College Development Network Librarians Open Developments in Scotland

Earlier this week I travelled up to the Stirling where I had the pleasure of presenting the keynote at the College Development Network Librarians Open Developments in Scotland event. It was an interesting and lively event and it’s great to see college librarians really engaging with the open education debate. Open education has the potential to be of enormous benefit to the FE sector, and librarians have a critical role to play in raising awareness of open education and advising their staff on the development and use of open educational content and licences.

My slides are available here and I’ve posted a Storify of the event here: Librarians Development Network: Open Developments in Scotland.

My presentation was followed by a fascinating talk by Suzanne Scott about Borders College‘s adoption of Mozilla Badges.  There’s been a lot of talk about the potential of open badges recently, so it’s really interesting to see them being used in a real world scenario.   Borders College aren’t just using badges to motivate students and acknowledge their achievement, they are also using them to engage with staff and have replaced all staff CPD paper certificates with Open Badges.  Adopting badges has also had significant reputational benefit and has raised the profile of the college;  Borders College are 4th on Mozilla’s list of international Open Badge Issuers. 

Following Suzanne, Mike Glancey of the National Museums of Scotland gave a talk about SCURL‘s Walk in Access initiative.  Now I have to confess, I had never heard of Walk in Access before, but it sounds like a really valuable initiative.  Walk in Access provides members of the public with on-site access to digital content such as journals and databases, where licensing terms and conditions permit.  Walk in Access highlights libraries commitment to opening access and also helps to widen engagement and provide access to distance learning students. The SCURL Walk in Access report is available here.

In the afternoon we were lucky to have a presentation from the always inspiring Christine Sinclair about the University of Edinburgh’s Coursera MOOCs and her team’s experiences of running the ELearning and Digital Cultures MOOC (). Christine explained that Edinburgh initially got in involved with MOOCs for five reasons: reputation, exploration, outreach, shared experience and, most importantly, fun!  The Edinburgh MOOCs have the support of the principal and the senior management, and the university has invested a considerable amount of funding in the initiative, however a lot the courses still run on “staff goodwill, evenings and weekends.”   It’s too early to say if this is a sustainable approach, Edinburgh are still exploring this.  Although the  team didn’t want to produce “star tutor talking heads” videos they discovered that students still wanted to “see” their lecturers and to form a connection with them. Some students struggled with the  approach, asking “Why aren’t you teaching us? Where are our learning outcomes?”  but others really engaged and came back to act as Community Teaching Assistants the following year.

Christine was followed by Gary Cameron of the College Development Network who gave an inspirational talk calling for his colleagues across the college sector to “Share, Share, Share!” To facilitate this sharing the Re:Source repository has been established for the Scottish college sector as a place to share open educational resources.  CDN are also planning to issue small grants for staff to openly licence resources in key topic areas. Gary ended his talk by reminding us that:

“OER is no longer an option, it’s an imperative, but still need to win battle for hearts and minds.”

The final presentation of the day was from Susanne Boyle, who has recently taken over from Jackie Carter as Director of Jorum and Senior Manager, Learning and Teaching at Mimas.  Susanne is not the only new member of staff to join the Jorum team, within a couple of months, 50% of the  team will be new appointments!  Jorum will be supporting the Jisc funded FE and Skills Programme, and will be creating tools to make it easier for FE practitioners to connect with Jisc and Jorum content.  The team will also be focusing on Health Practice resources and collections, and will be working closely with the North-West OER Network.  I have been involved with Jorum since it was just a wee glimmer of a project proposal, and I have sat on its Steering Group through every phase of its development so it will be very interesting to see what this new lease of life brings!

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Scottish Government Support for Open Education?

“We broadly support open licences and OER and need a serious public debate on this issue.”

~Michael Russell, MSP

This was the Minister for Education’s response to a question I put to him earlier today regarding Scottish Government support for open education policy and open licences for publicly funded educational resources in order to benefit learners, not just within Scotland, but internationally.  The Minister was speaking at the Future of Higher Education In Scotland and the UK event in Edinburgh, organised by the ESRC Fellowship Project: Higher Education, the Devolution Settlement and the Referendum on Independence.

In a wide-ranging speech outlining the Scottish Government’s vision of higher education in an independent Scotland, Russell stated that we need an education sector that can meet the challenge of new technological advancement and institutions that can fully explore the potential of new technologies for learning. MOOCs and OER have great potential to form new pathways to learning, to widen participation and promote a culture of collaborative development and reuse. Consequently a core group supported by SFC has been established to look at the benefits of OER and promote online learning resources produced by Scottish universities.  This group is composed of the Open University and the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde; UHI may also have a role to play. 

While it’s hugely encouraging to hear the Minister for Education acknowledging the importance, not just of the inevitable MOOCs, but of OER and open education more generally, I have some concerns that with such a narrow group of stakeholders involved in the core group, the scope of the debate might fail to encompass the wider benefits of open education to the Scottish sector as a whole.  Open education policies and practice have the potential to benefit teachers and learner right across the sector, in schools, colleges and universities, in formal and informal learning scenarios, and to support life long learning right across the board.

As yet, no further details have been released regarding the nature of the core group activities and the level of SFC investment, so we will continue to watch these developments with interest.  

ETA A summary transcript of Russell’s speech has been made available by the Scottish Government here. The relevant paragraphs relating to open education are as follows:

“I am very encouraged by the potential of massive open online courses – short courses delivered online that can be taken by anyone, anywhere. Of course, we must ensure quality of provision, however, free resources such as these have great potential to provide pathways to formal learning and widen participation in higher education.

“That is why I have indicated to the Scottish Funding Council that, in supporting this new work, they should facilitate the best open practice in Scotland and enhance the sector’s capacity and reputation for developing publicly available online learning materials.

“It is a very exciting prospect that a student anywhere in the world can access materials presented by world-class academics working in world class Scottish universities.

Martin Hawksey has made a twitter archive of the event hashtag available here: #HEScot and all papers from the event have now been uploaded here: Seminar 3: The future of higher education in Scotland and the UK.

Norwegian Government MOOC Report and Digitization Programme

Norway MOOC reportEarlier this week the Nordic OER Alliance announced that the Norwegian Government has published its first governmental report on MOOCs and the role of OER: Norwegian MOOC report: Tilrår satsing på OER!

Although the report is in Norwegian, the recommendations have helpfully been translated into English by Tore Hoel, and are copied below. Even without being able to read the entire report, it’s very encouraging to see a national government recommending further investment in innovative pedagogies, teacher and learner support and infrastructure development for technology supported learning. Amongst other recommendations, the Committee has recommended the allocation of a 15 million NOK annual grant for “research-based knowledge development and transfer of knowledge related to learning analytics”. Perhaps more significantly the Committee has also recommended a further 10 million NOK to be allocated to “pursue further development of digital literacy among staff in the higher education sector”. Enlightened thinking indeed. Additional funding has also been recommended for education technology infrastructure development in general and MOOC infrastructure in particular. The report also covers accreditation and recognition, but does not recommend a radical overhall of the current system.

The publication of the Norwegian Government’s MOOC report, comes hot on the heels of reports in the tech press earlier this month that the National Library of Norway is planning to digitise all the books in its holdings within 15 years. While the essence of this story is true, the NLN is a legal deposit library, and it does have a policy to digitise its entire collection over the course of 20 – 30 years, the initiative has actually been running since 2006, but seems to have come to the attention of the US press only recently. That aside, it’s an admirable and ambitious initiative which, together with the Government MOOC report,  speaks volumes about Norway’s commitment to openness.

Resources

Nordic OER: http://nordicoer.org/
Government MOOC Report: http://khrono.no/sites/khrono.no/files/moocutvalget_delrapport_1_13122013.pdf
National Library of Norway – Digitization Policy: http://www.nb.no/English/The-Digital-Library/Digitizing-policy
National Library of Norway – What is being digitized?: http://www.nb.no/English/The-Digital-Library/What-is-being-digitized

Government MOOC Report Recommendations

Chap. 6.2 Innovative pedagogy and quality

The Committee recommends a systematic focus on research-based knowledge development about ICT and learning.

The Committee recommends the establishment of an environment for research-based knowledge development and transfer of knowledge related to learning analytics in 2015 with an annual grant of 15 million NOK. Structure and shape must be considered in relation to current participants and funding agencies.

The Committee believes that the higher education sector has limited use of incentives at the individual level associated with the development of teaching. This does not work stimulating and motivating to adopt new technologies and new forms of learning. The Committee therefore recommends that the operative environment in general and incentives for the educational area are reviewed, both at the individual, institutional and national level. These must be connected together and clearly have the same effect.

The Committee recommends that the allocation of funding to pursue further development of digital literacy among staff in the higher education sector. The Commission proposes to allocate NOK 10 million.

The Mooc Committee recommends that the ministry appointed committee to assess competencies outside the formal education system also considers expertise developed through Mooc deal with exams and credits.

Chap. 6.3 Infrastructure for Mooc and other digital learning

The Committee believes there is a need to continue and increase national spending on technology infrastructure. The Commission proposes to increase funding for further infrastructure development for online education in general with 10 million annually and 10 million annually to develop new infrastructure for Mooc deals specifically.

The Committee recommends that there be further assessed whether it is appropriate to have a common national Mooc portal or alternative solutions are better.

Chap. 6.4 Trade and labor market skills needs

The Committee recommends that business and industry sector uses Mooc and similar offerings in skill development of the employees.

There is appropriated 10 million to further education of teachers using Mooc and similar offers. The Committee recommends that there be an additional 10 million to develop and gain experience with the use of Mooc and similar offerings in continuing education within other relevant educational fields.

Chap. 6.5 Mooc that part of the Norwegian degree system: accreditation and recognition of Mooc deals

The Committee believes that Mooc not necessitate a change of the Norwegian regulations for accreditation and recognition of subjects and topics to be included in a degree system. Mooc exams and credits from both Norwegian and foreign institutions may naturally be part of this system as it is today.

The Committee recommends that institutions utilize the room for maneuver which lies in the administration of the rules for crediting of subjects and topics to be included in a degree system, by facilitating better and smoother practices across Norwegian institutions.

The Committee recommends an assessment of whether current practices are appropriate and what can be done to strengthen the institutions’ utilization of leeway inherent in the current rules for crediting of subjects and topics to be included in a degree system.

The Committee recommends trial of admission to Mooc offerings at Norwegian institutions for applicants who do not meet the traditional requirements for admission to higher education.

Chap. 06.06 Copayment and the principle of free higher education

The Committee believes that Mooc offerings in Norway in the first place should be free.

The Committee recommends that the Ministry is undertaking a review of the rules for personal payments to institutions opportunities to claim fees for parts of a group of participants will be made clear.

Chap. 6.7 Educational support

The Committee recommends that considered whether to grant educational support to learners in Mooc and similar offers with flexible workload and duration. With similar offerings means other forms of online promotions or offers that combine online and campus education.

The Committee believes that Mooc and similar offerings outside Norway and the EU / EEA area should be considered to provide the basis for educational support.

The committee believes that the assessments of changes in education funding scheme also must asses the impact on foreign students.

Chap. 6.8 Funding of higher education

The Committee recommends that the funding system should facilitate incentives or arrangements which support the cooperation between the institutions on the development and supply of Mooc and similar offers, such as flexible ways to share the benefit of credit production.

The Committee recommends considering the introduction of an incentive for education relevance in the funding system. Cooperation between educational institutions and actors in the labor sector on Mooc and similar offers can be an indicator of such relevance.

The Committee recommends that there be annual allocation within the strategic assets of the funding, to support the development of educational content and the development of technological infrastructure for Mooc and similar offers.

Round Two: New Flavours for #EDCMOOC

We’re very pleased to welcome our second Open Scotland guest blog post by Sian Bayne, Jeremy Knox, Hamish Macleod, Jen Ross and Christine Sinclair about their highly successful E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC (EDCMOOC), being run by the University of Edinburgh on the Coursera platform.


You never forget your first MOOC, and that’s true for teachers as much as for learners. But what of the second time around – perhaps the novelty wears off and it can just be left to run itself? That’s certainly not been the case for the team for E-learning and Digital Cultures (EDCMOOC); we have been finding ourselves in a new phase of learning about teaching at scale.

EDCMOOC ran as one of the University of Edinburgh MOOCs on the Coursera platform first in January/February 2013 and for the second time in November to early December. It will run at least one more time under the current arrangements in place. The second run has provided an opportunity to experiment with teaching presence, and to further our critical reflections on how MOOCs might inform our research and pedagogy within and about digital environments.

With six new short videos and videoconference via Google hangout every week (as opposed to just twice, as the first time), the teaching commentary on what’s happening within the MOOC has shifted from regular blogging to a televisual mode. This is our first blog post for EDCMOOC2, written at its midpoint when we are starting to build up a picture of some messages from our second run.

The EDCMOOC team made an introductory video commenting on our themes

The EDCMOOC team made an introductory video commenting on our themes

Teaching Presence – how important is it for teachers to be seen?

Teaching presence has always mattered to us in our online MSc in Digital Education programme. There, with course cohorts that never go above 40, we have developed our presence through orchestrating engaging experiences, engaging in online dialogues, and providing feedback that ‘can be digested, worked with, created from’ (Ross, Bayne et al, 2011). While our students can see our photos and avatars, we don’t routinely provide videos of ourselves giving online ‘instruction’. Students on our MSc speak of a connection and closeness from our critical engagements online, both asynchronously and synchronously. They often claim to experience far more interaction with teachers and fellow students than they have in any other educational programme.

edcmoochangout We were therefore somewhat taken aback at the overwhelming reaction to our informal Google Hangout discussions during the first run of EDCMOOC. Again, the ‘connection’ word was used frequently as participants seemed relieved to see their teachers and to be able to make comments at the same time. It was one of the strongest messages that we received, reinforced by an early question in the discussion forum: ‘Where are the professors?’ And so we decided for the second run not only to have a Hangout each week but also to provide videos that introduce ourselves and our themes to help the participants to orientate themselves.

This embodied approach to presence has felt slightly uncomfortable because it has taken us closer to the ‘over-celebratory fetishizing of the teacher associated with some MOOCs’ that we analysed critically before we embarked on our MOOC (Knox, Bayne et al 2012). And yet this form of presence has proved to be one of the most commented-on features of our activities.

While it is reassuring that the need to ‘see’ us suggests that the potential overthrow of the teaching role is greatly exaggerated, we are more interested in establishing good dialogues with our participants and encouraging them to fashion their own ways of engaging with the course material than we are in attaining guru status. Our introductions and hangouts are still not ‘lessons’ as such, but give us an opportunity to provide guidelines to the kinds of connections we are seeking to make between education and digital cultures and, in the hangouts, to focus on the work being produced by MOOC participants. And some of these connections challenge the very notion of ‘the human touch’ that our televisual selves might seem to offer.

So we have included more video in the second instance of EDCMOOC as a way of further exploring the potency of the visible teaching body, but also to question the supposed replication of face-to-face as the privileged pedagogical mode. One of the key ideas that underpins our team approach is the idea that the digital makes education different, and we are interested in questioning the notion that video renders invisible the mediating technologies of the MOOC, and provides straightforward access to the teacher.

Tapping into the potential of the Massive

The other side of this new perspective on presence is the role of the people taking the MOOC. Participants have responded very warmly to being mentioned in hangouts as we comment on their blogs, their forum postings and their digital artefacts. But of course we cannot make this direct contact with each MOOC participant and it would be foolish to try. In a course that works on a large scale, it is perhaps more useful to think of what we can do with thousands of participants, rather than what we can do for or to them. While this has been in our minds from the outset, we’re now beginning to see how that is working. Jeremy has commented elsewhere on the ‘collective energy and intensity of the multitude’ (Knox 2013), inspired by the display of EDCMOOC1 work organised by the participants themselves. We’re seeing a crossover from that energy to the current MOOC, as it starts to take on its own collective identity.

Some of the EDCMOOC1 participants are now very effective Community Teaching Assistants on EDCMOOC2, and many others are also still present and contributing in multitudinous ways. And all are respecting the newer participants’ emerging shared voice that makes this run of EDCMOOC another unique experience. The new voice can be seen partly in response to the hangouts – participants have been gathering photos of themselves as they participate in the hangout, tweeting and commenting in YouTube and Google+. A suggestion for crowdsourcing the captioning of the hangout brought a strong response, and provides opportunities for further development. As one blogger, Heli Nurmi says:

The recording is available but writing a transcript jointly is an interesting experiment. It follows the principles of empowerment, collaborative learning, social networking, peer assistance, media-technology-enhanced learning.
(Nurmi, 2013)

Heli wonders whether it can lead to deep pedagogical debate. We think that it has huge potential to do so, reinforcing Jeremy’s suggestion (Knox 2013) that a focus on assessment of individual pieces of work may go against the ethos of the massiveness of the MOOC. As we observe many connections and creative flows being established in EDCMOOC2, we look forward to the images and other digital artefacts that will be produced between now and the end of the course in December. We do need to begin to think how we should acknowledge the contribution of the multitude to this creation as well as – or perhaps indeed instead of – pinpointing individual star performers.

Our own connections, flows, links and opportunities are expanding exponentially in this process too. It’s good to share our thoughts in our own blog, to aggregate it into EDCMOOC News – and it’s great to be guesting in the Open Scotland blog at the same time. Such opportunities are only possible through digital connections both locally and at scale.

References

Knox, J. (2013). eLearning and Digital Cultures: a multitudinous open online course. eLearn Magazine. Retrieved 20 November 2013: http://elearnmag.acm.org/archive.cfm?aid=2525967

Knox, J., Bayne, S. et al (2012) MOOC pedagogy: the challenges of developing for Coursera. Association for Learning Technology Online Newsletter. Retrieved 13 November 2013: http://newsletter.alt.ac.uk/2012/08/mooc-pedagogy-the-challenges-of-developing-for-coursera/

Nurmi, H. (2013) Pedagogical Principles of MOOCs. Heli Connecting Ideas. Retrieved 20 November 2013: http://helistudies.edublogs.org/2013/11/19/pedagogical-principles-of/

Ross, J., Bayne, S. et al (2011) Manifesto for Teaching Online. University of Edinburgh MSc in E-learning. Retrieved 13 November 2013: http://onlineteachingmanifesto.wordpress.com/