Along with the news that GCU and the Scottish College Development Network are developing guidelines for the creation and use of open educational resources, another Scottish news item caught my attention this week. Finally, after weeks of speculation, it was announced that the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde will join the FutureLearn partnership alongside the University of St Andrews which had previously signed up. You can read the press release here.
I can’t claim to have read every press release issued by FutureLearn but it’s telling, though not remotely surprising, that for all their apparent commitment to:
“…free, open, online courses from leading UK universities…”
– FutureLearn Press Release
“…removing the barriers to education by making learning more accessible…”
– Simon Nelson, FutureLearn, CEO
“…opening access to our learning to students around the world…”
– Colin Grant, Associate Deputy Principal at the University of Strathclyde
FutureLearn doesn’t appear to make any mention of using, creating or disseminating open educational resources. Although it’s rather disappointing, I can’t say that it’s particularly surprising. I haven’t got any statistics, but anecdotally, it seems that very few xMOOCs use or provide access to open educational resources. The relationship between MOOCs and OERs is problematic at best and non existent at worst. As Amber Thomas memorably commented at the Cetis13 conference “it’s like MOOCs stole OER’s girlfriend.” Perhaps I am being overly pesimistic about FutureLearn’s commitment to openness, after all, the initiative is being led by the Open University, an institution that has unquestionably been at the forefront of OER developments in the UK.
Of course St Andrews, Glasgow and Strathclyde aren’t the first Scottish universities to join the MOOC movement, the University of Edinburgh has already delivered six successful MOOCs in partnership with Coursera, including the eLearning and Digital Culture MOOC (#edcmooc) which my Cetis colleague Sheila MacNeill participated in and has blogged about extensively. Sheila recently presented about her experiences of being a MOOC student a the University of Southampton’s Digital Literacies Conference alongside #edcmooc tutor, and former CAPLE colleague, Dr Christine Sinclair, now with the University of Edinburgh. I wasn’t able to attend the event myself but I followed the tweet stream and was interested to note Sheila’s comments that the Edinburgh MSc module on digital cultures in more “open” than the Coursera MOOC on the same topic.
It didn’t take much googling to locate the eLearning and Digital Cultures MSc course blog which, sure enough, carries a CC-BY-NC-SA licence. I don’t know if this licence covers all the course materials but it certainly appears to be more open than the Coursera version of the same course and it’s very encouraging to see that the Edinburgh course tutors are continuing to support open access to their course materials at the same time as engaging with MOOCs. I wonder if the Scottish FutureLearn partners will show a similar commitment to opening access to their educational resources? I certainly hope so.