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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.

 

 

 

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 https://figshare.com/s/eca56f9aab7c4db60115  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OpenCon Santiago – by Ricardo Hartley (CCBY)

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

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

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

About the authors

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

@ametodico

Carolina Gainza, PhD Hispanic Languages and Literatures Universidad Diego Portales

@cgainza

Yes we can Inchallah: Morocco OER Strategy Forum

Javiera Atenas - December 9, 2016 in featured, oer, world

By Daniel Villar-Onrubia Javiera Atenas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jemaa el Fna by Daniel Villar-Onrubia

Jemaa el Fna by Daniel Villar-Onrubia

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

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

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

Jemaa el Fna by Daniel Villar-Onrubia

Jemaa el Fna by Daniel Villar-Onrubia

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

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

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

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

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

Post written by Luigi Reggi 

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

Civic monitoring of EU funding as a way to assess results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new way to communicate policy outputs

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Current civic monitoring reports as displayed on Monithon.it

Current civic monitoring reports as displayed on Monithon.it

Collaborating with the Open Government ecosystem

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

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

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

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

Monithon calls it a “monitoring marathon”, indeed.

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

BIO

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the authors

This post was written by

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

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

Open Education in South African Higher Education

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

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

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

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

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

Public Higher Education Institutions in SA

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

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

 

Open Education at the University of Cape Town (UCT)

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

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

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

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

Overview of Open Education in South Africa

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

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

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

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

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

Barriers to Open Education and lessons from research

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

Open Education in SA: The future

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

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

About the author

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

Open Education Sweden

Javiera Atenas - September 15, 2016 in featured, world

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

(See Sweden on the OER world Map)

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

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

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

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

The objectives of the project were

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

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

The webinars focused on the following areas

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

 

Swedish Association for Distance Education (SADE)

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

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

 

OPEN SNH Open Collaboration For Net-Based Higher Education

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

 

Lektion.se

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

MOOCs IN SWEDEN

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

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

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

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

Other interesting projects

Open Government Partnership-Sweden

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

 

The Swedish Digitalization Commission

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

References

 

About the author

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

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

guestauthor - 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 http://project.idea-space.eu/2016/03/02/oercamps/)**

A Scuola di OpenCoesione: Using Open Data in schools for the development of civic awareness

guestauthor - March 15, 2016 in data, featured, guestpost, mooc, OEP, oer, Open Educational Resources

A Scuola di OpenCoesione ( ASOC), from Italian, translates as Open Cohesion School. It can be understood as an educational challenge and a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) designed for students in Italian secondary schools. ASOC was launched in 2013 within the open government strategy on cohesion policy carried out by the National Government, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Representation Office of the European Commission in Italy; it is also supported by the European Commission’s network of “Europe Direct” Information Centres.

The third edition of ASOC was launched in November 2015. While you are reading this post, about 2800 students and 200 teachers are involved in a collective learning experience focused on civic monitoring of public funding through open data analysis, and also by visiting sites and conducting “data journalist” research.

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The main objectives of ASOC are to engage participating schools in actively promoting the use and reuse of open data for the development of civic awareness and engagement with local communities in monitoring the effectiveness of public investment.

The participating students and teachers design their research using data from the 900,000 projects hosted on the national OpenCoesione portal in which everyone can find transparent information regarding the investment in projects funded by Cohesion Policies in Italy. The portal provides data including detailed information on the amount of funding, policy objectives, locations, involved subjects and completion times: so schools can select the data they want to use in their research, which can be related to their region or city.

ASOC’s Teaching and learning programme

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The teaching and learning programme is designed in six main sessions. The first four sessions aim at developing innovative and interdisciplinary skills such as digital literacies and data analysis to support students to assess and critically understand the use of public money.

Students learn through a highly interactive process using policy analysis techniques, such as tackling policy rationales for interventions, as well as understanding results and performance. This process employs “civic” monitoring to work on real cases using data journalism and storytelling techniques.

During the fifth session, and based on their research projects on the information acquired, the students carry out on-site visits to the public works or services in their region or city which are financed by EU and national funds, and also they interview the key stakeholders involved in the projects’ implementation, the beneficiaries and other actors.

Finally, the sixth session is a final event where students meet with their local communities and with policy-makers to discuss their findings, with the ultimate goal to keep the administrators accountable and responsible for their decisions. Here you can find all the video sessions and exercises: http://www.ascuoladiopencoesione.it/lezioni/.

The teaching method combines asynchronous and synchronous learning. The asynchronous model is designed following a typical MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses) style where participants learn through a series of activities. Teachers are trained by the central ASOC team through a series of webinars. The synchronous in-class sessions share a common structure: each class starts with one or more videos from the MOOC, followed by a group exercise where the participants get involved in teacher-led classroom activities. These activities are organised around the development of the research projects and reproduce a flipped classroom setting.

In between lessons, students work independently to prepare data analysis reports and original final projects. Also, in order to have an impact on local communities and institutions, the students are actively supported by local associations that contribute with specific expertise in the field of open data or on specific topics such as environmental issues, anti-mafia activities, local transportation, etc. Furthermore, the European Commission’s network of information centres “Europe Direct” (EDIC), is involved supporting the activities and disseminating the results. On ASOC’s website there is a blog dedicated to sharing and disseminating the students’ activities on social networks (see here ASOC in numbers).

ASOC’s pedagogical methodology is centred on specific goals, well-defined roles and decision-making. This has allowed students to independently manage every aspect of their project activities, from the choice of research methods to how to disseminate the results. On the other hand, the teachers are also involved in an intensive community experience that allows them to learn not only from their own students, but also from the local community and from their fellow teaching peers involved in the project.

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Ultimately, this takes the form of a collective civic adventure that improves the capacity to form effective social bonds and horizontal ties among the different stakeholders, actors of the local communities. In fact, detailed Open Data on specific public projects has enable new forms of analysis and storytelling focused on real cases developed in the students’ neighbourhoods. This, in turn, has the key goal of involving the policy-makers in a shared, participatory learning process, to improve both policy accountability and the capacity to respond to local needs.

Finally, ASOC’s key element is that the pedagogical methodology we have developed can be used as a learning pathway that can be adapted to different realities (e.g. different policy domains, from national to local, in different sectors) using different types of open data with comparable level of detail and granularity (e.g. detailed local budget data, performance data, research data, or any other type of data).

If you are interested in learning more from ASOC’s experience, you can read a case study which includes the results of the 2014-2015 edition on Ciociola, C., & Reggi, L. (2015). A Scuola di OpenCoesione: From Open Data to Civic Engagement. In J. Atenas & L. Havemann (Eds.), Open Data As Open Educational Resources: Case Studies of Emerging Practice.

You can also watch ASOC’s documentary video of the 2014-2015 edition here: https://vimeo.com/138955671

About the author

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Chiara Ciociola Is the community manager of the project A Scuola di OpenCoesione at the Department for Cohesion Policies, Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers. She holds a BA in Political Science, with a focus on New Media and Journalism at University of Florence and a MA in Digital Storytelling at University of Turin. In 2013 she founded Monithon Italia, a civil society initiative for citizen monitoring of EU-funded projects. Since 2011 she is a contributor of Neural magazine, a critical digital culture and new media arts magazine.

 

**Part of this article was originally published in the Open Education Europe blog as “OpenCoesione School” – An example of scalable learning format using OpenData as Educational Resources. We thank Maria Perifanou for sharing this post with us**.

Adult Education and OER: conclusions and policy recommendations for Europe

Paul Bacsich - October 21, 2015 in adulteducation, featured, mooc, OEP, oer, Open Educational Resources

This posting deals with the conclusions and policy recommendations from the Adult Education and Open Educational Resources study for the European Parliament, a 140-page “Study”, written by Sero, released on 15 October 2015. The Study reviews the current use of Open Educational Resources in Adult Education in Europe (with a focus on Member States of the European Union), assesses its potential and makes recommendations for policy interventions, taking account of the European Commission’s policy frameworks and those developed by the European Parliament and relevant European agencies. The majority of the research was carried out in the first five months of 2015.

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