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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.

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.

 

 

 

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

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.

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How students can help EU policies work better thanks to open data and civic technology

- November 30, 2016 in data, featured, guestpost, oer

Post written by Luigi Reggi 

Three small but important steps toward a more participatory EU policy were made in the last few weeks between Brussels and Rome, Italy. They are three episodes of a series of productive encounters between students equipped with open data and civic technology and policy makers managing EU funding.

Civic monitoring of EU funding as a way to assess results

The first episode happened  in Brussels. On November 22, a group of Italian higher education students engaged in a productive discussion with the European Commission – DG Regional and Urban Policy and the EU Committee of the Regions. The debate was focused on the role of open data and public participation to assess the results of the European Cohesion Policy from the point of view of the final beneficiaries.

The team MoniTOreali – composed of students from the University of Turin and led by Alba Garavet, responsible for Turin’s  Europe Direct Centre – had the chance to present the results of an intense “civic monitoring” activity focused on one of the most visible EU-funded projects in the city. Its goal is the renovation of the “Giardini Reali”, the historical gardens of Turin’s Royal Palace, one of the city’s landmarks.  With a total funding of less than 2 million euros, the project is hardly one of biggest investments of EU policy in Italy. However, its central position in the urban landscape gives it the potential to shape the way citizens perceive the contribution of the European institutions to the improvement of their neighborhoods.

The goal of this monitoring was to find out how the EU money was spent and whether the project delivered the promise or not.

The Royal Gardens in Turin, Italy, funded by European Structural Funds. Photo: MoniTOreali

The Royal Gardens in Turin, Italy, funded by European Structural Funds. Photo: MoniTOreali

What MoniTOreali students found was mixed results. While the project should have been completed by 2012, actually it is still under way due to a series of administrative delays. Its implementation is also influenced by a complex social environment, as conflicting social groups have different views on the future of the gardens and this had the effect of stalling policy decisions.

To disentangle this intricate web of relations, the students interviewed experts, citizens and local public administrators. They analyzed the project’s objectives, strengths, weaknesses, history and recent developments in a civic monitoring report, which was published in the independent civic technology platform Monithon, the “Monitoring Marathon” of the European funding in Italy. The students also provided suggestions and ideas on how solve some the project’s issues.

But the most interesting aspect of this experience is that Mrs Garavet succeeded in adapting the methodology of A Scuola di OpenCoesione (ASOC) – which was originally created by the Italian Government for high school students – to a higher education course.  She was able to effectively combine her experience as an activist in the Monithon Piemonte civic community with the more formal, six-step ASOC methodology, which also includes sessions on open data, data journalism, EU funding, and field research.  Earlier this year, Chiara Ciociola, the ASOC project manager, actively participated in the teaching activities in Turin to promote a sort of cross-fertilization between the two communities.  More information on the ASOC method and results is included in the book edited by Javiera Atenas and Leo Havemann.

The idea is that an improved version of the course’s syllabus could be adopted and used by other universities in Italy and in Europe to replicate the same practice, contextualising its application. The fact that all European Countries share the same rules when it comes to EU funding can help spread a common approach.

It turned out that EU officials loved the idea. The main conclusion of the meeting was that participation in the civic monitoring of EU policy could be a way to bridge the gap between EU institutions and the public. Moreover, the spread of these activities across the EU could also help policymakers evaluate the outcome of interventions from the point of view of the local communities. This is particularly important given that, according to recent developments, EU policies will be more and more focused on actual results in terms of real change for the final beneficiaries.

More concretely, the European Commission proposed to use its programme “REGIO P2P” to fund an exchange of civic monitoring practices between EU authorities managing the funds in different Countries.

A new way to communicate policy outputs

The second episode was a stimulating workshop organized by the EU official Tony Lockett at the European Conference on Public Communication. As Lockett describes very well in this report, open data initiatives such as the EU Portal or the DG Regional Policy open data website are probably not enough to get real impact if not combined with effective citizen participation.

In particular, Simona De Luca – representing the OpenCoesione team at the Italian government – showed how independent civic monitoring of EU-funded projects, based on the open data published on the governmental portal, can profoundly change the way the policy is communicated to the public.  While most of the “good stories” about EU funding are selected by a few experts at the managing authorities and then told by communication officers, the idea of relying on real stories by citizens for other citizens makes official communication extraordinarily powerful. People’s stories, based on official data but augmented thanks to new information collected with a sound and shared methodology, can represent not only a potential risk for the government – when the projects don’t match the expectations – but also a great way to show how problems can be solved together thanks to a meaningful collaboration between governments and citizens.

 

Source: OpenCoesione - The Italian open government strategy on cohesion policy

Source: OpenCoesione – The Italian open government strategy on cohesion policy

The third episode happened last week at the Italian annual meeting with the European Commission on EU Cohesion Policy. The Agency for Cohesion, a national administration responsible for monitoring the implementation of EU Cohesion policy in Italy, for the first time used the stories from the citizens to present the results of EU Structural Funds. In particular, a set of good practices from the 2007-13 period was selected based on the civic monitoring reports included in the Monithon platform.  Most of the projects presented were monitored by the A Scuola di OpenCoesione high school students in different locations. The only exception was a project in Ancona, which was the focus of Action Aid’s School of participation.

Although problematic projects were not mentioned at all during the event, the presentation was the first attempt in Italy to represent the results of EU Policy “from the point of view of the citizens”.  A kind of Copernican revolution for official communication that surprised most of the participants.

Current civic monitoring reports as displayed on Monithon.it

Current civic monitoring reports as displayed on Monithon.it

Collaborating with the Open Government ecosystem

These three examples indicate that a process of positive change is under way among European and national administrations that manage EU funds toward a more collaborative management of EU policy.  However, stronger and more stable mechanisms are needed to ensure real participation in the monitoring and evaluation of EU policies.

What seems to drive this change is not only the desire for a more open and inclusive public policy, but also the urgent problem of finding out whether the projects funded really deliver or not. It is in the interest of all actors involved to assess the actual performance of the huge amount of money that flows from the EU budget to the European regions and cities, given the common ambitious goals of sustainable growth, innovation, job creation, social inclusion, and education. I believe that this question cannot be answered only with aggregated figures or econometric exercises. It requires a painstaking, bottom-up assessment of each single project involving local communities, journalists, analysts, and public officials at the EU, national and regional levels.

This is a complex task that public authorities cannot handle by themselves. They need to be ready and capable to collaborate with the whole open government ecosystem composed in this case of

  • open data producers such as OpenCoesione.gov.it
  • government proactive initiatives such as A Scuola di OpenCoesione, which focus on the crucial element of civic learning
  • data users like the MoniTOreali group developing the right skills and expertise to provide meaningful feedback
  • civic tech initiatives like Monithon
  • intermediaries such as local media or NGOs aggregating and interpreting the feedback from the final beneficiaries
  • policy makers willing to listen and act upon the suggestions from the public.

Monithon calls it a “monitoring marathon”, indeed.

If you want to know more about the open government ecosystem of the EU Cohesion Policy in Italy you can read this paper, which develops a conceptual model based on this case.

BIO

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-17-02-16Luigi Reggi is a technology policy analyst at the Italian government and a PhD student in Public Administration and Policy at the State University of New York at Albany, USA. He is interested in Open Government Data, collaborative governance and European Cohesion Policy

 

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.

Open Education Sweden

- September 15, 2016 in featured, world

Sweden has a longstanding tradition of high quality education and it has dedicated great efforts into opening up their educational models and materials. Our next post on Open Education Around the World comes from Dr. Ebba Ossiannilsson who presents an insightful summary of the Open Education initiatives and projects in Sweden.

(See Sweden on the OER world Map)

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Brorsson: Stockholm´s Old Town seen from Skeppsholmen before sunrise, CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikipedia

OER SWEDENoer1

In Sweden there is a growing interest in open publication and the sharing of OER but the pace of development is still slow. There are many questions to be dealt with in this area; for universities, academic management and teaching staff. Teachers across educational sectors require support and guidance to be able to use OER pedagogically and with quality in focus.

Two national projects have been conducted since 2010 on OER: the first one was on OER resources for learning, financed by the National Library of Sweden, and the second one was on open opportunities for learning, financed by the Internet Foundation in Sweden.

Both projects intended to focus in particular on how OER affects teacher trainers and decision makers, and aimed to stimulate an open discussion about collaboration in infrastructural questions regarding open online knowledge sharing.

The objectives of the project were

  • To increase the level of national collaboration between universities and educational organisations in the use and production of OER
  • To find effective methods to support teachers and students, in terms of quality, technology and retrievability of OER
  • To increase collaboration between universities to foster resource sharing, with a base in libraries and educational technology units
  • To contribute to the creation of a national university structure for tagging, distribution and storage of OER.

During the project a series of successful open webinars focusing on the use and production of OER were conducted with a large outreach to the target group. A virtual platform for Swedish OER initiatives and resources was developed. Although both projects are complete the network is still alive as well as the webpage OER Sverige. The network still runs webinars reaching a wide target group nationally, but also sometimes with an international audience.

The webinars focused on the following areas

  • Digital literacy in HE as a prerequisite for OER
  • Bonus Presskopia (Swedish reproduction rights organisation)
  • What are OER and how to work with them?
  • Collaboration between UR (Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company) and universities
  • Quality in e-learning
  • The digital library
  • International trends in OER
  • Metadata and standards

 

Swedish Association for Distance Education (SADE)

sverd_logo_100
The Swedish Association for Distance Education (SADE) is a professional organisation for all those involved in distance learning and flexible learning in Sweden, including open education, OER and MOOCs. SADE was founded in 1984, and is designed to broaden the knowledge of and participate in the development of open flexible education and distance learning.

SADE has run the BOLDIC OER project for more than ten years aiming to explore and disseminate best practice in OER through Boldic Awards: it is also responsible for the International Council of Open and Distance Education (ICDE) Operational Network(ON) BOLDIC, aiming to promote open online learning including OERs and MOOCs.

 

OPEN SNH Open Collaboration For Net-Based Higher Education

snh

OpenSNH is a repository for open academic learning resources The opensnh.se website is a initiative from two Swedish Universities and the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company (UR), to provide their open educational resources under thematic topics allowing for use and reuse in different ways. In the OpenSNH platform there has also been material included from several other Swedish universities as well based on an agreement with OpenSNH.

 

Lektion.se

appel

Lektion.se is the largest site for teachers. It is a meeting and discussion place but most of all, it is a place where teachers can find free learning resources, where teachers can quickly and easily search and retrieve lesson materials and upload their own lessons. Today over 236000 individual teachers and others are members.

MOOCs IN SWEDEN

screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-14-27-05

MOOCa have been conducted in Sweden since 2013, and there were MOOC-like predecessors since about 2003. An example of an early course of MOOC character was the KTH and Stockholm University joint preparatory course “Sommar Matte” (summer maths), which has been held since 2003, and has had up to 10,000 participants per course edition. The course is based on a combination of automatic correction and group assignments which students solve together.

Another early pioneer was Jönköping University, with two courses “Digital Imaging” and “Photography – Visual Communication”, which were studied by 25,000 students between 2007 and 2012. The courses included a large amount of video-based instruction, tutored largely by former participants. The examination was based on students’ written reflections on their learning.

Karlstad University was early to offer MOOC-inspired courses in collaboration with the National Agency for Education, with technical support from Lillehammer University College. Karolinska Institute released its first two MOOC courses in September 2014. The courses hosted by the international MOOC provider edX, and received a total of 50,000 registered participants. Mid Sweden University also released their first MOOC on Digital Design with VHDL in 2014. Lund University started in 2012 an investigation on how to provide MOOC courses worldwide: the first three Lund courses, at Coursera, started in spring 2015. Then Chalmers University offered MOOC courses on edX: they have launched three courses; Uppsala University will start their first MOOCs in October 2016 in collaboration with FutureLearn.

On behalf of the government the UKÄ (The Swedish Higher Education Authority) has investigated since April 2014 if the universities’ educational programs can be broadened, including by use of open online education. UKÄ was asked to investigate whether, how and to what extent, open online education (so-called MOOCs) could be accommodated within the Swedish university system. UKÄ suggested that MOOCs should be offered by Swedish universities and they see many opportunities with MOOCs. The conclusions are here.

Other interesting projects

Open Government Partnership-Sweden

Sweden is partner in the Open Government Partnership, by that Sweden reaffirmed its commitment to open government efforts both in principle and practice. with its long tradition of transparency, citizen engagement and efforts to build an effective and accountable government, embraces the ideas of the initiative. Sweden’s Action Plan and engagement focus on the challenge of More Effectively Managing Public Resources in development cooperation.

 

The Swedish Digitalization Commission

For the past couple of decades, we have been caught up in societal developments that are catalysed, facilitated and driven by digitalisation. These developments involve entirely new opportunities for society and people. The Digitalisation Commission wants to shed light on these developments and on the significance of digitalisation within four areas of society in which there are both opportunities and challenges. The Commission has chosen a structure that divides society up into the following areas: the economy, work, social institutions and infrastructure .

References

 

About the author

ebbaDr. Ebba Ossiannilsson, is an e-learning and digitization specialist. She was awarded the EDEN Fellow title in 2014, and she became an Open Education Europa Fellow in 2015. She is V President for the Swedish Association for Distance Education (SADE), and in the Swedish Association for E-Competence (REK). She is in the Executive Committee of EDEN. She is a national and international researcher and consultant in the areas of open online learning, OER and MOOCs, special on quality, and she serves as a quality reviewer for ICDE and EADTU. Ossiannilsson has a long experience from Lund University within her areas, but also from other Universities in the country where she has worked for longer periods as a consultant, and expert. Ossiannilsson collaborated with the EC ET working group on digital and online learning. She was the research leader for the ICDE study on the global overview of quality models in open online learning and education. She is in the Editorial Board for several Scientific Journals and she is the Collection Editor for the Education Science on MOOCs. She has a comprehensive publication list herself (over 200). She earned her PhD at Oulu University, Finland in 2012 with a dissertation on Benchmarking e-learning in higher education. Ossiannilsson has a passion to contribute to open education for a future we want for all.