...sharing is probably the most basic characteristic of education: education is sharing knowledge, insights and information with others, upon which new knowledge, skills, ideas and understanding can be built. (Open Education Consortium, 2019)
Within the context of open educational practice ‘open’ refers to availability and access. Open does not however always mean ‘free’, or at least not completely free as there are degrees or levels of openness. Open may mean free to access only or it may mean free to retain, reuse, revise, remix or redistribute as per Wiley’s 5Rs of openness. As yet there is no universally agreed definition of open within the context of education. It has been suggested that any attempt to create a single definition would be an ongoing task and instead it should be viewed as an umbrella term (Muñoz et al., 2016).
Open educational practice is the interaction with freely available open content, resources, data, technologies, software and other artefacts in the endeavour of opening access to education both temporally and spatially. Open educational practice often leads to new open pedagogic practices where collaboration, co-creation and community are at the fore. Using licensing schemes such as Creative Commons or public domain and the principles of Wiley’s 5Rs, new, often improved content can be created. The use of open data can provide access to larger, useful, real data and deliver new insights.
When open education is discussed many people automatically think of Open Educational Resources and with it the thought of obtaining ‘free stuff’, usually images or videos. Engaging with open is not a one-way street, it is not just about what you can get but also what you can contribute back. If everyone takes then who will give, and if no one gives then there’s nothing to take.
Drivers for open
Your first thought might be 'why would I create something then give it away for free?' This question is even more pertinent in the current education climate where resource (human and financial) is short, staff are increasingly under pressure to do more for less and where time is at a premium and governments are scrutinising institutional performance and finances (analytics). On top of this we also have increasing legislation regarding copyright, accessibility and GDPR. There is also a lack of investment in digital skills in FE and HE, which no doubt leads to a reluctance to publish openly (Jisc, 2019). Surely, we need to get our own house in order before giving stuff away for free.
Personal and institutional drivers
Well the answer to this question is not simple and there is no one size fits all answer. For some it may be for altruistic, moral or philosophical reasons; they believe that everybody, everywhere deserves access to education. For another it might be for purely personal reasons, that of self-promotion. Marketing could also be the driver, promotion of their department, faculty or institution in order to increase credibility, visibility and course numbers. Of course, it could also be for a combination of these reasons.
Legislation and political drivers
You may still decide that it is more trouble that it is worth to engage with open practices, however there is one last piece of information that you need to consider. We mentioned earlier the pressure from government to perform better and to get more for less, well there is also a moral imperative and the increasing likelihood of legislative expectation that publicly funded works will be made available to the public. In their latest College and University ICT Strategy the Scottish Funding Council have as one of their aims and objective to:
support the use of open licences to share digital skills and training resources and consider adopting the Open Scotland Declaration (to put the sharing of publicly-funded learning materials on the same open footing as publicly-funded research)
Links to some of the key legislation
Note: these may download a PDF to your browser download folder
The benefits of engaging with open practice
What about me, the lecturer, why would I want to spend time creating resources then giving them away? Instead of only considering the reasons you have found ‘not to engage’ with open practices, why not take some time to consider the benefits of engaging.
Below are some reasons and benefits to engaging wiht open practice. Click the headings below to reveal further detail.
If you need to improve your digital skills see it as continous professional development (CPD), a learning opportunity. Never has it been more important to have digital competency, not just in learning and teaching but as a life skill. Improving your own digital skills will also enable you to pass these on to your students and all the time increasing your own confidence to engage further with digital and open practices.
If you want to be more visible, showcase your work, share with a future employer or attract collaborators who value what you do, consider open practice as an opportunity.
If you are short of time and can't see how you can fit it in use it as a way to provide your students with a more realistic and active learning experience, have them co-create and collaborate to develop resources that you can use in future lessons. Work with other teaching staff worldwide to co-create and share the workload.
- To increase audience, citing Davis (2011) "articles published under open access received significantly more downloads and reached a broader audience”.
- To increase reuse, by releasing with minimal restriction to enable adaptation, republication.
- To increase access and reach disadvantaged groups by removing/reducing entry criteria.
- To increase experimentation – many MOOCs have been used in A/B testing.
- To increase individual and institutional reputation by accessing a larger audience.
- To increase revenues – although debated the part open model can be a leader to additional services. This is achieved by creating a demand.
- To increase participation such as crowdsourcing feedback on a book.
- Through open journals, unlock the academic silos and paywalls and create access to publications that will, in addition to enhancing academic reputation, also help further knowledge in the discipline by opening to a wider audience.
- Easier to conform to core standards by developing a shared resource and understanding.
By now you will have an understanding as to why open educational practices are a worthwhile endeavour for you, the learners (direct and indirect), the institution and society.
This section looks at some of the things you will need to consider before you engage in open practices. This is not a definitive or detailed list but instead focusses on the top-level considerations.
Engaging in open practice is not a one-way street, it is not just about getting stuff for free, it is also about contributing to the greater commons and to that end this section looks at engagement from both perspectives. It is normal for these considerations to be addressed in an open policy.
What are the quality standards that anything created or used under open must meet? These should be no different to the standards expected for the content that is currently used in learning and teaching, however if you are engaging students in developing their open practice you may need to make them aware of the expectations. Generally, this will include all the usual factors like defamatory content, spelling, grammar, etc. however it will also include licensing, copyright, accessibility and branding. Quality standards are important to prevent reputational damage to you and the institution both from bad information and legislative requirements. Content taken from the commons also needs to have its provenance verified; does the publisher have the right to give it away for free and is the content reliable and accurate?
Peer review is a great way to achieve quality assurance with students and it also provides them with critical and analytical skills. Refer to your insitutional policy for guidance.
Refer to you insitutional policy for guidance.
Your institution may have its own or preferred channels for sharing. For example, your institution may have an OER repository, an open access database, a server for short courses or an internal journal for publications. Alternatively, your institution may have none of these and instead recommend that you use external platforms, services and tools to meet the required need. You may also find that you need to use a mix of internal and external. If you don’t know whether the tool, platform or otherwise can be used in learning and teaching you should consult with your local learning and teaching department who will be able to advise.
Below is a table showing the advantages and disadvantages of sharing internally and externally to the institution.
An element of control is retained by the institution, should anything that does not meet quality expectations be published it can easily be taken down.
You can use discipline specific repositories where you can find and share more relevant content. For example there are repositories that specialise in engineering such as CORE-Materials.
You may be able to offer a gradual transition to fully open e.g. open to those inside the institution only, although this does not conform to the full spirit and definition of open, bu it's a good start.
You can reach a larger market. This can result in more reuse of your materials, thus meeting many of the above outlined benefits of practicing open such as increased profile.
Easier to track statistics, how many downloads/uploads, internal and external visitors, etc.
You may have to relinquish some of your ownership rights in order to publish in an external service.
Easier to quantify total output, if engagement is across many external outlets then you can easily lose track of what has been shared. You could of course ask that anything shared is stored in a central local store, but this adds another level of administration and a potential disincentive.
No hosting overhead for the institution. The institution does not need to have servers or staff to maintain them.
You may lose control of resources placed in external space due to changes in conditions of service, insolvency or not reading the terms of engagement fully on subscribing. Indeed, there have been past cases of services disappearing literally overnight, e.g. Wetpaint which was sold off to a rival company.
Upskilling your open practice
If you are serious about open practice you may want to up your skills, needless to say there are some very good open and free resources to enable you to do this. Listed below are a few suggestions.
Developed by Open University Openlearn
Developed by University of the Highlands and Islands Educational Development Unit
Developed by University of the Highlands and Islands Educational Development Unit
Developed by the Open University Openlearn
Developed by the Open University Openlearn
Where to find resources
There are literally thousands of places on the internet where you can find free resources. Many academic institutions host open repositories i.e. The University of Edinburgh. A good starting point are the Creative Commons and Google search tools.
Below you will find a series of links to useful tools and resources.
Creative Commons image search - https://ccsearch.creativecommons.org/
Google refined image searching - https://staffresources.uhi.ac.uk/support_portal/resources/finding-using-images/sourcing-images.html
Creative Commons legal music for videos - https://creativecommons.org/about/program-areas/arts-culture/arts-culture-resources/legalmusicforvideos/
Creative Commons legal music for remixing - https://creativecommons.org/about/program-areas/arts-culture/arts-culture-resources/legalmusicforremixing/
A list of MOOCs with an overview is available here - http://sociallearningcommunity.com/10-of-the-best-mooc-providers/
Below you can find a list of resources that you might find useful in informing your practice.
Blogs are a good way to keep abreast of what is happening in the wider landscape and many of the leading practitioners publish openly.
Policies area another good way of finding out what other institutions are doing with regards to open practice. These policies can help inform our institutional policy and your own practice
Wikimedia offer a range of way to get involved with open practice through their suite of open services. You may wish to look at how you can use these in your teaching and learning to provide a more active and realistic learning experience to your students
Catherine Cronin - http://catherinecronin.net/blog/ - Open educator, open researcher, strategic education developer
David A. Wiley - https://opencontent.org/blog/ - Author and education fellow at Creative Commons
Leeds OER Policy
Coventry OER Policy
GCU Interim OER Policy
University of Edinburgh OER Policy
About Wikimedia - https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation
Wikimedia projects - https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Our_projects
Inamorato dos Santos, A., Punie, Y. and Castaño Muñoz, J. (2016). Opening up Education: A Support Framework for Higher Education Institutions. JRC Science for Policy. [online] Available at: https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/c52b6cab-a82c-4e75-8420-d2431196d11d [Accessed 10 Feb 2020].
Jisc (2019) digital experience insights survey. [online] Available at: https://digitalinsights.jisc.ac.uk/documents/221/33013h2_JISC_DEI_TeachingStaffReport19_A4_HR_Web.pdf [Accessed 19 Feb 2020]
Oeconsortium.org. (2019). About The Open Education Consortium | The Open Education Consortium. [online] Available at: https://www.oeconsortium.org/about-oec/ [Accessed 17 Feb 2020].
Weller, M. (2014) The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn't feel like victory. London: Ubiquity Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/bam