Open Educational Practices Advisory Forum

Last Thursday I boarded the train from Glasgow to Stirling to attend an Advisory Forum event for the Open Education Practices in Scotland (OEPS) project.  OEPS is led by the Open University in Scotland and has been granted £1.25m by the Scottish Funding Council to ‘enhance Scotland’s reputation and capacity for developing publicly available and licenced online materials, supported by high quality pedagogy and learning technology.’

On the train I met four tourists from Arizona in the US, all of whom worked in tertiary education. They were complimentary about the lovely countryside we were travelling through and remarked on its greenness. They were also keen to find out more about further and higher education in Scotland. It occurred to me then too that we really need better ways to showcase and share the best of Scottish educational practices on a global scale to build on this kind of interest.

The international theme continued at the event with a stimulating keynote (via Skype) on ‘An international perspective on opening educational practices’ from Professor Laura Czerniewicz, Director of the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) at the University of Cape Town. For me, this was the highlight of the day. Laura’s presentation is available at and is definitely worth a look.

Laura was honest about the barriers Africa still faces in attracting and retaining students and the shocking inequalities that still exist in their societies.  Even access to reliable electricity is limited, although fortunately there were no unexpected disruptions to Laura’s presentation.  She sees open education and open resources as having a key role to play in helping to address inequalities in access. She highlighted the growing trend towards global ‘piracy’ of digital resources by young people who are deliberately flouting copyright laws to share e-text books and other online resources to further their education. One student asked “Is it unethical to want to be educated or is it unethical to charge so much [for books]?”

It’s a slow process though, and I enjoyed hearing about the new theory adopted by Laura and her team to advance open practices in their own institution, called the ‘drip, drip, drip’ approach. I think we can all recognise that one.

Other presenters showcased developments across education in Scotland, including the trade union sector where there is a lot of activity to engage potential learners in open online learning in workplaces. It was also interesting to hear that Edinburgh University are developing an OER policy (just as we are) and adopting an ‘open as default’ approach to content developed for their large scale Moocs. Lorna Campbell of Cetis presented the draft Scottish Open Education Declaration, developed by the Open Scotland group and supported by the OEPS project, the interest in which continues to gather pace

All in all it was an interesting day, and it does feel as if there is a positive momentum building up behind the open education agenda in Scotland, both at policy level and in practice. We just need to make sure we’re part of it!


Revisiting the Hybrid Learning Model

graphic of hybrid learning model Earlier this week we held the third of our  staff development session for those involved in developing fully online programmes. Once again we had Dr Alan Mason from Blackboard leading the session. Alan set the scene by showing a range of examples from other institutions around enhanced engagement, personalised support and developing learning communities.

To help us reflect on these issues in GCU context, we used the Hybrid Learning Model. This model was developed by Alan whilst he was working at the University of Ulster. It is a very simple card based tool designed to “capture, describe, reflect on and plan good practice in teaching and learning“.

Each group identified the 3 events they thought would be most challenging for their online developments and explored ways of rethinking them for online delivery.  There was a really rich discussion and lots of sharing of practice and ideas, particularly around more practical lab/clinical based assessments,  reflection and students setting their own learning goals, and once again thinking about staff time and scalability of activities.   What is easily managed for a cohort of 10 students, might not be for a cohort of 30, or 50.   Another really useful session, and it was good to revisit this model to help move forward planning of activities and selection of specific tools and technologies.

8 Steps to creating an institutional OER policy

Screen shot of slide

As part of Open Education Week,  our coffee club meeting on 13th on March focused on open-ness here at GCU. Marion Kelt, from the library set the scene by by explaining and contexualising what OERs are and how she became an advocate.  Marion also shared her recent work in developing OER guidance and the 8 (ish) steps she has taken in developing the guidance to become institutional policy.

Developing and getting approval of any institutional policy can often take considerable time. But Marion’s diligence has paid off in terms of clarifying a number of policy mysteries and urban myths. For example lots of people referred to a University IPR policy, which despite very strong beliefs, didn’t actually exist.  Part of Marion’s work has been to write IPR and copyright policies.

Marion’s presentation stimulated a wide ranging discussion, from the very  practical “the library can help you to create and share OERs”, to how to attribute resources that no-one knows where they came from but they are really useful, to another area of mythical policy around BYOD. Happily we got confirmation that this policy is actually underdevelopment and should be available soon too.

Hopefully the OER guidelines will be official policy in the new few months. In the meantime copyright, IPR and OER guidance is openly available from the library website.