Open Education and MOOCs – Getting Started

Open Education and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have been getting a lot of media interest over the last year or so, with some commentators stating that this represents the end of Higher Education (HE) as we know it. This has caused intense discussions and much dismay in the e-learning community in HE, but not much of this has reached the mainstream (as usual). So, this page is for people (particularly those working in higher education) who want to find out a bit more about these things. There is a useful list of resources at the end – including a draft ‘Open UAL’ policy discussion document.

A quick note in passing: We need to remember that in HE we work in a ‘closed’ educational system and that when we discuss ‘open’ education it is from this perspective and that what has appeared to us in the past as radical and innovative in terms of pedagogy and e-learning on the ‘inside’, may seem quite conservative and ineffective (and worse) from the ‘outside’.

One thing to note at the outset that should be a big help to the reader is that ‘open’ as a concept is quite slippery, whether it applies to research outputs, education or culture. It is useful to conceptualise ‘open’ in any of these fields as existing on a continuum from very closed to very open. Also it is worth remembering that this is a multi-dimensional space (apologies if this sounds a bit like theoretical astrophysics!). So, the Open University is ‘open’ in comparison to standard universities in that students are not constrained by time and place of study – but ‘closed’ in the sense that students have to register and pay to study with the OU and the learning resources are copyright and closed. Whereas open research is defined by free and open access to materials on the World Wide Web that are liberally licensed to enable people to make use of them at no cost. Similarly, Open Educational Resources (OERs) are learning and teaching resources that are freely and openly available on the World Wide Web.

For many in HE the open agenda is quite a transgressive and threatening prospect. It is quite normal within HE to consider that the current model (both economic and educational) is the natural order of things and does not need to change – or if it does it will be according to an internal vision. The interesting thing about the open agenda is that this represents the (very mixed) views, aspirations, and needs of those on the ‘outside’ and wider societal concerns about equity, value for money and the purpose of higher education. This inevitably, leads straight into some very deep discussions that some find uncomfortable as it questions often deeply entrenched views and values held in the HE sector.

One critical observation to help readers make sense of this rapidly developing situation, is to ask this question? Does the particular instance of open education you are examining add anything to the ‘open educational commons’? For readers new to the concept of the commons you can find a useful description in this article Creative Commons Licences: Are They Right for You – it can be downloaded from this link

Useful Resources:

1- A Good Place to Start is this critical and  ‘punchy’ analysis of open education and MOOCs and their relation to current trends in higher education, its on the UAL Central Saint Martin blog at this link – its called Taking Care of Business? The political economy of MOOCs and Open Education.

2 – The World Bank has a useful MOOC Reading List at this link, this particularly handy to get a sense of the global dimensions to this discussion and to understand that ‘traditional’ HE is not going to be able to meet the needs of the global population

3 – Senior Managers in the UK are now taking serious notice of the MOOC phenomenon. Universities UK (UUK) held a meeting about this in London in May 2013 and the organization’s strategy group released a useful analysis called Massive Open Online Courses: Higher Education’s Digital Moment – it can be downloaded from this link

4 – The University of Edinburgh participated in a MOOC operated by Coursera and offered several of their courses. They have written up their experiences in a very useful report that you can download from this link, very useful tips about governance for managers and quality control and some eye-popping stats about participants.

4 – The economic crisis that has gripped the world economy since 2007 has led the European Union to consider how it can provide wider access to HE in a more economic manner and asked for ‘vision papers’ setting out how open education techniques might be used to do this. In response colleagues from UAL, Coventry School of Art and Design and the Open University of the Netherlands have written a paper called Reimagining the University: Open Art Education in the 21st century – the section on the ‘emerging political economy of open education’ is particularly useful in listing a number of key innovations and trends that are acting as a good foundation for future work. The reference section also provides useful further readings and links, you can download the paper at this link

5 – MOOCs – What is to be Done? I am not normally a fan of managerial studies but this article (link) from Professor Costas Markides (London Business School) is very useful on helping to understand how to respond to what the proponents of MOOCs like to call ‘disruptive innovation’. The simple answer is not to try and copy a disruptive innovator who is muscling in on your market – but to be different and ‘disrupt the disruptor’. For Art and Design education I would suggest this means seeking to differentiate and position our institutions in the online and open spaces of education. I would further suggest that making strong links with the emerging open education commons and the more democratic and free side of the open education community would be a sensible move – as ultimately this is where the lasting innovation and numbers will be – the ‘closed’ commercial MOOCs are an evolutionary dead-end, in my opinion.

6 – Open UAL draft policy document at this link you can find a short draft policy document for the UAL to discuss and adapt – it covers open research, education, and culture. The background section is very useful for a quick intro to the open agenda.

7 – This article by Martin Weller at the OU gives a good insight into how the established HE e-learning community have been reacting to MOOCs – You Can Stop Worrying About Moocs Now – read it at this link. There are lots of useful links to follow up from there.

8 – MOOCs and Open Education: Implications for Higher Education. A useful survey and analysis of MOOCS from JISC CETIS can be found at this link

9 – UK Government Literature Review – Title: “The maturing of the MOOC: literature review of massive open online courses and other forms of online distance learning”. This is a wide ranging and useful review, and it even contains a reference to our work at the UAL! You can find the review at this link



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Open Scholarship Policy – Discussion Document


Update at 5 June 2013 This has now been superceded by a newer version called ‘Open UAL’, this will be appearing on the blog in due course

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

Attribute as; ‘The ONCE project. University of the Arts London’ online at

Open Scholarship – Aims

(Your Institution) encourages participation in open scholarship by staff and students. By doing so we widen the impact of our work, strengthen our reputation as a university and as individuals, open up new business, employment and academic opportunities and constantly reinvigorate our practice.

Open Scholarship includes selecting and publishing our work openly on the World Wide Web with appropriate licence arrangements to enable a global audience to access them freely, while still retaining and asserting our rights of authorship and ownership in order to gain benefit from our own work. The creation, dissemination and curation of knowledge are fundamental elements in our role as a university. This, in turn, requires the development and maintenance of the policy and infrastructure needed to support this key aspect of (Your Institution)’s mission in the digital age.

We will achieve this by:

  • Engaging staff and students in understanding the benefits of participating in open scholarship activities
  • Developing and agreeing the policy and procedures needed to support open scholarship
  • Providing guidance and support in the crucial area of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to enable staff and students to exploit their resources effectively and identify and manage risk
  • Facilitating access to a range of online publishing platforms for staff and students
  • Developing a long-term digital asset management plan that effectively curates the university’s digital legacy
  • Providing practical support and guidance to staff and students in the design and production of open resources to support research, learning and teaching
  • Using engagement with open scholarship to explore different models of research, learning and teaching as a way of developing a living laboratory[1] for experimentation and the co-creation of knowledge
  • Integrating open scholarship into staff training, teaching certification, research and teaching and learning activities
  • Gathering and publishing a range of different metrics to document and measure the impact of our open scholarship activities
  • Developing national and international links with institutions and organisations that are engaging in and promoting open scholarship

We will recognise success when we:

  • Can identify a growing amount of open scholarship resources being produced and shared by staff and students of (Your Institution)  as well as the confident reuse and adaptation of external open scholarship resources within (Your Institution)
  • Obtain feedback and reports about the range and number of open scholarship collaborations that staff and students are engaged in
  • See research outputs being incorporated into open scholarship resources to increase their impact
  • Receive feedback from staff and students indicating a growing confidence in understanding and managing issues related to copyright and IPR
  • Initiate local, national and international collaborations through engaging in open scholarship
  • Develop more open and flexible course delivery options by (Your Institution)

Key Performance Indicators

  • Numbers and types of open scholarship resources published and used in (Your Institution)
  • Staff and Student surveys and feedback
  • Academic and media reports about (Your Institution) activity in this area
  • New Collaborations and Business Opportunities
  • Case studies and research outputs



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Summary of Open Education Activity 2010 – Onwards

CLTAD Open Education Projects at the UAL

NB Preceded by Library involvement in JISC OER Phase 1 Programme 2009-10

ALTO 2010 – 2011 – funded by JISC OER Phase 2 see

Broad Remit – Inward Facing– Culture Change / Tech Infrastructure / Awareness raising

Methods – Ethnographic, Action Research, Socio Technical Design

  • OERs created and collaborations with UAL projects (PPD, NAM, Commonplace)
  • Creative Commons accepted for L&T Content by UAL Legal
  • UAL Common Licence developed for internal sharing
  • T&C in place for future OER publishing at UAL
  • FILESTORE created  – prototype L&T repository for UAL
    • LDAP login
    • Features 4 levels of sharing
      • Me only
      • Named colleagues
      • UAL Only (UAL Commons Licence)
      • World (CC Licence)
  • Being integrated with MOODLE
  • Process.Arts supported and enhanced, introduction of groups (nominated for award)
  • LCF Fashion Colloquia uses group function (saves £35k)
  • Outline plans for future development of OER in the Arts – presented at MIT OCWC 2011
  • International Peer (Open Ed) Recognition
  • Collaborative Learning Design experiments and Templates
  • Overcoming Local IT limitations – Cloud service trial report with costs
  • Analysis of current Ed Tech approaches  and future plans  – presented at DoeL Helsinki 2011
  • A&D very under represented in Open Ed – an opportunity for UAL
  • Articulation of A&D Requirements for Open Ed
  • Student Competition – interpreting Open Ed

ALTO UK 2011 – 2012 – funded by JISC OER Phase 3

Broad Remit – Outward Facing – see

  • Themes
    • Work with FE.
    • Work with Publishers
    • Sustainable OER methods for A&D.
    • Preserving endangered subjects (ceramics, textiles).
    • Improved information for student applications,
  • International advisory group
  • Fed into UA DIAL project
  • Working with 8 partners (2 publishers, 1 IT company, 6 education)
  • OERs Created
  • Open CourseBook format created for learning design
  • Feeding into UAL Course Hand Book redesign project
  • HTML5 prototype
  • Design used at De Montfort and Bradford College
  • Video Sketchbooks Format
  • Sponsored ADM HEA conference Brighton ‘Drawing on all Resources’
  • Protocol and prototype for links Publisher release of content to use in OERs
  • Proof of Concept (prototype) for UK A&D OER Collaboration Platform
  • ‘Deep Linking’ Prototype for Academic Repositories
  • Finalized Proposals for Tech Architecture for Open Ed in A&D presented at ECLAP 2012 conference Firenze University 2012
  • Open Ed as a Driver for Change in A&D – presented at Open ED 12 Conference Vancouver


Broad Remit – Develop New study module in Open Educational Practice for CLTAD’s Academic Practice Provision

  • Builds on CLTAD experience in ALTO projects
  • First Intake February 2012


Broad Remit – Rapid Development Tech project

  • Use a tech standard (SWORD) to enable e-Portfolio users at UAL to select and deposit content from Workflow with a CC licence direct into Jorum and UAL Filestore

ONCE INTERNATIONAL – Funded by HEA – 2012 –

Broad Remit – Explore using OER /Open Ed as an international collaboration and marketing tool

  • Partnership with Coventry School of Art and Design – very productive
  • Proposals to join the OCWC in progress
  • Workshop and supporting materials published
  • HEA case study to be published
  • Discussion paper: The Political Economy of Open Education and MOOCS published on CSM Digital Present and revised and complete version at
  • 2 Presentations at OER 13 conference
  • Paper on’ Re-Imagining the Art College’ of the future using Open Ed – to be presented at ELIA 13 conference Amsterdam
  • Open Scholarship Policy published – under discussion at the UAL

FUTURE PROJECTS – in development

  • HEA Flexible Learning Project
  • EU Open Ed project


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ALTO UK Final Report Online

The ALTO UK Project Final Report is now online. Phew! Makes interesting reading – especially the unanticipated outcomes section. You can find it at this link:

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Taking Care of Business: The Political Economy of MOOCS and Open Education

I rashly promised to write an article with this title a few weeks ago, it has been rolling around my mind for a while and this was a good excuse to try and collect together a lot of information we have gathered in ALTO and picked up from colleagues on email lists and at conferences etc. You can find the online version over at the Central St. Martins Digital Present blog. You can find a complete updated Word version of this article at this link. Check out the article by the CommonWealth of Learning (COL) about this subject, which has been a big influence and a useful source of information I would strongly recommend that anyone interested in this area read the COL article in full it is listed below with links etc.

Below is the beginning of the online version for a taster and below that a link to a video from the head of the OU – required viewing for those interested.

“In this provocative article John Casey, Open Education Project Manager at the university’s Centre for Learning and Teaching in Arts and Design (CLTAD), reflects on the massive changes underway in open education around the world. Driven by a mix of new technology, idealism, politics and venture capital in a time of increasing economic austerity, the movement has plenty of contradictions as well as exciting opportunities.

The university sector is changing rapidly and open education is increasingly in the mix as a force to be reckoned with as a change agent. This article provides a wide-ranging and rapid introduction to this exciting field, and outlines the implications for changes in our practice as well as the role of Design in providing viable solutions for the future of open education in the arts.

There has been quite a bit of media interest in MOOCs recently. They are the latest ‘in thing’ in the field of education and technology. In a MOOC, hundreds of thousands of students attend online courses at world-leading universities like Harvard and MIT – for free. What’s going on? University managers are rushing to their teaching Deans, saying ‘We have to have a MOOC!’. When asked do they know what a MOOC is? They say ‘No, but we have to have one! Everyone else is getting one!’. This is despite the dropout rate from a MOOC being around 90%. It’s a bit like the educational equivalent of an arms race. There is enormous advertising and peer pressure on university managers in this area, as this report about a ‘MOOC-induced’ management crisis at Virginia University in the USA makes clear.

As usual, with education and technology, there have been buckets full of hype flung around, not all of it fragrant. Truth is, some people have realized that providing the information and learning resources from inside a university level course is no big deal, if you are organized. Being organized, or otherwise, is really what this article is all about and the consequent reorganization of the academic workplace to support open education. Although the current cycle of activity in MOOCs and open education is being made possible by the internet, the real underlying ‘disruptive technologies’ at work here are the 19th century ones of the distance learning correspondence course and the concept of ‘open exams’, about which more later. It is impossible to understand this area of activity without some understanding of the wider social and economic context. So, to get us started, below are some key terms and concepts explained – at least from my perspective…. read more at this link

Martin Bean Vice Chancellor of the Open University Video:

This year at the UK Higher Education Academy (HEA) conference Martin Bean, the Vice Chancellor of the Open University gave a great lecture about how open education can play a part in renewing our institutions. Above all, he stresses how this makes good business sense in the rapidly evolving international education market and should not be seen as some optional ‘good work. It is recommended viewing for all, especially senior managers trying to work out a strategy for the future – if you are short of time drop into the video at 42.00 on the timeline.

Highly Recommended Further Reading

Breaking Higher Education’s Iron Triangle: Access, Cost, and Quality: by Sir John Daniel, Asha Kanwar, and Stamenka Uvalić-Trumbić .

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