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.
Guest blog by Linda Lapere, Lecturer in Education at the University of Dundee.
As someone who has worked in education for 19 years I am familiar with many different forms of online learning and web-based materials but had never heard of Open Education. When I saw the hashtag #OpenEd I was keen to find out more.
In education, we are traditionally extraordinarily good at reinventing the wheel which thankfully, is slightly reducing in the digital age we are now living thanks to a multitude of educational websites. However, many of these operate as businesses, charging educators either for downloading their resources or accessing their website. I see Open Education as a means of embracing equality in education. Firstly, we are all professionals and can surely evaluate the usefulness and quality of resources independently as not everything which is online will necessarily be correct or appropriate for your learners. Secondly, not all educators can afford the subscriptions some websites are charging (some are more than your average gym membership) so again this levels out the playing field. I always find it interesting that education is one of the few professions where teachers spend their own money on resources – do doctors buy their patients drugs? Thought not.
Open Education means that all educators have access to free resources which can be edited and reused as you see fit. This can save us all time both in researching concepts and what the current research is saying as well as the time it takes to create these resources. Often laptops and pcs provided by educational establishments have restricted access to either certain websites or software sometimes making it difficult to create the kind of resource which would benefit your learners. It also requires a certain amount of skill to produce some of these resources such as video editing, enhancing graphics or creating interactive presentations and unfortunately we do not always have these precise skills. However, if this kind of material, particularly videos or interactive resources are already available through Open Education it can only benefit those in education.
I feel the challenges with Open Education are encouraging this sense of community amongst those in education, both current teachers and our students as well as the huge range of possibilities for its use. Let’s stop reinventing the wheel and sharing our free expertise instead to help others in the profession!
This guest post from Linda Lapere 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
‘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’.
‘A range of people participated either face-to-face, or online, in last week’s OER Hub hosted celebration of all things open at The Open University (UK)! Wednesday 20th June saw colleagues from across the University come together to share their ideas and experiences of openness as part of 2017’s #YearOfOpen international celebrations marking the anniversary of a number of important events in the development of open education. The afternoon kicked off with colleagues from across the university sharing what open means to them and their roles.
Lightening talks showcasing the diverse range of ways open makes a difference included personal reflections in From Theory to Practice: An Open Educational Journey (Tim Seal, TESS-India Technical Director), a look at why we might be more open in our practice in Ethics in Knowing: Rationales for Openness (Rick Holliman, Professor of Engaged Research) to exciting collaborative activity both within the University and beyond in Promoting and Supporting the Openness of Ideas related to Open and Online Learning (Laura Hills, Lecturer, Academic Professional Development) and Open Educational Practice Beyond the OU: Open Platform and Practices (Anna Page, Senior Producer: Open Education Projects). Review the full line-up here. Talks were followed by a productive group discussion on how we can shape open at the OU over the coming months. The event was livestreamed and you can catch up on the recording on YouTube or Periscope.’
‘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.
I attended the mini conference ‘Open Badges: what, why and how’ at the University of Dundee on 19th June. Dundee is working with the Universities of Abertay and Aberdeen, under the aegis of the QAA Scotland Transitions Enhancement Theme, to explore the use of Open Badges. The focus of the project is on transitions from university to employment and the use of badges to recognise employability skills through extra- and co-curricular activity. The University of Abertay already has some really interesting experience of using this approach with their LLB students. The conference also included presentations from Grainne Hamilton on her work at Digital Me and Doug Belshaw who looked at the future of Open Badges in a talk titled ‘Open Badges in Higher Education: 2.0 infinity and beyond!’.
Still on the theme of transitions the Open University’s suite of Badged Open Courses (BOCS) on OpenLearn. There are now seventeen available. The majority are concerned with supporting transitions from informal to formal learning. However, the latest addition to the collection is ‘Succeeding in postgraduate study’ aimed at supporting the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study. Whilst this free, openly licensed course was written by the OU, it will be of interest to colleagues across Scottish higher education and applicable to any student making the transition to postgraduate study in Scotland. The selection of Badged Open Courses on OpenLearn Create also continues to grow, including the OEPS collection.
The Porous University set out to reconceptualise university. Does it need to have boundaries, could those boundaries be porous or even non-existent? What would this look like? Why might this be desirable? Over two day these and many other questions were considered. There are many tweets, Periscopes and other social media from the event on #porousuni sharing emerging ideas.
After the event the discussion and thinking continued across many of the participants’ blogs including:
- Sheila MacNeil (@Sheilmcn): Initial thoughts from the Porous Uni and More leaking from the Porous Uni
- Keith Smyth (@Smythkrs): Situating digital space and place within the Porous Uni
- Fred Garnett (@fredgarnett): Some ideas about making universities open to communities
- Jennifer Jones (@jennifermjones): And a wee film about the event and a Storify of the tweet
In addition to the The-Porous-University-Symposium—Provocations, for us some further provocations came to mind:
- If the promises implicit in OER’s 5Rs are to be realised there needs to be a major shift of focus from technical standards for interoperability to simple practical methods of obtaining content for use, development of simple tools for remixing and support for sound pedagogical frameworks.
- Generally speaking HE is failing staff and students by not thinking through the digital literacy skills that are needed in a world or ubiquitous smart devices and openly licensed content.//
- Open approaches could transform curriculum development but only if there is a rethinking of what kinds of academic labour is valued and what kinds of systems underpin collaboration and sharing.
- There is a disconnect between the academy and the informal learning sector that requires new models of partnership and engagement.
What do you think?
The 38th Annual CALRG conference started on 14th June 2017. During the afternoon session OEPS presented ‘Exploring barriers to participation in open, online learning’. Across the three-years of the project our work with partner organisations has enabled us to develop a deeper understanding of barriers to participation and to consider how the literature on widening participation correlates with that on digital participation, access and literacy.
The presentation shared our learning on these issues including the key barriers to participation identified during our action research:
- Online platforms that look / feel like a university
- Vast quantity of information available
- Perception that online learning means individual learning
- Past negative experience of online learning
- Limited digital literacy
- Distinction formal learning v. everyday self-directed learning
We also explained our participatory design, co-creation process for developing in new open educational resources and presented two case study examples of how we have incorporated these practices and findings into free open courses hosted on OpenLearn Create. We made suggestions as to why other institutions might find participatory design of open educational resources useful and how the barriers to widening participation in open, online learning might be addressed including through contextualised pedagogy, focusing on learners, using trusted gate keepers / facilitators to engage learners, providing opportunities to share social learning and make connections between existing skills /digital literacy and online learning.
The slides for the OEPS presentation can be accessed on Slideshare.
All the presentation slides from the CALRG conference, conference papers and poster presentations are available on the CALRG website.
‘Tackling barriers’, by CALRGatOU
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 latest OEPS open educational resource (OER) Supporting collective learning in workplace and community settings is now live. The course will support anyone involved in organising informal learning in the workplace or in community settings, for example Union Learning Representatives, support workers, volunteers with third sector organisations or people with similar roles in their workplace or community. The course explores how groups of learners can use free online courses. The course draws on the experiences of the OEPS project in working with a wide range of informal educators in using open educational practices and resources.
Commenting on the launch of the course, OEPS Co-Director Pete Cannell, said: “We’re delighted to launch this course which pulls together the good practice of many informal educators across Scotland. Open courses like this one enable individuals who can’t access college/university to engage in learning at a time, place and pace that suits them, this in turn widens access to education and if they want, can be a stepping stone to formal education. We’ve openly licensed this course so it can be shared, adapted and rebranded by other organisations such as unions and charities to use in their own ways without copyright restriction which we hope will widen its reach even further.”