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!

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