Opening and closing OEPS but what/where now for open education in Scotland? #beopen

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 4.20.53 pm

image: If you look you can find wind swept Open Educational Practices all over Scotland by Ronald Macintyre and is licensed CC BY 4.0

An email this morning reminded me that the OEPS project has now come to the end of its three year funding period. I did virtually attend part of the final project meeting held  a couple of weeks ago in Edinburgh and just haven’t got round to writing a post about it.

I feel I need to write something. Not least because of this post I wrote 3 years ago when the project started.  In that  post was I fairly critical of the funding decisions around the project. If felt that in the midst of 1,000 cuts money was being given to the “haves” without any consideration for the “have nots”.

3 years on have I changed my opinion? Well, yes and no.

Whilst the project and the team – all of whom I like and have the lot of professional respect for – have done well particularly in engaging with third sector organisations with the concept open education and developing open courses. They have also:

worked with 68 organisations across Scotland, including universities,colleges, schools, third sector organisations, unions and businesses. It held 79 workshops, gave 44 presentations, organised four one-day open forums and one seminar and co-organised a two day symposium

I am slightly confused as to why all the project outputs including project reports  are now “courses” as part of a collection in Open Learn which I have to register for to access. I do hope the project website will remain so I can access the open resources created by the project there.  UPDATE 27.7.17 – you can “browse” the courses without the need for registering, but I still find the concept of project reports as a course a bit odd.

I like and support the list of recommendations in the final report, I do worry that there is now an ever bigger vacuum in relation to Government policy, funding and action around open education.

The first recommendation is one I whole heartedly support

Colleges and universities and the Scottish Government should consider formal adoption of the Scottish Open Educational Declaration.

Wouldn’t it have (and could still be) great if all the institutions on the project steering group could have done that as a commitment to supporting open education practices?  That might make the SFC sit up and take notice and also provide some national as well as institutional support, commitment and sustainability to help with the other recommendations.

However I fear that this project is going to be more of a footnote around OEP in Scotland than a rallying call to action which it had the potential to be. I fear a chance has been missed to help recognise and  give additional support and sustenance to the grassroots Scottish open education community.

The Open Scotland Declaration has been the inspiration for many other countries around the world as a basis for national policy. Indeed,  Joe Wilson reported early this year from the UNESCO European Regional Consultation on OER:

In terms of Scottish approaches,  the formation of Open Scotland and the creation of the Open Scotland Declaration has positioned Scottish Education as thought leaders in building both grass roots support for open educational practice and for encouraging policy shifts at national and institutional level and this is still garnering Scotland and Scottish education with global recognition.

So what now? The project has done some good work, there are more OERs, courses and awareness of open education but to (mis) quote Maha Bali (keynote speaker at the final project event), 3 years on maybe we need to be thinking more about notions of open tables.

Is the legacy of OEPS and its SFC funding one big open table that we can all contribute to and share  (an idea I took away from the  Porous University event co-hosted by the project)? Or is it a actually just a contribution to a bigger OU open table aka Open Learn?  Either way,  I think we all need to consider who and how these tables are supported and maintained  in order to move forward open educational practices in Scotland and beyond.


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