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Reflections on the state of MOOCs, from the eMOOC2019 Conference

- June 10, 2019 in featured, guestpost, oer

By Fabio Nascimbeni & Valentina Goglio


Couple of weeks ago, we attended the eMOOC2019 conference in Naples, an international event gathering the major global MOOCs providers such as Coursera, edX and FutureLearn, aiming to advance the international debate on MOOCs and online learning in general.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our main takeaway is that MOOC as a concept is evolving, and not towards an open future, for at least two reasons.

First, despite the rhetoric put forward by the major global MOOCs providers, who still speak of “MOOC revolution” and of “MOOCs transforming access to education”, the feeling is that MOOCs are losing their first O (the one of Open). The new “usage models” adopted by the main international providers tend in fact to restrict the open and free use of their MOOCs resources in different ways. Let alone that MOOCs content are very rarely released as OERs, we have been getting used to MOOCs whose content is available only when the course is actually running, and now we have to face the fact that once we subscribe to a course we have access to its content only for a limited period of time. The first one to introduce a paywall for graded assignments was the for-profit platform Coursera in 2015, then joined by FutureLearn in 2017, which further restricted free access to course materials to 14 days after the end of the course. The latest to join the group is the non-profit platform EdX, whose course materials will not be freely accessible after the end of the course, starting from early 2019 (source: Class Central)

Second, as demonstrated by the micro credentials hype coupled with the massive entrance in the MOOC market by the Australian recruitment company SEEK (that invested some 50M$ in FutureLearn and more than 100M$ in Coursera), MOOCs are transforming into “off the shelf skills development courses” with a clear employability target. As Mark Brown noted in the OpenupEd Trend Report on MOOCs, the recent wave of MOOCs is moving toward MOOCs for credit and Continuing Professional Development. The new hot topic are micro-credentials: professional short degrees that pile up single MOOCs or online university courses to form a short and consistent series on a specific topic. Not surprisingly, opportunities and limitations associated to such resources targeting professionals and other medium-high skilled workers were discussed, during the eMOOC2019 conference, in three parallel sessions and one plenary round table.

Gone are the days of the MOOCs revolution in a lifelong and informal learning sense. We know MOOCs started as a phenomenon connected to Open Education, and many of us have witnessed the turn that this kind of online courses have taken from the first open and connectivist experiences (of Downes and Siemens, among others) towards more content-based and structured courses with an increasing employability and market value, but “clockwork MOOCs” are not easy to digest.

On the positive side, the eMOOCs conference also showed some more open approaches to MOOCs, such as the one by Federica.eu, the MOOCs platform of the hosting organisation Università Federico II of Naples, or the Open Knowledge POLIMI which provides all video lectures freely available on their dedicated Youtube channel. It is possibly in these national experience where we can still find some of the original breadth of MOOCS. For the rest, quoting the inspiring presentation of Monty King on postcolonial aspects of MOOCS: “the empire MOOCs back”.

About the authors

Fabio Nascimbeni works as assistant professor in the International University of La Rioja, and is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Sao Paulo (USP), where he collaborates with the CEST – Centro de Estudos sobre Tecnologia e Sociedade. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the European Distance and eLearning Network (EDEN), of the Editorial Board of the EURODL Journal, as well as of a number of Scientific Committees in the field of learning innovation. He is active in the field of innovation and ICT for learning since 1998, by designing and coordinating more than 40 research and innovation projects and promoting European and international collaboration in different areas, from school education to higher education to lifelong learning. Further, he has coordinated a number of international collaboration actions in fields spanning from Science and Technology, ICT research, information society development, educational research, specifically focusing on Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia. His main research interests are open education, learning innovation, e-learning, digital literacy, social and digital inclusion, social networking. He can be followed as @fabionascimbeni on Twitter.

Valentina Goglio is Marie Slodowska-Curie Fellow at the Department of Cultures, Politics and Society at the University of Turin (IT). Valentina does research in Economic Sociology and Sociology of Education. Her current project is on diffusion of MOOCs and their social implications for access and returns to education.

(this post was originally published in the http://research.unir.net/ blog)

K-12 Textbooks must be digital and open

- April 23, 2019 in communication, featured, guestpost, oer, world

By Werner Westermann

(Versión en Castellano disponible en: El texto escolar será digital y abierto)


Enough is enough!  The issue of K-12 Textbooks in Chile cannot resist any longer.

The straw that breaks the glass was the journalistic research which discovered that 1.7 million public textbooks were burnt  in recycling plants during 2013 to 2016. This incineration of textbooks was ordered by the Ministry of Education MINEDUC, reminded me of those difficult and dark days when books were incinerated during the dictatorship.  

Books burned in Santiago, Chile, days after the Military Coup, September 1973. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_burnings_in_Chile#/media/File:Chile_quema_libros_1973.JPG]

There is a transversal conviction today about the scandal of the K-12 textbook market, and therefore there is an agreement that the conditions that allow it, must change. At least that is what the chilean National Economic Prosecutor’s Office (FNE) thinks, a public entity in charge of maintaining and promoting competitive and fair markets, who has been studying the competitive evolution of the textbook market, covering both the public and private sectors. The problem is well known, but now we have more precise and, unfortunately, unbearable  evidence:

  1. The public market of K-12 textbooks, which are printed books acquired with public resources and distributed by the Ministry of Education, paying publishers a hefty amount of USD $ 52 Million.  This is a highly concentrated market: the average of publishers competing in public bids in the last three years were three, and in more than 45% of the procurement two or less competitors submitted.  Therefore, 80% of the whole public textbook market sales is in hands of two foreign companies, Santillana and SM. It is important to notice that the bidding mechanism, facilitates this kind of monopoly, as it does not facilitate fair competition as the bidder must submit a complete sample of the textbook, which favors the publisher awarded in the previous bid.  In addition, a poor bid framework design has been noticed as it facilitates maintaining the status quo.
  2. The private market, in turn, amounts to US$ 64 Million, but covering only 10% of the whole demand. How is this possible? Simple, the publishers set prices on average 29 times high, and 40 times higher in some cases, in the private bookshops market, as in the state market each textbook normally costs between  at USD$ 1 to $ 2,5. These outrageous uber-competitive profits are possible only due to the collusion between the publishers and schools stakeholders, mainly because of private-subsidised dependence (privately owned schools funded by public resources through a student voucher), forcing the families to acquire textbook through the private market, forcing families to spend in average USD$ 240 per child each year, about half of the minimum wage.

How do we get out of this mess? The study undertaken by the FNE, that will be published late this month, will provide public policy recommendations to allow a better and more transparent functioning of the textbook market. Alongside, the ministry of education is taking the first steps in “digitizing” the K-12 textbook through pilots testing interactive PDF formats and the Techbook, product of Discovery Education, another private publishing company.

So how we avoid textbooks ending in the bonfire?  No doubt, the K-12 Textbooks must be digital and open.

Separate the content from the container

A key reason for the highly concentrated K-12 public textbook market in Chile, is that the public procurement  framework involves the elaboration of the contents, the printing of the texts and their distribution for every bidder. The inclusion of every single element of the book production chain in the bid has favoured the large publishers and, has prevented the participation of other publishers, especially, local publishers, and halting the participation of other actors, such as printing or educational technology companies.

A key solution, would be to separate the educational content from the medium and its distribution in the public procurement processes. In the case of Ecuador, in which this separation has existed for years, whose ministry calls for public bidding for printing rights for textbooks, that are already reviewed and validated by national universities. This has allowed large and small printing companies to participate, achieving a drop in prices where the unit textbook to cost less than half a dollar, resulting in large public (and families) savings.

The current chilean model conceives the textbook only as a standalone printed book, omitting the multiple possibilities that digitalisation of content allows.  Digital educational content facilitates the development of many types of resource outputs, for example, audio-book, content for mobile devices, resources for online courses or  video game, etc. Those flexible possibilities, some of which we cannot even foresee yet due to constant technological progress, are the main reason that educational content should be digital.  The old fashioned way in which textbooks are produced is preventing educational innovation, our students today use a similar educational resource used 40 years ago.

In addition, separating content from the container also ensures the durability of the content, breaking the publisher’s fallacy of having to re-edit  from scratch the textbooks every two or three years in order to update it.Certainly, the K-12 textbook digitalisation, complemented by other resources such as  media and interactive components, opens up multiple opportunities to generate new and innovative ways to enhance and improve learning.

From a public policy perspective, caution must prevail, decision-making must ensure equity, permanent access for all students, and must ensure sustainability, continuity and quality of their development and implementation processes. Is it possible to give a digitised textbook to all our students? A business model based on individual licenses to access a product or service can be of a huge expense, and perhaps more importantly, prevents us from focusing the spending on people and context conditions to ensure effective deployment.  We already have frustrated experiencies related to web platforms not to be repeated, as well as for digital textbooks.

Enlaces, the ICT-programme for K-12 schools (which sadly closed at the end of last year) published in 2013 “Digital School Textbooks” for the Technology subject for 1st to 6th graders. Prior to that, there was no textbook for this subject in the public nor private market. The teachers, many of them recycled from extinct subjects such as Manual Technician or French, had to resort to Argentine texts to guide their work. These digital textbooks actually filled a gap and existing demand and its use was quite successful, thanks to its interactive and graphical instructional design. Unfortunately, these textbooks were removed from MINEDUC last August, as the license to use expired. The textbooks are again accessible for this school year thanks to the renewal of the license, although not the complete textbook, just is a reduced compendium of what it was. And perhaps most sensitive, they are not downloadable, which compromises or rules out the use for the resource in the classroom, because connectivity infrastructure is very limited in chilean schools. Although these textbooks were developed and deployed by public funds, how many more times must we pay to enable access and use of these textbooks?

Publicly funded content, must be public


It sounds redundant, but it is not: the educational content for K-12 textbook acquired by public resources are not public.

Indeed, the direct cause of the private textbook market scandal is intellectual property. The public bid defines that: The author’s rights of the awarded textbooks in public bids will belong entirely to the contracted one, for the effects of free commercialisation in the private market …”  That is to say, the publishers that bid to publish  a textbook to the public procurement process, and then reuse a very similar product to be sold in the private market, pricing it up to 40 times higher than the public price.  An “armed robbery” subsidised by all of chilean taxpayers.

Beyond the flagrant abuse of publishers and their pricing policies in the private market, it is worth asking:  Why are the content copyright of publicly-funded textbooks not public? On the contrary, why are explicitly exclusive to the publishers?  Simply because the public authority says so.

If common sense prevails, the rights of use of the contents of school textbooks acquired with public resources should be public. As Copyright is the by-default legal instrument to guarantee that “all rights are reserved” to the author, other legal tools, such as the Creative Commons licenses, recognise the authorship but grant and guarantee rights for public usufruct. What kind of public usufruct? To modify a resource to adapt it to a specific context, to extend or improve it, to be able to share it by different means and channels, to be able to integrate it into a pre-existing resource, to be able to integrate it into services or commercial products, etc.

Creative Commons licenses are fully compatible with our legislation and there is jurisprudence in this regard since 2006. There are six Creative Commons licensing options that declare different levels of openness (permitted uses), but there is growing consensus that the most favorable licenses for education and, therefore, textbooks are those that grant broad powers (such as Attribution CC-BY), seeking to create a framework that maximises the flexibility of types of uses of resources by users. With these licenses, the school text becomes a Open Educational Resource, a concept coined by UNESCO in 2002 that defines it as

teaching materials, learning or research that are in the public domain or that have been published with an intellectual property license that allows free use, adaptation and distribution.

Flexibility in the use of educational content, enhanced by the permissions granted by open licenses, is a central feature given today’s current and novel uses of our teachers and students.

Openness could have solved the problems of printed textbooks for students with visual disabilities. The visual disability group of parents, Acaluces, filed a legal injunction against MINEDUC because public texbook in Braille or macro-format never arrived. The Court of Appeals of La Serena issued a ruling in late October, ordering the MINEDUC

“to deliver the textbooks for the year 2018 to the students in favour for whom it is used, duly adapted to their special needs”.  

Incredibly, this time sponsored by the Council of Defense of the State, MINEDUC opposed through an appeal to the Supreme Court looking to reverse the first ruling, arguing that “facing a progressive increase of students with total or partial visual impairment integrated to the school system, there has been no increase in resources proportional to that growing demand.”  Luckily, the Supreme Court ratified the sentence, arguing that the MINEDUC

“has not complied with a legal obligation, thus affecting the constitutional guarantee of equality before the law”.

Conceived as a commons or public good, educational resources are also a matter of social justice. The MINEDUC textbook program can not argue lack of resources, its their technical and moral duty to generate the necessary efficiencies to ensure all our students have access to materials that support quality learning.

Opening up to enhance quality

The first one to alert about  to the malicious K-12 textbook market in Chile was the researcher Pablo Ortúzar. His core thesis was that the current vitiated system, both in the public and private markets, is an environment whose competitiveness is focused on reducing printing costs and does not have incentives for the improvement and innovation of the contents of the textbooks.  He proposes that the State should be able to buy the content so that it can be converted into a

“public ownership format with free access”“That is important, it will allow an archive of educational materials open to national and international public scrutiny, which will be enriched over time and that may be very useful for students, families, teachers and researchers.”  

Ortúzar’s approach is perfectly aligned to the proposal that the textbook must be digital and open.  Please, deepen how openness allows educational resources to raise their quality.

The importance of public scrutiny in relation to quality relies in two perspectives: first, as a strategy for continuous and incremental improvement of the educational content, and second, the involvement in that process by the educational community, especially teachers and students. Every quality assurance process involves planned activities such as systematic measurement, comparison with standards, monitoring of processes, all activities associated with loops or information feedback circuits by users / stakeholders / experts.  It is not enough to have a standard (benchmark) and its checklist to determine the quality of an educational resource. Its quality lies in an effective and efficient use satisfying specific educational needs, in specific contexts. Who better than the end users, mainly teachers and students, to feedback the use of an educational resource.

These cycles of adaptation/creation, use, critique and revision by users, thanks to the openness of publicly-licensed educational resources, conforms a virtuous circle that multiplies, diversifying and enhance educational resources, achieving efficiency in return on investment, raising quality and ensuring future sustainability, and above all, positive impact on student learning.

In a higher education Open Textbook project developed at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, it implemented two textbooks in formal courses where students contributed to the creation of one of the textbooks and the critical review of another. It was very interesting to rescue the positive experience for students simply by involving them in the development and free use of an educational resource. They recognized high motivation and commitment for the tasks and role entrusted, felt pride and recognition of contributing to a resource that will be used in future versions of the course, went much deeper into the content treated.  The teachers involved had to necessarily rethink their work, monitoring the activities of the students, redesigning the classroom activities and how to complement them outside the classroom, in short, innovating in their teaching. This led us to translate to Spanish the award-winning book Guide to Making Open Texts with Students to open up new opportunities.

The University of Cape Town, responsible for an extensive research agenda around the Open Educational Resources for developing countries, defines the virtuous cycle of Open Education in the image below. It is this virtuous circle that can mend the injustices of the textbook market in our country and that these resources do contribute to raising the quality of our education.

Optimal Open Education Cycle, ROER4D. https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Proposed-ptimal-Open-Education-cycle-Adapted-from-HodgkinsonWilliams-2014-oWalji_fig1_323304403

We have not mentioned the challenges involved in this paradigm shift in how to conceive the K-12 textbook, many of them quite complex, specially for the State as steward of public interest and public goods. Neither have we mentioned previous successful experiences and others not so much. What technologies can support this virtuous circle of Open Educational Resources? How do I manage media and interactive digital resources related to a printed text? How do I integrate a user’s contribution and how do I manage this new version to contribute to its continuous improvement?  What can we learn from international best practices and experiences?

While awaiting for the FNE’s textbook market study, the alternative solutions will be addressed in a new delivery to specify how the K-12 Textbook in Chile must be digital and open.

Werner Westermann, leads the Civic Education Program at the Library of National Congress of Chile.  He has over 20 years of work experience in digital technology-enabled education and training in different institutions (national ministries, higher education institutions, international agencies, NGO’s). He is an Open Education and Open Educational Resources (OER) advocate and practitioner and a co-writer of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration.  He is the Project lead of OER deployment/development and research projects in Chile. OER Consultant for UNESCO in Open Educational Resources, Institute of Open Leadership fellow (Creative Commons).

Celebrating the Open Web as a route towards a (more) Critical Digital Education

- March 29, 2019 in advisoryboard, communication, featured, guestpost, oer

By Daniel Villar Onrubia

This month it is 30 years (CERN 2019) since Sir Tim Berners-Lee came up with his idea for an ‘information management system’ that effectively set the ground for the hyper-connected world that a considerable part of the global population now live in (thought still not truely worldwide). Originally conceived to facilitate knowledge sharing across scholarly organisations, the World Wide Web (WWW) has quickly permeated all areas of everyday life.

Current discussions around openness in education tend to put a lot of emphasis on copyright and open licensing. Actually, this is the main aspect underpinning most popular definitions of ‘Open Educational Resources’ (OER), a concept that is core to contemporary interpretations of the broader concept of Open Education. Whereas the open licensing of content is indeed a rather topical issue due to the increasingly restrictive nature of copyright legislation and the rather narrow scope of copyright exceptions in many countries, the openness of online infrastructures surely deserves more attention when it comes to discussing teaching and learning in a networked world and open knowledge sharing practices.

This post addresses the value of the Web as an enabler of open knowledge, discusses some important threats and reviews some activities and resources produced as a result of the Open Web for Learning & Teaching Expertise Hub (OWLTEH), an initiative I initiated last year with Lauren Heywood – throughout the 5th cohort of the Mozilla’s Open Leaders Programme – in collaboration with other colleagues from the Disruptive Media Learning Lab and a wider network of contributors.

Openness and the (World Wide) Web

Building on the global infrastructure offered by the Internet, three decades ago Berners-Lee- created a set of protocols and standards that made it possible to easily share and retrieve information by means of a network of hyper-linked documents (CERN n.d.). 

The HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), along with a system of resource identifiers, are the main building blocks of what quickly became arguably the most open medium for distant communication humanity has ever seen.

The World Wide Web is often referred as the Open Web to emphasise how openness is intrinsic to its underpinning principles. First, it was originally conceived as a system to share information publicly, making it available to anyone with access to the Internet for free, unlike closed private network systems such as CompuServe. Second, the Web prompted a new media landscape where consumers of content had also the possibility to become producers, so the restrictions of one-to-many and one-to-one ways of communicating could be subverted to, at least potentially, enable more participatory cultures.

Last, but definitely not least, just a few years after its invention, CERN dedicated all the key Web software components to the Public Domain, applying open licences to subsequent releases and eventually moving to a Copyleft model of licensing (Tim Smith & Flückiger n.d.). Free and open-source software is still a core principle of the main building blocks underpinning the Web these days (e.g. HTML, CSS, SVG):

“The Open Web Platform is the collection of open (royalty-free) technologies which enables the Web. Using the Open Web Platform, everyone has the right to implement a software component of the Web without requiring any approvals or waiving license fees.” (W3C Wiki 2015)

However, there is a growing concern on how discrete online platforms that operate as ‘walled gardens’ are hindering the Open Web. As Dries Buytaert, founder of Drupal, puts it:

We call them “Walled Gardens” because they control the applications, content and media on their platform. Examples include Facebook or Google, which control what content we get to see; or Apple, which restricts us to running approved applications on iOS. This is in contrast to the Open Web, where users have unrestricted access to applications, content and media.” (Buytaert 2015)

A report recently published by the Web Foundation identified the increasing concentration of power in the hands of just a few major global actors as a major threat to the ethos upon which the Web was originally built.

“While the web was created to be a decentralised platform where everyone can contribute and no single creator has a built-in advantage over the other, web activity has become dominated by a shrinking number of powerful companies that are able to wield significant influence over what we see online — and what we don’t. The growing imbalance between individuals and these powerful actors threatens to limit and undermine the power of the free and open web” (Web Foundation 2018)

It is not just the high concentration of visibility and power that is concerning, but also the fact that those actors tend to rely on business models that most often involve tracking and profiling users, who become the actual ‘product’ sold to other corporations that pay for targeted advertisement.

“A future without an open Web is a future of radical fragmentation, one in which people are increasingly isolated from one another, marooned on incompatible digital islands, and beholden to those with the power to determine what everyone reads, studies, watches, and says (and, similarly, who’s allowed to read, study, watch, and speak). It’s a future in which people can’t engage in basic interactions without first releasing details about their identities to multiple stakeholders capable of tracking their activities and tailoring their potential views of the world.” (Behrenshausen 2017)

Learning on/with the Open Web

Instead of starting the OWLTEH journey with a narrow or prescriptive definition of the term ‘Open Web’, we chose to embrace its vagueness and multifaceted nature by encouraging contributors to follow their own interpretations of the term, specifically in the context of teaching and learning. At the same time, we highlighted the importance of openness as part of the underpinning principles of the Web as originally conceived by Berners-Lee (2017): “an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities, and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.”

Sites like Wikipedia – and the wider family of Wikimedia projects –, Archive.org and repositories of OER are quintessential examples of the Open Web as a resource for learning, open educational practice and reducing gaps re access opportunities to knowledge. They offer ways of finding and sharing knowledge without requiring users to pay – apart from the cost of getting online in the first place – and do not monetise them through targeted advertising either. In addition, by making use of open public licences they can enable not just the consumption of content but also reuse and repurposing in different ways.

Likewise, self-hosted websites and web publishing tools, such as free open source Content Management Systems (e.g. WordPress.org), are often regarded as instances of the Open Web that offer valuable opportunities for learning and knowledge sharing, even though someone will need to cover the cost of web hosting and domain names. Examples of educational institutions providing students and/or educators with web hosting space include the Domain of One’s Own approach, academic blogging platforms or the Prof. Dr. type” of webpage, as defined by Olia Lialina (2010), created in the early days of the web by academics who had access to hosting space from their universities.

Platforms like Twitter or Google HangOut, as well as hosted web publishing services (e.g. WordPress.com), are also often regarded as instances of the open web that can offer valuable opportunities for learning and teaching. The argument for this is that despite commodifying users’ data and their reliance on targeted advertising to offer a “free” service, they can enable educators and learners to publicly share information and engage in distributed conversations.

In this regard, instead of thinking in binary terms (open web vs. closed web), it is important to recognise there are several degrees of openness and even various ways of measuring it as there are diverse possible interpretations of the concept. When thinking of the Open Web for knowledge sharing, some people will prioritise the use of open public licences or the use of open free software, while others might associate openness with the convenience (or only possibility) of having access to tools that can be used to share information and communicate without having to go through a paywall.

As part of OWLTEH, we are building a collaborative catalogue of Open Web instances (e.g. tools, platforms, webs, etc.) that can be particularly valuable for learning and teaching: http://catalogue.owlteh.org

We have also created a collection of short videos with experts sharing their views on the Open Web as well as inspiring examples of its use in educational contexts: http://perspectives.owlteh.org/

 

In addition to those online resources, in October 2018 we hosted a MozFest fringe event along with Jim Groom (Reclaim Hosting) under the theme of ‘Learning on/with the Open Web’ (OWLTEH18). You can find abstracts, photos and recordings here at https://www.conf.owlteh.org/

 

Critical Digital Literacies

Information and media literacy have been traditionally concerned with fostering a critical evaluation of content; what Howard Rheingold calls, borrowing Hemingway’s words, ‘crap detection’. Likewise, due to the heavy influence of Critical Theory in the formation of Media Studies as a field of research, a considerable amount of attention in media education has been paid to power dynamics by focusing on the “analysis and questioning of domination, inequality, societal problems, exploitation in order to advance social struggles and the liberation from domination so that a dominationless, co-operative, participatory society can emerge.” (Fuchs 2011: p.19)

Despite the initial tendency of Digital Literacy frameworks to focus primarily on functional or technical skills (i.e. pushing buttons), other dimensions concerned with the social, cultural, political, economic and ethical implications of technology have gained ground to a considerable extent. For instance, safety and well-being are now a core component of some of the most prominent frameworks (e.g. Jisc Digital Capability, DigComp). And a recent report on Digital Skills for Life and Work published by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development (2017) even explicitly used the notion of critical digital literacy as a “set of specific understandings and a disposition towards the politics of the digital society and digital economy” (p.32).

Approaching digital literacies from a critical perspective requires contextualising practices within the complex ‘political economy’ (Taffel 2014)  of networked societies and, therefore, gaining awareness of what we give away when using online infrastructures in exchange for the possibility of accessing information, communicating and participating within geographically distributed communities. As David Buckingham (2018) warns:

“We are steadily moving towards a situation where the circulation of media is controlled by a very small number of global monopolies. ‘Participatory’ media operate according to a very different business model from that of older ‘mass’ media; but it is vital that we understand how this new data-driven economy works.”

Exploring the Open Web – both as a concept and knowledge infrastructure – offers valuable opportunities for the development of a more critical kind of digital competence, enhancing the ability to engage effectively but also ethically with the current social and technical ecosystem. Moving beyond prescriptive and normative views, to favour dialogue and questioning instead, is essential.

References

 


About the author

Daniel Villar-Onrubia works as Principal Project Lead at the Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL), an experimental unit at Coventry University (UK) specifically created to drive innovation in teaching and learning. His research focuses on Open Educational Practices (OEP), Internationalisation of the Curriculum (IoC) and Digital Literacies are some of his main areas of interest. After completing his DPhil (PhD) at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), University of Oxford, he joined Coventry University in 2014 as Online International Learning Programme Manager, which allowed him to work at the intersection of online learning and internationalisation. Prior to moving to the UK, he worked at the International University of Andalucia (UNIA), where he was one of the founders of the Digital Practices & Cultures Programme and its Centre for Creation & Experimentation in Digital Content. He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a member of the Personal Networks & Communities Lab of the University of Seville (Spain). He can be followed as @villaronrubia on Twitter.

Open Education in Chile: small steps in an adverse context

- February 4, 2019 in featured, guestpost, oer, world

Guest post by Werner Westermann & Carlos Ruz


Just as the new Open University of Recoleta was announced in November 2018, it immediately sparked a nationwide discussion about the public role of universities, due to an informal institution calling itself university.  Recoleta’s major, the leader of a traditional but impoverished borough in Santiago, has been clear when saying that the mission of the Open University of Recoleta is to “promote the democratisation of knowledge and access to a plurality of knowledge and disciplines through teaching, research and extension activities aiming at facilitating the integral development of its students in a cultural environment based on collaboration, citizen participation and innovation“.

The Open University of Recoleta’s mission is supported by an institutional policy based on Open Educational Resources, the first institution in Chile to explicitly uptake openness, although this policy can be still considered.  An unfinished “open” policy, as they do not explicitly have an open licensing scheme or a set of clearly describe Open practices that will flow in this Open “Pluriversity”, a new concept to elude the legal technicalities of being a “real” university, which is similar to the concept of Volkshochschule in Germany, where the idea of popular universities is widely adopted and well regarded.

This case is very illustrative of Chile’s slow progress around openness and OER, despite the growing interest and awareness across the world.  There has been in the last decade very few small initiatives and projects related to OER (showcased here in the OER World Map)  Surely there are many reasons for this situation, but we could highlight:

  1. Disregard  and indifference towards user’s rights:  Although the Ministry of Education websites have declared their contents are  attributed with open licenses (CC-BY) in their footers, that is not translated to the contents and educational resources stored  in their repositories, as the case of the YoEstudio and the CRA School Libraries. In both cases, the educational resources do not specify the rights to use the resources they host or distribute, therefore, and by default, these are all rights reserved, as specified in the law.
  2. If explicit, user’s rights are restrictive:  Copyright (all rights reserved) is ubiquitous  as the default user’s rights. A good example is the largest  educational resources repository for K-12 schools, EducarChile.  They have added a Creative Commons license as to their website, but the Terms and Conditions of use of their educational resources are highly restrictive
  3. Publicly funded  does not mean public use: Despite Chile’s pledge to foster open access to information and data funded with public resources and having a law on access to public information, in Chilean Higher Education, almost, if not all, public funds promote exclusive institutional ownership of the results and the knowledge created in those projects. Those public funds are disputed in a competitive scenario, where universities and researchers  struggle within a capitalistic and privatised education system framework has made competition its matrix, at the expense of open cooperation and mutual collaboration.
  4. Lack of incentives:  In Higher Education, academic or professional development incentives are is not focused on the field of teaching, even less with learning.  Normally, these incentives aim at supporting research activity (mostly publicly funded) that must be published in high impact journals , as the pernicious higher education rankings and metrics foster a toxic scholarly culture in which he results of the research are  focused on the commercialisation, conceived as an exclusive asset. The logic of treasuring my personal assets is fuelled by an ecosystem regulated by large monopolies (Elsevier) that control indexation, thus the dissemination and citation of scientific research and by the University Rankings corporations that feed this malignant system for the sake of climbing up in a system that has nefarious consequences in emerging economies, by draining public funds when paying corporations excruciating high fees and subscription to publish publicly funded research.

Despite the educational landscape seeming to be unable of  providing a fertile soil to foster Open Access, Open Science, Open Education and and OER, there are some advancements in this area worth showcasing

Through a Public Diplomacy Grant from the US Embassy in Santiago, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso developed an Open Textbook project.  This project resulted in the development and translation of open textbooks that were deployed formally in different courses.  One book was developed by faculty remixing existing open content from whose resources are in the public domain.  Another book was reviewed and enhanced by students, an open educational practice that stunned faculty and fully-engaged students.  This led to translate to Spanish the award-winning book from REBUS “Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students”. For next academic year, new strategies are considered to promote theses results, highlighting the potential of open pedagogies that build OER, showed how students engaged in both processes and how innovation in teaching flourished.  The results and more details can be seen here:  http://openbooks.biblioteca.ucv.cl/

Another grant funded by the Chilean Cooperation Agency (https://www.agci.cl/) made possible a project to see how Digital Citizenship creates a new scenario for civic engagement, in collaboration with the Library of National Congress of Chile and the Instituto Belisario Domínguez from the Senate in Mexico.  A series of OER were developed (state-of-art content, a learning outcome matrix, assessment item bank, e-learning professional development course) to include Digital Citizenship in schools. We adapted and piloted these resources in Chilean as well Mexican schools (with very exciting results in Mexico!!).  The openness of these resources has already made an impact, as the Council for Transparency reused the assessment item bank in a videogame they developed ().  More details of this project can be seen here:  http://www.bcn.cl/formacioncivica/chile_mexico

In the spirit of cooperation, and to foster citizenship and participation,  a national commitment to develop OER for digital citizenship was included in the 3rd OGP Open Government Action Plan (2016-2018), which has been an important platform to promote openness in Chile from the Open Government guidelines. That work will continue in the recently published 4th OGP Government Action Plan (2018-2020), where the commitment is to create OER to define and configure the critical skills for Open (Government) Citizenry, which in indeed  aligned with the SDG 4.7 emphasising on sustainable development and global citizenship. It should be noted that the process of building this commitment it has involved a series of actors in order to co-create this commitment, continuing with what was initiated in the previous action plan, seeking to provide a capacity building model of citizenship competencies through OER, and to provide opportunities for people contributing to democratise citizen participation

 

Mainstreaming openness and OER in the chilean educational context will be a long and rocky journey, but definitely is core to foster a pathway to guide the nation in fostering   quality education for by promoting Open Science, Open Access and Open Education to further democratise access to knowledge .

 


About the authors

Werner Westermann, leads the Civic Education Program at the Library of National Congress of Chile.  He has over 20 years of work experience in digital technology-enabled education and training in different institutions (national ministries, higher education institutions, international agencies, NGO’s). He is an Open Education and Open Educational Resources (OER) advocate and practitioner and a co-writer of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration.  He is the Project lead of OER deployment/development and research projects in Chile. OER Consultant for UNESCO in Open Educational Resources, Institute of Open Leadership fellow (Creative Commons).

 

Carlos Ruz is a Maths teacher, the innovation and research director of Maule Scholar, and head of the LabDatos Chile. He frequently writes for  Chile Científico and is an active member of the civil society network for Open Government.

SCOOTER – a reflection.

- January 30, 2019 in featured, guestpost, oer

(Sickle Cell Open Online Topics and Educational Resources)

 

 

Guest post by Viv Rolfe


The start of a new year seems a good time to reflect back on my past OER work. One project I was most fondest of was ‘SCOOTER’ – Sickle Cell Open Online Topics and Educational Resources [http://sicklecellanaemia.org]. The name not at all celebrating one of my favourite Muppet characters!

This was very much inspired by Professor Simon Dyson a social scientist at De Montfort University (where I worked at the time) who’s research looked into the social and care surrounding young people with sickle cell and other haemoglobin disorders. Coupled with a geneticist colleague Dr Mark Fowler, we set to engage colleagues across our faculties in providing multidisciplinary teaching materials to raise awareness of the needs of young people with sickle cell, and provide education content on this vitally important subject.

SCOOTER was funded by Jisc OER Programme in 2010 marking the 100thanniversary of the discovery of ‘peculiar elongated cells’ by James Herrick. What followed that year was a snowballing, or more of an avelanch, of enthusiasm and interest, not just from our faculty as intended but across the university. Some of my most cherished resources were from an arts student Jacob Escott who was utterly inspired by the human body and I remember my first meeting which went well past an hour and I had to hustle him out of the office so I could go and teach. Jacob inspired me in SCOOTER and various projects after that by providing the artwork which created strong project identities, great colour schemes and were utterly fabulous.

SCOOTER shared resources on social care, nursing, genetics, personal experiences, art, and included the involvement of the pathology department at the local hospital, Leicester Royal Infirmary.This started a collaboration where they would share biomedical content (data, graphs, photographs) under open licenses that we would repackage as educational materials. We’d both use the OER in our teaching or training of biomedical scientists in the lab.

Professor Dyson’s main area of work is in providing healthcare policy documents for schools that give plain speaking guidance for helping young people, and these are certainly some of the projects most visited pages over the 8 years. These vital guides have been translated into many languages.

Scooter received personal reflections from students and healthcare professionals. In one, Professor Elizabeth Anionwu shared a video of her experience of setting up the first nurse counselling services in the UK [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VK0p8t-NA-Q]. My most favourite recent editions is a song composed and performed by students in a school in Africa – Sikul Sel.

As I reflect back on the very first blog post on November 27th2010,  we achieved our goals of making the project ‘search engine optimised’ by using researched keywords, having content in multiple formats (also for accessibility), and sharing content on multiple social media platforms (for sustainability). The WordPress blog was perfect for this. I’ve just about managed to keep the blogs afloat in the subsequent years – slightly irked that I’d never received any thanks or support from the university as a whole, but very grateful that I’d discovered Reclaim Hosting who have been so generous as to assist with the very occasional technical difficulties.

Another goal was “building a vibrant community of users”.

We did at the time, but I wouldn’t say this has sustained over the years. In terms of Google rankings the site has definitely slumped, but resources on YouTube and Flickr still gain new views every year. We might have a vibrant community of users – I just have no way of knowing that now.

“New challenges will surely emerge as economic factors change the face of Higher Education in the UK and wider a field, and Open Education may hold the key to the future as students choose their own educational settings and tailor-make their own experiences”.

Oh how I should have placed a bet on that one! How insightful of me at the time. Yes, there would be only one more year of OER funding in the UK, but within a few years any funding for digital, pedagogic or teaching-enhancement research in the UK would cease. The HEA is no longer and Jisc continues to merge with other sector agencies [https://www.jisc.ac.uk/news/hesa-and-jisc-integration-10-jan-2019]. The fate of OER is shaky, with many of the original resources produced between 2009 and 2012 no-longer retrievable, and certainly the communities and the learning lost.

Has OER held the key for students (to) choose their own educational settings and tailor-make their own experiences”.

I think I foresaw a booming OER sharing economy at that time, and I think students gained not so much by having access to these materials to support heir learning, but certainly were enthused and grew through co-creating and contributing to resources and the project.  Sadly I think UK higher education policy has put the nail in the coffin for that opportunity, with universities ever-more competing for students rather than investing in the sharing of resources. The quest to achieve good TEF outcomes has leveraged a culture of league tables at the expense of learning (in my opinion). What hampered all of my OER projects was the continual turnover of senior staff and continuing having to lobby for support for projects rather than them being embedded in learning and teaching and/or digital strategy. I don’t think we really considered how easy it would be to repurpose materials, although in my experience people are overwhelmingly happy to link to them and use them directly as they are. Maybe repurposing was a bit of a red-herring.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the buzz and excitement of working on this project – my first major external funding award. I’m proud that SCOOTER lives on and wish there was some way it could be reignited as a repository for educational materials for this all important subject. The Nursing Times only last year called for more teaching on this subject.

In our paper that surveyed over 200 university educators, it was concluded that sickle cell was a major public health issue globally that is neglected in university curricula across the board, not just nursing and health professionals (1).

Ref

(1) Rolfe, V., Fowler, M., & Dyson, S. M. (2011). Sickle cell in the university curriculum: a survey assessing demand for open-access educational materials in a constructed community of interest. Diversity in Health & Care8(4). https://www.dora.dmu.ac.uk/xmlui/handle/2086/5952

About the author


Viv Rolfe
(PhD) is member of the OEWG advisory board and is an independent open educator and directs three science open educational resource websites (http://vivrolfe.com/open-education/) sharing materials co-created with students, hospital laboratory staff and academics with global audiences. She is involved in the UK Open Textbook Project funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation along with the OER Research Hub and Wonkhe.com, aiming to raise awareness of open textbooks and explore with academics, library and technology staff the possibilities of utilizing the amazing range of books available. As with all of her open education work, she aspires to widen access to educational materials and research, and encourage more open academic practice. She is co-chair of the #OER18 conference to be held in Bristol, April 2018 where global delegates and virtual attendees will discuss the impact of open education on learning and learner inclusion (and exclusion). She is a blogger, #DS106 learner and jazz musician, alongside working full-time as Head of Research for Pukka Herbs. She can be followed as @vivienrolfe on Twitter.

Introducing UCL’s Open Education initiative

- August 21, 2018 in communication, featured, guestpost, oer

Guest post by C. Yogeswaran

@OpenUCL  University College London, UK

Founded to “open up university education,” UCL’s OE focus has, since February, been supplanted with new energy and focus. The open education team have been exploring ways to support Connected Curriculum, Education Strategy, and Open Scholarship goals at the institution, facilitating communication between academia and the public and inspiring new ways of undertaking education by removing (economic, geographic, and other) barriers to usage.

To implement open educational practice at UCL, the project takes a three-pronged approach:

  • The launch of a proof-of-concept repository, OpenEd@UCL, dedicated to storing, sharing, and showcasing the university’s teaching materials – both academic and student generated.
  • Developing policy around open education at UCL to ensure it is embedded into community activities – this includes the repository and deposit policy and a planned OE policy, which will be determined through the Open Science Policy Platform.
  • Expanding the practice of open education across UCL through a programme of engagement. Thus far the project has run special interest group meetings, attended by those with an interest in open education, and also a workshop on open education at the recent UCL Open Science Day event. There is now a project website and Twitter feed, @OpenUCL, and we have also featured in two UCL Teaching & Learning newsletters, and internal Week@UCLstaff newsletter.

Sharing OER at UCL

As the project moves into the next phase, we are looking at increasing OER and metadata within the repository, to build a fuller and holistic picture of the teaching materials UCL has to offer, and embed more deeply open education practice at UCL. As London’s ‘Global University,’ we are keen to explore with practitioners how sharing OER can add value to teaching and learning and have wider global reach and impact.

In contacting content providers we have discovered a plethora of OER across UCL which has not been catalogued or brought under one umbrella. Part of this project therefore focuses on working with those who have published OER, to make their resources searchable and discoverable.

Showcasing student content and feedback is also a great way to demonstrate the outcomes of teaching/training, promote courses for prospective students, and engage students in the publishing process, and also encourages collaboration between students and staff.

Engagement activities

In the past six months we have established connections with Arena Open who provide CPD opportunities for teaching staff at UCL, and will be working with them in the new term to run workshops for staff on (a) creating open educational resources and (b) turning pre-existing teaching materials into OER. We will also be present, on a fortnightly basis, at regular research support drop-ins, to talk with UCL staff and create awareness.

Highlighting incentives to publish OER is important in our communication with teaching staff. The Academic Promotions Framework already rewards open behaviours including the publication of open teaching materials, and we are in discussion with the VP for Education about introducing an Open Education commendation at the next UCL Teaching & Learning Awards ceremony. Working with the other research support services we are also looking at ways to formalise the citation and attribution of OER, as professional/reputational growth is an important part of academia.

Learning more

More information about the project is available on the OER website, or you can follow us on Twitter @OpenUCL.

 

About the author

Claudia is the Open Education Project Officer based at UCL Library Services.

Changing Minds by Using Open Data

- June 26, 2018 in communication, data, featured, guestpost, oer

Guest post by

Erdinç Saçan & Robert Schuwer

Fontys University of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands


The Greek philosopher Pythagoras once said:

“if you want to multiply joy, then you have to share.”

This also applies to data. Who shares data, gets a multitude of joy – value – in return.

 

ICT is not just about technology – it’s about coming up with solutions to solve problems or to help people, businesses, communities and governments. Developing ICT solutions means working with people to find a solution. Students in Information & Communication Technology learn how to work with databases, analysing data and making dashboards that will help the users to make the right decisions.  Data collections are required for these learning experiences. You can create these data collections (artificially) yourself or use “real” data collections, openly available (like those from Statistics Netherlands (CBS) (https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb))

In education, data is becoming increasingly important, both in policy, management and in the education process itself. The scientific research that supports education is becoming increasingly dependent on data. Data leads to insights that help improve the quality of education (Atenas & Havemann, 2015). But in the current era where a neo-liberal approach of education seems to dominate, the “Bildung” component of education is considered more important than ever. The term Bildung is attributed to Willem van Humboldt (1767-1835). It refers to general evolution of all human qualities, not only acquiring knowledge, but also developing skills for moral judgments and critical thinking.

Study

In (Atenas & Havemann, 2015), several case studies are described where the use of open data contributes to developing the Bildung component of education. To contribute to these cases and eventually extend experiences, a practical study has been conducted. The study had the following research question:

“How can using open data in data analysis learning tasks contribute to the Bildung component of the ICT Bachelor Program of Fontys School of ICT in the Netherlands?”

In the study, an in-depth case study is executed, using an A / B test method. One group of students had a data set with artificial data available, while the other group worked with a set of open data from the municipality of Utrecht. A pre-test and post-test should reveal whether a difference in development of the Bildung component can be measured. Both tests were conducted by a survey. Additionally, some interviews have been conducted afterwards to collect more in-depth information and explanations for the survey results.

For our A/B test, we used three data files from the municipality of Utrecht (a town in the center of the Netherlands, with ~350,000 inhabitants). These were data from all quarters in Utrecht:

  • Crime figures
  • Income
  • Level of Education

(Source: https://utrecht.dataplatform.nl/data)

We assumed, all students had opinions on correlations between these three types of data, e.g. “There is a proportional relation between crime figures and level of education” or “There is an inversely proportional relation between income and level of education”. We wanted to see which opinions students had before they started working with the data and if these opinions were influenced after they had analyzed the data.

A group of 40 students went to work with the data. The group was divided into 20 students who went to work with real data and 20 went to work with ‘fake’ data. Students were emailed with the three data files and the following assignment: “check CSV (Excel) file in the attachment. Please try this to do an analysis. Try to draw a minimum of 1, a maximum of 2 conclusions from it… this can be anything. As long as it leads to a certain conclusion based on the figures.”

In addition, there was also a survey in which we tried to find out how students currently think about correlations between crime, income and educational level. Additionally, some students were interviewed to get some insights into the figures collected by the survey.

 

Results

For the survey, 40 students have been approached. The response consisted of 25 students.

All students indicated that working with real data is more fun, challenging and concrete. It motivates them. Students who worked with fake data did not like this as much. In interviews they indicated that they prefer, for example, to work with cases from companies rather than cases invented by teachers.

In the interviews, the majority of students indicated that by working with real data they have come to a different understanding of crime and the reasons for it. They became aware of the social impact of data and they were triggered to think about social problems. To illustrate, here some responses students gave in interviews

“Before I started working with the data, I had always thought that there was more crime in districts with a low income and less crime in districts with a high income. After I have analyzed the data, I have seen that this is not immediately the case. So my thought about this has indeed changed. It is possible, but it does not necessarily have to be that way.” (M. K.)

“At first, I also thought that there would be more crime in communities with more people with a lower level of education than in communities with more people with a higher level of education. In my opinion, this image has changed in part. I do not think that a high or low level of education is necessarily linked to this, but rather to the situation in which they find themselves. So if you are highly educated, but things are really not going well (no job, poor conditions at home), then the chance of criminality is greater than if someone with a low level of education has a job.” ( A. K.)

“I think it has a lot of influence. You have an image and an opinion beforehand. But the real data either shows the opposite or not. And then you think, “Oh yes, this is it.’. And working with fake data, is not my thing. It has to provide real insights.” (M.D.)

Conclusion

Our experiment provided positive indications that contributing to the Bildung component of education by using open data in data analysis exercises is possible. Next steps to develop are both extending these experiences to larger groups of students and to more topics in the curriculum.

 

References

Atenas, J. & Havemann, L. (2015). Open Data as Open Educational Resources: Towards Transversal Skills and Global Citizenship. Open praxis7(4), 377-389. http://dx.doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.7.4.233

Atenas, J., & Havemann, L. (Eds.). (2015). Open Data as Open Educational Resources: Case studies of emerging practice. London: Open Knowledge, Open Education Working Group. https://education.okfn.org/handbooks/open-data-as-open-educational-resources/ 


About the authors 

Erdinç Saçan is a Senior Teacher of ICT & Business and the Coordinator of the Minor Digital Marketing @ Fontys University of Applied Sciences, School of ICT in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. He previously worked at Corendon, TradeDoubler and Prijsvrij.nl

 

 

 

Robert Schuwer is Professor Open Educational Resources at Fontys University of Applied Sciences, School of ICT in Eindhoven, the Netherlands and  holds the UNESCO Chair on Open Educational Resources and Their Adoption by Teachers, Learners and Institutions.

Learning Analytics Policy Development

- June 25, 2018 in communication, data, featured, guestpost

Written by Anne-Marie Scott 

The University of Edinburgh has just launched their Principles and Purposes for Learning Analytics.

In order to develop institutional policy on learning analytics, in 2016 we convened a task group reporting to our Senate Learning and Teaching Committee, and our Knowledge Strategy Committee. The task group was convened by Professor Dragan Gasevic, Chair of Learning Analytics and Informatics. The group included Professor Sian Bayne, Assistant Principal Digital Education; representatives from academic Colleges; the Edinburgh University’s Students Association; and representatives from Student Systems and Information Services.

Our Director of Academic Services produced an initial draft of a Learning Analytics policy for review by our institutional task group. It was a relatively detailed policy which covered the following sorts of topics:

  • Definitions
  • Sources of data for learning analytics
  • Sources of data for learning analytics
  • Initiating learning analytics activities
  • Transparency and consent
  • Privacy and access to data
  • Retention and disposal of data
  • Validity and interpretation of data
  • Supporting positive interventions
  • Enabling students to reflect on their learning
  • Supporting staff to make the most of learning analytics
  • Oversight of Learning Analytics activities
  • Other relevant policies

Ethical values, legal obligations and the reasons for engaging with learning analytics were all embedded in the policy, but as we worked on revisions, considered inputs from external sources, and planned how to consult on a draft it became clear that this detailed policy was likely to beg more questions than it answered without being more explicit about our values and our ethical position upfront. We also had to contend with periods of time where there was limited data protection resource available to the task group, and where the legal basis for processing under GDPR that would be available to us was still being debated in the House of Lords.

At the same time as we were developing local policy, colleagues at Edinburgh (Prof Dragan Gasevic and Dr Yi-Shan Tsai) were involved with the EU Sheila project, developing a learning analytics policy development framework for the EU. There were several key outputs from that project that we used in pre-print form to inform our work:

In particular, the group concept mapping activity carried out by the Sheila project (surveying various European Universities) identified that defining objectives for learning analytics was very important, but also very hard (http://sheilaproject.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/The-state-of-learning-analytics-in-Europe.pdf). As part of our local policy development, myself and Dragan Gasevic met and discussed what we felt were the 6 main purposes for learning analytics in an Edinburgh context, and these were written up into the policy as a means of tackling this issue head-on for Edinburgh.

The literature review on learning analytics adoption that the Sheila project produced also identified various challenges to adoption, and on further consideration I drafted a separate Purposes and Principles document which extracted various of the principles embedded in the detailed policy and responded to many of the challenges and concerns identified in the literature review. Given some of the challenges we were experiencing around clarity on new data protection legislation for resolving areas the more detailed policy, this was the point at which our task group decided to separate the two pieces and start with a consultation on Purposes and Principles only.

The Purposes and Principles were outlined and discussed at Senate in early 2017 and then taken to each School for discussion as part of the consultation plan that Academic Services devised for us. To support this consultation we also developed a webpage that outlined existing research and operational activities in learning analytics at Edinburgh (https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/learning-technology/learning-analytics).

This high-level values-first route proved to be an effective way to start, as consultation with many Schools identified that the level of knowledge and understanding of learning analytics was highly variable across the institution, and that there were significant pockets of concern about ethics and about support for staff and students to make more use of data.

The Sheila project also ran a student survey at Edinburgh during this time period and we were also able to finesse the Principles and Purposes to respond to student concerns and expectations.

In considering how to achieve oversight and governance in the absence of the more detailed policy, and in a potentially quite complex and changing area, we also proposed the establishment of a Learning Analytics Review Group. As we pursue more data-driven operational activities this helps close out an ethical review gap in our operational activities. This governance model is now of interest to colleagues working on institutional data governance activities more generally.

Once the Principles and Purposes were approved, with support from our Data Protection Officer, and more clarity on GDPR we were then able to tidy up the more detailed policy which defines the ‘mechanics’ of how activities can be initiated, what roles and responsibilities exist, what sources of data might be implicated etc. This policy was approved by our Senate Learning and Teaching Committee in May 2018. Importantly, this policy has also been able to link in to other work around data governance within the institution, and formally recognises the role that our institutional ‘Data Stewards’ have to play in the approvals process for learning analytics projects.

Important inputs to the development of policy (as well as the Sheila project inputs) included:

 

About the author


Anne-Marie Scott is Deputy Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services, at the University of Edinburgh. Her background is in the design, management and support for academic IT services, particularly those used to support teaching and learning activities online. Amongst her interests are the use of new media and the open web in teaching and learning, scalable online learning platforms, and learning analytics.

 

Originally published in https://ammienoot.com/brain-fluff/learning-analytics-policy-development/ 

Open Education in Spain

- June 5, 2018 in featured, guestpost, oer, world

Guest post by Gema Santos – Hermosa 


In this post, we’ll review the state of open education within the European context – and, more particularly, in Spain – with a special focus on higher education institutions (HEIs).

There is often no common understanding regarding contemporary open education (OE), and it is usually confused with open educational resources (OER). Nevertheless, OE goes beyond, proposing a mental shift towards allowing the implementation of a number of practices focused on openness (Going Open Report, JCR, 2017). In this sense, the perspective is extended to enable a comprehensive view, thus encompassing practices such as the use of ICT in education, innovation in pedagogy and staff training, the use and development of OER, the massive open online courses (MOOCs), and the engagement in open science activities.

Open education is “in vogue” in Europe

Ever since OE was identified as a potential solution to some of the challenges detected in the EU educational systems, there has been a growing interest in establishing an OpenEdu framework (European Commission’s Communication of Opening up Education, 2013). The core dimensions of OE for HEIs have now been identified as well as several policies and recommendations (Opening Education’s Support Framework, 2016; OpenEdu Policies, 2017 & 2018).

Recently, the relevance of OE has been reinforced by the consideration of “open and innovative education and training” as part of the strategic framework for European cooperation in Education & Training (ET2020). Meanwhile, OE is not just a bureaucratic issue, but a topic of discussion among researchers, practitioners, policy makers, educators, librarians and students from all over the world, as demonstrated the OE Global Conference 2018.

OE in Europe has improved, but there is still a way to go. This is particularly the case for certain countries, since the initiatives are advancing at different speeds in each of the 28 EU member states.

An overview of open education in Spain

OE is also on the agenda of educational institutions across Spain, which is significant as a starting point.

According to an Open Survey report in 2017, there are some general trends that demonstrate how diverse OE policies can be: legally-binding regulations – such as the National Centre for Curriculum Development in Non-Proprietary Systems (CEDEC) – and non-legally-binding initiatives, such as the mobile app Edupills and EDUCALAB-INTEF MOOCs.

In fact, Spain has many interconnected policies and initiatives that support OE which are mainly addressed to the primary and secondary education levels. According to the four types of policies identified for European countries, Spain falls into the second category (together with Portugal, Lithuania, Italy and Cyprus) characterised by a national policy for ICT in education (OpenEdu Policies Report, 2017). The main stakeholder is the Spanish Ministry of Education, in collaboration with Spanish autonomous communities´ regional governments. The most prominent national policy was the Plan de Cultura Digital en la Escuela, including the OER repository PROCOMUN and the open source tool EXELEARNING. This video presentation at the Second World OER Congress better explains these initiatives.

In higher education, the most common OE approach adopted by Spanish universities has been focused on MOOCs and OER. The relationship between these two practices within the open ecosystem is part of a common strategy, since HEIs that promote the use of OER are also very likely to offer MOOCs, and vice versa (Castaño et al, 2016)

Some HEIs embraced the Open Courseware Consortium (OCWC) by providing specific platforms for open courses (around 30, according to a Report on Spanish OCW). There is also a large participation in the Universia network, which offers OCW projects in Spanish and Portuguese.

In parallel, over the last few years there has been a considerable increase in institutional repositories with OER collections (Santos-Hermosa et al, 2017). While less than half of Spanish universities deposited OER in their repositories five years ago (Fernández-Pampillón et al, 2013), this number has risen to 77.4% nowadays, according to the preliminary results of a recent survey launched by the OER action group which I coordinate at REBIUN (a national network of Spanish university libraries).

Regarding the emergence of MOOCs in Europe, and its different approach with respect to the US model (Jansen & Konings, 2017), Spanish universities’ global supply is remarkable: 35% of Spanish universities have at least one MOOC and they are situated among the top five countries, as for the volume of students (Oliver et al, 2014). During the boom of the MOOC movement, Spanish HEIs participated in two of the main MOOC platforms (Udacity and Coursera), but the most commonly used was Miríadax, which just offers courses from Spanish and South American universities (Sangrà et al., 2015).

Two outstanding Spanish higher education institutes: UNIR and UOC

The Universidad Internacional de la Rioja (UNIR) and the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) are both online universities, their open strategies are focused on digital contexts and in the use of ICT. However, this is not performed in a “classic” way, as in some other blended learning institutions, but involving the use of online simulations and laboratories, mobile learning and further innovative methods.

In addition, both universities have had a historic involvement in OE initiatives over the years in scenarios such as:

In short, both universities have a strategy or policy statement that supports OE. UNIR has recently announced an open education policy which aims to encourage its adoption in teaching and learning practices, and it is the first Spanish university with a policy of this type (UNIR Research, 2018). Also, the UOC is currently working on the definition of an open plan based on its strategic goal of “0303: Open knowledge to everyone and for everyone” and characterised by the correlation of open education and open science (Strategic Plan 2014-2020). In this sense, openness is a multidimensional concept in these two HEIs, since a correlation is being sought between the OE offer, OER and publication in open access routes, as well as the support of open data in research, and open licensing in technology and content authoring.

Thus, we’re heading in the right direction … let’s keep it up!

About the author

Gema Santos-Hermosa hold a Ph.D in Information Science and Communication. She works as an associate lecturer at the University of Barcelona (UB) and a research support librarian at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC). She also chairs the EMPOWER Knowledge Resources expert group within the EADTU university network and coordinates the open learning resource activities organised by the Repositories Working Group within the REBIUN university network.

Her doctoral thesis  discusses the development and reuse of open educational resources  in higher education. Her research interests are OER, open education, open access, repositories, information retrieval and digital libraries.

 

 

 

Open education ecosystem or egosystem?

- May 29, 2018 in advisoryboard, events, featured, guestpost, oer

Post by Vivien Rolfe: Advisory Board, Open Education Working Grup


Illustration by Bryan Mathers https://bryanmmathers.com/pedagogies-of-disruption-as-resistance/


It is my time to reflect on the April #OER18 conference held in Bristol in the UK superbly organised by the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) in April this year. This is the 9th annual UK ‘OER’ conference and it has grown out of the #UKOER programme of HEFCE funding from 2009 – 2012. The community has sustained and expanded, and each year the conference is able to welcome new people interested in open approaches from the UK and around the world.

This year I had the honour of co-chairing the conference. This was a particularly poignant time for me as I had left higher education in the run up to the conference. It was a double honour to co-chair with one of my early OER heroes – David Kernohan. The theme was ‘open to all’ and our vision was to explore the often cited benefits of open on inclusion and impact on students. We certainly were not disappointed with the excellent conference programme and participation at the conference and virtually, including contributions from students.

There are too many highlights to mention, and the ALT have recently collected the array of pre-conference and post-conference blogs and media which knits this community together all year round, supported by the Open Education special interest group #OpenEdSig. There ain’t no stopping us now.

https://oer18.oerconf.org/news/oer18-final-blog-post-round-up/

The conference was a wonderfully enjoyable event but for me it was overshadowed by Twitter comments that followed suggesting that it was disinviting. My conference bonfire was well and truly pissed-upon as we worked particularly hard on trying to be inclusive. Even so, it is important to think about the comment.

It is interesting that over the years there has been an expectation from a very small number of individuals that they should be invited to attend, or attend for free. It is far to easy to jump to conclusions as to what their motivations might be. But we must take the opportunity to critique and try and understand how we got here?

The themes of hospitality and journeying together were strong in the 2017 conference, and we were thinking about how we cannot make assumptions on how others may experience our particular open community, and those many other communities advocating and participating in open around the globe. Sheila McNeill wrote about the need to be hospitable and provide hospitable physical and digital spaces that are welcoming and accessible. (https://howsheilaseesit.blog/2017/04/07/my-oer-open-emotional-response-to-oer17/)

Kate Bowles wrote about how open educators tend to journey together – creating desire paths off recommended and established tracks, and this can be a powerful route for change. However, we cannot suppose that everyone is having an easy time and more often people are not in step with the strategic vision of the institution. (Kate’s conference contribution captured here by Josie Fraser – http://www.josiefraser.com/2017/04/critical-open-educational-practice-in-a-time-of-walls-and-borders/)

Sheila also observed how not to assume how others are feeling, and as explored by Funes and Mackness, this can be a result of the language used around open that can either create an inclusive digital environment or one that sustains the exclusionary structures inherited from our campuses (2018).

So even appreciating what needs to be done to create inclusive open space, combined with the inspirational efforts of ALT to provide access to the conference – free registration for some, digital content and platforms, we are still not there. I wonder if it is therefore useful to explore some of the more personal aspects to this and how our own psychology might come into play.

  • We have all experienced being ‘left out’ – I was a chubby child sporting National Health glasses and was always outside looking in – maybe we carry this imprint that affects our behaviours in later life.
  • The danger of forming a clique and a well-glued together community where the in-humour and references may be excluding.
  • Having been rejected from a group.
  • Being shy. Nobody dreads attending conferences on my own more than me.

I’m no psychologist but I do think that no matter how events try to be cutting-edge and inclusive, we are never going to achieve our ideological goals due to human nature. A more interesting question might be ‘who is responsible?’ I place that equally between the ‘thing’ and the ‘individual’. We can all stretch out a hand to lead someone through an open door, but it is up to them whether they want to enter. Or as my Mum used to say “you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink”. For the horse to then complain that they didn’t get a free drink,, or didn’t have access to the drink, is just ego. Are we part of an open education ecosystem or an egosystem,? (You can do some lovely thinking around this courtesy of the http://daily.stillweb.org/tds1031/).

My final thoughts leaving OER18 this year are to try to be always mindful of those in the open communities around me, but I do also think we need to take more personal responsibility for our being, our presence and our actions.

Mariana Funes & Jenny Mackness (2018) When inclusion excludes: a counter narrative of open online education, Learning, Media and Technology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2018.1444638

About the author

Viv Rolfe (PhD) is an independent open educator and directs three science open educational resource websites (http://vivrolfe.com/open-education/) sharing materials co-created with students, hospital laboratory staff and academics with global audiences. She is involved in the UK Open Textbook Project funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation along with the OER Research Hub and Wonkhe.com, aiming to raise awareness of open textbooks and explore with academics, library and technology staff the possibilities of utilizing the amazing range of books available. As with all of her open education work, she aspires to widen access to educational materials and research, and encourage more open academic practice. She is co-chair of the #OER18 conference to be held in Bristol, April 2018 where global delegates and virtual attendees will discuss the impact of open education on learning and learner inclusion (and exclusion). She is a blogger, #DS106 learner and jazz musician, alongside working full-time as Head of Research for Pukka Herbs. She can be followed as @vivienrolfe on Twitter.