UOC support for open education

Subject:  Multidisciplinary
Two people talking and gesticulating on video call

Gema Santos from the UOC Library tells us about the current situation with respect to open education.

Gema Santos is a research support librarian at the UOC, adjunct professor at the UB and coordinator of the EMPOWER Knowledge Resources expert group within the EADTU university network. She also coordinates the open learning resource activities undertaken by the Repositories Working Group within the REBIUN university network and has recently defended her doctoral thesis on open educational resources (OER) at the Spanish universities.

Even now that several weeks have passed since the conference (24 to 26 April) was held, she still talks about it with enthusiasm. Gema Santos has come back from Open Education Global Conference held in Delft (Netherlands) with an agenda full of projects and new ideas to put into practice. We talked with her about the meeting's main conclusions and reviewed the current state of open education.

What is currently understood by open education?

When we talk about open education, we're not just talking about OER (open educational resources) or free access to online courses. We're talking about a transformation of the educational system, of modernizing teaching and learning practices to guarantee transparency, cooperation and sharing. Basically, it's a change of mindset, a new approach to thinking about learning and teaching.

During the Open Education Global Conference, experts from 35 countries shared formulas for advocating the advantages of open education. What ideas have you brought back from that experience?

It was a very inspiring conference; one of the ideas that I would highlight in particular is integration. Open resources as part of a whole within education, and also integration of the different “open” movements to create a single open education ecosystem. There's not much sense in creating separate discussion forums. Strength in unity.

It's a change of mindset, a new approach to thinking about learning and teaching

So, a profitable meeting...

Yes, indeed! In fact, during the conference, the need was raised of increasing cooperation between experts, the connection between repositories and fostering the integration of the OERs . Replicating the model implemented in the United States, SPARC Europe proposed leading a European network of OER librarians, which would include representatives from each country. In the case of Spain, this will include me. We must be unreasonable with open education – this was the idea that emerged at the end of the conference. To quote the writer Bernard Shaw, “the reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself”. Which means that it is the unreasonable people who bring about innovation and change.

The open movement offers open-access contents, such as books or scientific articles, but these require an investment in time and money on the part of their creators. Why publish in open access?

The open movement is not just about advocating a more democratic education. Universities have the responsibility and public mission to make education available to society, and they must broaden the concept of educational material, breaking down barriers. With open access, a university's academic and scientific output reaches beyond the classrooms or the institution, enabling it to gain in value, increased use and international standing.

What role do the librarians play in the open education ecosystem?

One message that was repeated a lot at the Open Education Global Conference was the vision of the librarian as an unconditional ally of open education. We have the knowledge to support and assist university faculty in finding and preparing open-access materials (copyright, open licences, etc). This opens a magnificent opportunity to gain visibility beyond books and bookshelves.

Were any specific examples of this given during the conference?

Temple University (USA) creates open-access text books to reduce the cost of materials for students and their families and guidance is provided to faculty about the use of open-access resources. In fact, the presentation was given by a professor who was very enthusiastic about the work done by the librarians. In the particular case of Europe, there is a national programme in the Netherlands called SURF which provides support for open educational resources, and there is a working group of 50 librarians who are also analysing the subject.

At the UOC, we are working continually to move open education forward

For example, the EADTU group's The Envisioning Report for Empowering Universities includes reflections about the role of the university library in disseminating MOOCs (massive open online courses).

MOOCs are a tool for rethinking professionals' role not only as consultants but also as content creators. We have made some progress in this at the UOC Library. Our team of librarians works with the teachers who are preparing the MOOCs offered at UOC X and Miriadex. Furthermore, we have prepared a MicroMOOC via Twitter about open access with other university libraries. ​

How is the future looking for open education?

There is still a lot to do. We need a strategy and, above all, national policies, institutional guidelines and a funding line that supports open education initiatives. These are basic to get it started. And at the UOC, we are working continually to move open education forward.