Tuesday 6th June marked the first day of the 3rd International Enhancement in Higher Education Conference held in Glasgow. The conference coincides with the final year of QAA Scotland’s ‘Transitions’ enhancement theme. At the Enhancement Themes Conference in 2016 the OEPS team explored the relevance of OER and OEP to educational transitions. This year in our presentation we focussed on the question ‘Is open and online reconfiguring learner journeys?’
We noted that learner journeys may involve transitions from informal or self-directed to formal learning, between sectors and between education and employment. These transitions are negotiated in environments where digital technology is becoming ubiquitous. Organisations that support transitions now believe that supporting the development of digital skills is essential and some are making use of open resources. Almost all students, young and mature, now arrive in HE with some digital skills – some may have new forms of credential (open badges). These provide a platform for developing digital literacy and the skills appropriate to learning in higher education.
We raised the possibility that as a result it may be necessary to rethink the pedagogy that underpins transitions and concluded with two questions for reflection:
- Is there a disconnect between pedagogy, practice, student needs and student experience?
- And if there is what does this imply for supporting widening participation transitions?
ET Themes by Pete Cannell, CC BY SA 4.0
The slides for the OEPS presentation can be accessed on slideshare.net
All the presentation slides from the Enhancement Themes conference (keynote and parallel), conference papers and poster presentations are available on the Enhancement Themes website.
The use of open badges as a way of recognising a short episode of learning is on the increase in Scotland. There have been significant changes since we started working on the OEPS project in summer 2014. It may be useful to categorise the use of badges in three ways.
- Awarding badges for the recognition of activity that contributes to continuing professional development (CPD). Examples of organisations taking this approach include Borders College (an early adopter), City of Glasgow College, Scottish Social Services Council and some Health Boards.
- The recognition of co-curricular and extra curricular activity; The University of Abertay is using open badges in the former context for its Law students and is considering whether badges might be integrated with the HEAR statement to recognise extra curricular achievements.
- To reward the successful completion of an openly licensed online course; The Open University now offers a suite of eleven such badged online courses (BOCs). A further 10 courses in the same style are scheduled for release during the rest of 2016. A small number of other badged courses have been developed through the OEPS project in partnership with Scottish Universities and Third Sector Organisations. The number of individuals in Scotland with one or more such badges is rising rapidly.
The landscape is evolving and diverse. Open Badges are awarded against a wide range of criteria. In some cases this may simply be for attendance or participation. In others, students are required to submit some evidence of learning such as a reflection on how a workshop had influenced their professional practice. The OU BOC and OEPS badges are typically awarded for successful completion of one or more online quizzes.
While, particularly in the CPD field, digital badges are being awarded for face-to-face activity and traditional forms of learning, certificates are also being used to recognise achievement on online courses. Free courses, offered by MOOC platforms such as FutureLearn and Coursera, and by providers such as ALISON, may supply successful learners with certificates for a fee. This is part of an emerging business model in online education.
It’s unusual for MOOCs or free openly licensed (OER) courses to be a given a level. However, FutureLearn the Open University and the University of Leeds are offering a route from one of their free online courses to study on a degree or MBA programme.
Most forms of study that result in the award of an open badge represent relatively few hours of learning, typically in the range 5 – 25 hours (although there are a few outliers at both ends of the range). Thus, before considering validity and level, the potential credit value of a single badge is normally small. However, the significance of credit is contextual and not necessarily directly related to size. While for a graduate, 2 credit points at SCQF level 7 might not be very relevant, for an adult learner with no, or little, post compulsory educational experience it might be very important.
Currently recognition based on criteria that require evidence of reflection or other complex outcomes is normally assessed manually before the badge is enabled. This can be expensive and sets limits on scale. Online courses with quiz assessments allow for the awarding process to be automated and can therefore deal with much greater numbers. However, although there has been some very creative use of quizzes (see for example ‘Caring Counts’) this method of assessment does curtail the kinds of learning outcomes that can be effectively assessed. So, for example, the Understanding Parkinson’s course developed by OEPS asks learners to engage in significant reflection on practice and on what they have learned through the medium of a log – however, the success criteria for the course are currently based on more restrictive quiz based questions. Evaluation of this and other similar courses suggests that the reflective activity is a strong impetus to learning. The OEPS project is investigating whether it’s possible to develop automated peer assessment that could work at large scale.
As the numbers of participants on badged courses increases there will be individuals who have portfolios of badges in their Mozilla backpack that may add up to a significant investment in learning. What should be the attitude of colleges and universities to this kind of experience? There is potential for much greater use of RPL and where the badged experience could feed into an ‘empty box’ type module that supports the award of credit.
We have recently updated the links under the Resources Tab on this site. There are now up to date lists of peer-reviewed outputs from the project via two tabs, Publications and Presentations. Our intention from the beginning has been to ensure that project outputs are publicly available and all the listed papers link to either the full text or a Power Point presentation. Topics include discussions of Open Educational Practice and updates on the evolution of the project, widening access and OER, working in partnership to develop open practice, participatory design and educational transitions. The two must recent publications include a paper on barriers to engagement from a widening participation perspective:
Revisiting Barriers to Participation, which is available in HE: Transforming Lives through life-wide learning; and an overview of the first year of the OEPS project
Cannell, P., Page, A. and Macintyre, R. (2016) Opening Educational Practices in Scotland, Journal of Interactive Media Education
These lists will be updated on a regular basis.
We are interested in poster submissions that cover the use of OER or open practices in the context of widening participation and transitions. We understand widening participation in a broad sense to include material aimed at groups who are under-represented in formal higher education and at the use of OER in non-institutional settings such as the workplace. Submissions concerned with educational transitions may also have a widening participation focus although this is not essential. We are interested in transitions from informal to formal learning, from education to work or work to education, from school to college or university and from college to university.
If you have an idea for poster and you’re not sure it fits the criteria please do send us a short resume to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to discuss it with you.
General submission guidance
Your poster proposal should include a brief abstract of no more than 200 words (including up to 6 references), emphasise the unique value of the work and summarize the results, issues or contributions being presented. The full abstract is required by 1 September 2015.
Posters should be eye-catching visual representations of the topic or subject: they can include graphics, tables, charts, concise text and/or images.
Printed poster size
Recommended size is A0 (84.1cm x118.9cm) portrait or A1 (59.4cm x 84.1cm) landscape. Posters should be single sided.
Design and printing
Please arrange to design and print the poster for display at the OEPS forum. We will be in touch before the date to give you information about delivery of your poster to the venue.
Creative Commons Licence
Copyright – we will share your poster on the OEPS website along with the abstract so please only use images and material that can be shared by Creative Commons licence – please ensure your poster carries a Creative Commons licence.
Please provide a PDF version of your poster which will be uploaded to oepscotland.org – you are welcome to provide a URL of a site where you are displaying the poster. Send your PDF of the poster to email@example.com by 2 November 2015.
In the article, Pete explores the impact on adult education and lifelong learning of the internet and online courses. He discusses the huge potential for expanding access to education which online courses can provide as the digital revolution gains momentum, with more people having access to mobile devices and social media. He explains “open” education and the worldwide growth of free openly licenced resources which are available for people to use, share, reuse and modify.
In the article Pete also explores the inequalities of access to open materials and that the potential open educational resources have for widening participation have yet to be fulfilled. He explains how the OEPS project aims to work with others across the sector and beyond to support transitions from informal to formal learning and widen participation in higher education.
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 produced by the OU with support from the Scottish Government.
- The launch of a new OER on rural entrepreneurship 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or join the conversation by responding to this blog.