Creating a Culture of Openness – Pilots to Policy to Prosperity

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve attended a number of events on open education, open credentialing (focusing on Open Badges), innovation and prosperity. In the process I have come across a number of examples of excellent practice, frustration at barriers to the creation of a culture of openness and the importance of culture to create prosperity.

Starting with how open digital credentialing can help to highlight student achievement beyond academic qualifications and aid employability, at the Scottish Blackboard User Group staff from the University of Edinburgh and Abertay University discussed their Open Badge projects ….

The University of Edinburgh

The Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) has developed a comprehensive badge framework to recognise the work and skills gained by Class Reps. Class Reps demonstrate a number of skills in the course of their duties that are sought by employers (see a previous blog post on skills employers seek for some examples), relating to communication, people and problem solving skills etc. The badges EUSA have created range from those that are used to recognise specific skills to badges signifying involvement in the Student Staff Liaison Committee and an over-arching Class Rep badge. Myles Blaney explained that students must submit a blog post, reviewed by a EUSA staff member, as evidence for their badge.

The reasons for developing the badges were to provide a portable and versatile digital credential that could be shared online, including on professional profile sites such as LinkedIn, to highlight the range of skills Class Reps develop to recruiters. The badges can also be used as stepping stones to the Edinburgh Award for Representing Students, as evidence for the 50+ hours of voluntary work Class Reps do each year.

This use of Open Badges seems a good example of how badges can also be used for more than just recognition of achievement but for other outcomes, such as to promote reflective practice (through the use of blog posts for evidence). The badges were all created by members of the EUSA, which would have required deep engagement with digital assessment practices, prompting thought on what is and should be assessed, how to evidence and assess in a fair way and how to manage that process. It seems to me these skills could help students have a clearer appreciation of requirements for their own assignments as well as helping them recognise their skills and attributes beyond academic ones.

Abertay University

Abertay University have been using a range of Open Badges, to showcase activities that can count towards the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR). The HEAR provides a transcript of a student’s achievements while at university, including things like awards, volunteering, being a Class Rep etc. Carol Maxwell and Deborah Farley described how they have been aligning badges to the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF), which is Scotland’s national qualifications framework, used to level formal and informal learning. They have created badges which represent a notional 10 hours of effort, the same learning time specified for one SCQF credit point.

Carol and Deborah commented, however, that they are considering if stipulating 10 hours of effort for every badge will provide the flexibility they need or whether they might become more granular with their badges. They also remarked that badges have proven to be a useful tool for helping students to visualise their interests and skills and to provide case studies of what they have achieved. They felt that this could help students with job interviews, particularly competency based ones, by providing students with tangible examples of what they had to do to gain a badge that recognised a particular competency.

ALT Scotland

At a recent ALT Scotland event on Open Education, with a focus on policy, discussion focused on how we move from pockets of excellent open practice to a culture of openness.

University of Dundee

Natalie Lafferty discussed skills developed by students developing Open Educational Resources (OERs) that are used within the medical curriculum at the University of Dundee. Through the process of co-creating the curriculum, students have been learning about multi-media design, learning design, usability testing, copyright and developing a range of other skills, which Open Badges have helped to showcase. You can find out more about this great example of teaching, learning and open practice here…

Pilots to policy?

The above examples were self-contained initiatives and not representative of institution wide uptake of open digital credentialing but according to the presenters, feedback has been positive and there are plans to continue and extend use. I wonder if we will move to more institutional approaches however.

Lorna Campbell, who initiated and led the development of the Open Scotland Declaration, and Marion Kelt, who developed the OER policy for Glasgow Caledonian University both spoke at the ALT Scotland event about some of the challenges involved in moving an open education initiative towards policy. A lack of a clear sense of ownership of the open agenda appears to cause blockages, so knowing who to go to in order to move from pockets of practice to a clear mission can be difficult. However, in the case of Glasgow Caledonian University’s OER policy, this has been achieved and the Open Scotland Declaration appears to be gaining ground, with interest expressed by some of those attending and facilitating another recent event, Innovation and Prosperity in Scotland, organised by Nesta and the Economic Development Association Scotland (EDAS).

Creating a Culture of Openness

Check the #ScotlandCanDo twitter feed from the 23d June 2015 for information about some of the great talks and discussion around creativity and how to re-invigorate the wealth of a nation (in both human and financial terms) through education and innovation. The Innovation and Prosperity in Scotland event was thoughtfully and expertly facilitated by Pat Kane and I particularly enjoyed talks by Juan José Ibarretxe, former President of the Basque Country, and Professor Irene McAra-McWilliams from Glasgow School of Art. A common theme throughout the day was the importance of culture… something which a well presented policy can help to promote, by giving people the awareness of what is encouraged, possible, and in some instances, what they won’t be reprimanded for doing.

A point was made at a discussion on OERs hosted by Terry McAndrew from the Higher Education Academy that I attended on the same day, that many people don’t want to share their resources in case someone steals their work. As that pioneer of innovation in education and one of the founders of the Scottish Enlightenment, Francis Hutcheson reminds us though, altruism is linked to self-interest – so by sharing we are also promoting our work and ourselves. Something that MIT benefited from when they released hundreds of their courses as open educational resources years ago. Perhaps it’s not such a surprise then that they now make more money from their t-shirt sales than they do from their spin-off companies.

Openness = Prosperity? What do you think?


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