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Changing Minds by Using Open Data

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

Guest post by

Erdinç Saçan & Robert Schuwer

Fontys University of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands

The Greek philosopher Pythagoras once said:

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

  • Crime figures
  • Income
  • Level of Education


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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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



Atenas, J. & Havemann, L. (2015). Open Data as Open Educational Resources: Towards Transversal Skills and Global Citizenship. Open praxis7(4), 377-389.

Atenas, J., & Havemann, L. (Eds.). (2015). Open Data as Open Educational Resources: Case studies of emerging practice. London: Open Knowledge, Open Education Working Group. 

About the authors 

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




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

Learning Analytics Policy Development

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

Written by Anne-Marie Scott 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Purposes and Principles were outlined and discussed at Senate in early 2017 and then taken to each School for discussion as part of the consultation plan that Academic Services devised for us. To support this consultation we also developed a webpage that outlined existing research and operational activities in learning analytics at Edinburgh (

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

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

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

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

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


About the author

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


Originally published in 

Open Education in Spain

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

Guest post by Gema Santos – Hermosa 

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

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

Open education is “in vogue” in Europe

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

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

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

An overview of open education in Spain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two outstanding Spanish higher education institutes: UNIR and UOC

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

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

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

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

About the author

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

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




Open education ecosystem or egosystem?

Javiera Atenas - 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.

Adopting Open Textbooks in the UK

Javiera Atenas - March 27, 2018 in communication, featured, guestpost, oer, OpenTextbooks

By Beatriz de los Arcos

In March of 2017 the Open Education Research (OER) Hub received a small grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to assess whether current US models of open textbook adoption would translate to the UK HE context. In a short space of time we put together under the UK Open Textbook Project a team of interested parties, which included David Kernohan and Viv Rolfe this side of the Atlantic, and David Ernst (Open Textbook Network) and OpenStax on American soil.

The cost of textbooks in the US is massive. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that textbook prices have increased by 88% in the past ten years. The average student enrolling in the 2015-16 academic year had to budget between $1230 and $1390 for textbooks and course materials. To put this in context, a loaf of bread is $2.50 and a pint of milk, 40 cents. That’s over 3000 pints of milk and nearly 500 loaves of bread that you’d need to go without in order to purchase your textbooks (and we all know in bad weather what’s the first thing that goes from supermarket shelves). Seriously though, academic performance is also taking a hit: Student PIRGS says that two thirds of students don’t buy a required textbook because they are too expensive, with cost having a negative impact on which and how many courses they register for. Can you imagine how you would cope in your course without the textbook? Research tells us that earning a poor grade, failing or dropping out would not come as a surprise.


The Open Textbook Library defines open textbooks as “textbooks that have been funded, published, and licensed to be freely used, adapted, and distributed. These books can be downloaded for no cost, or printed at low cost”. Because they serve to offset the cost of traditional textbooks, open textbooks have a reason to exist, and the fact that $5 million have been put aside by Congress to fund an open textbook grant program demonstrates that in the US the issue is treated with grave concern. However, is cost a valid argument to adopt open textbooks in the UK? In a recent report on the financial position of students in higher education in England, commissioned by the Department for Education we learn that:

“Compared with the cost of tuition fees, expenditure on direct course costs made up a smaller proportion of full-time students’ participation costs – they spent on average £512 (six per cent of total participation costs) on these items in the 2014/15 academic year. Fulltime students spent the most on computers (£253), followed by printing, photocopying and stationery (£105), then books (£101) and other equipment (£31).” (p. 279)

£101 does not sound like a lot of money, does it? Students in England are delivered a brutal blow by having to pay fees of £9000 a year, not by the amount of money spent on textbooks. It is true that we don’t want to add to their woes and anything we can save them comes as a bonus. What I’d like to highlight here is that if open textbooks are to be adopted in the UK, we need to look beyond cost and sing out loud what we (teachers and students) can do with an open textbook that we can’t do with a traditional textbook. My emphasis in the above definition has to be on “licensed to be freely used, adapted and distributed”.

As part of the work carried out by the UK Open Textbooks Project, the team ran a total of fourteen workshops in eight HE institutions in England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. The aim of these was to raise awareness of open textbooks and to invite participants to review an open textbook from the Open Textbook Library. As it happened, I facilitated workshops in Glasgow Caledonian University, where registration fees are zero pounds, and NUIGalway, where students pay a ‘contribution’ of €3000 per year. Neither of these universities would see cost as the only swinging logic to use an open textbook in the classroom, but both could reasonably buy into the idea of an open textbook as a living creature that can be adapted ad libitum. An open textbook is more than free; it is free with permissions; permission to reorder chapters, localise examples, translate into any language, add content to, delete paragraphs, link to external sources, and more. More. More. Think about it. Ask your students to think about it.

UK Open Textbook Project 

If you do and you’d like our support, get in touch: @UKOpenTextbooks.

About the autor

Beatriz de los Arcos is a researcher in the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University, UK and Academic Lead for the Global OER Graduate Network. She has worked on a vast range of open education research projects, including OER Research Hub where she led the project’s work on the impact of OER use on teaching and learning in K-12.  Her work has been recognized with an Open Courseware Consortium ACE Award for Research Excellence (2014) and The Open University Engaging Research Award (2015). She can be followed as @celTatis on Twitter.

“The night of the living MOOCs”: a feasible and high-impact proposal

Annalisa Manca - March 21, 2018 in guestpost, MOOCs, oer, Open Educational Resources

By Fabio Nascimbeni, assistant professor in the International University of La Rioja and member of the Open Education Working Group Advisory Board.

The current  #fixcopyright campaign that aims to modify the upcoming European Copyright Reform by instilling more openness for the benefits of citizens, educators, and researchers across Europe, can be summarized in one sentence: “Europeans deserve freedom to use digital content in education”. This very same sentence was used by one of the speakers during a recent webinar organized by EDEN in occasion of the Open Education Week 2018, and generated an interesting debate on how policy should make sure that education is treated with particular care, when it comes to guaranteeing access to open and quality learning resources.

Interestingly, within the webinar the sentence was not referred to online learning resources in general, but specifically to MOOCs. The claim of the speaker, a university teachers who is using MOOCs as a complement within the curriculum, was that MOOCs, that potentially represent an unprecedented set of online learning resources, are limited in their use by educators by one major issue.

Any researcher in the field of OER and Open Education would quickly say that this issue is the act that MOOCs contents are normally not released as Open Educational Resources (OER), making impossible for a teacher to adapt them to the specific needs of his/her context. While this is certainly true, our professor said that adapting the content of MOOCs is not the problem – she would not have time to do that anyway and if you are able to search for good quality MOOCs there is not that much to change, in her words – while the real issue is another, somehow a simpler one.

The fact is that typically MOOCs are “open” for participation only in some specific periods of time, and therefore cannot be used by a teacher as a curriculum complement in case the course that we want to complement takes place outside the MOOC duration. A quick non-exhaustive search on Class Central, one of the most complete directories on MOOCs, seems to confirm this. If we search for example for MOOCs on mathematics, we see that out of the 292 mapped courses 45 are actually “in progress” and 82 are self-paced, meaning that they remain constantly open. This makes 127 actually “usable” courses out of the overall 292, that is only around 44%. The situation is even worse for MOOCs on business studies (only 36% of which are actually available) or on medicine (32%). Further to this, what is most striking is the high number of so-called “finished courses” (33% in mathematics, 26% in business, 40% in medicine): the content of these courses is simply no more available.

This “MOOC demography” is striking: in our example on Business studies, out of a population of 1510 MOOCs the living people are a minority (36%), the not-yet born are quite a lot (Recently announced and Future Courses sum up to 38%) and the dead ones are 26%. In other words, this means that in general terms and with all due exceptions (such as MOOCs platform that might grant access to content also when the course is not running) the majority of content produced within so-called Massive Open Online Courses, not only is not open in the OER meaning, but is not even accessible Online.

Advocating for MOOCs providers to make available the content of the courses under development prior to the courses launch (the not-yet born) would probably be too much, but on the other hand allowing teachers (as well as any other user) to access the content of the Finished Courses (the dead ones) is something that could be easily done, and arguably would not represent a problem in terms of MOOCs business models. Bringing these finished MOOCs “back to life” would increase the amount of available MOOCs content by roughly 25%, and would allow teachers accessing them for their classes in a permanent way.

This would not transform MOOCs into OER, but would surely represent an important step, especially considering that MOOCs are increasingly being used as complementary resources integrated in the curriculum, towards the freedom that Europeans deserve to use digital content in education.

Illuminating the global OER community with data

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what can you do?

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

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


About the author

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

OpenCon Santiago 2017: No more streaks in the water

Javiera Atenas - 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


Open Education Working Group meet in Ljubljana

Annalisa Manca - October 2, 2017 in advisoryboard, guestpost

Post written by Lorna M. Campbell

(L-R) Cable Green, Fabio Nascimbeni, Lorna M. Campbell, Leo Havemann, Virginia Rodés and Sophie Touzé at the OER World Congress, Ljubljana.

Members of the Open Education Working Group Advisory Board had a rare opportunity to meet face to face last week while attending the UNESCO OER World Congress in Ljubljana, Slovenia.  The theme of the Congress which brought together delegates from 111 countries, was “OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education: From Commitment to Action” and there was a strong focus on how OER can help to support United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4.

“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”

The main output of the Congress was the UNESCO Ljubljana OER Action Plan and accompanying Ministerial Statement.  The Action Plan  outlines 41 recommended actions to mainstream OER and to help Member States to build knowledge societies and provide quality and lifelong education.

Members of the Advisory Board took time out of the busy programme of talks, discussions, workshops and satellite events to meet and discuss recent activities and actions the group could take forward from the Congress.

Cable Green provided us with an overview of Creative Commons new Global Network Strategy which is focused around four platforms; open education, copyright reform, community development, and GLAM.  We discussed how the Open Education Working Group could engage with the Open Education Platform as we share many of the same goals.  The platform is open to all and provides a space to connect to global actions in open education resources, practice, and policy, plan and coordinate multi-national projects, and secure funding from Creative Commons and others.  You can find out more about Creative Commons Open Education Platform here: Invitation to Join: CC Open Education Platform.

We discussed whether the group should schedule a new series of open education webinars, or whether it would be more useful to curate and provide access to webinars run by other organizations and institutions.  We’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this.  Another idea we explored was whether it would be useful for the group to start mapping OER research and whether this could potentially be a starting point for a CC platform project proposal.

We also identified future events where group members could potentially meet face to face again including Creative Commons Summit (Toronto, April 2018), OER18 (Bristol, April 2018), OEC Global (Delft, April 2018), EDEN (Genoa, June 2018).  Fabio Nascimbeni suggested it would be useful to have an OER18 strand at EDEN to draw the themes of these two events together.  Sophie Touzé also encouraged the Group to engage with the Open Education Consortium around Open Education Week and this is something we were all very keen to explore.




Lorna M. Campbell currently works as OER Liaison within the Learning, Teaching and Web division at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Her areas of expertise include digital infrastructure for OER, open education policy and practice, and technologies for supporting the management and distribution of educational content. Lorna has a longstanding personal commitment to supporting open education; she founded the Open Scotland initiative, was co-chair of the OER16 Open Culture Conference and is a Trustee of Wikimedia UK and the Association for Learning Technology. Lorna is also the driving force behind the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

From 2002 – 1015 Lorna was Assistant Director of the Centre for Educational Technology and Interoperability Standards (CETIS) in the UK, during this time she contributed to the development of a number of learning technology standards and supported many national innovation programmes including the UKOER programme. Lorna maintains a number of blogs including Open World at and Open Scotland at and she regularly blogs and presents about a wide range issues relating to open education. Lorna has an academic background in archaeology and she has a long-standing interest in digital history and humanities. She can be followed as @LornaMCampbell on Twitter.

Open in a Nutshell: Monkey Nuts of Openness

Annalisa Manca - April 19, 2017 in guestpost, oer

Post written by Christian Friedrich & Kate Green


Peanuts, by Anna – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

After a couple of days at OER17 conference in London (if you haven’t yet, check out the recordings and documentation), we (Christian and Kate) visited the Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL) at Coventry University to join in further discussions around education, digital media and technology. It was a day that sat between the paradoxes of openness and closedness, publicness and privateness, of surveillance and care. In a group of about 25 researchers, activists and administrators we discussed openly, and many felt that we could do so in a closed space. In many ways, the DMLL represents this ambivalence quite interestingly. To access it, you need permission, you have to pass many gates and closed doors. But once you have reached the DMLL itself, you find yourself in an open location with workstations, semi-closed spaces, closed workshop rooms.

The first half of the day was framed by concepts of ownership and control in digital education technology. The DMLL is in the fortunate position to have two fellows who have been beating the drum of ownership, digital identity and of authenticity for quite a while now. These two fellows are none other than Jim Groom and Audrey Watters. This was also the first time that they would be presenting in the same space and you could sense expectation in the audience before Audrey kicked things off:

Keeping things casual for a Friday morning, Audrey communicated a strong message of ownership through a story of Prince and his relationship with technology. She told the story of how he wrestled with the music industry to have control over his own music, to own his master recordings and not vice versa. Much like how music artists sign away their art to record labels, students are compelled to sign over their work to their institution: “we tell them that this is simply how the industry, the institution works.” She concluded by saying that a Domain of One’s Own  is a step towards giving students and scholars control of their work, which segwayed into the second talk by Jim very nicely indeed.

Jim shared a webpage from a student from University of Mary Washington; she used it as a portfolio of her work. He then showed us what her website looks like now, after having been an artist and practitioner for a while: she uses it to showcase and sell work, it’s her online shop, her online business but also a central space for her online representation. This is her space that she has control over – a nice illustration for the delta between the technologies most Higher Ed institutions use (the LMS / VLE) and the Domain of One’s Own: the former one being a technology under control by the institution and software providers, of permission management, of default interfaces and pre-defined paths and structures for interaction; the latter one being a technology under control of each individual student, of free decision-making about one’s own representation and identity, of try-and-error, that represents the affordances of the web as its basic, modular form.

The talks were followed by a lively discussion that, intentionally or not, displayed the ambivalence around these issues quite nicely: while being recorded, we were discussing the implementation and (mis-)uses of the LMS, its logical next steps from an institutional perspective in terms of data analysis, surveillance and control. This was felt by some in the room who were hesitant about making comments, when it could potentially jeopardise their jobs.

After lunch, however, the cameras were folded away and everyone was ‘off the record’ so to speak. The afternoon session was vignetted as a kind of un-symposium. There wasn’t a theme or an agenda, but four guests were invited to present before opening up the room to collectively decide what to discuss or do during the final hour. There were presentations by Esteban Romero Frías from Granada on institutional approach to digital media in teaching and learning as followed by the Medialab UGR; Javiera Atenas presented a case for using Open Data in the classroom to both teach data literacy skills, as well as challenging narratives of migration presented by the media; Brian Lamb presented a cooperative model of collaboration around the development and implementation of technology in learning contexts; and finally, we presented the Towards Openness workshop that we facilitated at OER17 that centred around the theme of ‘safety in online learning’.

There were fewer people in this afternoon session than in the morning, now fifteen, but we could not help but observe that the diversity of the group was at least above average for a gathering at a European university centre. There were senior managers, educators, activists, researchers, artists and Ed Tech’s Cassandra. Over fifteen people, we represented nine different nationalities. Our ages varied over thirty years. Our experiences were all different. As far as we are aware, this group was invited to come together. And while having something that was invite-only does not feel very open, a group like that doesn’t come together just because you open up a space, it ‘required’ an invitation.


Whether it was because we spoke last or that Jim and Audrey framed the day with their thoughts over ownership and educational technology, the conversation that followed steered towards how we could “get to work” and do something about ‘surveillance capitalism’ that was raised in our presentation. We toyed with the idea of ‘gaming the system,’ when in fact students already do this through different means. This conversation of surveillance and control is international and it’s approached very differently between countries. While universities in the UK and the USA already implement systems that compile and use data of students both regarding their physical and online behaviors, seek correlations and patterns as a system of surveillance framed as care, other countries like Germany still fall behind in this regard. While the narratives around these technologies are quite similar internationally, their speed of implementation differs vastly. Surprisingly or not, in countries like Germany that have not yet implemented these structures, only few actors analyze intentional and unintentional effects while following the very same paths bound to to repeat the same ideas, be it regarding surveillance, repositories, the LMS and ‘digitization as centralization’ of Higher Ed.

The closedness of the space (we literally had to knock every time we entered the room) meant that an open discussion could happen. We weren’t being recorded. There isn’t any documentation of this discussion, until this vague blog, and to respect the privacy of others we don’t feel it appropriate to disclose details of the conversation. But also because there isn’t such documentation, our takeaways are individual and personal. As for our own personal opinions, we can safely say that the connections we made, the discussions we had, the aspects of control and ownership that we shed light on, will stay to make an impression on our work. Whether or not this was this unsymposium’s goal is hard to say, but we can say that we highly appreciate this outcome.



Christian Friedrich is member of the founding team of the Digital School at Leuphana University Lüneburg in Germany, where he works with faculty and staff to encourage open teaching and learning practices. He is one half of a german podcast on open education and he works as a consultant for digital collaboration and learning. Follow him on twitter @friedelitis.



Kate Green is a PhD candidate at Horizon Digital Economy Research, University of Nottingham. Once an open and connected learner of #Phonar, Kate has continued to support and leverage openness in her practice. Her recent work includes #PrivacyUG: an open and underground privacy class, and the co-development (through participatory design) of an OER for 5Rights Youth Juries. You can read Kate’s Blog here.