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New policies needed for open education in Scotland

OEPS graphic

This is a news story from Opening Educational Practices Scotland, a project led by The Open University in Scotland

Open education in today’s online world is an issue for all associated with learning with universities, colleges, business and the third sector having a leading role to play, a leading Scottish academic stressed today (Monday, September 11).

Dr Pete Cannell, co-director of the Opening Educational Practices in Scotland Project (OEPS), appealed for greater collaborations and partnerships between educational establishments and their agreement to make teaching materials more freely available online.

Dr Cannell issued his report on OEPS – a £1.3 million, three-year project funded by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) led by the Open University in Scotland – at the Promise of Open Education Conference in Edinburgh, attended by expert speakers, practitioners and learners from across Scotland to discuss the opportunities and challenges open education offers.

In his report, Dr Cannell said good progress had been made over the past three years but greater effort was needed to erase educational barriers.

Today we strongly encourage the SFC to support further sharing and collaborations between institutions.

To enable widening access to colleges and university, as well as to support lifelong learning, we urge colleges and universities to work in partnership with the informal learning and third sector to create open resources and open practice.

We also want educational institutions in Scotland to release much more of their content in openly licensed format.

Dr Pete Cannell, OEPS co-director

He said there should be consideration by the Scottish Government and the SFC of the systems, support mechanisms and policies required to facilitate and sustain institutional collaborations in open education.

OEPS found a high level of interest in the use of these online courses in the informal education sector with almost half of the organisations involved coming from the third sector, trade unions or employers.  

Dr Cannell said: “These bodies and their learners provided valuable insights into the barriers faced by both learners and organisations in using free, openly licensed courses.” 

Project partners included Parkinson’s UK, Dyslexia Scotland, Scottish Association for Marine Science (UHI), The University of Glasgow, the Equality Challenge Unit and Education Scotland.  

Nine of the courses are currently live with six more due for release over the autumn. These range from understanding Parkinson’s, supporting people with dyslexia, and global trends in death and dying; to how to become an open educator, how to do genetic testing, or find out if your seaweed looks weird.

In a separate evaluation of the project, Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Stirling, John Field, said there was an opportunity to inform the development of a distinctive national policy on open education. 

He suggested that The Open University in Scotland was probably best placed to take this forward by “promoting a dialogue with Government and sector-wide bodies on the lessons learned from OEPS.” 

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