Want quality in HE – more open education then please!

Assessing quality in Higher Education inquiry – publications

Well along with the 79 more eloquent responses on the 30th October 2015 HE quality and teaching parliamentary inquiry was little old me. It was my first time and probably not very good, but hopefully some of the sentiments about the importance of open education will influence someone somewhere.

Go to –> List of responses

It was good to see the Association of National Teaching Fellows, Terry McAndrew and other excellent responses on the list.

For what it is worth, here is what I said.

Open Sorry We're Closed

Alan Levine Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/ CC BY 2.0

I am an academic in the UK and have worked strategically to lead open education projects for 10 years. The Global Open Education movement is now 15 years well established and is probably one of the most significant education initiatives of our time in terms of enhancing educational opportunities for all learners, offering a high-quality and flexible means of gaining training or embarking on one’s educational journey.

The use of Creative Commons license [1] has been the ‘key to the door’ for a range of activities – providing an academic ecosystem of open educational resources (OERs), providing free or low cost openly licensed textbooks for students, enabling open access to journal articles, and has led to more progressive thinking about the sharing of research data, and building open science and innovation communities that extend beyond the walls of institutions.

I wish to comment on points 3-5. Open education is paramount to each of these points as engaging with open education (having the confidence to share your stuff) is one of the most powerful professional development tools that an academic member of staff or teacher can engage in.

The intention of the Government proposal as outlined in the chair’s comments “to strengthen the UK’s world-leading university brand” can only be delivered through policy that enables universities to compete through global open education enterprise.

England as a nation is sadly lacking behind others in the UK, and needs to join the initiatives and level of national interest in open education as seen in Scotland [2, 3] and Wales [4, 5]. Both nations have made declarations of intent, and the UK as a whole now needs to embed ‘open’ within education policy.

3) What should be the objectives of a Teaching Excellence Framework (‘TEF’)?

a) How should a TEF benefit students? Academics? Universities?

The TEF has to lever open education practice. Students today need to develop global perspectives and graduate as citizens with strong global consciousness. Open education – for example, engaging with openly licensed learning materials from Africa, through participating in massive online open courses from India, through the UK driving the use of open textbooks to lower costs of study in universities, can provide our graduate body with global knowledge, connections and cultural understanding and tolerance.

For academics and universities, the TEF needs to lever open practice through embedding openness in UK Professional Skills Framework criterion (UKPSF as run by the HEA and SEDA), and National Teaching Fellowship schemes. These criteria are some 10 years out of date and there is no reflection of the digital ability and social media literacy required by staff (and students) to communicate and operate in the world today. There is already an established teaching excellence award and the TEF can reflect upon numbers of fellows and case studies from the National Teaching Fellow scheme (NTFS), and those who achieve the highest levels of professional teaching standards of the UKPSF scheme.

Universities will strengthen their world-class brand by the TEF providing a window to these already outstanding individuals. However we need Government policy in order for the UK to engage in global open education enterprise.

b) What are the institutional behaviours a TEF should drive? How can a system be designed to avoid unintended consequences?

The TEF has to drive this. All publically-funded educational teaching and research materials should be freely available through adopting open licenses. On the 29th October 2015 the US Department of Education announced a new regulation in this fashion [6]. The US Government are committed to opening up education opportunities to all learners, and open licenses reduce the costs of text books, provide pools of high-quality learning materials for schools, colleges and universities to share, and stimulate innovation and creativity across communities of practice [7]. President Obama recognises education as “a cornerstone for progress” and a number of new open government initiatives in 2014/2015. We cannot be blind to the inequalities within our UK education system, and openness can drive behavioural changes and wholesale institutional change as it has done across the education system in the US.

Unintended consequences? The TEF has to support outstanding and deeply committed educators and teachers in our university system. It must not provide another layer of burocracy for teaching staff which will detract more of their time away from the classroom. Universities need to decide whether they wish to deliver world class education or world class administration.

c) How should the effectiveness of the TEF be judged?

The TEF will be deemed successful to staff and institutions short-term if it provides reward and recognition for those outstanding teachers, if it drives equality and investment in teaching and pedagogic research in universities, and if it does not provide another burdensome set of metrics that distract from educating young people. I see this as more important as the long-term and absolute goals of fostering competition and enhancing student choice.

4) How should the proposed TEF and new quality assurance regime fit together? 

The two are distinct. The present QA scheme is vital to ensure that all publically and privately funded institutions deliver a baseline standard of education, and the process must continue to offer developmental opportunities to institutions and to ensure parity across the sector. The QA focus on ‘enhancement’ has never come to light, and the TEF scheme is a vehicle for this. Both work together to delivery ‘quality and excellence’. Again, the regimes need to drive genuine change and not become another set of burdensome data-gathering schemes.

5) What do you think will be the main challenges in implementing a TEF? 

That Universities will focus on the process and infrastructure to deliver the TEF and not teaching at all. A ‘light touch’ process, driving excellence through open education, but a process that is politically important, is what is needed. Excellence can be linked to increases in fees, but there should be matched-funding to ensure education does not become exclusive. It needs to encourage all levels of wealth, gender, ethnic diversity and offer flexible study options for part-time and mature students. Open education is one proven solution to this in the US, opening up different educational business models.

 

[1] Creative Commons http://creativecommons.org

[2] Open Scotland http://openscot.net/

[3] Scottish Open Education Declaration http://declaration.openscot.net/

[4] Open Wales Cymru http://www.oerwales.ac.uk

[5] Open Wales Cymru Declaration http://www.oerwales.ac.uk/?page_id=4

[6] USA Department of Education – Office of Educational Technology

http://tech.ed.gov/open-education/

[7] The White House https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/09/26/promoting-open-education-help-teachers-and-students-around-world

 

 

 

 

Yours faithfully