read more about some of The Open University in Scotland’s open education initiatives read Building confidence: The impact of open course Caring Counts.
- Find out more about the OU in Scotland’s Open Learning Champions event and Open Learning Champions network or even get involved.
Opening Educational Practices in Scotland
- OEPS has co-developed a range of open badged courses including Understanding Parkinson’s with Parkinsons UK and the forthcoming Introduction to Dyslexia and Inclusive Practice with Dyslexia Scotland in partnership with Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit.
- We’ve also produced a number of badged open courses, from Becoming an open educator which looks at how openness could enhance your teaching to How to make an open online course (in conjunction with the OU Free Learning Unit) which guides you through the process of creating this type of OER.
Want to get involved? You can browse the wide range of activities that individuals and organisations are hosting around the globe on the Open Education Week website, and don’t forget if you do participate, host your own event, want to share a resource or idea and join in the conversation use the hashtag #openeducationwk. If you tweet any of our activities or resources, please include @OEPScotland and let us know what you think!
In April 2017 Pete Cannell and I have a paper at OER17 called Mind the Gap, it is concerned with lifelong learning and the role of free open online resources in filling in and creating routes into learning for those distanced from it, and more broadly reflects on the gaps within those journeys as local authorities colleges retreat from this space and Third Sector organisations look to fill those structural holes as best they can. I selected the title for its double meaning, to be careful, and to remember and keep it in our minds. It was only when I started to listen to Rosa Murray at the recent forum organised jointly by Learning for Sustainability Scotland (LfSS) and OEPS on shared values, my use of to mind’ means ‘to recollect’ and this use is a particularly Scottish thing .
Rosa touched on her work with Rowena Griffiths, asking us to consider whether we “mind enough”; suggesting the need for us to explore what a “pedagogy of minding” looked like (here are the slides). The workshop was about sustainability, and the role of openness and open practices in supporting learning for sustainability. Most attendees were “at home” in this space and looking to learn from OEPS about openness. In the self-organised afternoon discussion groups three clusters emerged:
- How to use openness in teacher education, how to make it meaningful and engaging in ways that align to their values;
- How and/or will openness transform education, and if it does what will it look like;
- How to open up content to use and reuse.
Big questions, questions that often surface when considering open educational practices. However, the focus on sustainability and equity and social justice did draw out some different issues. In particular, there were questions around who is empowered by openness and ensuring that openness and putting stuff online is not used as an argument for withdrawing support for other activities. For me this went back to what Rosa said about shared values, and minding. She suggested there was a particular Scottish focus on sustainability as a question of equity and social justice. For LfSS minding is about learning to care about the world, to mind about inequalities.
Concern about the world, care for the environment, has moved from the margins to the mainstream, to a point where every pupil in Scotland is “entitled” to learn about sustainability. As a movement OER/OEP is a long way from this, more people are using open resources, but do more people care. Is it something to care about, what are the things we ought to care about, and what would a pedagogy of minding about openness look like? An approach to education that plays on the distinctive Scottish sense of minding, of saying “I mind”, a sense between remembering, caution and caring.
Honestly, I have no answers, but I think openness is at the heart of a pedagogy of minding, as both a something that goes in as a value, and is an outcome of caring. If I look at Joe Wilson’s blog post about the UNESCO European Regional Consultation on OER and even further back to the work done on the Open Scotland Declaration, I see the articulation of a particular Scottish approach to openness. As the OER/OEP community looks forward, perhaps it is useful to take a side glance at the work done on sustainability, as the focus on values, and minding, might suggest a way forward.
“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.
The problem with students as co-producers is that they already are creators of value, we just need to recognise it
At the OEPS forum in Glasgow in late 2015 the final plenary was about what the OEPS project does. On one level the agreement with the Scottish Funding Council details exactly this. Kerr Gardiner, from the OEPS steering group (you can read an interview with him on the OEPS hub) argued that OEPS would have only met the letter of the KPI’s if it only “made stuff”. I agree, educational practices are about doing things, and doing things to find out how to do things, to find answers, and to find out what the right questions are in the first place. One of the questions Kerr asked on that day was, why open educational practices are not leading to a world where students are recognised and valued as creators/producers of knowledge.
I said to Kerr at the end of the day that I had also wondered about this question and I would think about it further. The Thought piece: students Participation, Openness and the Curriculum is the result. In it I make some quite provocative claims. I suggest one of the problems is quality assurance, where student participation is part of a series of competition mimicking metrics and part of the application of private sector models to public goods. Academics are rightly suspicious of “tick box” approaches to measuring the value of education, as are many learners, and student co-production has become tarnished by association. This links to treating learners as customers and approaches to student co-production drawn from contemporary narratives on “Service Design”, designing for and from end users, or “Design Thinking”, start with the assumption of learner as consumer. This approach fatally undermines participation, as even though learners sometimes behave as service users, learning is about more than this. Learners know this, as do educators.
I mention design, in part because I used to feel “Design Thinking” was part of the solution, I now see the assumptions about customers and how value is created do not map well onto education. However, what does apply is the sense of who is the expert, designers think of themselves as the experts in process and, even when listening to “customer”, the product. Likewise, educators have their own values. I noted above that this makes them suspicious of approaches to education that treat learners as customers and measuring the value of education through crude metrics. However, being the arbiter of quality and value in learning also makes it difficult for educators to “let go”. So while it is tempting to blame issues around student participation on the marketisation and metricisation of value in HE perhaps educator ego also makes a contribution.
“Letting go” is not easy. For example, in community development, where educators have done so, they report feeling uneasy about their role and function. There are pressures from learners to be the expert, not to mention organisational resistance to change and the effect on career prospects. Learners are also at risk, opening up the curriculum means building learner capacity, it has resource implications and needs to be supported, and it has long-term risks around raised expectations, which go unfulfilled.
These are fraught questions, clearly the technical affordances of digitisation and open licences offer the promise of opening up curriculum. However, as I argue above, and in more detail in the paper, [insert link] political, organisational and cultural issues, assumptions and attitudes embedded within the stories education organisations tell about themselves represent a significant hurdle to opening up curriculum to learners. As I indicated at the start, the issue with students as co-creators of value in education is that they already are; it is just we have trouble seeing it.
“I’m interested in how we can do things more in the open just so that they can benefit others”
The latest case study to be released on the OEPS Hub focuses on openness, blogging and building communities through social media. Martin Hawksey, Innovation, Community and Technology Officer for the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), kindly took time out to discuss how and why he got started blogging and offers valuable advice to those considering being more open and sharing their ideas online. Martin also reflects on some of the challenges of becoming more open in your everyday practice and reflects on the nuances of openness.
A vision for Open Educational Resources at University of EdinburghAt the fourth OEPS Forum on 9 March 2016 in Stirling, we will display a range of posters covering the following themes:
- Using OER – what does good practice look like?
- Changing culture, changing practice
- Open education and digital engagement through a widening participation lens
We have already received a number of posters listed below:
Open design patterns for assessment as change agents – John Casey, The CIT-eA Project, City of Glasgow College
Promoting transformational change in OEP at OUSL – Shironica P. Karunanayaka and Som Naidu, The Open University of Sri Lanka; Monash University, Australia
Educational Audio and the Home of Radio #EDUtalk – John Johnston, David Noble, Edutalk
25 years of embracing and fostering openness in education – Ildiko Mazar, European Distance and E-learning Network, UK
Opening up spaces to support Rural Business in Scotland – Ronald Macintyre, OEPS Project
OEPS poster – OEPS project team
Open learning champions – Lindsay Hewitt and Gill Ryan, The Open University in Scotland
A vision for Open Educational Resources at University of Edinburgh – Stephanie Farley, University of Edinburgh