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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).

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.

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.

 

 

 

Illuminating the global OER community with data

- January 29, 2018 in communication, data, featured, guestpost, oer, world

This is the first post of a serie of notes shared by the members of the Open Education Working Group Advisory Board. In this post, Jan Neumann (@trugwaldsaenger ‏) shares the latest news of the OER World Map project

The goal of the OER World Map project is to illuminate the global OER community with meaningful data. It is a structured educational network, which provides a unique identifier for each building block of the OER ecosystem, allowing educational professionals from different disciplines to share their knowledge with hitherto unknown precision and reliability.

Our current focus lies on three main user stories: Connecting OER actors with another, identifying OER sources and providing statistics on OER and Open Education. The underlying data set is extremely flexible and there are so many use cases for it, that it can facilitate interaction and collaboration by scaffolding a wide range of data led activities.

Since being funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in 2015, we have solved many practical challenges. Due to the expansive and generalised scope of the project as well as its high complexity we needed time for cautious approaching the right technical and organizational solutions required by the global OER community.

Last year we claimed to have reached adolescence in the sense that the project started to provide value for the community. Now we are happy, that our maturity level proceeded so that full adulthood will be reached in the course of the year. Nevertheless this does not mean that all problems have been solved and the work is done. Rather it means that the platform has evolved so much, that it is now ready to be adopted by the global Open Education Community with significantly increased intensity. The good news is, that we believe to have proven that centralized data collection makes sense and can be done with reasonable effort.

Lately we engaged strongly in supporting the current German OER funding line. For this, we adopted the platform, so that it can model programs and created a country map which shows only regional entries. The country map was integrated in OERinfo – a recently launched site which aims at providing quality information needed to mainstream OER. We also participated in the creation of a UNESCO-Report and the OER Atlas 2017 which are both characterized by the inclusion of quantitative data received from the OER World Map.

We believe that many of the lessons learned can be transferred to other countries. Especially we believe that country maps will be a reasonable way to address local communities and we hope that many maps for other countries will follow soon! Also we learned, that effective data collection works best, when being driven by a professional editor in cooperation with the local OER community. From this point of view we believe, that the OER World Map provides best results when “top-down” and “bottom-up” elements are combined.

At the same time we are continuously improving and expanding our platform: A German translation was provided, a Brazilian Portuguese version is on its way. In addition, our new functionality to set lighthouses and likes as well as the inclusion of OER awards will support users to find high quality initiatives and good practice examples more easily. Last – but by no means least – we are happy to announce that we launched our new landing page just some days ago!

And there are several exciting developments in the pipeline for 2018. Currently we are working on finishing the refactoring of our complete frontend, which will significantly improve the performance of the system as well as its usability. The inclusion of subscriptions and notifications will provide users with regular updates of information relevant for them. Another major milestone will be the inclusion of subcategories for all data types, which will bring browsing and searching to a greater level of granularity.

So what can you do?

  • If you have not done so yet, please register on the map and show that you share our vision of connecting the global OER community.
  • Please make also sure, that your initiative is on the map and share your lessons learned as a story.
  • For research institutes, government agencies or libraries it can be interesting to host a country map.

If you are interested in learning more, please have a look at our latest presentation. We would love to learn what function you would like to see on the World Map. If you do have any ideas, questions or comments, please contact us (info@oerwordmap.org).

 

About the author

Jan L. Neumann is part of our advisory board and is working as Head of Legal Affairs and Organization at the North Rhine-Westphalian Library Service Centre (hbz) in Cologne, Germany. He studied law, economy and systems thinking and has more than 15 years of experience within international project management for different publishing houses and libraries. He is a member of the Education Expert Committee of the German Commission for UNESCO and blogs about Open Educational Resources (OER) on OERSYS.org. Since 2013 he manages the OER World Map project, which is funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and aims at providing the most complete and comprehensible picture of the global Open Educational Resources (OER) movement so far. Jan is a frequent speaker at OER conferences and participated in the organization of OERde 14, OERde 15 and OERde 16 Festival. Nevertheless he considers himself a non-expert in OER to stress that having the courage to think by yourself is one important aspect of the empowerment which comes along with open education. He can be followed as @trugwaldsaenger on Twitter.

OpenCon Santiago 2017: No more streaks in the water

- January 4, 2018 in data, events, featured, guestpost, oer, world

Guest post by Ricardo Hartley @ametodico and Carolina Gainza @cgainza

When organizing any event, questions always arise; Will enough people come? Do those who have positions to make the changes come? Will come those who should have interest in the subject? Will those who define themselves as pioneers come, but have not provided the spaces of discussion? and perhaps the heaviest of expectations: what will happen next?

Santiago en invierno by Victor San Martin – Flickr – Wikimedia CC BY-SA 2.0

In the case of OpenCon, expectations are related to how this conference is proposed, where per-se is self declared to be more than a conference; rather a platform for the next generation to learn about Open Access, Open Education and Open Data, develop critical skills and catalyze action towards a more open system to share the information, from fields of academic and scientific research, to educational materials and digital research data. That is why the declaration of OpenConference is to be “empowering the next generation to advance in open access, open education and open data”.

Bárbara Rivera López – ¿Es Open Access el fin del camino? Reflexiones alrededor de la economía y política de la producción académica https://figshare.com/s/eca56f9aab7c4db60115  

When the [OpenCon Santiago 2016](http://www.opencon2017.org/opencon_2016_santiago) was held (November 16), it was envisioned with the idea of gathering both passionate people and those who have, as part of their work, the mission to communicate and advise to various levels of our society, both political and business related, access issues.

At that time we talked about various issues that allowed us to have an overview of the issues that concern these different actors. Among these were access to data, the relationship between public policies and open education, ethics in access and communication of information, the social and economic cost of reading and publishing from the academy, among others.

Wouter Schallier from CEPAL presents project LEARN about Research Data Management – by Ricardo Hartley (CCBY)

For the [OpenCon Santiago 2017](http://www.opencon2017.org/opencon_2017_santiago), held on November 25, we had the desire to add more people, organizations and opinions. Therefore, three panels were proposed according to the main areas addressed by OpenCon:

Open Data, Open Education and Open Science. In these panels, we discuss relevant topics to reflect on and define the actions to be taken regarding the Open topic in Chile. In this sense, it is no longer just about opening for opening, but questioning how we should open, how to communicate, how to disseminate, and discuss the best strategies to carry it out.

Werner Westermann introducing Open Educational Resources and Practices at OpenCon Santiago – by Ricardo Hartley (BCCBY)

From these questions arises the need, in our community, to think about the ways in which we will join the Open movement, how we will understand it and how to generate practices that are in harmony with the ways of producing knowledge, sharing and disseminating information in our countries.

@fernando__lopez presenting the OA Latin American Ecosystem – at OpenCon Santiago by Ricardo Hartley (CCBY)

Among other issues that were discussed is the impact factor promoted by publishers that profit from knowledge; how to pass from a citizen science, where really it is involved and built in conjunction with the community, respecting and dialoguing with the knowledge of the latter. It is also important to mention the participation of research in the humanities and the arts, where the question arises as to whether we should only speak of science; when we refer to the Open movement. Finally, it is also important to consider the open culture and its conflictive areas in the area of digital creation and manufacturing.

OpenCon Santiago – by Ricardo Hartley (CCBY)

Therefore, it is noteworthy that this reflection has been developed between people who work in both Private and State Universities, CEPAL, Professional Associations,

Researchers; Associations and Wikimedia Chile, in a space facilitated by the Universidad Autónoma de Chile.

If you want to know more, you can access some of the presentations on the [OpenCon Santiago] platform (https://osf.io/2ac9f/) in [Open Science Framework] (https://osf.io). A platform that allows to leave comments and, of course, express your interest to participate in what will be the OpenCon Santiago 2018.

About the authors

Ricardo Hartley –  PhD in Applied Molecular Biology, University of la Frontera Chile

@ametodico

Carolina Gainza, PhD Hispanic Languages and Literatures Universidad Diego Portales

@cgainza

Open Education in Palestine: A tool for liberation

- October 18, 2017 in featured, oer, world

This year, and thanks to the OpenMed Project, we had the opportunity to travel to Palestine, to the West Bank, to visit the project partners and participate at the Palestine OER strategy Forum. Due to its political history, this trip has let us thinking about why we need a stronger commitment towards promoting Open Education.

Our trip started in Ramallah, a beautiful and vibrant city, where you can see the Mediterranean from distance, but if you were born there, and you don’t have the right credentials, you don’t hold the right to get to the sea, because there is a wall. In terms to access to knowledge and information, the way West Bank’s Palestinians see the Mediterranean, can be used as a analogy to describe what it means for certain countries and people to be able to look at quality educational resources or the papers they need to conduct your research, or to the data they need for their studies, but they can’t use them because they don’t have the right credentials to access them, and the money, because these are locked under a paywall, so, even if these resources have been funded by public money, you may not be allowed to access them, putting you are behind the knowledge fence.

The first day of our trip we visited Nablus and its university [An-Najah], where we were welcomed with cardamom infused coffee and kunefe, and they told us about the history and the current situation of HE in Palestine, they explained us how do they teach and how they are trying to innovate, despite the lack of access to things we normally take for granted, like journals, equipments, technology, or like having an international body of visiting students, academics and researchers, as there are very little visas granted for foreign academics and students and these are very short, which makes almost impossible to have experiences for knowledge transfer, considering that Palestinians have several travelling restrictions too.

The day of the OpenMed – Palestine OER strategy forum started with a presentation on Open Education for Palestine by professor Marwan Tarazi, Director of the Centre For Continuing Education who stated that Open Education is a tool for liberation. He mentioned that under the current occupation, openness becomes essential to Palestine at philosophical level, and that the educators in Palestine need to open up because, in his words “if you don’t open up, someone will do under their own terms, therefore, if you don’t have an agenda, someone else will do“.

His presentation let us thinking, why we do what we do, in the way we do it. At personal level, I do believe in Openness [Open Education, Open Data, Open Access, Open Science, Open Government, Open Policies], yes, but I never considered openness as a tool for liberation, I always thought about it as a human right, as an instrument for social justice, or a tool for active citizenship, but his words were inspiring, because sometimes the concept of liberation has to do with becoming free from colonial and dominant perspectives, when we do work with communities in countries at the so called “global south”, we must are use an approach that supports the development of strategies for opening up education, science and governance accordingly to their own culture and history.

The realities of each region and countries are diverse, as such is their culture, therefore the strategies developed to grant and promote open access to educational resources, to research papers and data cannot follow a standard recipe, in openness it shouldn’t be a one size fits all approach, we need to have some common ground rules but, each country and region should be allowed to have a unique approach, and we should not disregard diverse views on what openness mean.

To make education and science open, we need to consider that certain rules are better to be skipped. Opening up should mean to share, to do things in a transparent way, to collaborate, to support and to provide the tools for educators and students to be critical thinkers, to challenge and to question, to become communities and not to follow a directive which tells you that are open only if you follow someone else’s agenda, openness should be a tool to liberate us from colonialist approaches, so just be open, under your own terms, share, distribute, communicate, participate, engage, having in mind that access to quality education is human right.

*** All the images used in this post have been taken by Javiera Atenas and are licensed under CCBY

**

About the author

Javiera Atenas, has a PhD in Education and is the co-coordinator of the Open Education Working Group and the Education Lead of the Open American Initiative for Open Data. She is responsible for the Open Data agenda, with focus in capacity building across the HE sector towards supporting the adoption Open Educational Practices and policy development.

She works with the OpenMed project for capacity building in South Mediterranean countries and is an associate lecturer at the University of Barcelona, Spain. She has also authored a series of papers and studies about Open Education and Open Data.

Yes we can Inchallah: Morocco OER Strategy Forum

- December 9, 2016 in featured, oer, world

By Daniel Villar-Onrubia Javiera Atenas

This week we had the opportunity to participate in the Morocco OER Strategy Forum hosted by Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech as part of the OpenMed project. We spent two very inspiring days learning with the OpenMed colleagues about Moroccan Open Education (OE) initiatives and discussing future steps for the project. Lots of food for thought and delicious real food! Moroccan hospitality is just fantastic.

Yes we can, if God wills picture by Marcello Scalisi (UniMed)

Yes we can, if God wills picture by Marcello Scalisi (UniMed)

The first day focused on the state-of-the-art of OE in Morocco and showcased relevant experiences and policies in the country presented by guest speakers from several institutions. The day started with speeches by the President of Cadi Ayyad University, Abdellatif Miraoui, and the President of UNIMED, Wail Benjelloun, who stressed that OE should be understood as a Human Right and that it offers an excellent opportunity for ensuring that universities do not become irrelevant institutions for learning in a digital age.

The opening speeches were followed by a presentation of the OpenMed Compendium, a report edited by Coventry University’s Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL) with contributions from all partners that is the main deliverable of the first work package of the project. The document gives an overview of OE in the Middle-East and North African (MENA) region and includes a number of cases studies looking at different types of initiatives that could be taken as a source of inspiration by institutions interested in fostering the adoption of open education practices. The compendium also draws on insights from a series of international experts and offers some recommendations around five key themes:

  • Top-down and bottom-up implementation
  • Supporting staff in using and integrating open practices and open resources
  • Collaborative creation in communities of practice
  • Enhancing the quality of student learning
  • Licensing of Open Educational Resources (OER)

The day continued with a presentation by Ilham Laaziz on GENIE (le Programme National GENIE pour la généralisation des Technologies de l’Information et de la Communication dans l’Education), a governmental programme promoting the adoption of ICTs in education. After that, speakers from several Moroccan universities presented OE initiatives developed at their respective institutions: Université Ibn Zohr in Agadir (by Ahmed Al Makari), Al Akhwayn University in Ifrane (by Hassane Darhmaoui and Violetta Cavalli), Université Mohammed 5 in Rabat (by Ilham Berrada), Université Hassan 2 in Casablanca (by Noureddine Damil) and Khalid Berrada from Université Cadi Ayyad Marrakech presented UC MOOCs. In addition, Ismail Mekkaoui Alaoui (Cadi Ayyad University) presented on the Open Book ProjectYou can see all the presentations in the OpenMed Slideshare page.

The last part of the day was devoted to discussing the OpenMed OER Regional Agenda, following a presentation of the draft by Daniel Burgos and Fabio Nascimbeni (UNIR).

Jemaa el Fna by Daniel Villar-Onrubia

Jemaa el Fna by Daniel Villar-Onrubia

The second day of the forum continued discussions on next steps of the OpenMed project, with a particular focus on the development of institutional roadmaps for the adoption of Open Educational Practices. Likewise, the day included presentation of OER Repositories and Coventry University’s Domains of One’s Own initiative.

Most importantly, the day focused on discussing ways of formalising the good intentions and current initiatives, as one of the participants said: “It is important to coordinate our activities by creating chapeau of action, which is a common place where everyone in the Moroccan Universities can compare and share their practices and learn new ones.” It is key for Morocco to enhance and promote what they are already doing, as mentioned by other participant: “Morocco needs to commit to capacity building for their faculty staff by involving them in Open Education projects, sharing good practice and bringing people together, as communities of practice are the main driver to develop Open Education in every country.”

One of the main conclusions of the forum is that there is already a significant critical mass of OE initiatives in Morocco and the country could indeed play a leading role in the development of this field of practice in the South Mediterranean and, more broadly, the MENA region. However, better cohesion and coordination between universities is still needed in order to spread the principles of OE more widely and foster engagement with initiatives, as well as to prevent the duplication of efforts – e.g. when institutions are producing MOOCs. Other aspects that would require further development are the promotion of research aimed at understanding the adoption of open educational practices as well as efforts to improve awareness, both within and beyond the country, of Moroccan OE initiatives.

Jemaa el Fna by Daniel Villar-Onrubia

Jemaa el Fna by Daniel Villar-Onrubia

As a potential response to some of these issues, it was suggested the idea of working on a declaration at a country level, which could help build a network of institutions and harness support from the government. In this regard, the Scottish Open Education Declaration was discussed as an interesting model. Another measure suggested to help improve the visibility of Moroccan OE initiatives would be translating basic information into English and taking advantage of pre-existing platforms such as the OER World Map.

If you want to learn more about #OpenMed activities on Open Education in the MENA region have a look to their webpage and blog and think about contributing with a video message to their collection of videos of OER experts, helping them to inspire educators into adopting Open Educational Practices.

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-21-15-36

DataLabe: Empowering young leaders from vulnerable communities with Open Data and Civic Tech

- November 3, 2016 in data, featured, oer, world

Blogpost In partnership withscreen-shot-2016-11-03-at-14-23-25

The DataLabe is a project that aims to empower young leaders from vulnerable communities with data skills and civic hacking through technology, open data, processes of political engagement, social mobilization and citizen journalism to ensure they are capable to produce new narratives to support the the development of their communities.

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The Observatório de Favelas, is a Civic Society Organisation in Brazil that collects data about Brazilian slums, which has received a grant from the Open Society Foundations to develop a Data Journalism training course and mentorship project for four young leaders from Rio de Janeiro slums working for 9 months to build a data-driven project related to youth and technology.

The first part of this development consisted of five young fellows learning the basic principles of data journalism with Escola de Dados Brasil. During the four initial months of the lab, each one of them had the opportunity to create a personal project involving data visualization concerning themes that they cared about.

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For example, on the research done by the fellows, Eloi Leones, a fellow from a Favela called Maré, chose to show data about the killings of transgender people in Brazil, gathered by the NGO Grupo Gay da Bahia, since the federal, state or local governments do not collect any kind of information on the subject. Fábio Silva, from the Favela Baixada Fluminense – decided to do a visualization on people’s perception of this location. He collected data from Twitter and scraped news about the zone to see which themes were commonly associated with the Baixada, such as politics, culture/entertainment, violence, urban mobility, education, etc.

Another interesting study is the one done by Paloma Calado, she aimed to know to know which students took the ENEM exam (which people take in order to see if they get scores that are high enough to go to college) in Maré and Complexo do Alemão, two of the most populated slums in Rio, to explore the data from the research center linked to the Ministry of Education. While it was not possible to find out how many young people from Maré have actually taken the test, Paloma could at least find the data on the performance of local schools, which do better than the general national average and the average of the Southeast zone of Brazil.

Another example is the research by Vitória Lourenço, a Social Sciences major that also works as a doula, who wanted to explore data on maternal deaths in the public health system. She collected data from the Ministry of Health to provide a better comprehension on the general profile of the mothers who have died in those facilities, figuring out their age group, how many years they have spent on school, their race, marital status, and so on.

 And since the public services were a cause of concern for some of them, Fernanda Távora thought of investigating the public transportation system. Working with Coding Rights – a brazilian NGO that focuses on digital rights and privacy –, she was able to estimate how much the bus companies knew about the people who live in Rio and use those services. She also tried to convey the flow of personal data that these owners and the government agency that supervises them have access to, including IDs, addresses and routes.

The individual projects can be found at the Data Labe website and the group also has a Medium page to document all the problems they’ve found along the way and to share their personal perspectives on their work, explaining what drew them to the topics they’ve selected, what motivates their current work and what are they doing whenever they can’t follow through the script they’ve originally planned.

The next step of the DataLabe consists of a group effort in order to build a big collective visualization project that answers some questions on the utilization of technology by young people from favelas and how these affect their ways of living. After that, the fellows of the team will organise an intensive training course, replicating the methods learned throughout the project to another 15 fellows who will work with popular communication, and who will be selected through an open call.

About the authors

This post was written by

isis-perfilIsis Reis. Escola de Dados Brazil: She was based at the Open Knowledge Brazil, dealing with content curation and digital media and currently, manages the communications for School of Data Brazil.

020_edNatalia Mazzote:  data journalism Specialist, she coordinates School of data Brazil and is project co-director for Gender studies.

Open Education in South African Higher Education

- November 3, 2016 in data, featured, oer, world

This post, written by Glenda Cox showcases an insightful perspective of the Open Education situation in the South African Higher Education System

As I write this piece in late 2016 Higher Education in South Africa is in crisis with the sector facing a wave of student protests calling for free higher education under the call #feesmustfall and for the ‘decolonisation of the curriculum’. The ideals of transformation following the end of Apartheid in 1994 appear not to have been satisfied and although Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are attempting to rectify what they can, protest action has forced many institutions to suspend their teaching programmes.

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-13-07-53

Fees must fall, Picture by By Ian Barbour; Wikimedia, CC BY-NC-SA https://www.flickr.com/photos/barbourians/22697273532/in/photostream/

Public Higher Education Institutions in SA

South Africa has 26 public institutions of Higher Education. South Africa’s universities accommodate in excess of 1 million students. While SA has the best HE system in Africa, it has flaws and these are becoming very apparent during the #feesmustfall crisis. A major problem for SA, is that while SA has 2 million students in tertiary education, there are 3 million 18-24 year-olds not in education, employment or training (NEETs). For a detailed and expert review of the post-school situation in SA the CHET website has many reports and includes Open Data on http://www.chet.org.za/news/sustainable-higher-education-funding

Shape of Post-school system (http://www.chet.org.za/data/sahe-open-data)

 

Open Education at the University of Cape Town (UCT)

I work at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) and we developed UCT’s first open content directory. The purpose of the initial directory was to provide a place for UCT academics to share OER. That same OER is now shared in the new OpenUCT repository, launched in June 2014 and managed by the UCT Library. Contribution to the UCT OC directory is voluntary.

In 2014, an Open Access (OA) policy was introduced that encourages the sharing of teaching materials. However, there is no specific mandate. There is no financial or status reward or recognition in annual performance reviews for contributing teaching materials to OpenUCT or any other Open platform.

Before the OA policy came into being in 2014, 332 resources had been added to UCT OC on voluntary basis (some with the assistance of small grants). Over 200 lecturers, ranging from young lecturers to A-rated research professors across all faculties at the institution, contributed content to the directory (Cox, 2013). Nevertheless, those who added materials formed a small percentage of UCT staff (10% of approximately 2500 part time and full time academic staff).

UCT also has a Massive Open Online Project (MOOC) project (2014-2017) managed in CILT. Guidelines for what is expected, how materials will be designed and how they will be openly licensed are set out on the CILT website.

Overview of Open Education in South Africa

In May, 2012, the South African Department of Higher Education and Training included a section on the value of OER in their Draft Policy Framework for the Provision of Distance Education in South African Universities (Department of Higher Education and Training, 2014). However, there is no South African national policy on OER as of yet.

Only five of the public HEIs (UCT, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, University of Limpopo, University of Venda and Rhodes) have policy that gives the lecturer copyright to release their materials as OER. The presence of policy does not automatically result in sharing of OER. There are number of other variables which also need to be in place before OER is adopted.

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) was the first South African university to create an OER directory. Although the initiative was strongly supported by university policy, the path to sustainability has been a slow one with only a few lecturers participating. “Getting actual buy-in from participants” was acknowledged as important for the future of the UWC involvement in OER (Keats, 2009:54).

The University of South Africa (UNISA) launched an OER initiative in 2012 which included developing a UNISA OER Strategy. This must still be operationalised and encoded in formal policy, but the Strategy suggests that this ideological commitment to openness may eventually pay off in concrete policies, mechanisms and actions.

There is some recent interest from Stellenbosch University, although the institution’s focus is still on Open Access (Van Der Merwe, pers. comm.). Additionally, the University of Pretoria, Faculty of Veterinary Science launched AfriVip in 2014. The national landscape of Openness over the past 4 years is slowly shifting.

Barriers to Open Education and lessons from research

The current IDRC-funded “Researching OER for Development in the Global South” project (ROER4D) seeks to build an empirical knowledge base from across South America, Africa and South and Southeast Asia (Hodgkinson-Williams, 2013). Sub Project 4, for which I was the lead researcher, focused on three South African universities – UCT, the University of Fort Hare (UFH) and UNISA and aimed to understand the factors shaping lecturers’ motivations and concerns regarding OER use and creation. There are a number of fundamental structural issues that needed to be considered and in place before an institution can be considered “OER ready”. If any of these factors – access, permission, awareness, capacity, availability or volition – fall below a critical minimum of operational acceptability, it will comprehensively impact OER decision-making and activity at the institution. We also found that the type of institutional culture that exists at a university will have a powerful impact on the types of options institutions have for engaging with OER.

Open Education in SA: The future

Currently, it is difficult to gauge the impact of existing OER in HE in SA. Crucially, UCT will be hosting the Open Education Global conference in Cape Town in March 2017 in association with the Open Education Consortium for the first time in Africa, and it is hoped that this event can increase awareness and give African-based colleagues an opportunity to attend a conference locally that in this resource constrained environment would be difficult otherwise. The conference with its theme “Open for Participation’ welcomes delegates from all education sectors, the community and government.

In South Africa we wait to hear how events will unfold over the next few weeks but the effects are already being felt as 2016 draws to a close. In this time of crisis the sharing of teaching materials and the development of open educational practices across HE must be seen as a priority- we cannot afford to reinvent the wheel. It is up to Open Education advocates to show institutions and lecturers the value in sharing.

About the author

glendaDr Glenda Cox is a senior lecturer in the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching  (CILT) the University of Cape Town and her portfolio includes Curriculum projects, Teaching with Technology innovation grants, Open Education Resources and Staff development. She has recently completed her PhD in Education and her research focused on using the theoretical approach of Social Realism to explain why academic staff choose to contribute or not to contribute their teaching resources as open educational resources. She believes supporting and showcasing UCT staff who are excellent teachers, both in traditional face-to-face classrooms and the online world, is of great importance. She is passionate about the role of Open Education in the changing world of Higher Education.

An Overview of Open Education Policy and Practice in Scotland

- September 21, 2016 in communication, featured, oer, world

This post, has been written by Lorna M. Campbell, OER Liaison – Open Scotland, University of Scotland, and presents  an overview of current open education initiatives in Scotland. This report, which is based on a paper presented at the ALT Conference at the University of Warwick in September 2016, provides an overview of a number of open education initiatives taking places across different sectors of Scottish education throughout 2016.

Dunnotar Castle (by Macieklew - CC BY-SA 3.0)

Dunnotar Castle (by Macieklew – CC BY-SA 3.0)

Open Scotland

Open Scotland http://openscot.net/ is a cross sector initiative that aims to raise awareness of open education, encourage the sharing of open educational resources, and explore the potential of open policy and practice to benefit all sectors of Scottish education. The initiative was launched in 2013 and was originally supported by Cetis, ALT, SQA and the Jisc RSC Scotland. Since 2015, the University of Edinburgh has provided a home for Open Scotland, with additional support provided by the ALT Scotland SIG. Open Scotland maintains a blog which acts as a focal point to engage the community and disseminate news and developments relating to all aspects of openness in education in Scotland and further afield.

Scottish Open Education Declaration

Open Scotland also supports the Scottish Open Education Declaration an open community draft based on the UNESCO OER Declaration which broadens the scope of the guidelines to encompass all aspects of open education. The ALT Scotland SIG has contacted previous Scottish Government education minsters, Mike Russell and Angela Constance to raise awareness of the Declaration, and in both instances met with an encouraging but non-committal response. In May 2016, following a Cabinet reshuffle, John Swinney was appointed as the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and the ALT Scotland SIG will bring the Declaration to his attention in the autumn.

Although the Scottish Open Education Declaration has not yet gained traction within Scotland it has generated considerable interest elsewhere in Europe, particularly in Slovenia where the Slovenian government are exploring the potential of adopting it.

Scottish Government

Although the Scottish Government allocated a substantial amount of funding to the Open University’s Opening Educational Practices in Scotland Project in 2014, there have been no further open education funding initiatives and open education does not appear to be high on the political agenda. At best, open education is seen as being somewhat peripheral to Scottish Government priorities, primarily due to the perceived lack of a statistical evidence base supporting the impact of open education on learners.

Opening Educational Practices in Scotland Project

The Open University’s OEPS project, which runs from 2014 – 2017, is funded by the Scottish Funding Council and aims to facilitate best practice in open education in Scotland. The project undertakes a wide range of activities include running workshops and events, providing expert guidance, collating case studies and supporting open practice communities. The project has been particularly successful in engaging with third sector organisations including Scottish Union Learning and Parkinson’s UK. OEPS recently launched a number of open courses developed in collaboration with partners including Understanding Parkinson’s with Parkinson’s UK; My Seaweed Looks Weird, with UHI and the Scottish Association for Marine Science; and Becoming an Open Educator.

Glasgow Caledonian University

Glasgow Caledonian University became the first university in Scotland to approve an interim open education resources policy in 2015  . The policy defines what OERs are, explains why GCU supports their creation, sharing and use, and gives advice on how to cite third party resources.  GCU Library is now undertaking advocacy work and providing training to raise awareness of OER and the policy. The University has also recently established the EdShare repository to manage teaching and learning resources; 300 resources have been deposited in the first 6 months of which 40% are open access.

University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh’s has also approved an OER policy, which encourages staff and students to make informed decisions about using, creating and publishing OERs to enhance the quality of the student experience. This policy is underpinned by an OER vision which builds on the history of the Edinburgh Settlement, excellent education and research collections, traditions of the Enlightenment and the University’s civic mission. The University also has an OER Service which undertakes a wide range of activities that support staff and students to engage with OER, and help the institution to mainstream digital education across the curriculum.

Rather than implement an OER repository, the University of Edinburgh releases OERs through a wide range of platforms, including flickr, TES, YouTube, Sketchfab, Wikimedia Commons and Media Hopper, the institution’s own media asset management platform. These resources are then aggregated into the University’s one stop shop for open education resources, Open.Ed.

Edinburgh also recently became the first University in Scotland to employ a dedicated Wikimedian in Residence, as an advocate for openness the Wikimedian in residence delivers training events and workshops to further the quantity and quality of open knowledge and enhance digital literacy through skills training sessions and editathons, and redress the gender imbalance of contributors by encouraging more women to engage with Wikimedia and enhance the coverage of articles about women.

Edinburgh’s efforts in supporting open education were recognized earlier this year, when the University was awarded Wikimedia UK’s Partnership Award for hosting the OER 16 Open Culture Conference, and the Association for Learning Technology awarded the Open Education Team third place in the Learning Technologist of the Year team awards.

University of Dundee

Although Dundee has not yet approved an OER policy, the University is hoping to progress to one in the future. Dundee are currently sharing open licensed student developed content through Vimeo and Flickr channels, including a showcase of OER from Masters in Medical Art students. The School of Dentistry is also using Sketchfab to share CC licensed dental models developed by students. MOOCs

Many Scottish universities have developed MOOCs which are running on a number of commercial platforms including FutureLearn, Coursera and EdX. Although MOOCs are a significant part of the open education landscape, engaging with MOOCs does not necessarily equate to engaging with open education. Only two universities that run MOOCs have developed an OER policy, however anecdotal evidence suggests that a number of institutions are rethinking their MOOC production strategies with a view to making the process more open and sustainable.

FE Sector

The FE sector is still bedding down after the upheaval of regionalization and mergers. As a result merging institutional systems and creating shared infrastructure has become a priority, however engagement with open education is low. The Re:Source OER repository previously hosted by Jorum has been moved to a new repository ResourceShare, supported by the College Development Network. However while the sector is accepting of open educational practice and OER in theory, colleges tend to be cautious in actual practice and there is more interest in the walled garden approach to sharing educational content. The is some interest in the Blended Learning Consortium led by Heart of Worcestershire College and a number of Scottish colleges have subscribed to join the closed consortium.

Jisc

Jisc announced the retirement of the national Jorum OER repository in 2015 and the service will finally close at the end ofSeptember 2016. Jorum customers have the option of migrating copies of their content from the repository and selected resources are being migrated to the new Jisc App and Resource Store which will host free and open licensed content alongside paid for content. It remains to be seen how receptive the sector are to this approach with some within the open education community cautioning against the risk of open washing.

ALT

The Association for Learning Technology is playing and increasingly active role in supporting open education in Scotland. In addition to supporting the Open Scotland initiative, the ALT Scotland SIG liaises with the OEPS Project, hosts annual events to showcase the use of education technology and open education across sector, brings together policy makers at an annual policy summit and raises awareness of open education at Scottish Government level.

National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland launched a new strategy in 2015 and continues to review its open licensing policy with a view to making more of the library’s collections openly available. All images up to 1000px, core metadata and OCR scanned resources are now licensed CC BY, unless the library does not own the copyright, metadata supplied to Europeana is licensed CC0 and high resolution images, extended metadata and manually transcribed resources are licensed CC BY NC SA. In addition, the Library is planning to share more images through Wikimedia Commons.

Summary

Although there is significant engagement with open education within individual institutions across Scotland, the Scottish Government has yet to recognise the value of open education to expand access to education, widen participation, and support social inclusion. However 2017 marks the anniversary of two significant open education initiatives; the tenth anniversary of the Cape Town Declaration and the fifth anniversary of the UNESCO OER Declaration. These anniversaries will be marked by significant global events and it is possible that these can be leveraged to raise awareness of the value of open education within the Scottish Government and to drive forward the development of national open education policy.

Acknowledgements

With thanks to Sarah Cornelius, University of Aberdeen; Sam Coulter, University of West Scotland; Linda Creanor, Glasgow Caledonian University; Kerr Gardiner, University of Glasgow; Marion Kelt, Glasgow Caledonian University; Natalie Lafferty, University of Dundee; Kenjij Lamb, College Development Network; Joe Wilson, joewilson.net

About the author

lornaLorna has almost twenty years experience working in education technology and currently works as OER Liaison – Open Scotland within the Learning, Teaching and Web division at the University of Edinburgh. Lorna has a long standing commitment to supporting open education technology, policy and practice; she leads the Open Scotland initiative and was co-chair of the OER16 Open Culture conference.  Lorna maintains a number of blogs including Open World http://lornamcampbell.org/ and http://openscot.net/ and is a Trustee of Wikimedia UK and the Association for Learning Technology.