Earlier this year at the #cetis14 conference in Bolton we were set the task of being from an imaginary country and setting out the case for a national policy on open educational resources around the lines of the Unesco Open Education Declaration . I did a similar presentation at the College Development Network last week.
When you ask most folks if they are prepared to put their hands up for the kind of change that is needed you get a great response - when you ask the next question about who is prepared to lead or start the change that is needed - the hands stay down.
Here were some of the use cases I made .
Some might see some parallels with real places and people but of course this is purely co-incidental. This is an imaginary country with fictional challenges.
If I were a teacher in my imaginary county I would expect a lot of regular open online CPD especially from some of the other institutions that often knock standards in schools . I'd like teaching resources I can repurpose for my learners . If we start with a shopping list then principally in areas where human knowledge is moving fast and curriculum is changing .. areas like the Human Genome , HTML5 perhaps how to set up and use a 3D printers but list could really extend into most subject areas .
I do acknowledge that I can already get a lot of these materials from the open web but it would be great if local colleges and universities could do more to help me and my learners particularly as I've just been asked to look at ways of delivering more vocationally relevant programmes. How could colleges and employers help me here with relevant open materials ?
I'd like to to be able to take and repurpose for my pupils some chunks of the massive open online course I dropped out of as it was running over a period when I had a full timetable. I need asynchronous access to these resources.
At the moment this looks as though it is not possible as the licensing of the MOOC materials prevents me from using chunks of the courses with my learners.
I'd be keen too to embed a relevant MOOC in my classroom teaching but I am not sure how this will be regarded by my managers. Will they think I am redundant ?
I'd also like to be free to share any learning materials I develop openly with both other teachers and learners and not be constrained by a contract that does not allow me to share learning materials with colleagues , beyond my school , beyond my local authority , with institutions or individuals that are not schools, or beyond national boundaries.
I am not sure if anyone other than my employers realise that this is currently a major constraint on enabling the sharing of learning materials .
I'd like some more information about Creative Commons licensing so I can share materials non commercially and still receive appropriate attribution.
Ok let's look to an other sector ...
The major employer
I am the CEO of a major company that specialises in .. Take your pick . Engineering , Telecommunications , Hospitality, computing, customer care etc . We spend millions of pounds a year on the training of staff mainly, we claim, repairing the damage that has been done in schools , colleges and universities . I'd be keen to open up some of our training resources, they are online already . I can't get anyone in educational establishment to speak to me ? Why is this the case ?
The school pupil
I am school pupil I am not sure what I want to do when I leave school . I have had lots of information describing lots of different occupations and courses, but I'd really like to try some of these courses before I commit to studying something for the next three or four years . Where can I experience some of the courses that are not taught in schools ..what is involved in pharmacy , marketing , Webdesign , this could be a long list..
What is the difference between the maths I do now and maths for engineering or computing ? . I can already sample some of this by looking at materials from a range of international institutions but there is not much experiential material available from my local college or university available on the web ? Why not ?
The school library has not bought any new resources for the last five years and we use 10 year old textbooks in class that are held together by wallpaper book covers.
I know there are a lot of other free resources on the web but they seem to come mostly from other countries and a lot of the really useful stuff still seems filtered out in school.
I have the online skills to do an online course but the school only offers classroom based programmes. I'd like to do some computing courses but our school does not have a computing teacher.
I am an academic who despairs at the decline in standards in numeracy , literacy , computational thinking , problem solving , teaching etc ... I regularly vent my anxieties to the national media . Though surrounded by experts and lots of materials that could support learners in schools , colleges and informal learning I have not figured out a way to fulfil my social responsibility beyond a once a year public lecture and the occasional column in the times educational supplement criticising the education system.
I do publish articles in a well known global social science journal but as the annual subscription fees are £15,000 these articles don't attract a broad readership, beyond my own and the 5 other reputable elite UK university libraries that subscribe to this journal.
I am deeply suspicious of the open research agenda. Why would anyone ever give away anything ? I'm thinking about doing a Ted talk but only if they pay me my usual fee.
We do a MOOC a year funded from our marketing budget to attract high fee paying international students Openness is just a fad that will pass .
The Adult learner
I am an adult over the age of 24 sometimes in a low paid job and sometimes out of work . My shift patterns and other family commitments prevent me engaging with education beyond occasionally dipping into Wikipedia and YouTube . I am looking for some flexible online ways I can update my skills but I can only ever find stuff that is for university graduates or foreign stuff.
The policy maker
I am a senior civil servant . I've signed the official secrets act so I am really very uncomfortable with sharing anything . The freedom of information act has honed my skills in redacting anything whatsoever that a member of the public might find useful . Open is already a minefield professionally and more openness in Education could, we've been advised by our external legal advisors, only be dealt with on a case by case basis , any materials, to be made open would need to be scanned by our legal team page by page at a great cost . I've advised the minister that this area is highly controversial and we better take a lead on this from our biggest and richest institutions .Whatever they suggest, after a few years research, we will then have a look into.
I can see some real benefits in schools , colleges and universities sharing learning materials but I am really not sure that they should be sharing these learning materials with anyone else . Above all, no-one wants the blame if some of these open materials are not very good . If we open things up then the public and the press will see what schools , colleges and universities give to their learners. That might create some misunderstandings.
I am sure this could strike a few harmonious chords perhaps even some discordant ones. These are purely imaginary barriers.
I used each of the cases above to make a case for some open educational policy driven at government level to encourage open practice at institutional and individual level across life long learning It is what prompted the authoring of http://declaration.openscot.net/ and I have great hopes that http://oepscotland.org/ will push things on.
We need to create the next generation of open institutions and of open practitioners and it's not just a fetish for learning content.
The next generation of learners will be designing their own courses ,repurposing and developing their own learning content .. but that is another post.