A Lens on… Open Education

In this series of articles, the Educational Technology team will be providing an insight into existing practice using technology for learning and teaching at Falmouth University and also at projects being undertaken within the wider HE sector. Our first looked at the process of Feedback and our second looks at Open Education.

The term ‘Open Education’ refers to the ethos and practices of removing barriers to, and providing and promoting new opportunities for learning. It is more about an approach and a mindset than a set of technologies or a way of teaching and is focussed around the learning community rather than the didactic teacher-student relationship. Catherine Cronin’s excellent presentation, Navigating The Marvellous which presents openness within the context of higher education and the social and technological practices of modern learners and educators.


The last few years have seen the rise of ‘Open’ on the educational agenda, in part due to the buzz around MOOCs being a disruptor to education. However, most mainstream MOOCs have been institutionalised and bent to fit existing educational practices, so we’re seeing the buzzword become less relevant. Open Education and Open Educational Resources in contrast are becoming more so, as the worldwide Open Education Week site conveys . The affordances that technology offer Open Learning have been seized around the fringes by Open Educators that seek to exploit technology and challenge educational paradigms.

Open Educational initiatives like #PHONAR, Creativity for Learning in Higher Education, #RHIZO15 and the ability to remix other open courses on P2PU are examples of community or learner centred curriculums. These approaches put the web to use as it was originally intended, for the sharing of information.


The conversation around Open Education is active in Scotland, with practitioners who have instigated Open Badges projects and in Wales where this years #OER15 conference is being hosted. The DigiLit Leicester project, who we talked about in our ET trends for 2015, also hosted the first OER Schools conference earlier this year, helping schools and colleges to further understand the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and how to create and promote their own resources.Cable Green’s keynote from #OER15 addresses the current and future state of OER and the benefits to education and society.

Whilst researching this post, I came across a previous project that took place at Falmouth a few years back called Openspace, which promoted sharing of Open Educational Resources and corroborates existing research into the field. It states that OER use can aid recruitment, enhance institutional reputation and catalyse collaboration and uptake of new technologies. The Openspace website is no longer active, but if anyone at the institution is interested in how technology can support Open Educational practice, get in touch with the team.

Open Source Tools that support a Digital Taxonomy for Learning and Teaching


image by opensource.com

How Open Source supports Education

The Open Source movement grew out of the frustrations users have in proprietary hardware and software; technologies that enable barriers to use and models of development that alienate the user.

Eric Raymond uses the metaphor of the Cathedral and the Bazaar to talk about these opposing models of software development. In the Cathedral model there is top down control on the design and the implementation of the project (an analogy to the building of cathedrals in the middle ages).

The project is unveiled once built, whereas the bazaar model is much more informal, messy, open and relies on community participation. Open Education and Open Educational Resources share a similar ethos with Open Source with a focus on sharing and accessibility to learning.

A brief history of Bloom’s taxonomy for learning

In 1956, Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist developed a taxonomy of Educational Objectives, proposing that  that learning fits into one of three psychological domains; Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor and that learning objectives can be designed around these. Fast-forward to 2001 and student of Bloom Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl, revised the taxonomy to include the use of verbs rather than nouns for the categories within the cognitive domain and rearranging it as a progression from ‘lower order thinking skills’’ to ‘higher order thinking skills’:

So this…                                              Becomes:


Creating a Digital taxonomy

On the Edorigami Wiki, Andrew Churches documents an update to Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy that accounts for the “new behaviours, actions and learning opportunities emerging as technology advances and becomes more ubiquitous”. This revision provides further granularity and suggests a taxonomy based upon the opportunities that technology provides:


The Tools

Within the educational institution, we are often prescribed proprietary solutions to work with, such as Adobe’s Creative Suite and Microsoft Office, but there are a range of free and open source alternatives that help develop transferable skills and promote sharing and collaborating. So with this and Bloom’s in mind, here’s a freely available collaborative list of tools that support a taxonomy of learning and teaching verbs. Feel free to use, add to, comment upon and vote for your favourites.


Weds 11th February saw the first of our AppsAnon events faciliating discussion around apps we use day to day. This event was part of a joint provision initiative from our Staff Development team for Falmouth, Exeter and FXPlus staff aimed at sharing practice and developing our community.

Participants put a post-it note with the title of an app they use in a jar, which we drew from at random. The author talked for a couple of minutes about the app; how they found it, why they used it, what they liked and any limitations. That person then gets to pick the next post-it from the jar.


Here are the movers and the shakers for 11th Feb:

Vivino –  Crowd sourced wine reccomendations. The app lets you scan the barcode of a bottle of wine and submit your own or look at reviews posted by others. You can also follow friends to compare tasting notes like a true wine snob. iOS/Android

Adobe reader – Quick access to reading resources. Adobe reader allows you to take a photo of a document and convert to pdf. Reader also works with Microsoft formats and lets you bookmark web resources. Useful for organising and accessing docs on Falmouth’s Learning Space.

Qu New Anonymous Question/Answer App in the fashion of Yo messenger and Tindr, you can swipeto answer or dismiss a question. The app offers stats on amount of people answering and views etc. This app might have potential use for entry/exit ticket measures of understanding in the teaching environment in a similar way to Responseware and Exitticket iOS only at present

 Brilliant and huge educational community on Twitter, the app is widely used within education and they have recently introduced group messaging, video upload and analytics about your tweets. On the flipside, promoted content in your feed soon beomes annoying and their recent updates have brought requests for deeper access to phone settings. There are interesting alternatives like sublevel.net now entering the market iOS/Android

Opportunities for Ed. Tech CPD in 2015

One of the fundamental affordances of web technology is the ability to connect with content at a time and in a place convenient to us and there are a wealth of online opportunities to learn more about how technology can support learning and teaching. Here’s an introduction to some of our favourites and some ideas for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in incorporating Educational Technology into teaching practice.


Many of the events that the team attend are relevant for all involved in learning and teaching. Some to note over the coming year are; BETT which looks at Educational Technology across schools, FE and HE, JISC’s Digifest15, the annual conference of the Association for Learning Technology and OER15 which focusses on Open Education.


There are also a huge range of self paced opportunities for professional development in the form of free and open courses, a great deal of which are listed over on the Open Culture website. ALT hosts an Open Course in Technology Enhanced Learning each year for anyone working in or with an interest in Educational Technology. Connected Courses aims to join together open educators the world over and help them develop themselves and their teaching. Additionally, A big forking course looks at rhizomatic approaches towards learning, making use of P2PU’s ability to build a course in a box that others may reuse and remix as they see fit.


Deserving of it’s own heading, the international  educational community is huge on Twitter and it has widely been adopted as a tool for teaching and learning. Follow us @ET_Falmouth for regular updates from the team and if you are new to Twitter, get in touch to chat about it’s use in Education. Twitter lists are a handy way to manage your Educational Networks, you could create one with just Falmouth colleagues in for example, or with various educational news Twitter accounts.

Another useful feature of Twitter is the hashtag, a way of tagging tweets that enable others to search for them. Often used for conferences and module codes in education, here are some that the team engage with:

#LTHEchat – Learning Technology in Higher Ed. UK Weekly chat on a Weds eve. 8-9pm.

#ALTC – Conference hashtag for ALT, used to signpost items of interest to other conference participants.

#EdTech – Catch all hashtag for anything relating to Educational Technology.

#edtechchat Weekly chat, hosted by US educators on Mondays 1-2am GMT

#HEAenhancement hashtag for  the Higher Education Academy’s enhancement series of events

#BYOD4L an open course in mobile device usage in learning and teaching, reconvening for 2015 on 12th Jan.

Other online resources (blogs, sites)

Using a news aggregator like Feedly, helps create as a one stop source for news via blogs or any site that has an RSS feed. Your first visit  should be to  Falmouth’s Educational Technology Team site and associated Blog and Projects site. If there’s something relating to Educational Technology that isn’t already here and  that you’ve seen somewhere else, we more than likely have an opinion on it, so come and chat to us. Sussex University’s TEL team blog is another great place to pick up tips and the following web resources all provide insights into working in learning and teaching developments with technology:


Hack Education

Inside Higher Ed.

Times Higher Ed.


Research In Learning Technology 

Think Out Loud Club

Google Apps for Education

These links aren’t an exhaustive list and we will be adding a calendar of events to the ET site soon, so you can put dates in the diary. We’d welcome any feedback on other events and resources that people find useful, so email, tweet or drop in to the cottage for a cuppa whenever is convenient.

Educational Technology Trends for 2015


Season’s greetings one and all. As the Ed. tech team finish the washing up and recycle the wrapping paper (providing we’ve all been good this year), we take a little time out to reflect upon last year and predict what’s on the way for Educational Technology in 2015.

In 2014, we predicted technology would enable collaborative activity in the learning environment, that mobile device usage would increase as access to resources became easier and  that data gathering and social media management would be key considerations for the University. We think we can be fairly confident that our crystal ball of learning technology is in good working order. Our projects and general support activity over 2014 would attest to our predictions and have seen these themes cropping up in conversation and strategy over the year.

For 2015, we’re backing up our crystal ball gazing with some wider conversation and looking at what the New Media Consortium consider key trends within Ed. Tech. for Higher Education over the next few years. As with the Christmas Turkey/Vegetarian Option, we’ve taken our choice cuts and linked to a few places online, where the thinking and the talking is already happening.

Fast Trends: Driving Ed Tech adoption in Higher Ed for the next one to two years

The Evolution of Online Learning
Such a huge topic that we can’t really do it justice in one article. But increasing access to technology, huge investment into Ed Tech Startups and study into fields such as game mechanics in learning are changing the way in which we access learning material. In HE, conversation around the role and nature of the traditional, centralised Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) model has been bubbling away for a while (see this panel from ALT in 2009), but surfaced again this year in Audrey Watter’s talk, “Beyond the VLE” and Sheilla MacNeill who talks about first hand experience of living with the VLE dictator in HE. Higher Education presents all sorts of constraints in terms of management of data and interconnectivity between systems, so the VLE may be here to stay for a while longer, but maybe we start to think about it more as a starting point, curating learning material and signposting and guiding learners to and through it.

Rethinking Learning Spaces
Technological development is also enabling us to rethink the physical as well as the online learning environment. Browser based applications like Google Apps (and their offline work mode) and Adobe’s experimentation in this direction mean that learners aren’t tied to desktops in dingy locations or relying on sketchy wi-fi provision. Google talk of Democratizing IT administration, in that a lot of the enterprise wide management of IT could be devolved to the learning and teaching community. This might allow for changes in space usage through things like DIY lecture capture using campus Hangouts On Air/Youtube. In terms of physical space, in her post on this year’s Ed Media Conference Amy Sampson talks about creative learning space in Finnish education and the ET team will be connecting with Cornish villages in pubs, village halls through the University of The Village Project.

Mid-Range Trends: Driving Ed Tech adoption in Higher Ed for the next three to five years

Increasing Focus on Open Educational Resources
Accessible and freely available resources to aid learning, teaching and research . OER puts the web to work in the way that it was intended, encouraging redistribution and redevelopment/remixing of content. Whilst adoption hasn’t hit the mainstream, OER is becoming central to policy and strategy within education, as the Open/OER movement in Scotland and Wales testifies. In England, Leicester City Council are promoting OER through a range of resources and guides for schools

Long-Range Trends: Driving Ed Tech adoption in Higher Ed for five or more years

Agile Approaches to Change
Change is the only constant, as someone might have said. HE is in a continuous state of flux as it responds to funding changes and external pressures from other educational providers and non-traditional models of learning. Process and procedure is often dogged, outmoded and not easily adaptable to change, but agile methodologies adopted from software development allow for iterative project development that can respond to the VUCA world. Falmouth’s Student Course Information Page project facilitated an agile response to a Student Experience audit and added a layer to the VLE that pulls in relevant course data from the various business systems at the University, avoiding document duplication in the Learning Environment.

Solvable Challenges: Those which we both understand and know how to solve  

Adequately Defining and Supporting Digital Literacy
One of the key functions of the Ed.Tech team is to nurture and develop literacies in technology; the Why, When, Where of technology use in the learning environment. De Montfort University and Leicester City Council’s partnership in DigiLit Leicester presents an excellent framework and reference of for educators in understanding how we support these new literacies and Mozilla encourages an experiential approach in learning to Teach The Web.

These are just a few examples of Educational Technology developments that are responding to current and upcoming trends, but there is some fantastic work being done across the board in HE. 2015’s Horizon report will arrive in the early new year and previous editions are available online for a little light reading over the festive period.

Skip to toolbar