Open Scotland Report and Actions

“Open Policies can develop Scotland’s unique education offering, support social inclusion and inter-institutional collaboration and sharing and enhance quality and sustainability.”

This was the starting point for discussions at the Open Scotland Summit at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, which brought together senior representatives from a wide range of Scottish education institutions, organisations and agencies to discuss open education policy for Scotland. Facilitated by Jisc Cetis, in collaboration with SQA, Jisc RSC Scotland and the ALT Scotland SIG, Open Scotland provided senior managers, policy makers and key thinkers with an opportunity to explore shared strategic priorities and scope collaborative activities to encourage the development of open education policies and practices to benefit the Scottish education sector as a whole.

Keynote and Lightning Talks

Dr Cable Green, Creative Commons’ Director of Global Learning opened the summit with an inspiring keynote on “Open Education: The Business and Policy Case for OER”. Cable began by quoting Cathy Casserly and Mike Smith of Creative Commons and the Hewlett Foundation:

“At the heart of the movement towards Open Educational Resources is the simple and powerful idea that the world’s knowledge is a public good and that technology in general and the Worldwide Web in particular provide an opportunity for everyone to share, use, and reuse it.”

Cable Green, Creative Commons (image by Martin Hawksey)

Cable Green, Creative Commons (image by Martin Hawksey)

Cable went on to discuss the significance of the Cape Town Declaration, the development of Creative Commons licences and the Paris OER Declaration before concluding that:

“the opposite of open is not ‘closed’, the opposite of open is ‘broken’.”

A series of lightning talks on different aspects of openness and open education initiatives in neighbouring countries followed Cable’s keynote; “Open Source in Education” by Scott Wilson of OSS Watch, “Open Data” by Cetis’ Wilbert Kraan, “MOOCs: The Elephant in the room?” by Sheila MacNeill, also of Cetis, David Kernohan of Jisc presented the HEFCE funded UKOER Programmes, Tore Hoel of Oslo and Akershus University College introduced the Nordic Open Education Alliance, and Paul Richardson presented the perspective from Wales.

Challenges, Priorities and the Benefits of Openness

During the afternoon participants had the opportunity to break into groups to discuss issues relating to openness, and how greater openness could help them to address their current strategic priorities and challenges.

The key issues raised included the following:

There are compelling arguments that old models for publishing research and content are outdated. New models are needed and again the arguments for these are compelling, however these new models require changes in attitude and practice. University business models don’t necessarily need to be built on sale of content, instead they can be built on access to great faculty, support, facilities, maximising efficiency through collaboration, etc. There is a lot of insecurity in the sector, staff are worried about their jobs, so there needs to be clarity about their roles and responsibilities and what they are paid to do.

Open Scotland Discussion Group

Both within and between organisations there are different perceptions of “open”. For example, quality and assessment bodies have increased external openness by sharing assessment criteria, however due to confidentiality agreements institutions have to limit the data that is available to the public.

There is still a tendency to release OER under restrictive open licences, limiting the ability to re-use, revise, re-mix, re-distribute the new resource. One way to overcome the “closed mind” mentality is to develop policy to support openness, however open doesn’t equal free or without cost, investment is required to make resources open.

Openness is not always recognised, there are pockets of open activity throughout Scotland but these are not joined up. E.g. there are good examples of long-standing open practise among public libraries.

Lack of quality assurance is still raised as a barrier to OER. Cable Green suggested there needs to be a shift in attitude and culture from “not invented here to proudly borrowed from there”. Under Creative Commons licence, resource creators can invoke a non-endorsement clause in situations where an original work is re-purposed but the originating authors does not approve of the repurposed work.

Open Scotland Discussion Group

Learners are co-creators of knowledge. How do we engage them? Learners, rather than institutions need to be central to all discussions relating to open policy and practice.

What can Scotland learn from other countries? The UKOER programme evidenced interest in OER and willingness to change practice south of the border. How can Scotland learn from this and use this experience to springboard ahead? There are parallels between Scotland, the Nordic Countries and the devolved nations, is there scope for working collaboratively with other countries?

How can open education policies and practices address the “Big Ticket” government agendas? Post 16 educations, widening access, knowledge transfer, driving changes in curriculum models, school – college – university articulation.

The education sector is undergoing a period of massive change and it is difficult to cope with additional new initiatives and agendas. However the sector can also capitalise on this period of change, as change provides opportunity for radical new developments.

Open Scotland Discussion Group

At the school level the curriculum for excellence is changing the way children think and learn and universities and colleagues need to be ready for this. How can openness help?

Funding has been cut drastically in the FE sector. Does this mean that fewer students will be taught or that colleges need to be smarter and make greater use of open educational resources?

Articulation could be key to promoting the use of OER in Scotland. Many HEIs have produced resources for FE – HE articulation that could be released under Creative Commons licences.

An Open Education Declaration for Scotland

burghead_saltireUsing the UNESCO Paris Declaration as a starting point, the groups explored the potential of developing a Scottish open education declaration.

There was general agreement that the Paris Declaration was a “good thing” however many participants felt it was too focused on OER and that a Scottish declaration should encompass open education more widely.

In addition, the Paris Declaration focuses on “states”, a Scottish declaration would need to define its own stakeholders. It would also be beneficial to develop a common vocabulary (e.g. OER, open education, open learning, etc.) to enable effective communication and identify actions that move us forward.

While there was agreement that the statements of the Paris Declaration were beneficial, it was felt that a degree of contextualisation was required in order to demonstrate these statements and principals in action. One group suggested that it might be useful to have a grid of the Declaration’s statements that stakeholders could fill in to provide evidence of the statements in action. Cable Green added that projects are on going internationally to implement specific actions from the Declaration and suggested that Scotland might consider selecting one or more statements to take forward as actions.

Actions and Deliverables

Action 1 – Establish a working group, similar to Wales and the Nordic countries, that can stimulate research in the area of open education and inform future Government white papers. Cetis, SQA, Jisc RSC Scotland and the ALT Scotland SIG to discuss taking this forward.

Action 2 – Invite participants from those nations that are further ahead of Scotland in promoting the open Agenda. Work with the other devolved nations in the UK.

Action 3 – Use the working group to focus on key Government priorities and agendas, e.g. learner journeys, articulation, work based learning, knowledge transfer.

Key Deliverable 1: A position paper providing evidence of the benefits of openness with examples of how these can impact on Government priorities. (Cetis and the ALT Scotland SIG chair to meet in late July to begin work on a first draft. All drafts will be circulated publically for comment and input.)

Key Deliverable 2: A Scottish Open Learning declaration (including topologies, grids and action focussed statements).

Key Deliverable 3: Government policy on open education. This will require stakeholder groups to state how they will engage with and contribute to the implementation of the policy.

Continuing the Discussion

All these points are open to discussion and we would encourage all interested parties to contribute to the debate. Please feel free to comment here, or to contact the event organisers directly at the addresses below. If you blog or tweet about Open Scotland, or any of the issues raised as a result, please use the hashtag #openscot so we can track the discussion online.

Phil Barker,; Lorna M. Campbell,; Linda Creanor,; Sheila MacNeill,, Celeste McLaughlin,, Joe Wilson,


Open Scotland Overview:
The Benefits of Open Briefing Paper:
Open Scotland Presentations:
Open Scotland Videos:
Open Scotland Storify:


Cetis would like to thank the following people for making the Open Scotland Summit possible: Phil Barker, Andrew Comrie, Linda Creanor, Martin Hawksey, Cable Green, Sheila MacNeill, Celeste Mclaughlin, Joe Wilson.

Thanks also to our presenters Cable Green, Tore Hoel, David Kernohan, Wilbert Kraan, Sheila MacNeill, Paul Richardson, Scot Wilson.

Arran Moffat and GloCast recorded and edited the presentations and valiantly attempted to stream Cable’s keynote through three foot thick tower walls!

And finally….

A word from one of our participants:

Now is the right time to push the open agenda forward. Scotland hasn’t missed the boat, sometimes it’s good to wait for the second wave.

ALT Scotland SIG Meeting

The ALT Scotland SIG, which both Martin Hawksey and I are involved in, is holding a meeting this week on Thursday the 20th at Glasgow Caledonian University from 10.30 – 15.30. Registration for the event is now closed, however there are still a few places available so if you would like to come along please drop Linda Creanor a mail at

The agenda is as follows:

10.30 – 11.00 COFFEE/TEA and registration
11.00 – 11.10 Welcome and overview of the day (Linda and Joe, including introductions to steering group members)
11.10 – 11.40 The Coursera experience (Christine Sinclair, University of Edinburgh)
11.40 – 12.10 Open Badges (Grainne Hamilton, JISC RSC Scotland)
12.10 – 12.40 How does Open Education impact on practice in Scottish institutions? (Discussion groups + plenary feedback)
12.40 – 13.20 LUNCH
13.20 – 13.30 Update on ALT (John Slater, ALT)
13.30 – 14.00 ALT’s ocTEL Mooc experience: designing the platform (Martin Hawksey, CETIS); the tutor/participant view (Linda Creanor, GCU & Grainne Hamilton, JISC RSC);
14.00 – 14.30 Open education and the Scottish Qualification Authority (Joe Wilson, SQA)
14.30 – 15.00 Key issues for ALT-Scotland SIG members (discussion groups)
15.00 – 15.10 Summary and actions for ALT-Scotland SIG
15.10 – 15.30 COFFEE/TEA/CAKES

What do FutureLearn’s Terms and Conditions say about open content?

ETA If you want to review yesterday’s twitter discussion about FutureLearn’s Terms and Conditions, Martin Hawksey has now set up one of his fabulous TAGSExplorer twitter archives here.

The appearance of FutureLearn’s new website caused considerable discussion on twitter this morning. Once everyone had got over the shock of the website’s eye-watering colour scheme, attention turned to FurtureLearn’s depressingly draconian Terms and Conditions, which were disected in forensic detail by several commentators who know more than a thing or two about licensing and open educational content. I’m not going to attempt to summarise all the legal issues, ambiguities and inconsistencies that others have spotted, but I do want to highlight what the Terms and Conditions say about educational content. You can read FutureLearn’s full Terms and Conditions here but the salient points to note in relation to content licensing are:

All FutureLearn’s content and Online Courses, are the property of FutureLearn and/or its affiliates or its or their licensors and are protected by copyright, patent and/or other proprietary intellectual property rights under the laws of England and other countries.

– Fair enough, I guess.

Users may not copy, sell, display, reproduce, publish, modify, create derivative works from, transfer, distribute or otherwise commercially exploit in any manner the FutureLearn Site, Online Courses, or any Content.

– If content can not be reproduced, modified or transferred then clearly it can not be reused, therefore it is not open.

Future Learn grants users access to their content under the term of the Creative Commons Attribution – No Derivatices – Non Commerical 3.0 licence.

– Again, use of the most restrictive Creative Commons licence means that FutureLearn content cannot be modified and reused in other contexts, therefore it is not open in any meaningful sense of the word.

Any content created by users and uploaded to FutureLearn will be owned by the user who retains the rights to their content, but by doing so, users grant FutureLearn “an irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual, royalty-free and non-exclusive licence to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such User Content on the FutureLearn Site and/or in the Online Courses or otherwise exploit the User Content, with the right to sublicense such rights (to multiple tiers), for any purpose (including for any commercial purpose).”

- Unless that content happens to be subtitles, captions or translations of FutureLearn content….

FutureLearn may on occasion ask users to produce subtitles and translations of content in which case the same rights apply, but, and it’s a big but, in the case of captions and translations “you agree that the licence granted to FutureLearn above shall be exclusive.”

So there you have it, FutureLearn content will not be open educational resources in any real sense. I can’t say I’m surprised by FutureLearn’s Terms and Conditions and the approach they have taken to licensing educational content, but I am more than a little disappointed. Many colleagues have commented previously that the relationship between MOOCs and OERs is problematic, now it seems to have hit the skids altogether. I suppose I have to acknowledge that FutureLearn press releases have never said anything about the actual content of their courses being open, but I did hope rather naively that as the Open University have been at the forefront of OER initiatives in the UK, FutureLearn would buck the trend and take a similarly enlightened approach to their content. For the record, the Open University licenses their OpenLearn content under the more permissive Creative Commons ‘Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike’ licence. You can see the OpenLearn Intellectual Property FAQ here.

As time passes, I can’t help thinking that the approaches to content licensing taken by the UKOER Programmes are starting to look increasingly radical… Anyone remember those heady days when universities were releasing their educational content under CC BY licence? Was it all just a dream?


The thorny issue of MOOCs and OER

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.

Students and OERs: Exploring the possibilities

I’m currently at the OER13 conference where yesterday Toni Pearce, NUS Vice President (Further Education) presented an genuinely insightful and thought provoking keynote based on the results of a wide ranging survey of student attitudes and online behaviour, which will be published later in the year. The keynote was very well received and generated considerable positive discussion at the conference and on the twitter backchannel. This is a brief summary of the points Toni raised.

The NUS is a political organisation interested in the expansion of educational opportunities, social justice and social cohesion. What are the benefits of open education for groups that are excluded from traditional education? Students are not a homogenous group and some are better positioned to gain advantage from open education than others.

Students are conservative in their use of OERs. Many do use OERs but they are more likely to use them if they are used as part of course or recommended by lecturer. “Traditional” students (i.e. young students in full time education) are very frim about the value of face to face learning and will defend lectures to the death. Lecturing is not an out of date mode of teaching, though podcasting and video captures of lectures is becoming increasingly popular.

Students appreciate the convenience of OERs, they are used to access content at home and revise topics. OERs are primarily used as a labour saving device, not to change how students learn. This is not transforming education; it is just making it more convenient. OERs have not unsettled traditional hierarchies of knowledge.

A small number of students use OERs before entering HE to learn about HE institutions and the experience of higher education. More structured support is needed to facilitate this transition.

In determining the value and reliability of any resource, look is important. Students tend to equate look with value. If a resource looks professional, it is regarded as being reliable.

Students struggle to find appropriate OERs, the volume of resources is overwhelming. Some students bemoaned the failure to develop the equivalent of Dewey Decimal classification for online resources (!), though clearly this is not a viable option. Students lack sophisticated search skills, they need support to situate their use of learning resources in the context of developing their knowledge.

Students often share resources on twitter and facebook, which many find easier to use than VLEs. Sharing is a relationship for cyclical advantage, not altruism, and students will keep resources to themselves in order to gain competitive advantage. Few students create their own OERs or adapt existing resources. While they are happy to use OERs created by others they are unlikely to create their own resources due to concerns they would be co-opted by others. It is also concerning that some students believe that people who are not registered to education institutions should not have access to resources.

Current students are not the key audience for OERs. Education has a tendency to leave you with a desire to keep learning forever. OER has the potential to expand access to learning and make education more widely available to those excluded from traditional educational institutions. There is a widespread belief that OERs can bridge the gap between formal and informal learning experiences.

Students place great value on being able to work together with other students. Technology can be isolating despite access to more and more resources and technologies that support collaboration. Students worry about the lack of learning community and value traditional study environments. Communities give us the assurance that others share our experiences. We can accomplish more as a community than alone as individuals. Our identity comes from the communities that we are part of, which is why web 2.0 social applications can be so effective. The biggest opportunity for OERs is to create communities of education for those that do not have them.

Education is about collaboration not passive consumption but students have little interest in structuring their own learning journeys. However we are moving into unpredictable territory and students need to take control of change.

Will institutions be able to continue offering OER for free? Openness sits uneasily beside marketization and competitiveness and increasing fees will only exacerbate this. No one quite knows what to do about MOOCs. Should we try to control the growth of MOOCs or should we let them proliferate? Opinions are becoming very polarised, but maybe it’s all hype like the Internet bubble. However MOOCs are important because they have started a public conversation about educational technology and part of that conversation has to be about whether openness will be swallowed up by privatisation and competition. We need a balanced thoughtful discussion about the future of education.

This blog post was also posted to the OER13 conference blog here: