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Open education ecosystem or egosystem?

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

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

Illustration by Bryan Mathers

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

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

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

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

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

The themes of hospitality and journeying together were strong in the 2017 conference, and we were thinking about how we cannot make assumptions on how others may experience our particular open community, and those many other communities advocating and participating in open around the globe. Sheila McNeill wrote about the need to be hospitable and provide hospitable physical and digital spaces that are welcoming and accessible. (

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariana Funes & Jenny Mackness (2018) When inclusion excludes: a counter narrative of open online education, Learning, Media and Technology,

About the author

Viv Rolfe (PhD) is an independent open educator and directs three science open educational resource websites ( 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, 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.

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  

When the [OpenCon Santiago 2016]( 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](, 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 ( in [Open Science Framework] ( 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


Carolina Gainza, PhD Hispanic Languages and Literatures Universidad Diego Portales


Webinar: Open Access and its value for Open Education

- October 23, 2017 in events, openaccess, openaccessweek


In occasion of Open Access Week, the Open Education Working Group is organising a Webinar in which Teresa Nobre, Ivonne Lujano and Graham Steel will discuss Open Access and its value for Open Education.


The Webinar will be on

Wednesday 25th of October at 14:00 CET

and can be accessed on the


Teresa Nobre is an attorney-at-law based in Lisbon, Portugal, and a legal expert on copyright at Communia International Association on the Digital Public Domain. She is also Creative Commons Portugal legal lead. She coordinated the research projects Educational Resources Development: Mapping Copyright Exceptions and Limitations in Europe (Creative Commons, 2014), Best Case Scenarios for Copyright (Communia 2016), and Copyright and Education in Europe: 15 everyday uses in 15 countries (Communia, 2017). Teresa holds a university degree in Law from the University of Lisbon Faculty of Law (2003) and a LL.M. in Intellectual Property from the Munich Intellectual Property Law Center (2009).

Ivonne Lujano is a lecturer at the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico, working to advance future teachers education. Since 2011 she has been advocating for Open Access in Mexico and Latin America. First, in Redalyc (OA journals database) where she was part of the journals assessment department; and now as the ambassador of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) in Latin America, where she currently collaborates with several universities and research centers promoting best practice and transparency in journals. She recently published a paper on journals evaluation systems in Latin America. Ivonne is part of the OpenCon community since 2014.


Graham Steel is involved in advocating for Open Access/Science/Data and acts in an advisory capacity for Open Knowledge and the Public Library of Science (PLOS). As of January 2015 – August 2016, he acted as Community Manager (then Social Media Manager) at ContentMine.

Webinar on Open Education and Open Science: a summary

- April 18, 2017 in communication, events, oer, open science

This is a summary of a recent Webinar in which Guido Scherp, the Coordinator of “Leibniz Research Alliance Science 2.0” (LRA) and Lorna Campbell, one of our Advisory Board members and expert in open education, answered some questions about the recent International Open Science Conference 2017.

The Conference, which had a special focus on OERs, was organised by Guido, and Lorna was an invited speaker with a keynote on “Crossing the Field Boundaries: Open Science, Open Data & Open Education”.

I started by asking Guido about the purposes of the “Leibniz Research Alliance Science 2.0” (LRA).

Guido: “LRA was founded in 2012 as an answer to the changing context of research, in particular the increasing digitalisation: researchers are now using blogs, twitter, social media, academic social networks and other various online-tools to share or conduct research, a phenomenon that has been named ‘Science 2.0’. These dynamics are changing the scientific system by producing new outputs and new publication formats. The scope of LRA is to examine the effects of Science 2.0 and Open Science on research and publication processes and to provide strategic instruments for interdisciplinary research among member institutions that are open for collaborations with universities and other research institutions.

Guido then explained the difference between Science 2.0 and Open Science with the example of using Google Docs to collaboratively write a research paper, which is then published in a closed access journal. This would be an example of Science 2.0 which is not, however, Open Science. Of course Science 2.0 fuels Open Science, and vice versa.

Of particular interest for the Open Education Working Group was the thematic focus of the conference, which was on OERs. Hence my question on the reasons for this particular choice.

It was interesting to learn that not only within LRA there is a special interest group Open Science in Education, but also some partners of the LRA have educational background and are involved in OER-related projects. For example one partner is building the OERInfo platform, a central hub for OERs in Germany.

Lorna highlighted that it is indeed very timely to bring the Open Science conference under the umbrella of Open Education this year, as 2017 has been designated as the Year of Open, as a result of a series of anniversaries that are taking place this year. For example it is the 15th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative  and the first Creative Commons licenses, the 10th anniversary of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration and the 5th anniversary of the Paris OER Declaration.

We also talked about the role of Wikipedia and Wikimedia in Open Education.

The role of resources like Wikipedia and all Wikimedia tools is very important in Open Education. Lorna nicely explained that “…certainly here in the UK we have an increased number of Wikimedia residents working at not just galleries and museums, but also at Universities […] and that is really about embedding open knowledge in higher education, so that Wikimedia effectively becomes a digital literacy tool and an open knowledge tool. So it’s not just about using the information out there but it is also about creating open knowledge by editing Wikipedia, using Wiki data etc…”.

The next question was about the value of Open Education in Open Science.

For Guido, the most important element in this discourse is that Open Science practices must be taught: scientists (and the public) must learn Open Science practices and OER can be used for this. So the main point is to “apply open science practices when you teach open science”.

Lorna agreed that there are many commonalities between Open Science and Open Education, and that each can benefit from the other. “Certainly in terms of Open Education there’s a lot that Education could give from having greater access to open data of all kinds and I think that if students and teachers have got access to open science data for example, that’s an immensely powerful learning resource. Javiera and Leo through this working group have written a very important report on Open Data as OERs and I certainly think that’s one area in which Open Science can contribute significantly to Education. But of course there’s the other way and I think Open Education has a lot to offer to Science Education and Guido spoke about the importance of public engagement, and I think that’s an important area”. Lorna went on describing a recent project at Edinburgh University, in which students were involved in public engagement and created some OERs.

I then asked Lorna, referring to her keynote, if she thinks the boundaries between Open Science and Open Education are still quite rigid and, in that case, how we could contribute to loosen them up.

Lorna’s insight was, as usual, really interesting: “Well, I think this conference is exactly the way we can start to break down these boundaries. I think there is a tendency that we work in our ‘Open Silos’… we have Open Education, Open Access, Open Science, Open Data…  and, you know, we are all working in one thing and making good progress, but there’s not quite enough inter-connection, I think, between these areas. So anything that helps break down these barriers could be a good thing, and especially conferences, like this one, that  really extends the welcome to people working in education are really, really important” […] “A lot of this has to do with keeping these communication channels open, and remembering that we do have a lot that we can learn from each other. I certainly tend to see Open Education, Open Science, Open Access, Open Data as all part of an Open Landscape and we just need to go ahead, learn how to navigate them and reach across these boundaries”.

So, that was a lovely share of experiences and insight from both Lorna and Guido, which definitely contributed to a better understanding of what Open Science and Open Education have in common, and also facilitated critical reflection on what us, Open Educators, need to learn from Open Scientists (and vice versa).

It is particularly interesting to see that the Open Landscape seems to be inhabited by several ‘Open Silos’, but the boundaries are definitely getting more and more blurred.


Open Science Conference 2017: a Webinar with Lorna Campbell & Guido Scherp

- April 6, 2017 in communication, events, featured, oer, open science

What do Open Science and Open Education have in common? Why is it important to speak about Open Education and Open Science? What do us Open Educators need to learn from Open Scientists and vice versa? Do we need to blur the barriers and boundaries that tend to separate these areas of openness, how and why?

To answer all these questions, and many more, the Open Education Working Group is pleased to host a Webinar with Guido Scherp, coordinator of the Leibniz Research Alliance Science 2.0.

Guido will kindly answer some questions on the highlights and outcomes of the International Open Science Conference 2017, which had a special focus on OER.

We will also have a very welcomed contribution from Lorna Campbell, who was an invited speaker at the conference and presented on Crossing the Field Boundaries: Open Science, Open Data & Open Education.


See below the Webinar recording.

OER Festival in Berlin – How An Open Event Inspires Open Educational Activities in Germany

- March 17, 2016 in events, featured, guestpost, oer

ber1Last week the OER community celebrated its first OER Festival in Berlin which consisted of an OER Camp and an OER conference/forum (here is the German website). After the successful OER13 and OER14 conferences in Germany, the goal was to broaden and intensify the debate about OER with relevant stakeholders. In this regard, two additional OER projects are worth mentioning as they are funded by the German government and targeted at “Mapping OER” and synthesising affordances and requirements for infrastructure on which OER-related systems can be built and integrated (feasibility study). These projects have then led to a call for proposals from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for (1) building and establishing a centre for information (and support) related to OER and (2) training for multipliers.

The OER Camp in Germany was based on an innovative format called BarCamps: these camps are participant-driven conferences, in which attendees share and learn in an open informal environment. Unlike traditional conferences that pre-schedule a programme, BarCamps rely on input from attendees to create the session programme on the spot and collaborate ad hoc on emerging topics.

Session planning with all OERCamp attendees Photo by “jmm-Hamburg” under CC BY 2.0 Generic

Session planning with all OERCamp attendees Photo by “Jmm-Hamburg” under CC BY 2.0 Generic

Since 2012, several such camps have taken place in Bremen, Bielefeld and Berlin. On top of the ad hoc sessions, some workshops are offered by the members of the emerging OER Camp, who are practitioners and educators in media for education, adult educators, school teachers, researchers, policy-makers, educational publishers, and OER advocates.

The main goals of the OER Camp are to:

  • Network and connect stakeholders across diverse educational domains
  • Share knowledge and expertise on OER
  • Spread the word on existing as well as new initiatives
  • Promote open education among educational practitioners and to decision-makers and policy-makers

Why did we choose the initiative as good practice? 

The events are very participatory, incubate new ideas and attract attendees with diverse backgrounds.

OER Atlas 2016 - Publication on OER stakeholders and activities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

OER Atlas 2016 – Publication on OER stakeholders and activities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Also, the OER Camp has directly or indirectly produced the following outcomes (there are more that could have been selected):

  • The low threshold to initiate discussions and share knowledge has been the main driver of a growing OER grassroots community in the German-speaking countries. Several established educational platform providers for school education have started to license resources with Creative Commons.
  • The event built on and strengthened an existing community on OER which has had a major influence on the growing political support for the topic in Germany, e.g. the availability of national funding for awareness raising and further education measures.
  • A concise guide for teachers on the objectives behind OER, Creative Commons licenses and the main educational repositories/platforms has been developed by OER Camp participants from Austria and has been remixed and adapted to the German context
  • Plans to issue an OER award were discussed openly during the OER Camp 2015 and put into practice early 2016. Also as a result of the award plans the event grew into a 2-day BarCamp and a 1-day forum involving 7 partners, 30 supporters, 272 registrations, and 109 speakers.. The organisers presented all submissions in a CC-BY licensed publication that gives a good insight into the current OER landscape.
OER Award 2016 Photo under CC0 (Courtesy of Karl Kirst)

OER Award 2016 Photo under CC0 (Courtesy of Karl Kirst)

So it has been an exciting time and a great opportunity to talk about the latest developments of OER in Germany.

  • OER has been established as an important topic in contemporary education. After its slow uptake in German-speaking countries, OER has gained considerable momentum and more and more people from different sectors are now involved. What can be seen in this “OER-socialisation process” is that there is a set of shared beliefs about what OER should be, but less agreement on how we should bring about changes in the educational systems.
  • Although there is growing interest in OER, the discussion on procedures to mainstream OER is at the beginning. It is an interesting process to watch as arguments like “everything that is paid by the public/state should be OER” turn out to be much more complex than initially thought.
  • We are on the verge of reaching a next level as indicated by the afore-mentioned political initiatives.

Overall and to sum up this brief review, it was an inspiring OER event given the diversity of formats and the nicely orchestrated opportunities for discussions. There are exciting times ahead of us and it is in the hands of all of us to keep OER going.

About the authors

ACT Anne-Christin Tannhäuser is a project coordinator in technology-enhanced learning and open education programmes and a consultant on educational innovation. She holds a Master’s degree in Educational Sciences and Linguistics from the University of Leipzig and she was trained at the Max Planck-Institute for Human Development, Berlin, in the use of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. In the past seven years she has managed and contributed to several TEL initiatives at national and European levels, including for the European Foundation for Quality in E-Learning, Cooperative State University Baden-Württemberg, Knowledge Information Centre Malta, Wikimedia Germany, University of Applied Sciences Ruhrwest, Linnaeus University and the Institute of Prospective Technological Studies (European Commission) in the field of open education, recognition of open learning and evaluation/communication of R&D projects. She coordinated the Open Access journal INNOQUAL, the International Journal for Innovation and Quality in Learning, for two years. She is also an associate researcher at the Berlin campus of ESCP Europe, a private business school with six locations in the EU.

Dr. Markus Deimann

Dr. Markus Deimann, has since September 2013 been Assistant Professor (Akademischer Rat) in the Department of Instructional Technology and Media at FernUniversität Hagen. He completed his studies of Educational Sciences and Political Sciences at the University of Mannheim. Afterwards he worked as Research Assistant on the Project BMBF “Mulitmediales Fernstudium has been Medizinische Informatik (MEDIN)” (Multimedia-based Distance Study Medical Computer Science) at the Technische Universität Ilmenau (Ilmenau University of Technology) and at the University of Erfurt. Furthermore, he was a Visiting Scholar at the Florida State University, Tallahassee (USA) for one year. In 2011 he was a Scholarship Holder at the Open University (UK) for three months.

** (Part of this column was published in**

Oer15: Window Boxes, Battles, and Bandwagons

- April 20, 2015 in events, featured

So OER15, with its theme of ‘Mainstreaming Open Education’, introduced a bit of a quandary. On the one hand recent times have seen a fair amount of Open Washing (Audrey Watters definition: “having an appearance of open-source and open-licensing for marketing purposes, while continuing proprietary practices“), and on the other mainstreaming often means compromises. Changing the world is never easy…

The OER conference is now in its 6th year and continues to be organised as a community event by stakeholders interested in the progression of OER. This year the host city was Cardiff, a seemingly perfect fit due to the recent Open Education Wales policy. There is no doubt that there a buzzing community interested in OER in the UK and beyond exists, but is this still the same players who saw the potential of OER many moons ago, or have things moved on? Has OER moved into the mainstream and are Open Practitioners becoming the norm?

Video showing highlights from the event Produced by the CADARN Learning Portal in cooperation with OER15.

There were over 100 sessions so it was incredibly hard to know what to focus on but here are some of the themes that emerged for me.

Open by Default

With over 27 million buttons (licenses) created per day Creative Commons have officially made it, but to some extent openness is now a victim of its own success. Cable Green, Director of Global Learning at Creative Commons, gave an opening plenary in which he called out those who are using the term open content when not adhering to the 5 Rs – reuse, revise, remix, redistribute, retain. Cable explained that we should not tolerate ‘rented content’ in education and that currently the way we spend money on public education is immoral and unethical – all publicly funded educational resources should be open. In the US the cost of textbooks and the implications of this on students has really driven the open movement. Creative Commons would like to see a world where all textbooks are online and can be printed out, resulting in the saved money being spent on teachers. There is still work to be done raising awareness by faculty but projects including z-degree (entire degree programme is OER) have made progress. Alongside open textbook work Creative Commons have been carrying out extensive policy activity (see the Open Policy Network and the Institute for open leadership) advocating for public funding bodies to set the default when giving money to open i.e. an open licence requirement – all publicly funded resources should be CC0 licence with no embargo period. Cable highlighted new work which involves shifting our learning to solving global grand challenges – water shortages; environmental issues; complex problems, and also a look forward to how open data fits in the space. Cable concluded by highlighting work they are doing to see what market penetration looks like for OER. Add your insights to the Google doc.

When it comes to policy one interesting observation was made during the policy panel session by Alek Tarkowski of Centrum Cyfrowe Poland– he pointed out that we often squirrel away in the background working on openness feeling like nothing will change, and then suddenly policy catches up. The work you have been doing becomes relevant. Change is both very slow and then very quick – you need to be ready.


Open Policy Panel: Nicole Allen (SPARC), Lorna Campbell (Open Scotland), Cable Green (Creative Commons), Alek Tarkowski (Centrum Cyfrowe)

Managing the Middle of Mainstream

One of the stars of the event was Sheila MacNeil, with her thoughtful and conversational look at what it means to be an open practitioner while working in the mainstream (away from research projects.) As a Senior Lecturer in Blended Learning at Glasgow Caledonian University Sheila MacNeil is now as ‘middle of mainstream’ as you can get (by mainstream we are here referring to the “generally, the common thought of the majority”). She is the target area (teaching academics) that OER advocates are trying to reach. Sheila explained that despite her personal beliefs open is a balancing act (take her slide presentation tool of choice Haiku deck – she uses it because it’s intuitive and easily cites Creative Commons images). If you are a one-policy pony who bangs on about openness without practical benefits then you are likely to annoy people. Sheila warned us that we should be of little doubt that there are trade-offs in mainstream education, and at times the means justifies the end. Sheila stands by the belief what while content is king, context is majesty and we need to spot inroads to allow us to get open in a conversation, she shared examples from the GCUgames and AltC. At the last AltC elearning practitioners were asked about their priorities, while openness was not one of the top drivers it was seen as being of increasing importance. Often it is about leveraging opportunities and being pragmatic in your approach.

sheila1Sheila reminded us that most of those who work in the mainstream don’t have the luxury of time and resources to develop Open Educational Practices. As a practitioner your arguments may often fall on deaf ears and often you don’t have the energy to fight, so you need to chose your battles wisely. She concluded with her ‘Haha moment’ and a well-executed gardening metaphor. Haha is a device used by landscape gardeners to help create and maintain views/vistas of usually very large gardens – they allow a “them and us” approach by keeping the cattle out of the garden. So Sheila pointed out that open is often far from free. While some can tend their garden and assume the costs, others can’t. However openness shouldn’t be for only those who can afford it. While one approach is the country estate the other approach is guerrilla gardening. Anyone can be a small grassroots guerrilla gardener and do openness in a windowbox. Yet while openness often works there is also a need for walled gardens – spaces in which to develop open practice and reflection. See Sheila’s blog post for further details.

Inequality and Eternal September

Reflecting on her own experiences implementing OER policy among schools in Leicester Josie Fraser proclaimed that if the mainstream is the Internet then we are already part of it. However we need to consider the digital divide and recognise and challenge privilege. A recent excellent post from Audrey Watters on Ed-Tech’s Inequalities came to mind. Josie used the example of the eternal September which recognises the never ending stream of new users coming to Internet to get us to think about what skills these new users need? Digital literacy, yes, but what about critical and radical literacy skills? There is also the idea that digital literacies are situated: dependent on role, location, etc. Josie’s work with those working in the schools sector has begun to bridge this divide. Schools have a culture of sharing and and progress is being made. But to take a statement made elsewhere at OER15 – Fighting the open ‘battle’ is tough when the mainstream doesn’t even know a battle is raging.

From Kevin Mears Sketchnotes

From Kevin Mears Sketchnotes – all images (along with other sketches in this post) are CC-BY)

This blog has covered the OER Schools work in more detail: see the OER Schools Conference report, Teaching Children about Creative Commons Licenses and Teachers, Schools and Technology. Also recommended this post by Alec Couros and Katia Hildebrandt on Developing Teacher Candidates in a Networked World.

I am OER

Sheila MacNeil by Maren Deepwell on Twitter

Sheila MacNeil by Maren Deepwell on Twitter

In her keynote Sheila MacNeil pointed out that we need to start recognising that we, as individuals, are effectively open educational resources on behalf of our institutions and organisations. She then made a call for more people should identify themselves publicly as Open Education Practitioners. One approach here is through Open Professional Development, or as Tony Hirst puts it “learning in public”. Brian Lamb expands on this in his post Open Ends: “In 2015, we hear less about Open Educational Resources as a goal, and more about supporting open educational practice.” Chrissi Nerantzi from Manchester Metropolitan University ran a great session on Open Professional Development concluding with the African Proverb “if you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together.” Chrissi is involved with FLEX, a personal practice-based CPD scheme for new and experienced professionals who teach or support learning in HE. FLEX activities are self-selected and are organised into an academic portfolio.

practionerOver the course of the event there seemed to be many opportunities for us to reflect in a broader way on our own personal reasons for being open practitioners. (See this great Twitter thread – a need for democracy, agency and a belief in education being about sharing and a commitment to fairness seemed to be the dominant factors). What exactly does an OER practitioner look like? Are they able to reflect more on their teaching processes? Who are the allies of open? Is it the Elearning team at institutions, educational technologists who like to try new ideas, librarians, IT services? Or are there factions within those groups?

Fitting Training Wheels for the Open Web

I particularly enjoyed the session led by Brian Lamb from Thompson Rivers University in which he pointed out that while we are busy reclaiming the open web (see the 2012 Web We Lost post by Anil Dash), educational technologists are failing to en-ramp people who are new to the space. These people often end up using their complicated VLE when there are better ways. Brian suggested some approaches in making life easier for those who want to be part of the open movement – see his session blog for full details. Some of the suggestions include: Domain of ones own – providing Web space to members of the University of Mary Washington community that encourage individuals to explore the creation and development of their digital identities; Digital Storytelling (also known as DS106) – an open, online course from the University of Mary Washington developed by Alan Levine, more than a course, a way of life (see this Educause article); OERuniversitas and Splot (Smallest/Simplest Possible/Portable Open/Online Learning/Living Tool/Technology -how great to have a tool with a continually changing acronym!). Splot makes it as easy as possible to post activity to the open web in an appealing and accessible way and it allows users to do so without creating accounts, or providing any required personal information. Lamb pointed out that negative criticism can kill collaboration and that the onus is on us to teach the participatory literacies needed to operate openly. Lets make the open web experience as easy as possible!

Talking of beginners I think the OER review Project and OER Mythbusting, both highlighted at OER15, are great places to start.

Open Access is Stealing Open Education’s Thunder

In the UK Open Access is much further down the mainstream path than OER. We’ve had the 2012 Finch report calling for gold OA over green OA, followed by the RCUK and HEFCE policies. The HEFCE policy states that certain research outputs should be made open-access to be eligible for submission to the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). This requirement will apply to journal articles and conference proceedings accepted for publication after 1 April 2016.

hefceThe question is has OA distracted people away from OER and is there a tension there? Or does the high profile push for open access mean OER can piggy back on the momentum? Has it prompted conversations about Open Education? Is it a route in? Nick Sheppard and Kirsty are witnessing increasing dissonance. In their session on the more things change: synergy and dissonance in Open Access (OA) and Open Education (OE) they explored synergies and dissonance with OE in the contexts of infrastructure, policy and licensing. They argued that to avoid continued commercial exploitation, the fostering of partnerships across the academy is crucial to mainstreaming Open Education. At Leeds Beckett University one approach being explored is a Jorum Window, a branded institutional interface on Jorum. This approach has been taken at Leeds University led by Antonio M. Arboleda. Also while they still support OER through core content subject pages the OER repository is being merged into their repository. They are also using Lib guides to deliver content causing academic staff getting in touch to ask why their work hasn’t been highlighted, which gives the librarians an opportunity to remind them to self-archive.

The cost of not going open

Vivienne Rolfe, University of the West of England, and David Kernohan, Jisc, spent some time looking at models for measuring the cost benefits of OER using both the textbook argument used in the US and the loss of tacit knowledge and physical lesson plans argument. They came up with a figure of 40 thousand pounds costs for each academic not taking materials with them when they move jobs. 64.62 FTE fully costed academic roles would be saved across the whole institution if OE was mandated. They’ve shown their workings here and are after comments.

One alternate argument raised was that of technical debt: the debt caused from the moment a system is not well built or is poorly made i.e the cost of going back and fixing that stuff. This could be applied to the cost of incorrect licensing. The agreed plan (eloquently put by Terry McAndre) that we should identify immoralities and then make the moral case, this will bring more people on board.

Writing our own history

Open Education in the 1990s: Revisiting the History of the Open Education Movement was delivered by Valerie Irvine (via a 4am Skype call) and Rich McCue from the University of Victoria. They looked at the early days of the open education movement, particularly around early OER years ( there is a lack of specific scholarly mention of open educational resources (OER) prior to 1994). There is a real danger that if we don’t step in and record this history then it might be lost.

Through their research Valerie Irvine, Janet Symmons, and Rich McCuehave been looking for pioneers of openness and curating crowd sourced digital stories about and for the early visionaries of open education. With some of these people there is not even an awareness that they were involved in a movement per se. They took a snowball sampling approach through volunteer interviewees. The work has been very much a labour of love and the video will be released by CC BY 4.0.

Here I need to pimp our Open Education Working Group’s Open Education Timeline!

The Day After the Revolution

battleIn his closing keynote Martin Weller talked about the Battle for Openness, not just a metaphor but the title of his excellent book. Martin gave a potted history of openness in education: that it began to be seen a public good > followed by resistance and issues related to unworkability and low quality > the OERs vs MOOCs battle that led to an explosion of interest “Irresistible MOOC media attention” > the ‘Education is broken’ fact/idea > the avalanche report and disruption idea [it’s all about newcomers (people in sector have no value)]. Unfortunately the battle for openness is littered with false dichotomies and hype. One way to rise above this is to think about why openness really matters and what it can it do for us. Openness is not a stick to beat people with (open Stalinism) and sometimes closed is the most appropriate answer.


Martin suggested we look to the French historical tradition of la longue duree and not focus on the big events in human history, but rather on longer cycles. “I think change in higher ed has some resemblance to the evolutionary pattern (although over much shorter timescales) – change happens very, very slowly, and then very, very quickly…In terms of OER then, I would argue we need to embrace both – be prepared for the long haul, but ready to react when the rapid change comes.”

So it seems that in the Open Education and OER world we continue to play the long game…

The theme for OER16 will be Open Content and it will be held in Edinburgh. Thanks to all the organisers of OER15. More details about sessions can be found on the main website and using the twitter hashtag #oer15. The streamed videos are available in a playlist. Open sketch notes for the sessions by Kevin Mears are also available.

The Open Education Working Group exhibited a poster on the Open Education Handbook.

The setting for the conference dinner....I won't mention the Karaoke!

The setting for the conference dinner….I won’t mention the Karaoke!

Open Education Handbook Poster at OER15

- April 13, 2015 in events, featured, handbook

Today and tomorrow we will be at OER15 exhibiting our poster on the Open Education Handbook in the poster display. You can see the poster on Slideshare or download as a PDF.


Where would you go if you wanted to know about the history of open education? What about if you were after a list of editor tools for remixing OERs? Or if you wanted to know more about open learning and practice? How about if you wanted to find out more about OERs and their use in the developing world? Or were considering what affect open education has on education? And what about if you were interested in open education data?

There is a lot of information on open education and OERs strewn across the web but now it has been brought together in a collaboratively written, user-friendly handbook.

The Open Education Handbook is a living web document targeting educational practitioners and the education community at large. It is the result of a crowd-sourced initiative led by the Open Education Working Group: one in the series of over 20 Open Knowledge working groups that has been established to bring together people and groups interested in open education. The handbook has been drafted over a series of online and offline events including booksprints and focused mailing list discussions. Content is key within the handbook and it has a broad coverage considering both practical and factual areas and more discursive topics.

The handbook is currently held in Booktype, an open source platform for writing and publishing print and digital books. Content from the handbook has been translated into Portuguese (Manual de Educação Aberta) surfaced in open education books, featured on Slidewiki and reused in lots of other great places. Late last year the handbook was edited and tidied up. Improvements were made to many areas including overall structure, typos and writing, universal style, fact checking, citations and links, glossary and definitions. An iteration of the handbook was then made available as a PDF and in ePub format.

To realise its full potential as a resource the handbook needs to be allowed to continue to evolve and be built upon. Discussions have already taken place around the future of the handbook and possible ideas include moving it to Wiki books, embedding it within Wikipedia and building a front-end for it to use with Booktype. It is hoped that these ideas can be developed further in discussion with the community.

Would you be interested in contributing to the handbook? Can you help formulate the next steps for this great open resource? This poster will share highlights from the handbook, its development and its future.

The Handbook is available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).


Marieke Guy at OER15 with the Open Education Handbook poster

Marieke Guy at OER15 with the Open Education Handbook poster

Getting ready for OER15!

- April 6, 2015 in events, handbook

So who is off to OER15 next week?

This year’s Open Education Conference (OER15) will take place at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. OER15 is one of a series of annual International conferences which discuss research and practice in the adoption of Open Education in all sectors of Education and Training.


The provisional programme timetable is online and there are some great sessions.The main conference focus will be ‘Mainstreaming Open Education’ along with six sub themes :

  • Impact Research
  • Open Education across Languages and Cultures
  • Learners and Other Communities
  • Open Educational Practice (OEP) and Policy
  • Open Courses
  • Open Education in Colleges and Schools 

The Open Education Working Group will be represented with a poster on the Open Education Handbook.

We are looking forward to meeting up with members of the community from all around the world! See the participant map for a look at the spread of delegates!


OER Schools conference

- February 2, 2015 in communication, events, featured, oer, schools

Last week the Open Education Working Group attended a hugely important open education event: the OER Schools conference held in Leicester. The event was organised to support a landmark decision by Leicester Council to give blanket permission to teachers in the Leicester area employed by the council to share their learning and teaching resources under an open licence. They are doing this through supporting the rolling out of OER policies at individual schools and offering guidance on OER and licencing issues. As Björn Hassler explained in his opening presentation “practice changes and policy plays catch up“. Leicester’s Digilit team’s work and the decision by Leicester council are an attempt to rectify this situation.

The conference was attended by around 50 school leaders, staff and governors from primary, secondary, SEN and specialist schools with the main purpose of introducing the central OER issues to school staff and sharing the guidance that has been developed by the Digilit team.

Panel session: Miles Berry, Josie Fraser, Marieke Guy, Björn Hassler, Richard Hall. Photo by Theo Kuechel on Twitter

Panel session: Miles Berry, Josie Fraser, Marieke Guy, Björn Hassler, Richard Hall. Photo by Theo Kuechel on Twitter

The majority of school staff use and create digital resources to support their learners and schools – including presentations, lesson plans, and study guides. However, the DigiLit Leicester project has identified a gap in support and information for teachers relating to the use and creation of Open Educational Resources (OER). An understanding of OER and open licensing will support schools and staff in sharing and accessing resources, and in developing staff and learner digital literacy skills and knowledge.

The Open Education Working Group contributed to the opening briefing session with a presentation on Open Education around the world (available on Slideshare). The session covered key legal and practical issues for schools – including copyright and open licensing, international approaches, and employment and policy. Videos are available of all the panel session presentations.

There were then a series of hands-on workshops introducing OER, accessibility, the Leicester policy requirements (they are suggesting use of a CC-BY licence) and OER resource building in the area of computing. The aim of the workshops was to raise confidence levels among those who will be involved in implementing the policy.

The event was a really great opportunity to talk to practitioners who are using OERs and may well be creating them in the future. I particularly enjoyed the workshop run by Miles Berry, principal lecturer and the subject leader for Computing Education at the University of Roehampton, working on a series lesson plans to aid teaching about open licensing. I’ll share more on this in a separate post.

Leicester’s activities in this area will hopefully pave the way for other council’s to support their staff’s need to share and use openly licensed materials.

As an aside the Times Educational Supplement announced before Christmas that they are now asking that every free resource uploaded to the TES site is given a Creative Commons licence.

Tweets and photos from the day are available on Eventifier and the DigiLit Leicester account on Slideshhare.