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.’ http://oepscotland.org/

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 www.slideshare.net/laura_Cz/oep-scotland-19-march 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 declaration.openscot.net/.

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!

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