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Reflections on the state of MOOCs, from the eMOOC2019 Conference

- June 10, 2019 in Featured, guestpost, MOOCs, oer, open-education

By Fabio Nascimbeni & Valentina Goglio
Couple of weeks ago, we attended the eMOOC2019 conference in Naples, an international event gathering the major global MOOCs providers such as Coursera, edX and FutureLearn, aiming to advance the international debate on MOOCs and online learning in general.                               Our main takeaway is that MOOC as a concept is evolving, and not towards an open future, for at least two reasons. First, despite the rhetoric put forward by the major global MOOCs providers, who still speak of “MOOC revolution” and of “MOOCs transforming access to education”, the feeling is that MOOCs are losing their first O (the one of Open). The new “usage models” adopted by the main international providers tend in fact to restrict the open and free use of their MOOCs resources in different ways. Let alone that MOOCs content are very rarely released as OERs, we have been getting used to MOOCs whose content is available only when the course is actually running, and now we have to face the fact that once we subscribe to a course we have access to its content only for a limited period of time. The first one to introduce a paywall for graded assignments was the for-profit platform Coursera in 2015, then joined by FutureLearn in 2017, which further restricted free access to course materials to 14 days after the end of the course. The latest to join the group is the non-profit platform EdX, whose course materials will not be freely accessible after the end of the course, starting from early 2019 (source: Class Central) Second, as demonstrated by the micro credentials hype coupled with the massive entrance in the MOOC market by the Australian recruitment company SEEK (that invested some 50M$ in FutureLearn and more than 100M$ in Coursera), MOOCs are transforming into “off the shelf skills development courses” with a clear employability target. As Mark Brown noted in the OpenupEd Trend Report on MOOCs, the recent wave of MOOCs is moving toward MOOCs for credit and Continuing Professional Development. The new hot topic are micro-credentials: professional short degrees that pile up single MOOCs or online university courses to form a short and consistent series on a specific topic. Not surprisingly, opportunities and limitations associated to such resources targeting professionals and other medium-high skilled workers were discussed, during the eMOOC2019 conference, in three parallel sessions and one plenary round table. Gone are the days of the MOOCs revolution in a lifelong and informal learning sense. We know MOOCs started as a phenomenon connected to Open Education, and many of us have witnessed the turn that this kind of online courses have taken from the first open and connectivist experiences (of Downes and Siemens, among others) towards more content-based and structured courses with an increasing employability and market value, but “clockwork MOOCs” are not easy to digest. On the positive side, the eMOOCs conference also showed some more open approaches to MOOCs, such as the one by Federica.eu, the MOOCs platform of the hosting organisation Università Federico II of Naples, or the Open Knowledge POLIMI which provides all video lectures freely available on their dedicated Youtube channel. It is possibly in these national experience where we can still find some of the original breadth of MOOCS. For the rest, quoting the inspiring presentation of Monty King on postcolonial aspects of MOOCS: “the empire MOOCs back”. — About the authors Fabio Nascimbeni works as assistant professor in the International University of La Rioja, and is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Sao Paulo (USP), where he collaborates with the CEST – Centro de Estudos sobre Tecnologia e Sociedade. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the European Distance and eLearning Network (EDEN), of the Editorial Board of the EURODL Journal, as well as of a number of Scientific Committees in the field of learning innovation. He is active in the field of innovation and ICT for learning since 1998, by designing and coordinating more than 40 research and innovation projects and promoting European and international collaboration in different areas, from school education to higher education to lifelong learning. Further, he has coordinated a number of international collaboration actions in fields spanning from Science and Technology, ICT research, information society development, educational research, specifically focusing on Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia. His main research interests are open education, learning innovation, e-learning, digital literacy, social and digital inclusion, social networking. He can be followed as @fabionascimbeni on Twitter. Valentina Goglio is Marie Slodowska-Curie Fellow at the Department of Cultures, Politics and Society at the University of Turin (IT). Valentina does research in Economic Sociology and Sociology of Education. Her current project is on diffusion of MOOCs and their social implications for access and returns to education. (this post was originally published in the http://research.unir.net/ blog)

Celebrating the Open Web as a route towards a (more) Critical Digital Education

- March 29, 2019 in advisoryboard, communication, critical literacies, Featured, guestpost, oer, open web, open-education

By Daniel Villar OnrubiaThis month it is 30 years (CERN 2019) since Sir Tim Berners-Lee came up with his idea for an ‘information management system’ that effectively set the ground for the hyper-connected world that a considerable part of the global population now live in (thought still not truely worldwide). Originally conceived to facilitate knowledge sharing across scholarly organisations, the World Wide Web (WWW) has quickly permeated all areas of everyday life. Current discussions around openness in education tend to put a lot of emphasis on copyright and open licensing. Actually, this is the main aspect underpinning most popular definitions of ‘Open Educational Resources’ (OER), a concept that is core to contemporary interpretations of the broader concept of Open Education. Whereas the open licensing of content is indeed a rather topical issue due to the increasingly restrictive nature of copyright legislation and the rather narrow scope of copyright exceptions in many countries, the openness of online infrastructures surely deserves more attention when it comes to discussing teaching and learning in a networked world and open knowledge sharing practices. This post addresses the value of the Web as an enabler of open knowledge, discusses some important threats and reviews some activities and resources produced as a result of the Open Web for Learning & Teaching Expertise Hub (OWLTEH), an initiative I initiated last year with Lauren Heywood – throughout the 5th cohort of the Mozilla’s Open Leaders Programme – in collaboration with other colleagues from the Disruptive Media Learning Lab and a wider network of contributors.

Openness and the (World Wide) Web

Building on the global infrastructure offered by the Internet, three decades ago Berners-Lee- created a set of protocols and standards that made it possible to easily share and retrieve information by means of a network of hyper-linked documents (CERN n.d.).  The HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), along with a system of resource identifiers, are the main building blocks of what quickly became arguably the most open medium for distant communication humanity has ever seen. The World Wide Web is often referred as the Open Web to emphasise how openness is intrinsic to its underpinning principles. First, it was originally conceived as a system to share information publicly, making it available to anyone with access to the Internet for free, unlike closed private network systems such as CompuServe. Second, the Web prompted a new media landscape where consumers of content had also the possibility to become producers, so the restrictions of one-to-many and one-to-one ways of communicating could be subverted to, at least potentially, enable more participatory cultures. Last, but definitely not least, just a few years after its invention, CERN dedicated all the key Web software components to the Public Domain, applying open licences to subsequent releases and eventually moving to a Copyleft model of licensing (Tim Smith & Flückiger n.d.). Free and open-source software is still a core principle of the main building blocks underpinning the Web these days (e.g. HTML, CSS, SVG):

“The Open Web Platform is the collection of open (royalty-free) technologies which enables the Web. Using the Open Web Platform, everyone has the right to implement a software component of the Web without requiring any approvals or waiving license fees.” (W3C Wiki 2015)

However, there is a growing concern on how discrete online platforms that operate as ‘walled gardens’ are hindering the Open Web. As Dries Buytaert, founder of Drupal, puts it:

We call them “Walled Gardens” because they control the applications, content and media on their platform. Examples include Facebook or Google, which control what content we get to see; or Apple, which restricts us to running approved applications on iOS. This is in contrast to the Open Web, where users have unrestricted access to applications, content and media.” (Buytaert 2015)

A report recently published by the Web Foundation identified the increasing concentration of power in the hands of just a few major global actors as a major threat to the ethos upon which the Web was originally built.

“While the web was created to be a decentralised platform where everyone can contribute and no single creator has a built-in advantage over the other, web activity has become dominated by a shrinking number of powerful companies that are able to wield significant influence over what we see online — and what we don’t. The growing imbalance between individuals and these powerful actors threatens to limit and undermine the power of the free and open web” (Web Foundation 2018)

It is not just the high concentration of visibility and power that is concerning, but also the fact that those actors tend to rely on business models that most often involve tracking and profiling users, who become the actual ‘product’ sold to other corporations that pay for targeted advertisement.

“A future without an open Web is a future of radical fragmentation, one in which people are increasingly isolated from one another, marooned on incompatible digital islands, and beholden to those with the power to determine what everyone reads, studies, watches, and says (and, similarly, who’s allowed to read, study, watch, and speak). It’s a future in which people can’t engage in basic interactions without first releasing details about their identities to multiple stakeholders capable of tracking their activities and tailoring their potential views of the world.” (Behrenshausen 2017)

Learning on/with the Open Web

Instead of starting the OWLTEH journey with a narrow or prescriptive definition of the term ‘Open Web’, we chose to embrace its vagueness and multifaceted nature by encouraging contributors to follow their own interpretations of the term, specifically in the context of teaching and learning. At the same time, we highlighted the importance of openness as part of the underpinning principles of the Web as originally conceived by Berners-Lee (2017): “an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities, and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.” Sites like Wikipedia – and the wider family of Wikimedia projects –, Archive.org and repositories of OER are quintessential examples of the Open Web as a resource for learning, open educational practice and reducing gaps re access opportunities to knowledge. They offer ways of finding and sharing knowledge without requiring users to pay – apart from the cost of getting online in the first place – and do not monetise them through targeted advertising either. In addition, by making use of open public licences they can enable not just the consumption of content but also reuse and repurposing in different ways. Likewise, self-hosted websites and web publishing tools, such as free open source Content Management Systems (e.g. WordPress.org), are often regarded as instances of the Open Web that offer valuable opportunities for learning and knowledge sharing, even though someone will need to cover the cost of web hosting and domain names. Examples of educational institutions providing students and/or educators with web hosting space include the Domain of One’s Own approach, academic blogging platforms or the Prof. Dr. type” of webpage, as defined by Olia Lialina (2010), created in the early days of the web by academics who had access to hosting space from their universities. Platforms like Twitter or Google HangOut, as well as hosted web publishing services (e.g. WordPress.com), are also often regarded as instances of the open web that can offer valuable opportunities for learning and teaching. The argument for this is that despite commodifying users’ data and their reliance on targeted advertising to offer a “free” service, they can enable educators and learners to publicly share information and engage in distributed conversations. In this regard, instead of thinking in binary terms (open web vs. closed web), it is important to recognise there are several degrees of openness and even various ways of measuring it as there are diverse possible interpretations of the concept. When thinking of the Open Web for knowledge sharing, some people will prioritise the use of open public licences or the use of open free software, while others might associate openness with the convenience (or only possibility) of having access to tools that can be used to share information and communicate without having to go through a paywall. As part of OWLTEH, we are building a collaborative catalogue of Open Web instances (e.g. tools, platforms, webs, etc.) that can be particularly valuable for learning and teaching: http://catalogue.owlteh.org We have also created a collection of short videos with experts sharing their views on the Open Web as well as inspiring examples of its use in educational contexts: http://perspectives.owlteh.org/   In addition to those online resources, in October 2018 we hosted a MozFest fringe event along with Jim Groom (Reclaim Hosting) under the theme of ‘Learning on/with the Open Web’ (OWLTEH18). You can find abstracts, photos and recordings here at https://www.conf.owlteh.org/  

Critical Digital Literacies

Information and media literacy have been traditionally concerned with fostering a critical evaluation of content; what Howard Rheingold calls, borrowing Hemingway’s words, ‘crap detection’. Likewise, due to the heavy influence of Critical Theory in the formation of Media Studies as a field of research, a considerable amount of attention in media education has been paid to power dynamics by focusing on the “analysis and questioning of domination, inequality, societal problems, exploitation in order to advance social struggles and the liberation from domination so that a dominationless, co-operative, participatory society can emerge.” (Fuchs 2011: p.19) Despite the initial tendency of Digital Literacy frameworks to focus primarily on functional or technical skills (i.e. pushing buttons), other dimensions concerned with the social, cultural, political, economic and ethical implications of technology have gained ground to a considerable extent. For instance, safety and well-being are now a core component of some of the most prominent frameworks (e.g. Jisc Digital Capability, DigComp). And a recent report on Digital Skills for Life and Work published by the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development (2017) even explicitly used the notion of critical digital literacy as a “set of specific understandings and a disposition towards the politics of the digital society and digital economy” (p.32). Approaching digital literacies from a critical perspective requires contextualising practices within the complex ‘political economy’ (Taffel 2014)  of networked societies and, therefore, gaining awareness of what we give away when using online infrastructures in exchange for the possibility of accessing information, communicating and participating within geographically distributed communities. As David Buckingham (2018) warns:

“We are steadily moving towards a situation where the circulation of media is controlled by a very small number of global monopolies. ‘Participatory’ media operate according to a very different business model from that of older ‘mass’ media; but it is vital that we understand how this new data-driven economy works.”

Exploring the Open Web – both as a concept and knowledge infrastructure – offers valuable opportunities for the development of a more critical kind of digital competence, enhancing the ability to engage effectively but also ethically with the current social and technical ecosystem. Moving beyond prescriptive and normative views, to favour dialogue and questioning instead, is essential.

References

 
About the author Daniel Villar-Onrubia works as Principal Project Lead at the Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL), an experimental unit at Coventry University (UK) specifically created to drive innovation in teaching and learning. His research focuses on Open Educational Practices (OEP), Internationalisation of the Curriculum (IoC) and Digital Literacies are some of his main areas of interest. After completing his DPhil (PhD) at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), University of Oxford, he joined Coventry University in 2014 as Online International Learning Programme Manager, which allowed him to work at the intersection of online learning and internationalisation. Prior to moving to the UK, he worked at the International University of Andalucia (UNIA), where he was one of the founders of the Digital Practices & Cultures Programme and its Centre for Creation & Experimentation in Digital Content. He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a member of the Personal Networks & Communities Lab of the University of Seville (Spain). He can be followed as @villaronrubia on Twitter.

Open Education in Chile: small steps in an adverse context

- February 4, 2019 in Featured, guestpost, oer, Open Science, Open Textbooks, open-education, world

Guest post by Werner Westermann & Carlos Ruz
Just as the new Open University of Recoleta was announced in November 2018, it immediately sparked a nationwide discussion about the public role of universities, due to an informal institution calling itself university.  Recoleta’s major, the leader of a traditional but impoverished borough in Santiago, has been clear when saying that the mission of the Open University of Recoleta is to “promote the democratisation of knowledge and access to a plurality of knowledge and disciplines through teaching, research and extension activities aiming at facilitating the integral development of its students in a cultural environment based on collaboration, citizen participation and innovation“. The Open University of Recoleta’s mission is supported by an institutional policy based on Open Educational Resources, the first institution in Chile to explicitly uptake openness, although this policy can be still considered.  An unfinished “open” policy, as they do not explicitly have an open licensing scheme or a set of clearly describe Open practices that will flow in this Open “Pluriversity”, a new concept to elude the legal technicalities of being a “real” university, which is similar to the concept of Volkshochschule in Germany, where the idea of popular universities is widely adopted and well regarded. This case is very illustrative of Chile’s slow progress around openness and OER, despite the growing interest and awareness across the world.  There has been in the last decade very few small initiatives and projects related to OER (showcased here in the OER World Map)  Surely there are many reasons for this situation, but we could highlight:
  1. Disregard  and indifference towards user’s rights:  Although the Ministry of Education websites have declared their contents are  attributed with open licenses (CC-BY) in their footers, that is not translated to the contents and educational resources stored  in their repositories, as the case of the YoEstudio and the CRA School Libraries. In both cases, the educational resources do not specify the rights to use the resources they host or distribute, therefore, and by default, these are all rights reserved, as specified in the law.
  2. If explicit, user’s rights are restrictive:  Copyright (all rights reserved) is ubiquitous  as the default user’s rights. A good example is the largest  educational resources repository for K-12 schools, EducarChile.  They have added a Creative Commons license as to their website, but the Terms and Conditions of use of their educational resources are highly restrictive
  3. Publicly funded  does not mean public use: Despite Chile’s pledge to foster open access to information and data funded with public resources and having a law on access to public information, in Chilean Higher Education, almost, if not all, public funds promote exclusive institutional ownership of the results and the knowledge created in those projects. Those public funds are disputed in a competitive scenario, where universities and researchers  struggle within a capitalistic and privatised education system framework has made competition its matrix, at the expense of open cooperation and mutual collaboration.
  4. Lack of incentives:  In Higher Education, academic or professional development incentives are is not focused on the field of teaching, even less with learning.  Normally, these incentives aim at supporting research activity (mostly publicly funded) that must be published in high impact journals , as the pernicious higher education rankings and metrics foster a toxic scholarly culture in which he results of the research are  focused on the commercialisation, conceived as an exclusive asset. The logic of treasuring my personal assets is fuelled by an ecosystem regulated by large monopolies (Elsevier) that control indexation, thus the dissemination and citation of scientific research and by the University Rankings corporations that feed this malignant system for the sake of climbing up in a system that has nefarious consequences in emerging economies, by draining public funds when paying corporations excruciating high fees and subscription to publish publicly funded research.
Despite the educational landscape seeming to be unable of  providing a fertile soil to foster Open Access, Open Science, Open Education and and OER, there are some advancements in this area worth showcasing Through a Public Diplomacy Grant from the US Embassy in Santiago, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso developed an Open Textbook project.  This project resulted in the development and translation of open textbooks that were deployed formally in different courses.  One book was developed by faculty remixing existing open content from whose resources are in the public domain.  Another book was reviewed and enhanced by students, an open educational practice that stunned faculty and fully-engaged students.  This led to translate to Spanish the award-winning book from REBUS “Guide to Making Open Textbooks with Students”. For next academic year, new strategies are considered to promote theses results, highlighting the potential of open pedagogies that build OER, showed how students engaged in both processes and how innovation in teaching flourished.  The results and more details can be seen here:  http://openbooks.biblioteca.ucv.cl/ Another grant funded by the Chilean Cooperation Agency (https://www.agci.cl/) made possible a project to see how Digital Citizenship creates a new scenario for civic engagement, in collaboration with the Library of National Congress of Chile and the Instituto Belisario Domínguez from the Senate in Mexico.  A series of OER were developed (state-of-art content, a learning outcome matrix, assessment item bank, e-learning professional development course) to include Digital Citizenship in schools. We adapted and piloted these resources in Chilean as well Mexican schools (with very exciting results in Mexico!!).  The openness of these resources has already made an impact, as the Council for Transparency reused the assessment item bank in a videogame they developed ().  More details of this project can be seen here:  http://www.bcn.cl/formacioncivica/chile_mexico In the spirit of cooperation, and to foster citizenship and participation,  a national commitment to develop OER for digital citizenship was included in the 3rd OGP Open Government Action Plan (2016-2018), which has been an important platform to promote openness in Chile from the Open Government guidelines. That work will continue in the recently published 4th OGP Government Action Plan (2018-2020), where the commitment is to create OER to define and configure the critical skills for Open (Government) Citizenry, which in indeed  aligned with the SDG 4.7 emphasising on sustainable development and global citizenship. It should be noted that the process of building this commitment it has involved a series of actors in order to co-create this commitment, continuing with what was initiated in the previous action plan, seeking to provide a capacity building model of citizenship competencies through OER, and to provide opportunities for people contributing to democratise citizen participation   Mainstreaming openness and OER in the chilean educational context will be a long and rocky journey, but definitely is core to foster a pathway to guide the nation in fostering   quality education for by promoting Open Science, Open Access and Open Education to further democratise access to knowledge .  
About the authors Werner Westermann, leads the Civic Education Program at the Library of National Congress of Chile.  He has over 20 years of work experience in digital technology-enabled education and training in different institutions (national ministries, higher education institutions, international agencies, NGO’s). He is an Open Education and Open Educational Resources (OER) advocate and practitioner and a co-writer of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration.  He is the Project lead of OER deployment/development and research projects in Chile. OER Consultant for UNESCO in Open Educational Resources, Institute of Open Leadership fellow (Creative Commons).   Carlos Ruz is a Maths teacher, the innovation and research director of Maule Scholar, and head of the LabDatos Chile. He frequently writes for  Chile Científico and is an active member of the civil society network for Open Government.

SCOOTER – a reflection.

- January 30, 2019 in Featured, guestpost, oer, Open Science, open-education

(Sickle Cell Open Online Topics and Educational Resources)

    Guest post by Viv Rolfe
The start of a new year seems a good time to reflect back on my past OER work. One project I was most fondest of was ‘SCOOTER’ – Sickle Cell Open Online Topics and Educational Resources [http://sicklecellanaemia.org]. The name not at all celebrating one of my favourite Muppet characters! This was very much inspired by Professor Simon Dyson a social scientist at De Montfort University (where I worked at the time) who’s research looked into the social and care surrounding young people with sickle cell and other haemoglobin disorders. Coupled with a geneticist colleague Dr Mark Fowler, we set to engage colleagues across our faculties in providing multidisciplinary teaching materials to raise awareness of the needs of young people with sickle cell, and provide education content on this vitally important subject. SCOOTER was funded by Jisc OER Programme in 2010 marking the 100thanniversary of the discovery of ‘peculiar elongated cells’ by James Herrick. What followed that year was a snowballing, or more of an avelanch, of enthusiasm and interest, not just from our faculty as intended but across the university. Some of my most cherished resources were from an arts student Jacob Escott who was utterly inspired by the human body and I remember my first meeting which went well past an hour and I had to hustle him out of the office so I could go and teach. Jacob inspired me in SCOOTER and various projects after that by providing the artwork which created strong project identities, great colour schemes and were utterly fabulous. SCOOTER shared resources on social care, nursing, genetics, personal experiences, art, and included the involvement of the pathology department at the local hospital, Leicester Royal Infirmary.This started a collaboration where they would share biomedical content (data, graphs, photographs) under open licenses that we would repackage as educational materials. We’d both use the OER in our teaching or training of biomedical scientists in the lab. Professor Dyson’s main area of work is in providing healthcare policy documents for schools that give plain speaking guidance for helping young people, and these are certainly some of the projects most visited pages over the 8 years. These vital guides have been translated into many languages. Scooter received personal reflections from students and healthcare professionals. In one, Professor Elizabeth Anionwu shared a video of her experience of setting up the first nurse counselling services in the UK [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VK0p8t-NA-Q]. My most favourite recent editions is a song composed and performed by students in a school in Africa – Sikul Sel. As I reflect back on the very first blog post on November 27th2010,  we achieved our goals of making the project ‘search engine optimised’ by using researched keywords, having content in multiple formats (also for accessibility), and sharing content on multiple social media platforms (for sustainability). The WordPress blog was perfect for this. I’ve just about managed to keep the blogs afloat in the subsequent years – slightly irked that I’d never received any thanks or support from the university as a whole, but very grateful that I’d discovered Reclaim Hosting who have been so generous as to assist with the very occasional technical difficulties.

Another goal was “building a vibrant community of users”.

We did at the time, but I wouldn’t say this has sustained over the years. In terms of Google rankings the site has definitely slumped, but resources on YouTube and Flickr still gain new views every year. We might have a vibrant community of users – I just have no way of knowing that now.

“New challenges will surely emerge as economic factors change the face of Higher Education in the UK and wider a field, and Open Education may hold the key to the future as students choose their own educational settings and tailor-make their own experiences”.

Oh how I should have placed a bet on that one! How insightful of me at the time. Yes, there would be only one more year of OER funding in the UK, but within a few years any funding for digital, pedagogic or teaching-enhancement research in the UK would cease. The HEA is no longer and Jisc continues to merge with other sector agencies [https://www.jisc.ac.uk/news/hesa-and-jisc-integration-10-jan-2019]. The fate of OER is shaky, with many of the original resources produced between 2009 and 2012 no-longer retrievable, and certainly the communities and the learning lost. Has OER held the key for students (to) choose their own educational settings and tailor-make their own experiences”. I think I foresaw a booming OER sharing economy at that time, and I think students gained not so much by having access to these materials to support heir learning, but certainly were enthused and grew through co-creating and contributing to resources and the project.  Sadly I think UK higher education policy has put the nail in the coffin for that opportunity, with universities ever-more competing for students rather than investing in the sharing of resources. The quest to achieve good TEF outcomes has leveraged a culture of league tables at the expense of learning (in my opinion). What hampered all of my OER projects was the continual turnover of senior staff and continuing having to lobby for support for projects rather than them being embedded in learning and teaching and/or digital strategy. I don’t think we really considered how easy it would be to repurpose materials, although in my experience people are overwhelmingly happy to link to them and use them directly as they are. Maybe repurposing was a bit of a red-herring. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the buzz and excitement of working on this project – my first major external funding award. I’m proud that SCOOTER lives on and wish there was some way it could be reignited as a repository for educational materials for this all important subject. The Nursing Times only last year called for more teaching on this subject. In our paper that surveyed over 200 university educators, it was concluded that sickle cell was a major public health issue globally that is neglected in university curricula across the board, not just nursing and health professionals (1). Ref (1) Rolfe, V., Fowler, M., & Dyson, S. M. (2011). Sickle cell in the university curriculum: a survey assessing demand for open-access educational materials in a constructed community of interest. Diversity in Health & Care8(4). https://www.dora.dmu.ac.uk/xmlui/handle/2086/5952 — About the author
Viv Rolfe
(PhD) is member of the OEWG advisory board and is an independent open educator and directs three science open educational resource websites (http://vivrolfe.com/open-education/) sharing materials co-created with students, hospital laboratory staff and academics with global audiences. She is involved in the UK Open Textbook Project funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation along with the OER Research Hub and Wonkhe.com, aiming to raise awareness of open textbooks and explore with academics, library and technology staff the possibilities of utilizing the amazing range of books available. As with all of her open education work, she aspires to widen access to educational materials and research, and encourage more open academic practice. She is co-chair of the #OER18 conference to be held in Bristol, April 2018 where global delegates and virtual attendees will discuss the impact of open education on learning and learner inclusion (and exclusion). She is a blogger, #DS106 learner and jazz musician, alongside working full-time as Head of Research for Pukka Herbs. She can be followed as @vivienrolfe on Twitter.

Changing Minds by Using Open Data

- July 2, 2018 in Open Data, open-education, WG Open Education

This blog has been rewritten from the original post on our Open Education Working Group blog and is co-authored by Javiera Atenas, Erdinç Saçan & Robert Schuwer.   The Greek philosopher Pythagoras once said:
“if you want to multiply joy, then you have to share.”

This also applies to data. Who shares data, gets a multitude of joy – value – in return. This post is based on the practical application at Fontys University of Applied Sciences, School of ICT in Eindhoven, the Netherlands by Erdinç Saçan & Robert Schuwer of the pedagogical approach developed by Javiera Atenas and Leo Havemann from the Open Education Working Group focused in the use of Open Data as Open Educational Resources in which they argue that that while Open Data is not always OER, it certainly becomes OER when used within pedagogical contexts. Open data has been highlighted as a key to information transparency and scientific advancement. Students who are exposed to the use of open data have access to the same raw materials that scientists and policy-makers use. This enables them to engage with real problems at both local and global levels. Educators who make use of open data in teaching and learning encourage students to think as researchers, as journalists, as scientists, and as policy makers and activists. They also provide a meaningful context for gaining experience in research workflows and processes, as well as learning good practices in data management, analysis and reporting. The pedagogic deployment of open data as OER thus supports the development of critical, analytical, collaborative and citizenship skills, and has enormous potential to generate new knowledge. ICT is not just about technology – it’s about coming up with solutions to solve problems or to help people, businesses, communities and governments. Developing ICT solutions means working with people to find a solution. Students in Information & Communication Technology learn how to work with databases, analysing data and making dashboards that will help the users to make the right decisions. Data collections are required for these learning experiences. You can create these data collections (artificially) yourself or use “real” data collections, openly available (like those from Statistics Netherlands (CBS)). In education, data is becoming increasingly important, both in policy, management and in the education process itself. The scientific research that supports education is becoming increasingly dependent on data. Data leads to insights that help improve the quality of education (Atenas & Havemann, 2015). But in the current era where a neo-liberal approach of education seems to dominate, the “Bildung” component of education is considered more important than ever. The term Bildung is attributed to Willem van Humboldt (1767-1835). It refers to general evolution of all human qualities, not only acquiring knowledge, but also developing skills for moral judgments and critical thinking.

Study

In (Atenas & Havemann, 2015), several case studies are described where the use of open data contributes to developing the Bildung component of education. To contribute to these cases and eventually extend experiences, a practical study has been conducted. The study had the following research question:
“How can using open data in data analysis learning tasks contribute to the Bildung component of the ICT Bachelor Program of Fontys School of ICT in the Netherlands?”
In the study, an in-depth case study is executed, using an A / B test method. One group of students had a data set with artificial data available, while the other group worked with a set of open data from the municipality of Utrecht. A pre-test and post-test should reveal whether a difference in development of the Bildung component can be measured. Both tests were conducted by a survey. Additionally, some interviews have been conducted afterwards to collect more in-depth information and explanations for the survey results. For our A/B test, we used three data files from the municipality of Utrecht (a town in the center of the Netherlands, with ~350,000 inhabitants). These were data from all quarters in Utrecht:
  • Crime figures
  • Income
  • Level of Education
(Source: https://utrecht.dataplatform.nl/data) We assumed, all students had opinions on correlations between these three types of data, e.g. “There is a proportional relation between crime figures and level of education” or “There is an inversely proportional relation between income and level of education”. We wanted to see which opinions students had before they started working with the data and if these opinions were influenced after they had analyzed the data. A group of 40 students went to work with the data. The group was divided into 20 students who went to work with real data and 20 went to work with ‘fake’ data. Students were emailed with the three data files and the following assignment: “check CSV (Excel) file in the attachment. Please try this to do an analysis. Try to draw a minimum of 1, a maximum of 2 conclusions from it… this can be anything. As long as it leads to a certain conclusion based on the figures.” In addition, there was also a survey in which we tried to find out how students currently think about correlations between crime, income and educational level. Additionally, some students were interviewed to get some insights into the figures collected by the survey.

Results

For the survey, 40 students have been approached. The response consisted of 25 students. All students indicated that working with real data is more fun, challenging and concrete. It motivates them. Students who worked with fake data did not like this as much. In interviews they indicated that they prefer, for example, to work with cases from companies rather than cases invented by teachers. In the interviews, the majority of students indicated that by working with real data they have come to a different understanding of crime and the reasons for it. They became aware of the social impact of data and they were triggered to think about social problems. To illustrate, here some responses students gave in interviews: “Before I started working with the data, I had always thought that there was more crime in districts with a low income and less crime in districts with a high income. After I have analyzed the data, I have seen that this is not immediately the case. So my thought about this has indeed changed. It is possible, but it does not necessarily have to be that way.” (M. K.) “At first, I also thought that there would be more crime in communities with more people with a lower level of education than in communities with more people with a higher level of education. In my opinion, this image has changed in part. I do not think that a high or low level of education is necessarily linked to this, but rather to the situation in which they find themselves. So if you are highly educated, but things are really not going well (no job, poor conditions at home), then the chance of criminality is greater than if someone with a low level of education has a job.” ( A. K.) “I think it has a lot of influence. You have an image and an opinion beforehand. But the real data either shows the opposite or not. And then you think, “Oh yes, this is it.’. And working with fake data, is not my thing. It has to provide real insights.” (M.D.)  

Conclusion

Our experiment provided positive indications that contributing to the Bildung component of education by using open data in data analysis exercises is possible. Next steps to develop are both extending these experiences to larger groups of students and to more topics in the curriculum.

References

 

About the authors

Javiera Atenas: PhD in Education and co-coordinator of the Open Knowledge Open Education Working Group, responsible for the promotion of Open Data, Open Policies and Capacity Building in Open Education. She is also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and the Education Lead at the Latin American Initiative for Open Data [ILDA] as well as an academic and researcher with interest in the use of Open Data as Open Educational Resources and in critical pedagogy. Erdinç Saçan is a Senior Teacher of ICT & Business and the Coordinator of the Minor Digital Marketing at Fontys University of Applied Sciences, School of ICT in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. He previously worked at Corendon, TradeDoubler and Prijsvrij.nl. @erdincsacan ‏   Robert Schuwer is Professor Open Educational Resources at Fontys University of Applied Sciences, School of ICT in Eindhoven, the Netherlands and holds the UNESCO Chair on Open Educational Resources and Their Adoption by Teachers, Learners and Institutions. @OpenRobert55

Open Education in Spain

- June 5, 2018 in Featured, guestpost, oer, open-education, Repositories, spain, world

Guest post by Gema Santos – Hermosa 
In this post, we’ll review the state of open education within the European context – and, more particularly, in Spain – with a special focus on higher education institutions (HEIs). There is often no common understanding regarding contemporary open education (OE), and it is usually confused with open educational resources (OER). Nevertheless, OE goes beyond, proposing a mental shift towards allowing the implementation of a number of practices focused on openness (Going Open Report, JCR, 2017). In this sense, the perspective is extended to enable a comprehensive view, thus encompassing practices such as the use of ICT in education, innovation in pedagogy and staff training, the use and development of OER, the massive open online courses (MOOCs), and the engagement in open science activities.

Open education is “in vogue” in Europe

Ever since OE was identified as a potential solution to some of the challenges detected in the EU educational systems, there has been a growing interest in establishing an OpenEdu framework (European Commission’s Communication of Opening up Education, 2013). The core dimensions of OE for HEIs have now been identified as well as several policies and recommendations (Opening Education’s Support Framework, 2016; OpenEdu Policies, 2017 & 2018). Recently, the relevance of OE has been reinforced by the consideration of “open and innovative education and training” as part of the strategic framework for European cooperation in Education & Training (ET2020). Meanwhile, OE is not just a bureaucratic issue, but a topic of discussion among researchers, practitioners, policy makers, educators, librarians and students from all over the world, as demonstrated the OE Global Conference 2018. OE in Europe has improved, but there is still a way to go. This is particularly the case for certain countries, since the initiatives are advancing at different speeds in each of the 28 EU member states.

An overview of open education in Spain

OE is also on the agenda of educational institutions across Spain, which is significant as a starting point. According to an Open Survey report in 2017, there are some general trends that demonstrate how diverse OE policies can be: legally-binding regulations – such as the National Centre for Curriculum Development in Non-Proprietary Systems (CEDEC) – and non-legally-binding initiatives, such as the mobile app Edupills and EDUCALAB-INTEF MOOCs. In fact, Spain has many interconnected policies and initiatives that support OE which are mainly addressed to the primary and secondary education levels. According to the four types of policies identified for European countries, Spain falls into the second category (together with Portugal, Lithuania, Italy and Cyprus) characterised by a national policy for ICT in education (OpenEdu Policies Report, 2017). The main stakeholder is the Spanish Ministry of Education, in collaboration with Spanish autonomous communities´ regional governments. The most prominent national policy was the Plan de Cultura Digital en la Escuela, including the OER repository PROCOMUN and the open source tool EXELEARNING. This video presentation at the Second World OER Congress better explains these initiatives. In higher education, the most common OE approach adopted by Spanish universities has been focused on MOOCs and OER. The relationship between these two practices within the open ecosystem is part of a common strategy, since HEIs that promote the use of OER are also very likely to offer MOOCs, and vice versa (Castaño et al, 2016) Some HEIs embraced the Open Courseware Consortium (OCWC) by providing specific platforms for open courses (around 30, according to a Report on Spanish OCW). There is also a large participation in the Universia network, which offers OCW projects in Spanish and Portuguese. In parallel, over the last few years there has been a considerable increase in institutional repositories with OER collections (Santos-Hermosa et al, 2017). While less than half of Spanish universities deposited OER in their repositories five years ago (Fernández-Pampillón et al, 2013), this number has risen to 77.4% nowadays, according to the preliminary results of a recent survey launched by the OER action group which I coordinate at REBIUN (a national network of Spanish university libraries). Regarding the emergence of MOOCs in Europe, and its different approach with respect to the US model (Jansen & Konings, 2017), Spanish universities’ global supply is remarkable: 35% of Spanish universities have at least one MOOC and they are situated among the top five countries, as for the volume of students (Oliver et al, 2014). During the boom of the MOOC movement, Spanish HEIs participated in two of the main MOOC platforms (Udacity and Coursera), but the most commonly used was Miríadax, which just offers courses from Spanish and South American universities (Sangrà et al., 2015).

Two outstanding Spanish higher education institutes: UNIR and UOC

The Universidad Internacional de la Rioja (UNIR) and the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) are both online universities, their open strategies are focused on digital contexts and in the use of ICT. However, this is not performed in a “classic” way, as in some other blended learning institutions, but involving the use of online simulations and laboratories, mobile learning and further innovative methods. In addition, both universities have had a historic involvement in OE initiatives over the years in scenarios such as: In short, both universities have a strategy or policy statement that supports OE. UNIR has recently announced an open education policy which aims to encourage its adoption in teaching and learning practices, and it is the first Spanish university with a policy of this type (UNIR Research, 2018). Also, the UOC is currently working on the definition of an open plan based on its strategic goal of “0303: Open knowledge to everyone and for everyone” and characterised by the correlation of open education and open science (Strategic Plan 2014-2020). In this sense, openness is a multidimensional concept in these two HEIs, since a correlation is being sought between the OE offer, OER and publication in open access routes, as well as the support of open data in research, and open licensing in technology and content authoring. Thus, we’re heading in the right direction … let’s keep it up! — About the author Gema Santos-Hermosa hold a Ph.D in Information Science and Communication. She works as an associate lecturer at the University of Barcelona (UB) and a research support librarian at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC). She also chairs the EMPOWER Knowledge Resources expert group within the EADTU university network and coordinates the open learning resource activities organised by the Repositories Working Group within the REBIUN university network. Her doctoral thesis  discusses the development and reuse of open educational resources  in higher education. Her research interests are OER, open education, open access, repositories, information retrieval and digital libraries.      

Open Education in Spain

- June 5, 2018 in Featured, guestpost, oer, open-education, Repositories, spain, world

Guest post by Gema Santos – Hermosa 
In this post, we’ll review the state of open education within the European context – and, more particularly, in Spain – with a special focus on higher education institutions (HEIs). There is often …

OER Canvas: Το πρότυπο για την δημιουργία Ανοιχτών Εκπαιδευτικών Πόρων και στα ελληνικά

- March 2, 2018 in Canvas, News, open-education, resources, ανοιχτοί εκπαιδευτικοί πόροι, εκπαίδευση

Πώς μπορεί κάποιος να οργανώσει και να σχεδιάσει ανοιχτούς εκπαιδευτικούς πόρους (open educational resources); Αν και υπάρχουν οδηγοί που καλύπτουν το κομμάτι των αδειών και της εκπαιδευτικής αξίας των πόρων, δεν υπήρχε μέχρι στιγμής ένα γενικό πρότυπο δημιουργίας ανοιχτού εκπαιδευτικού υλικού. Αυτό το κενό ήρθε να συμπληρώσει το OER Canvas που δημιουργήθηκε από το Open Education Working Group σε συνεργασία με το OER.info.

OER Canvas: Το πρότυπο για την δημιουργία Ανοιχτών Εκπαιδευτικών Πόρων και στα ελληνικά

- March 2, 2018 in Canvas, Featured, Featured @en, News, open-education, resources, ανοιχτοί εκπαιδευτικοί πόροι, εκπαίδευση

Πώς μπορεί κάποιος να οργανώσει και να σχεδιάσει ανοιχτούς εκπαιδευτικούς πόρους (open educational resources); Αν και υπάρχουν οδηγοί που καλύπτουν το κομμάτι των αδειών και της εκπαιδευτικής αξίας των πόρων, δεν υπήρχε μέχρι στιγμής ένα γενικό πρότυπο δημιουργίας ανοιχτού εκπαιδευτικού υλικού. Αυτό το κενό ήρθε να συμπληρώσει το OER Canvas που δημιουργήθηκε από το Open Education Working Group σε συνεργασία με το OER.info.

OpenEdu Policies reports: JRC Research Centre

- January 25, 2018 in open-education, WG Open Education

This blog has been reposted from the Open Education Working Group blog and has been written as a joint effort by Javiera Atenas and  Paul Bacsich, co-coordinators of the Open Education Working Group.  Hot off the press: OpenEdu Policies reports . These reports are the final outcome of one and a half intense years of research into open education policies involving many stakeholders, particularly ministries of education, research and science across Europe. ‘Going Open’ is a report bringing policy recommendations on open education at regional, national and EU levels. ‘Policy Approaches to open education’ is a report covering the 28 EU Member States, presenting case studies about how each country approaches open education policies. Both reports are part of the JRC’s OpenEdu Policies project. The Joint Research Centre of the European Commission has just published a comprehensive overview report (164 pages) on Policy Approaches to Open Education across all of the 28 EU Member States. The Foreword to the report, by Yves Punie (Deputy Head of Unit DG JRC Unit Human Capital and Employment) summarises the conclusions as follows: “The diversity of polices and approaches presented herein reflect the diversity that is intrinsic to the European Union. Each Member State has specific goals for education and priority areas to address when formulating its policies. However, this research shows that Member States are aware of open education issues and that in one way or another nearly all of them have implemented some sort of initiative or action plan in relation to open education, even though that goal is not explicit in some cases.” He goes on to describe the report as “another step taken by the European Commission (DG EAC and JRC) to meet Members States’ requirements for more research and evidence on open education in support of policy-making in Europe.” The work for the overview report was carried out by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in collaboration with the Research Institute for Innovation & Technology in Education (UNIR iTED) at the Universidad Internacional de la Rioja (UNIR) in Logroño, Spain. An international team based in Spain (Daniel Burgos), Italy (Fabio Nascimbeni and Stefania Aceto) and the UK (Javiera Atenas and Paul Bacsich) carried out the work, with assistance from 28 ministry officials and other experts who agreed to be interviewed. The interview work was supported by substantial desk research across all Member States, for which a further large number of experts on open education were consulted, along with outputs from key projects such as OER World Map, OERup!, D-TRANSFORM, ADOERUP (for the European Parliament), POERUP and earlier JRC projects and reports on open education. In particular all identified policies were analysed using the OpenEdu Framework produced by JRC, which identifies six core dimensions of open education (Access, Content, Pedagogy, Recognition, Collaboration and Research) and four transversal dimensions (Strategy, Technology, Quality, Leadership). The report is available here. The report, together with additional research and expert consultations, forms the basis for the also just released JRC report “Going Open: Policy Recommendations on Open Education in Europe (OpenEdu Policies)”, which highlights policy options to further open up education in Europe. Our long report is, we believe, the first one of its kind to bring together at a detailed level policy work in open education for a complete geopolitical region. The team will be happy to explain the methodology to other interested research groups. We can see no reason why the approach, including use of the OpenEdu Framework for analysis, cannot be replicated for other geopolitical groupings such as Latin America, Asia-Pacific, Commonwealth of Nations, La Francophonie and more widely across Europe. Regarding the last, it would perhaps be most immediately useful if funding could be found for those countries in the European Economic Area and the European Neighbourhood to carry out similar work. Inevitably in such a detailed report, there will be items at the Member State level that get rapidly out of date. Indeed, we hope that such reports as this and the overview reports from JRC will foster an increased climate of policy formation and creation of initiatives at Member State level, not only at EU level. As part of its ongoing work, the Open Education Working Group will continue to make its email list and blog available to interested researchers and specifically to encourage them to produce similar and updated material for their countries. For more details see this recent update blog.