Supporting an open covid pledge for education

One of the positive aspects of the whole covid-19, lockdown experience has been the refocus on care – care for ourselves, our families,our community, our learners, our colleagues. This manifestation of what I would describe as open educational practice is exemplified in the ALT community resources page which is an ever growing, international resource bank of practice sharing.

Today I am delighted to see the launch of a new initiative ( the brain child of Helen Beetham) to try and ensure that this open sharing of practice, research and data continues. This is what this initiative is all about, and I can’t really put it better than this from today’s ALT announcement.

we need more than shared content: we also need credible evidence on which to base day-to-day decisions in practice and policy. We need urgent research into the experiences of teachers and learners. We need shared know-how, especially from experienced online and distance educators and learning technology specialists. (This summer has seen a generous flowering of blog posts, webinars, infographics and how-to courses – but more will be needed as the ‘new normal’ takes root.) Education globally faces many challenges, not only for the people who work and learn in the sector but for whole organisations and modes of learning. Societies depend on education to improve lives, widen economic participation, and support civic life. Education will be critical to the long-term response to the pandemic crisis.”

So please, if you, your colleagues, your institution is/has/is planning to conduct any relevant research, do join the many individual and organisations who have already signed up, and sign the pledge and help everyone in the education sector and beyond focus on cooperation, not competition so we can all really build a better, research informed, future.

You can find out more and sign the pledge here.

My #OER20 bowl of soup

One of the main visual icons for the OER20 conference was a can of soup. It’s a really clever visual metaphor which encapsulates the theme of the conference – care in openness.

What could be more caring than a  lovingly made bowl of warming soup? Chicken soup for the soul etc.  However, the image of a can of soup also brings connotations of industrial scale production, commodification, mass consumption, our (global North)  throw away everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame, disposable culture.  As conference co-chair Mia Zamora highlighted, the image of the can of soup neatly encapsulates many of the challenges around open education, and in particular care in education, research and related practice.

Now, I have to say I hadn’t really thought of soup in this way before.  To be honest, I’m not that keen on soup. This is in part due to a mini act of rebellion on my part when I was a child. My parents owned a farm and there was always a pot of soup (typically vegetable broth) on the Aga. The soup, along with countless other dishes, was regularly made with care by my Mum to feed the myriad of people that were working on the farm at various times or who just happened to pop in  – we had a very open kitchen policy!

Everyone loved that soup. So, I think that mini me must have decided that at some point that  just to be different I would not.  I don’t like what I call “bit soup” – so any soup that I can see the bits of veggies or whatever, is generally a no go area for me.  Lucky me to have had the privilege of having access to enough food to be a fussy eater. 

I did however, like one kind of soup – the No. 57 variety that came out of a can. To this day It’s still my favourite soup.  The conference has made me reflect on why that is. Why did I prefer a mass prepared, out of a can experience to the craft, homemade kind? A child’s craving for artificial flavours aside,  I realise it really didn’t have anything to do with the soup, but it had everything to do with care.

 I only ever really got “my soup” when I wasn’t well, when I really couldn’t or wouldn’t eat anything. Quite often it came with with a buttered soft, white roll alongside it. It was “made” with care by my Mum. A visible yet invisible act of love for a sick child, that never failed to bring comfort and in its own way, nourishment.  I still associate a can of tomato soup with a warm hug, with safe places, healing and comfort. There were a number of times when I was really quite ill as a child and tomato soup was always a signal of recovery. 

This seems to echo some of the conversations and experiences around open education, and indeed education in general.  It’s how we show care that really matters. It’s so easy just to “throw a can of soup” at someone, rather than open it (even show people how to open it), heat it up, put in a bowl, garnish, remix, extend and share and most importantly create a safe space to help people to do the same, to share their favourite soup too and, where needed allow people create their alternative to soup.

Over the past 2 days at the OER20 conference I have experienced that same feeling of a warm hug, that soup always brings to mind, many times over.  We are all living in a vary strange time with the COVID crisis. Moving the conference online was a risky, but necessary step which has exceeded all expectations. 

Over 1,000 registered for the event. All the live sessions were packed with people. The emotional connections were palpable. Watching videos like France’s Bells story of the making of the FemEdTech quilt of care and justice reduced everyone in the session to tears. Similarly, during sava saheli singh’s keynote collectively watching Frames made everyone reflect on surveillance, the current impact of social and physical distancing in ways that extended the original premise of the script in totally unforeseen ways.

The KaraOERoke was emotional too – but possibly at the other end of the scale. A great example of having fun whilst physically distancing but really socially connecting and having fun. We so need to ensure that we have fun – that’s a huge part of caring too.

I’m still digesting all my experiences of the conference, and I’m so glad there is an even richer set of OER resources to go back to. For now tho’, I think I am going to find a tin of tomato soup and be thankful for that open hug everyone in involved in the conference from the Co-Chairs and conference committee, to the presenters, the participants, and of course the amazing ALT core staff team who managed the online transition so smoothly, have given me. 

Foraging for blog posts –

Photo by Erik-Jan Leusink on Unsplash

Trying to explain to people why you put an open license on something like this blog can be tricky if you don’t (like me) have a stock answer. This blog is openly licensed, I guess primarily as I feel that it is good practice and a “good thing” to do. Over the years, blogging has become a central part of my open education practice, and I have used a creative commons licence as a statement of that.

Last week, I took part in a seminar with our 4th year cyber psychology students who have a blogging assignment during this trimester. I was asked to share my experiences of blogging with the students. My colleague and open education advocate from our Library, Marian Kelt, also joined the session. Partly because Marion was talking about copyright issues including open licences, I did highlight that all posts on my blog are available via a creative commons license. However, I had almost become complacent about making sure that the open license was obvious to others.

I updated my site theme last year and didn’t actually realise the the CC license statement had inadvertently disappeared. That was until a couple of weeks ago when I got this tweet from Royce Kimmon

@sheilmcn Hi Sheila, I’d like to include two great posts from your blog (Kindness of blogging & Lecture capture…) in my open EdTech book https://t.co/V8xOyZMFAF , but I didn’t see a CC license on it. May I get your permission to do this? Thanks!— Royce Kimmons (@roycekimmons) 12 February 2019

What a great prompt to sort out that “oops” moment and get that CC statement back on the front page. It was also a great reminder of why open is good.

I know I don’t have the biggest readership in the world, that’s not why I continue to keep writing blog posts. I am continually surprised and thankful when I get positive reactions through retweets and comments (the ultimate pay back imho). So this request from Royce illustrated to me once more why open is a “good thing”.

One of the things I highlighted to the students last week was that the reason I have been blogging for so long (12 years and counting now) is that it gives me a place to express myself that I control. One that is free from the conventions of traditional academic writing. In many ways I do write “in the wild”.

I love the idea that anyone can stumble across my ramblings, or like Royce take a more structured foraging approach and create a book from a range blog posts and perspectives that are all openly licensed. Much simpler and quicker than a traditional, edited collection – though I’m sure it did still take a considerable amount of time in selecting and mixing together this collection. I’m included with a some of my blogging heroes so I am quite humbled to be included in Ed Tech in the Wild. A positive reminder of why sharing openly is good.

I also love this rationale for the book:

“In this volume, we want to bring these blog posts together for future reading and dialogue. Blogs don’t live forever, but their ideas can as we archive them and share them in helpful ways.”

Not so much the a case of the wrong trousers, more like a wardrobe malfunction my story for #oer17

igor-ovsyannykov-174012
Nb this is not a picture of my wardrobe!

I’m really looking forward to hearing the keynote from,  and meeting in person, Maha Bali at #OER17.  As part of her preparation for the conference Maha has been using her blog to share ideas and to get contributions and stories from the wider community.  I did something similar when I keynoted at OER15 and it was incredibly useful).

To try an encourage some more sharing of stories, Maha has written a lovely blog post called Fixing the shirt but spoiling the trousers. I love this idea:

“There is a part of my keynote where I plan to refer to an Egyptian expression, which, literally translated, means “when you tried to fix the shirt you spoiled the trousers” (must remember to say trousers not pants in the UK or they’ll think I mean underwear). It conjures up an image of comedy of errors or such, where trying to fix a problem creates new problems.”

Like many people I often think that parts of my working life are bit like a comedy of errors – sometimes all you can do is laugh at some of the absurd situations that arise. However in relation to open-ness I have to confess that recently I have had feelings more akin to a Shakespearean tragedy ( well maybe not quite that dramatic but you’ll  get the idea from this post)

I commented on the post “somtimes feels like I have a wardrobe full for OER but nothing to wear”.  I am want to qualify that a bit more.

I really try to be an open practitioner, I make an a concerted effort to share my work, reflections etc via my blog. It’s probably my main open outlet.  In my institution we have an OER policy, great support and guidance for  creating and sharing OER , a growing OER repository (mainly due to the perseverance and hard work of Marion Kelt in our library).

However recently despite having all this support I don’t seem to have been making any kind of meaningful contribution either through sharing of OERs or reflections rants about open practice.   I do feel it’s kind of like opening your wardrobe, which is full of cloths but you still can’t find something/anything to wear.  That can be (well, for me anyway ) a pretty demoralising experience.

However, to extent the wardrobe metaphor a bit further as OER17 draws closer, I am finding a couple of things that I’ve forgotten about and on trying them on have started to feel much better dressed.

A case in point is Virtually Connecting. I have been aware of this great open, extension to conferences, for a while now, but haven’t ever participated. Partly because I have been fortunate enough to have been at many conferences in person, and partly because I didn’t really think it was “for the likes of me”.  It’s for “proper” researchers.

However on reading, and commenting on the excellent reflective post on the paradox of inclusion  from Autumn Caines about the history and some recent evaluation of Virtual Connecting,  I am changing my mind maybe it is for “the likes of me” after all. I am looking forward to participating in my first VC session during OER17.

I might not be able fully dressed in open everyday, but I am stating to feel better about my wardrobe options and choices and not worrying so much about wearing the wrong trousers.

How do you mainstream open education and OERs? A bit of feedback sought for #oer15

The theme of the OER15 conference is Mainstreaming Open Education

“. . .  the aim being to explore approaches that are moving OER (& OEP) into the mainstream, and also barriers that need to be addressed for that to happen.”  http://blog.edtechie.net/oer15/oer15-is-go/

As part of my keynote I want to explore and share my experiences with mainstreaming open education and OERs.  I think part of the reason I “got the gig” was down to a couple of posts where I questioned some of the assumptions about open and actual (mainstream) practice.

Whilst I love the simplicity of the slogan “the opposite of open is broken” in reality it is a bit more complicated than that. We are still a way away from an open by default approach in my institution and I suspect many others. There is a cost to open, and many of us don’t have access to external or internal funds to kickstart and maintain open approaches.

So, this post is an attempt to do a bit of crowdsourcing and feedback before the conference on OER and open educational practice in mainstream education.

Here at GCU we have OER guidelines (which hopefully will be actual policy one day soon), that’s still not that common so can I count that as mainstream? In terms of practice it’s difficult to measure what impact they are having.  Guidelines alone does not a mainstream culture of OER creating and sharing make.  Sharing, even within our walled gardens is still not on the radar of many of my colleagues. Personally they are really useful for me and my team as we have somewhere to point people to in terms of creating and releasing OERs.  So maybe just having that simple workflow is actually a mainstream practice- or at least the beginnings of one. The guidelines have been driven by Marion Kelt in our library so are very much a bottom up approach, which in many instances is how policy should develop.  I have a noticed a change in the past year in that I hear “openness” and OERs being talked about much more regularly now by staff at all levels.

In my own practice, I do self-identify as being an open practitioner.  I try and share as much as I can, mainly via this blog and also now via our team blog. Wherever possible I take try to take an open approach. To take Martin Weller’s guerrilla research analogy , I quite often take a guerrilla approach to educational development. I use as many open (and often just open as in free) resources, software, platforms as I can.  I encourage my colleagues to do the same – sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. GCU Games On,  The open event we ran last year was only possible due to the fact we could engage with and use a number of open resources.  This case study I wrote for the OEPS project explains our approach in more detail.

I’m not sure if that approach is mainstreaming or more like pic’n’mixing. But in the mainstream you have to be very pragmatic and work with what you’ve got, not wait for what you’d like to work with. Doing a little openly is better than doing nothing openly, right?

So, how/do you you do it?  Do you have examples of mainstream and by that I mean I mean regular, everyday, use and/or creation of OERs by the majority of teaching staff in your institution? How do you get and maintain the “open habit”?  If you could share anything in the comments I’d be really grateful and I will include them in my talk at the conference.

Where Sheila's been this week – revisiting #OERRHub and the researcher as an API analogy

I spent the early part of this week in Milton Keynes with the OER Research Hub team as part of the second phase of the project evaluation.

When I worked with the team last year one of the things that intrigued me about the project was the fact that they were planning to apply and adapt an agile programming  approach to the project.

As I pointed out then, I felt there could be challenges with this as typically the outputs from research projects aren’t as concrete as most software development products, but I could see the attraction of this approach.

Bringing researchers who form part of a globally distributed team together for set periods to focus on certain aspects of research project does make sense. As does having some kind of structure, particularly for focusing “group minds” on potential outputs (products), adaptation of peer programming could be useful for peer review etc. However implementing “proper” agile programming methodology to research is problematic.

But if we stick with the programming analogy and stop thinking in terms of products, and start thinking of research as a service (akin to software as a service) then maybe there is more milage. A key part of SaS approaches are APIs, allowing hooks into all sorts of sites/ services so that they can in effect talk to each other.

The key thing therefore is for the researcher to think of themselves more as the interface between their work, the data, the findings, the “what actually happened in the classroom” bits and focus on ways to allow as wide a range of stakeholders to easily “hook” into them so they can use the outputs meaningfully in their own context.

In many ways this is actually the basis of effective digital scholarship in any discipline and of course what many researchers already do.

A year on, and after experiencing one of the early project sprints how has it worked out?

Well everyone knew that the project wouldn’t be following a strict agile methodology, however key aspects, such as the research sprints have proved to be very effective. Particularly in focusing the team on outputs.

The sprints have allowed the overall project management to be more agile and flexible. They have brought focus and helped the team as a whole stay on track but also refocus activity in light of the challenges (staff changes, delays to getting surveys started etc) that any research project has to deal with. As this is very much a global research project, the team have spent large chunks of time on research visits, going to conferences etc so when they are “back at the ranch” it has been crucial that they have a mechanism not only to report back and update their own activities but also to ensure that everyone is on track in terms of the project as a whole.

The sprints themselves haven’t been easy, and have required a lot of planning and management. The researchers themselves admit to often feeling resentment at having to take a week out of “doing work” to participate in sprints. However, there is now an acknowledgement that they have been central to ensure that the project as a whole stays on track and that deliverables are delivered.

I was struck this week by how naturally the team talked about the focus of their next sprint and how comfortable and perhaps more importantly confident they were about what was achievable. It’s not been easy but I think the development, and the sustaining of the research sprint approach over the project lifespan has paid dividends.

Returning to the wider API issue, last year I wrote

I wonder if the research as API analogy could help focus development of sharing research outputs and developing really effective interactions with research data and findings?

Again, one year can I answer my own question? Well, I think I can. From discussions with the team it is clear that human relationships have been key in developing both the planned and unexpected collaborations that the project has been undertaking. At the outset of the project a number of key communities/agencies were identified as potential collaborations. Some to these collaborators had a clear idea of the research they needed, others not so much. In every case as the research team have indeed been acting as “hooks” into the project and overall data collection strategy.

These human relationships have been crucial in focusing data collection and forging very positive and trusted relationships between the Hub and its collaborators. Having these strong relationships is vital for any future research and indeed, a number of the collaborations have extended their own research focus and are looking to work with the individual team members on new projects. As findings are coming through, the Hub are helping to stimulate more research into the impact of OER and support an emerging research community.

One of the initial premises for the project was the lack of high quality research into the impact of OER, they are not only filling that gap, but now also working with the community to extend the research. Their current Open Research course is another example of the project providing more hooks into their research, tools and data for the wider community.

The project is now entering a new phase, where it is in many ways transitioning from a focus on collecting the data, to now sharing the data and their findings. They are now actually becoming a research hub, as opposed to being a project talking about how they are going to be a hub. In this phase the open API analogy (imho) can only get stronger. If it doesn’t then everyone loses, not just the project, but the wider open education community.

The project does have some compelling evidence of the impact of using OER on both educators and learners (data spoiler alert: some of the differences between these groups may surprise you), potential viable business models for OER, and some of the challenges, particularly around encouraging people to create and share back their own OERs. For me this is particularly exciting as the project has some “proper” evidence , as opposed to anecdotes, showing the cultural impact OER is having on educational practice.

In terms of data, the OER Impact Map, is key hook into the visualizing and exploring the data the project has been collecting and curating. Another phase of development is about to get under way to provide even more ways to explore the data. The team are also now planning the how/where/when of releasing their data set.

The team are the human face of the data, and their explanations of the data will be key to the overall success of the project over the coming months.

More thoughts to come from me on the project as a whole, my role and agile evaluation in my next post.

Reusing Open Resources with a dash of learning analytics

Following the special edition of JIME, the whole book, Reusing Open Resources, is now in print and available here.  It includes a chapter on Analytics for Education written by Lorna Campbell, Martin Hawksey and myself. It’s almost a year since we wrote the chapter so its not completely up to date, but I think it is still a very useful overview.

The book editors, Chris Pegler and Allison Littlejohn have done a great job putting the book together. It offers a fresh perspective on the reuse of open resources for learning by placing learning and learners (rather than resources) as the central focus and by taking into consideration all forms of open learning, formal, non-formal and informal learning, not only open education. Like them, I hope the (sometimes opposing) views expressed in the book feed into debates across the related fields of education, professional learning and lifelong learning.

Screen shot of book homepage

Where Sheila will be seen this open education week

Open Education Week 2014
Open Education Week 2014

As you are probably aware, this week is open education week, and there is lots happening, so I just wanted to highlight a couple of things to look out for.

Firstly something very close to my heart.  A draft version of The Open Scotland Declaration is now online and available for comment (on a paragraph by paragraph basis). Everyone in the Open Scotland Working Group would appreciate as many comments as possible on this document.

The University of Sussex has a great line up of events throughout this week. On Friday I’m taking part in a webinar with Catherine Cronin  called Open and online: connections, community and reality.  The webinar will be recorded and made available if you can’t make the time slot on Friday. There are a number of  other UK webinars on this week including Exploring the Battle for Open from the OER Research Hub and  A Pedagogical Look at MOOCs from the University of Leicester.

Also later this week I’ll be one of the guest bloggers on the UK Web Focus site . Everyday this week Brian Kelly has invited a guest blogger to share a range of views on open education. If you only do one thing this week, then reading these guest posts is a great option.

 

 

What Sheila's seen this week – learning analytics, data and open education

It’s been a really busy couple of weeks here at blended learning HQ at GCU.  My colleagues are in the middle of preparing our annual blended learning report. There’s not a huge amount I can add this year, but it is a great opportunity to find out more about what is happening, so data and analytics have been high on the agenda. For the past couple of years there’s been an encouraging increase in the use and access to our VLE, which we call GCU Learn.  This year the web accesses are down but the mobile accesses have increased exponentially with Apple devices far and away the most popular. Tuesdays also seem to be a popular day . . .  We’re also seeing a significant uptake in use of turnitin and trademark.  E-assessment and feedback is definitely something staff and students want and are using.

Last Friday we met with Blackboard about and they took us through their analytics platform.  I was in that strange position of being quoted back to myself, as they were referencing the Cetis Analytics Series quite heavily. Still a great piece of work, and if you haven’t had a look, and are interested in analytics I would throughly recommend it.  We are probably not at the stage to start working with their system yet. There are some key questions that need some really serious discussion, not least around benchmarking. But I am now taking a leaf out of my own book and really considering the who, what, where, why and how of data here.

Although I’m not exactly a newbie anymore, I am still finding my way around and getting to know what  people are doing in terms of blended learning.  Our Engineering and Built Environment School had a lunchtime “technology taster” session yesterday which gave me the opportunity to see some of the practice in that school. There was a really good mix of activities including the use of WebPA, screen capture and various student response systems packed into an hour. We’re developing case studies of practice just now so a few more names were added to my list of people to speak to.  Library colleagues also gave a demo of BoB  our national broadcasting recording service. You can easily create playlists of clips and or whole tv/radio programmes which can be embedded into webpages and most VLEs. The slight downside for us is that we don’t have complete single sign on and BoB uses Athens authentication so if we embed in our VLE students will have to login with their Athens details to view   . . . but hopefully that will change relatively soon.

There is a lot of activity around new IT infrastructure as well as overarching discussions and consultations around a new institutional strategy to take us to 2020. I’m really pleased that I have the opportunity to take forward the work I’ve been doing with Bill Johnston and Keith Smyth on exploring the concept of the digital university as a possible way to link up a number of “things” that  seem to have some kind of digital dependency.

Sharing and exploring practice is pretty much at the forefront of everything I’m doing just now.  Although I consider myself an open practitioner, and an advocate for open educational practices, I am aware that my own practices, my networks and connections are changing in response to my new position.  As you’ll be aware, dear reader, it’s Open Education week next week. David Walker has organised a brilliant week of events at Sussex.  I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity to run a webinar with Catherine Cronin about the challenges of being open. The title of our session is “Open and online: connections, community and reality”  and I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts and experiences along with Catherine’s  research on openness, identities and online spaces.

I’ll also be blogging more about this next week and using the responses to my twitter question

Tweeps do you think I am an open practitioner? Your response will help me with a couple of things for open education week

— Sheila MacNeill (@sheilmcn) March 5, 2014

In the meantime tho, my good friend and former Cetis colleague David Sherlock has written a really thought provoking post  in response to my tweet, which takes a different angle on sharing, data and who really benefits.

Random picture of a bit of welcome sunshine earlier this week.

Morning sunshine
Morning Sunshine

What Sheila's seen this week

In between meeting new colleagues, getting new laptop etc set up and generally finding my feet in my new job a couple of things have caught my eye this week.

Jisc announce a framework agreement for Google Apps for education. Cloud hosting can cause headaches for many institutions so this should help ease some of the issues around institutional provision of some of google’s popular services – particularly the collaborative ones such as docs and hangouts.  I also came across this really useful guide to getting started with google apps in education from the University of Sheffield

The HEA and NUS Scotland launched their Learning Journeys report which “looks at students’ experiences of their ‘journeys’ through education in Scotland.”  It highlights some key issues around student engagement and entry routes to higher education.

Whilst the BBC announced its drive to get everyone coding Google launched web designer, their wysiwyg HTML 5 editor.

There have also been an number of webinars this week that I haven’t managed to tune into live but hope to catch up with over the next couple of days

*OER Research Hub continued its webinar series with “Policies – the cause or effect of Open Education?” You can access the recording here.

*SoLAR’s Open Symposium: Policy and Strategy for Learning Analytics Deployment also got going this week – lots of interesting webinars to catch up on and perhaps even engage in the discussions.

And last but not least, blended learning is pretty high on my agenda now, so seeing the these tips  for better blends and outline for a book on blended learning was pretty timely too.