#chatopen Open Access and Open Education

Do open access and open education need to work together more? That was the question posed by Pat Lockley and discussed on twitter on Friday evening by a group of open education folks using the hashtag #chatopen.

Open access in this instance was taken to refer to open access repositories of peer-reviewed papers and other scholarly works and associated open access policies and agendas. There was general agreement that open access and open education proponents should work together but also recognition that it was important to be aware of different agendas, workflows, technical requirements, etc. Suzanne Hardy of the University of Newcastle added that it was equally important to take heed of open research data too.

Although the group acknowledged that open access still faced considerable challenges, there was a general consensus that it was more mature, both in terms of longevity and uptake, and that it was embedded more widely in institutions. Amongst other factors, the relative success of open access was attributed to the fact that most universities already had policies and repositories for publishing and managing scholarly outputs, while few had comparable strategies for managing teaching and learning materials. Phil Barker added that research outputs were always intended for publication whereas teaching and learning materials were generally kept within the institution. Nick Sheppard of Leeds Met also pointed out that most institutional repositories could not handle teaching and learning resources and research data without significant modification. This led to the suggestion that while institutional repositories fit the culture of scholarly works and open access well, research data and OERs are much harder to manage and share.

In terms of uptake and maturity, although there was general agreement that open access was some way ahead of open education, it appears that open data is catching up fast due to institutional drivers such as the REF, high level policy support and initiatives such as opendata.gov. Funding council mandates were also recognised as being an important driver in this regard.

Different interpretations of the term ‘open” were discussed as the open in open access and open education were felt to be quite different. The distinction between gratis and libre was felt to be useful, though it is important to recognise more subtle variations of open.

There was some consensus that teaching and learning resources tend to be regarded as being of lesser importance to institutions than scholarly works and research data and that this was reflected in policy developments, staff appointments and promotion criteria. Furthermore, until impact measures, funding and business models change this is likely to remain the case. Open access and open education both reflect institutional culture but they are separate processes and this separation reflects university polices, priorities and funding streams.

The group also felt that different communities had emerged around open access and open education, with open access mainly being the concern of librarians and open education the domain of eLearning staff. Phil refined this distinction by suggesting that open access is driven by researchers but managed by librarians. However Nick Sheppard of Leeds Met suggested that the zeitgeist was changing and that open access, open education and open research data are starting to converge.

In response to the question “what open education could learn form open access?” one lesson may be that top down policy can help. Although open education processes are more complex and diverse than open access, the success of open access could aid open education.

Pat wrapped up the session by asking where next for open education? What do we do? Lis Parcell of RSC Wales cautioned against open education becoming the domain of “experts” and emphasised the importance of enabling new audiences to join the open debate, by using plain language where possible, meeting people where they are and providing routes to help them get a step on the ladder. There was also some appetite for open hackdays and codebashes that would bring teachers, researchers and developers together to build OA/OER mashups. Nick put forward the following usecase:

“I want to read a research paper, text mined & processed, AI takes me to relevant OER to consolidate learning!”

Finally everyone agreed that it’s important to keep talking, to keep open education on the agenda and try to transform open practice into open policy.

So there you have it! A brief summary of a wide-ranging debate conducted using only 140 characters! Who says you can’t have a proper conversation on twitter?! If you’re interested in reading the full transcript of the discussion, Martin Hawksey has helpfully set up a TAGS Viewer archive of the #chatopen here.

If you want to follow up any of the points or opinions raised here than feel free to comment below or send a mail to oer-discuss@jiscmail.ac.uk

Many thanks once again to Pat Lockley for setting up the discussion and to all those who participated.

ALT Scotland Special Interest Group

Earlier this week Martin Hawksey and I went along to the first meeting of the new ALT Scotland SIG Steering Group. The meeting was chaired by Prof Linda Creanor of Glasgow Caledonian University and members of CETIS, RSC Scotland (Celeste McLaughlin) and SQA (Joe Wilson) attended, with apologies from Dr Lesley Diack of Robert Gordon University.

ALT Scotland is a national SIG for practitioners and researchers in learning technology based in Scotland and its remit is to provide a forum to –

  • Further the aims of ALT in Scotland.
  • Promote the technology agenda in all sectors of Scottish education.
  • Encourage sharing of expertise, resources, and best practice in learning technology within the context of Scottish education.
  • Influence relevant policy and strategy.
  • Develop constructive relationships with related organisations and committees.

The meeting focused on identifying actions to support these aims and objectives, with policy and strategy advisory being highlighted as a priority area, particularly with regards to furthering the development of policy to support open educational practises and open educational resources in Scotland.

The actions that the ALT Scotland SIG plans to take forward over the next twelve month period include:

The SIG would welcome participation from ALT members across Scotland and the UK. To get involved, and to keep up to date with SIG activities, please sign up for the ALT Scotland SIG mailing list here: www.jiscmail.ac.uk/ALT-SCOTLAND

NPG adopts Creative Commons licence

Last month the National Portrait Gallery changed their image licencing policy to allow free downloads for non-commercial and academic purposes.

Writing in Museums Journal today Rebecca Atkinson explained that:

The change means that more than 53,000 low-resolution images are now available free of charge to non-commercial users through a standard Creative Commons licence.

Atkinson quotes Tom Morgan, head of rights and reproductions at the NPG saying”

“Obviously this is quite complex – on one hand, if people are making money from a museum’s content then it’s right the museum should share that profit but we also want to support academic and education activity. So we took the opportunity to look at the way in which we could deliver this service and automate it.”

A new automated interface on all the NPG’s collection item pages now leads users to a “Use this image page” with links to request three different licences. Each license is accompanied by clear and concise information on how the image can be used:

Professional licence: can be used in books, films, TV, merchandise, commercial and promotional activities, display and exhibition.

Academic licence: can be used in your research paper, classroom or scholarly publication.

Creative Commons licence: can be used in non-commercial, amateur projects (e.g. blogs, local societies and family history).

In order to apply for a Professional or Academic licence users must register to use the NPG’s lightbox and then apply for the appropriate license. For print works, the academic license covers images for non-commercial publications with a print run of less than 4000, images must also be used inside the publication.

To access the lower resolution Creative Common’s licensed image, users are not required to register, but they must submit a valid e-mail address before they can download the image in the form of zip file. The images themselves do not appear to carry any embedded license information or watermarks, but they are accompanied by the following text file

Please find, attached, a copy of the image, which I am happy to supply to you with permission to use solely according to your licence, detailed at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

It is essential that you ensure images are captioned and credited as they are on the Gallery’s own website (search/find each item by NPG number at http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/advanced-search.php).

This has been supplied to you free of charge. I would be grateful if you would please consider making a donation at http://www.npg.org.uk/support/donation/general-donation.php in support of our work and the service we provide.

Now I should probably point out that I have a personal interest in this change of policy as I recently contacted the NPG to request permission to use some of their images in an academic publication. I was delighted when they pointed me to the new automated licence interface and confirmed that the images in question could be used free of charge. What really struck me at the time though was what a valuable resource this could prove to be for open education, as the NPG has effectively released 53,000 free and clearly licensed potential open educational resources into the public domain. The CC license chosen by the gallery may be on the restrictive side, but it certainly demonstrates a growing and very welcome commitment to openness from the cultural heritage sector that could be of direct benefit to education.

Supporting OER Policy in Scotland

Last week I attended an interesting ALT Scotland meeting, hosted by the Centre for Learning Enhancement and Academic Development at Glasgow Caledonian University which, among other things, focused on the potential role of ALT in shaping OER policy in Scotland.

The discussion was led by Joe Wilson, SQA’s Head of New Ventures, in response to UNESCO’s OER draft declaration consultation. This consultation had previously been the focus of Sir John Daniel’s keynote “Fostering Governmental Support for OER Internationally” at the OER12 / OCWC Conference in Cambridge earlier this year. At the time the UK government had not responded to the UNESCO consultation, which appears to have been sent only to Westminster*. This prompted Joe to suggest that it might be useful to seek a response from the Scottish Government, with ALT potentially being an appropriate body to support this cause and to assemble Scotland wide responses on international initiatives in the area.

There certainly seemed to be considerable appetite among those present at last week’s well attended meeting to help articulate Scottish policy in the area of openness in general and open educational resources in particular.

Several participants noted that as a relatively small community, there is already a strong ethos and culture of sharing across the Scottish educational sectors, which could be harnessed for the greater good. However, although there may be enthusiasm at the grass roots level, there was also agreement that there is little awareness of the open agenda at the institutional level.

Furthermore, in terms of policy, it was suggested that there is some disparity between the UK and Scottish governments in terms of commitment to open strategy, open education and open educational resources.

David Beards of the Scottish Funding Council pointed out that the Scottish Government are already committed to promoting openness through the 2004 Scottish Declaration on Open Access which states:

“We believe that the interests of Scotland will be best served by the rapid adoption of open access to scientific and research literature.”

While this is unquestionably an admirable goal, the declaration does focus squarely on open access to scholarly research outputs. There is no mention of opening access to educational resources, or indeed to research and other data, and I can not help but be reminded of the late Rachel Heery’s astute observation to the final meeting of JISC Repositories and Preservation Advisory Group that teaching and learning resources have not been served well by scholarly works Open Access agenda as their workflows are very different.

In order to raise awareness of the open agenda at the policy level it was suggested that ALT Scotland should take positive steps to bring together institutions and non departmental public bodies to work together to ensure that open educational resources feature in Scotland’s national ICT strategy. As a first step towards this goal, the group agreed to formally establish ALT Scotland as an ALT Special Interest Group. If you’re interested in participating in these developments, or just keeping up to date, you can joint the ALT Scotland mailing list here alt-scotland@jiscmail.ac.uk.

One last thing, in an admirable example of practising what they preach, ALT have opened access to their journal Research in Learning Technology. The journal aims to:

Raise the profile of research in learning technology, encouraging research that informs good practice and contributes to the development of policy.

All journal content is freely available here: www.researchinlearningtechnology.net

* David Kernohan of JISC has helpfully pointed out that the UK government has now formally responded to the UNESCO consultation. Thanks David!