Just returned from an outstanding two days at OER15 in Cardiff (Tues 14 – Wed 15th April 2015). The theme was ‘mainstreaming’ OER and one of my talks looked at the sustainability and impact of the open education projects I was involved in as part of the HEFCE-funded UKOER programme (2009 – 2012). Six years on, where are these projects?
My video shows the main points of the above image.
2) Staff practice has dramatically changed – for those originally involved, open is part of what they do, and open practices and use of resources has crept across the faculty and is adopted by new staff coming in.
3) The void is around institutional practices. Circumstances were such that two project champions (myself and another) left the university. Change in senior management and other reorganisation probably has resulted in some of the loss of traction of these initial conversations.
4) ‘Open’ was embedded within learning and teaching strategy, but the question is, how to make this real? How to turn words into action for institutions?
OER sustainability versus vulnerability.
I suppose this goes for any innovation or new practice, it takes time, investment, enthusiasm and effort to embed and sustain. However this can quickly become vulnerable for the reasons in the next image.
I liked the ideas presented by Martin Weller in his keynote (see YouTube video). Martin was talking about mainstreaming OER, and that we are almost on the verge of victory. But progress is not about the big event and initial victory. History is made, or innovations embed and sustain only following a series of events and victories. That is what I see in our UKOER projects at De Montfort University. Yes, it was all about the big events – we had so much fun, students had fun, we made new collaborations – but the subsequent victories are contributing to what is becoming a changed faculty.
I’ve left the conference with growing concerns regarding the roles of ‘champions’ and will seek to explore this in a future blog.
One week into the BC “Adopting Open Text Books” course.
I’m embarking on the BC course and in the first week we are provided with a series of videos including David Wiley talking about ‘open’, and we were given the question “What does open education mean to you?” I am now sitting here wondering why after ten years producing OERs and free materials, why I’m embarking on yet another course? Why am I still involved in this field of work that is nothing to do with my day-job?
David hits the nail on the head for me – it is all about the idea of sharing.
In the comments on the page Cristina notes:
One thing that really struck me in both the video and the article is the idea of education as sharing, already, in its essence. If you are helping someone to learn something, or develop a new skill, you are sharing something of yourself.
What do we know about faculty sharing behaviour?
I think in many people, the desire to share and help others is just their nature. So what do we know about academic / faculty sharing behaviours? When some of us embarked on the UK OER programme in 2009 we looked at attitudes to sharing within our universities.
We found that academics were happy to share within localised subject groups but not more widely, and at that time in 2009, certainly weren’t keen to move beyond the institution (Rolfe 2012, Staff Attitudes to OER). In Peter Reed’s similar study at the same time, staff were naturally sharing locally but in his institution were happy to think about sharing beyond the institution, perhaps reflecting a more advanced awareness and experience of open practices? (Reed 2012, Awareness, attitudes to OER).
In Libor Hurt’s MSc dissertation looking at openness and student perceptions, it was clear that their propensity to share and support fellow students was hugely strong (Download Libor’s dissertation from this page: http://www.biologycourses.co.uk/biology-news/student-perceptions-of-oers). When asked why, to many it was quite natural to help others, even beyond their university:
“Because not everyone gets the same opportunities do they?”
So in this snapshot of staff and student perceptions, the willingness to share was entrenched within people’s practices even without attempts to influence it. So this leads me to ask how has sharing fared through the history of education? I’m thinking at what point did it/we stop sharing?
I am no educational historian, but I know the teaching practices of the ancient philosophers very much involved the selfless passing on of ideas and knowledge, and the scholar was advised to then go and pass-forward and teach someone else. That was an essential part of the educational process. I love Thomas Wright’s book “Circulation: William Harvey’s Revolutionary Idea” and the recollections of the teaching of surgical practices.
Anatomies were made free of charge according to university statutes, ‘in order that everyone may come’ to enjoy what were civic as well as scholarly spectacles.
The public would pile into the steep-walled anatomical theatres with a dissection table in the middle and railings to stop queasy spectators falling in and spoiling the show. (The musicians were the last to enter and take their place around the dissecting table!) These were open festivals of learning! Harvey’s manuscript outlining his discoveries of the circulation system “De Motu Cordis” further benefited from printing technology and was able to share his theories to the science community and wider public (although they ridiculed him “he was crack-brained”). So returning to thoughts about SHARING, printing clearly led to the wider distribution of knowledge but with it came the bravery and confidence to go forth with your theories and ideas. Also the ‘asset’ started to be a thing of power, and religious differences often resulted in the burning of books, and we begin to see how wielding this power could exclude groups from gaining knowledge and education.
Where are we today?
I get a sense that today in our modern-day education systems that the ‘asset’ and information is still viewed as a powerful commodity to be acquired. Students clamour for PowerPoint slides and lecture notes to be placed on learning management systems. “Are you going to put your slides on Blackboard” must be the most common question in the entire education system. So over the centuries what may well have shifted is the sharing of the understanding of a topic or idea, toward the sharing of information assets?
I think there are also some deeper changes in our attitudes also. What about the desire to help ourselves and our own careers over helping others?
I’ve referred to open education in being in the terrible teens in a recent paper in press and I do believe in the UK anyway we’ve hit a wall. I think our current education system breeds a strong incliniation to help ourselves and our own careers that outweighs what might be our natural motivation to help others. Our education delivery systems reward us on our personal teaching and research achievements, with the overarching obsession about positions in league tables.
So what does open education mean to me?
For me, and many others like me I am guessing, ‘open’ means being able to participate in the education that I want, beyond my institution. I work in my own time using technology that works. I can use the tech I want to create the materials that I think are valuable for my subject. I can distribute them where and when I like on the internet. I pay small annual fees to maintain blogs that amounts to the cost of a few bottles of wine a year.
What roles do you think digital technologies and the internet have played in making open education possible?
Digital technology and social media have enabled educators to move beyond university systems and have been KEY to open education possibilities. I can work immediately and do not have to wait 3 days for administrator to give me access to software, or using learning management systems that can only cope with certain types of files or file sizes.
I can use social media to distribute my resources, where many universities are still trembling at the thought of academics on Twitter, and accounts having to be vetoed by marketing departments worried about what academics might say. Make some resources, place them on YouTube, Flicker, Twitter, Blogs and slap a Creative Commons licence on and away you go. These resources are my own content, artistry and copyright. I know I am working under contracts that permit me to OWN my ‘learning resources’ and to therefore do with as I please.
So how can we help OER through the terrible teens?
Clearly people like me working in their own time is not a sustainable solution and we need to continue to influence the next generation of acadmics and university staff. I think we need to reinvigorate universities as sharing spaces rather than places were education is delivered. Mike Neary and Joss Winn talked about this beautifully in 2009 (The Student as Producer)
Through these efforts, the organizing principle is being redressed creating a teaching, learning and research environment which promotes the values of openness and creativity, engenders equity among academics and students and thereby offers an opportunity to reconstruct the student as producer and academic as collaborator. In an environment where knowledge is free, the roles of the educator and the institution necessarily change.
Here are my slides from 2014 OpenEd Conference, Washington, Nov 2014.
What a great conference so far! My talk followed on from my OpenEd13 presentation at Utah last year, and really builds on the bee I’ve had in my bonnet about massive open online learning for some time. I had some great questions today that I hope I made some vague attempt at answering:
1) How would my delineation of ‘ethical’ dimensions of MOOCs be different from a look at on-campus learning? Many of the dimensions around pedagogy, quality and addressing learner diversity are core academic values, but I would argue do not translate easily online. We are talking about diversity on an unprecedented scale. Also, there are dimensions around intellectual property and data privacy, and the changing role of the tutor / teacher, that simply don’t feature on-campus, or that might do, but are swept under the carpet. In my talk I described a book chapter in press that extends Khan’s 2003 ‘eLearning framework’ to open, online learning.
2) How can we influence ethics, research and practice in order to make the changes we are all seeking? What an impossible question that I’m sure I did not answer well. For a start, we are all at OpenEd14! We are all championing good quality research and open initiatives, and all we can do is go back and keep influencing our colleagues and institutions. We should never lose sight of how far we have come!
I thought back to Larry Lessig’s opening keynote, it is not enough just to talk about change, we have to oil the wheels to make change possible.
“Fight to make your sensible idea possible.”
Just completing a research marathon that started last summer looking into open online courses and both the social and ethical considerations for learners.
The work has included:
A systematic review of literature up to 2013 and a subsequent update to June 2014.
Narrative synthesis of opinion articles in the area of study.
Deeper exploration of opinions through a series of interviews.
I’ve just produced a diagram to summarise the findings to date. I’ve used some of the dimensions of Khan’s 2003 eLearning Framework which preceded open courses in the form we know then today. Many of the original dimensions are still relevant, some need extending, and other new areas for ethical consideration emerge from the results of my work. I hope this gives communities, institutions and those involved with open education on the web some ideas for the types of discussions that are worthy of having, if we are truly going to contribute to open education globally in an equitable and fair way.
Ethical Dimensions of MOOCs by Vivien Rolfe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://vivrolfe.com/uncategorized/ethical-dimensions-of-moocs/.
Alan just tweeted a tot up of the Second Life education publications profile that came from a paper just out. He made me wonder where we are with MOOCs?
There have been two systematic reviews of MOOC literature – the first by Liyanagunawardena et al (2013) “MOOCS a systematic study” that retrieved literature up to 2012, and the second that I presented at OpenEd “MOOC research on student experience” retrieving literature up to the autumn of 2013.
Search strategy ROLFE – keywords targeting “MOOCS +student experience, social responsibility”.
Search strategy LIYANAGUNAWARDENA – keywords broad “MOOC”
Total publications – for both reviews this included peer-reviewed journals, conference, authoritative reports, comment / opinion articles and case studies. For L’s review it also included magazine articles.
Journals / conf. – total numbers of articles in peer-reviewed journals or conference proceedings. At this point these numbers will include literature reviews and case studies.
You can draw you own conclusions. For me having done systematic reviews on education subjects before the low numbers of empirical studies is never much of a surprise, and certainly within the MOOCature in 2014, more studies have subsequently been published.
Of the empirical studies that I found, all were cross-sectional analyses of student opinions though either questionnaires or interview. Only one was a comparative study looking at the experiences of two groups of participants.
LIYANAGUNAWARDENA, Tharindu Rekha; ADAMS, Andrew Alexandar; WILLIAMS, Shirley Ann. MOOCs: A systematic study of the published literature 2008-2012. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, [S.l.], v. 14, n. 3, p. 202-227, jun. 2013. ISSN 1492-3831. Available at: <http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1455/2531>. Date accessed: 19 Jun. 2014.
WOW! The highlight of open education week for me undoubtably was Jisc Digifest 2014.
It was so packed with festival goodies that it was difficult to chose which sessions to attend, and then what highlights to write about. So here are a few, and some additional blogs for extra reading.
Jisc Digital Festival 2014
A rather shaky start!
The festival kicked off with a number of excellent speakers including Diana Oblinger from Educause. Along with the Jisc executive, I was soon launched into a rather unexpected and terrifying commercial world, with language including “service users”, “consumers”, with educational goals including “margins” and “metrics”. I did start to wonder what on earth had I attended this for.
Whether this was the intention of Jisc, along with the rather lovely but somewhat incongruous technology companies and suppliers in the main auditorium, to be moving toward a more corporate purpose I’m not sure? This was alongside one of the opening speakers talking about educational delivery (deliverology aggh), 3 month degrees, and I was beginning to think this all just reeked like the onion rings of the “Macdonaldisation” of education. I must say I entered the coffee break very depressed. But from that point on, it was clear that the conference delegates were having none of it! None of it I say!
The festival was about people!
I was rather thinking that a digital festival would be very technology-centric and all about the tools, but I was completely wrong. The next two days without exception, it was all about the people. The users, students, educators, technologists, librarians, members of museum staff, geologists and a wide range of delegates in attendance. And a few students but not enough. The festival attracted a diverse group of people which was refreshing and provided rich discussions in the workshops. For the win!
And Jisc is about people!
Each session was led by a member of the various Jisc teams, and I hope that Jisc in its corporate reshaping, does not forget to cherish their most valuable asset. Any company is only as good as its staff, and Jisc is about expertise, collegiality, enthusiasm and support. They are some of the most talented individuals I have ever worked with across any organisation.
OK. Now for the highlights.
Wikipedia: a platform for learners as producers.
Martin Poulter from Bristol University talked about a series of case studies that had involved students in Wikipedia writing and editing. Unbeknownst to most people I suspect including me – and I’m just doing a Wikipedia course myself – is that the level of writing, the need for accuracy, the need for good evidence and referencing, the need to work as part of a community – are all adopted to a very high standard. As Martin said:
Wikipedia values are scholarly values.
What a great thing for transferable skills and allowing students to be part of global communities and the knowledge economy. And it is open of course.
Open access monograph publishing
Amazing stories by Brian hole (Ubiquity Press, UCL), Rupert Gatti (Open Book Publishers Cambridge) and Martin Paul Eve (Open Library of Humanities, Lincoln). Each had a similar tale, naffed-off by the publishing industry so decided to set up themselves. Their books are free to access online, often openly licensed, and are certainly putting valuable subjects back on the map that publishers had little commercial interest in. They claimed that their websites were easily pulled together using Scribd online reader, Google books and Lighteningsource electronic printing solutions. I did struggle with the CC BY license, so yes, if I was savvy, I would set up a publishers in China, take the content, repackage and sell. As they pointed out, all the good for the distribution. Well, actually, yes! Genius.
My lasting concern though still of the CC BY license was how to preserve the quality and authenticity of the work. But knowing these guys, they’ll come up with a solution to that.
Digital content sustainability and entrepreneurship
Naomi Korn ( Naomi Korn Consulting ) and Stuart Dempster, Jisc. Well this was just too good to miss. How many conference workshops can you say were so good that you stole the flip charts afterwards? *confession*.
This was particularly pertinent to me because I run three open education websites which I financially maintain, albeit for the cost of probably a bottle of wine a week, it is certainly worth it. This session gave me the structure of a business model to consider based around the overall goals of the site – to maintain or to grow. Well grow I say!!! There are only so many hours in my days I can sit around my kitchen table supporting VAL, SCOOTER and BIOLOGY COURSES, and I now have a plan. Things to consider:
- Institutional ownership – far to many projects are pioneered by individuals and are never preserved by their institutions. A must for sustainability.
- Digital preservation – we can’t future-proof everything, but releasing materials openly licensed, using open source and not locked in behind proprietary software. Multiple file formats please.
- Existing and “outside of the box” revenue streams, or crowdsourcing a bit of money to pay the costs.
For more information, the Jisc Strategic Content Alliance has a heap of resources on this very subject, and I’ll be delving in very shortly.
The future of research – are you ready?
By Jeremy Frey and other contributors. I’m waiting for the Digifest site to publish the content and full list of contributors.
This was a mind blowing session. There is a rapid move toward publicly funded research in the UK making it mandatory to openly share all research data. The pain of the learning curve for open educational resources I remember was quite significant but achievable with the right support. The pain of this I feel will be much greater. It will require huge cultural changes to ways of working.
But new technology is helping – digital notebooks, data companies, increased collaboration between laboratories and transparency. Of course there are massive implications for individuals, departments and universities and much pain to go through before amazing benefits can be achieved.
I’m thinking – hurrah – the honest publication of research data that will at last overcome the bias of publication where mostly only POSITIVE findings are revealed. But would I want to reveal my scruffy notebooks to the world? And again, although it wasn’t clear if this would be openly licensed, but how would you prevent plagiarism, or even define it, if any researcher could pool data from a number of researchers, and republish? I guess that is the process of meta-analysis, so there would need to be assurances that the originator would be fully attributed. Fine, but not sure how you would police that.
Whatever happened to the MOOC?
Of course I’m going to pick this panel session because I was very kindly invited to participate, and what a mind-blowing panel talking about global open education in terms of history, university policy, activity in Scotland, applications to post-graduate teaching certificates, open educational science resources, and university courses that have gone totally and mindblowingly open.
It was quite telling, that during the entire course of the conference, MOOCs were barely mentioned. In fact I only recall one reference by Diana Oblinger in her keynote questions:
I would suggest that even though quite a lot of people are excited about MOOCs, …. they are a form of brand extension. It is not designed to be a course. They are hugely expensive and their audience is not traditional students.
Enough of silly MOOCs. The session was led by the irrepressible, irresponsible, unbelievable David Kernohan in his Chas n Dave t-shirt.
And if that wasn’t enough of a panel, on video was: Audrey Watters, David Wiley and Jim Groom.
Some wonderful examples of the power of opening up classrooms were told and have been written about elsewhere today:
And finally, futurology?
The final conference speaker was Ray Hammond, a futurologist. Ray spoke about many things and how they will affect us. He missed out one very important thing though.
The future is absolutely and most definitely OPEN!
It feels only right to finish on a song!
Open education philosophies and approaches – resources, courses, practices – are well embedded into educational thinking around the globe. Here is just one example of how awesome open education can be, and how completely awesome the global community indeed is! Amber asked a simple question about open educational resources (OERs).
Hi! Could you please point me to any openly licensed materials that support students preparing for undergraduate degrees? Study skills but also independent learning for those students away from home for possibly the first time.
These were the responses:
Digital Scholarship Website (Creative Commons – range of licenses for downloading, repurposing and reusing) – Becoming a Digital Scholar – resources for research students and anyone wishing to use digital tools for study. Learning online, WordPress, academic and digital literacies and skills.
Ready to Research Website (Creative Commons – range of licenses for downloading, repurposing and reusing) – Getting started as a researcher, accessing and reading papers, data management, ethics and intellectual property.
Prepare for Success ( (C) Southampton but free access to website) – a website for international students who are getting ready to come to the UK for study in further or higher education. Adapting to a new life, getting ready for university study, academic skills and studying independently.
Learning Skills Portal University of Surrey (Creative Commons – range of licenses for downloading, repurposing and reusing) – produced by Viv Sieber, a compliation of a vast number of open educational resources to support student study skills, researcher training, employability and lots more!
OpenLearn Study Skills (Mix of (C) and Creative Commons licenses) – a number of short online Open University courses orienting students toward all the basic skills.
Learnhigher (Creative Commons – range of licenses for downloading, repurposing and reusing) – a “must” for all lecturers. Free to use, download and repurpose, a large number of resources from time mangement, to literacy, statistics, research and employability. Aimed at university staff.
Careers Service OERs University of Leicester (Creative Commons – range of licenses for downloading, repurposing and reusing) – a whole range of academic skills and employment skills covered here including applying for jobs and CV writing. Aimed at students.
Being Digital – Skills for Life Online Open University ( (C) OU ) – a great online course covering a number of important topics such as digitial identify, using social media, and use of online tools to support learning. Aimed at students. Not openly licensed to download or reuse.
Time Management Oxford Podcasts ( (C) Oxford University, but many other podcasts are Creative Commons). A podcast on time management – useful for students and staff!
Engage in Research University of Reading CETL ( (C) University of Reading) – free to use website getting students started in research. A step by step guide from ideas to dissemination.
Open Education Conference 2013
November 6-8, Utah
I am very excited about being in UTAH this week and presenting at OpenEd 13. Here are slides accompanying my presentation and below are listed other resources and a short description of the research. A full publication is currently being drafted.
Methodology for literature and blogature searching and evaluation – coming in a wee while!
I am interested in our academic and social responsibility toward online learners. I don’t know a single academic past or present who is not entirely dedicated to supporting young people through their education. I just get the sense that just because some online learning is now free, academic institutions involved have just stopped caring.
My aim was to look at the literature and “blogature” surrounding massive open online courses (MOOCs) that has discussed academic standards, social responsibility, inclusivity and accessibility, and many of the other core values of an education institution. I conducted a systematic review of the literature and also evolved methods for identifying and evaluating other web-based literature such as blog articles.
What did I find?
In his keynote lecture at the OpenEd13 meeting, George Siemens reported on recent Gates-funded research around MOOCs, and identified there is certainly interest in good quality research being carried out. I guess I am a little surprised at the conference so far at the lack of speakers talking about any research underway. Mike Caulfield was one exception reporting on a really interesting study where a group of academics looked at using MOOCs in blended learning scenarios.
Hopefully my research will act as a bit of a primer in terms of identifying gaps and also making the plea (once again) for good quality work.
Whenever I research an educational field, as with my past systematic review looking at multimedia and learning (Rolfe and Gray 2011), it is always surprising how little good quality education research is actually carried out. In my MOOC review, of the 38 peer-reviewed articles that I did find, 26 were empirical studies and only 1 was a case-control study with two comparative groups. Only 1 study directly addressed social responsibility, and the rest largely focused on methodology for analysing learner data rather than the learner experience.
Results of the blog search
In addition to searching peer-reviewed academic journals, I used Google Scholar and Google Blog Search to surface current opinion and other useful reports. The blogs were from high authority people – academics, technologists, senior university executive, and in my thinking are as good quality as any “letter to the editor”, “comment” or “mini-review” of any peer-reviewed journal. Some of my themes of interest in terms of digital and social inclusion, intellectual property and privacy, were reflected in the blogs but not the published literature.
I would hate to see people get a bad taste of university because there’s just too many students in there to get personal attention.
There will be no private, “safe” spaces for learning.
Fairly unaltered in relation to the important stuff like instructional design, instructional delivery, and authentic assessment.
Conclusions of the research
The increasing number of free online courses delivered by large-scale platforms (xMOOCs) are reaching potential learners all over the world, and sparking much debate in media and educational circles. What is clear is the evidence supporting the MOOC in terms of learning design and providing the best possible opportunities for learners is lacking, and much research focuses around tracking users and analysing the vast quantities of user data.
It would be lovely to see in the future:
- Some good quality research into xMOOC learners – their needs, their successes and what happens when they fail? This could feed directly back into mechanisms for support.
- Discussion around intellectual property and privacy. Do participants know they are being tracked? Where are their personal details going next? Don’t they have the right to a safe space in which to learn?
- How inclusive and accessible are xMOOCs? Current institutional strategies reflect widening participation, providing accessible learning for ALL including those with special needs, and are digitally inclusive. Much of this is not reflected yet in the xMOOC.