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Wales signs declaration of intent to lead the way on the use of online education resources

The university sector in Wales has today, Thursday 19 September, signed a declaration of intent to embed the use of online resources by staff and students at Welsh universities. The declaration is a public commitment which underscores the work carried out by an expert group comprising representatives from Welsh universities, students and key sector agencies.

Commenting on the initiative, Professor Colin Riordan said:
“As Chair of Higher Education Wales, it gives me great satisfaction to sign today’s Open Education Declaration of Intent and, in so doing, place Wales as one of the first – if not the first – national higher education sectors in the world to declare itself an open education nation. The Welsh HE sector now stands at the vanguard of the digital education revolution taking place across the globe.

“Increasing the share of knowledge is a responsibility that we must embrace and we firmly believe we’re fulfilling this obligation by embedding open education practice across the Welsh higher education sector by our intent and our daily deeds.”

A series of projects will underpin today’s declaration, and will aim to ensure that staff and students in Wales are able to develop and use online resources, providing the best possible learning experience in our universities. The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) is providing £150,000 to fund the initial work. Commenting on the initiative, David Blaney, Chief Executive of HEFCW, said:

“Wales’s universities have made this important commitment to providing online resources, and we are pleased that we have been able to support Wales’s early days as an open education nation. We have long encouraged institutions to use and embrace technology in making teaching more accessible and relevant to new waves of students, whose expectations are growing and changing, and to the wider world.”

One of the first developments will be an online course on settling into university life in the earliest weeks, and will include three modules: ‘Staying Alive’ will consider that pre-enrolment period, including safety during Freshers; ‘Learning to Float’ on how to survive week one; and ‘Getting Stuck In’ addresses workloads and tough times. This short version of a massive open online course (Mooc), known as a SMOOC, will be delivered in partnership with the National Union of Students Wales (NUS Wales), and is to be made available worldwide from 2014.

NUS Wales President Stephanie Lloyd said, “It is great to see Wales moving in the direction of open educational practice and resources which we believe help people engage with education that may have previously been locked out. This will provide a platform to ensure Wales becomes a nation who shares its education creativity and creates a community of learning across the nation. We are very pleased to support the SMOOC on inductions as they are vitally important in preparing students for university life and it will be a useful tool in assisting a student’s transition. We have to ensure the SMOOC is a tailored experience for students and is seen as a process throughout a student’s time at university.”

More widely, universities in Wales are already embarking on their own ambitious plans for online education, and the area is currently subject to a Welsh Government review. Welsh universities will be presenting on ‘Adopting OER models at a national level: the experience of Wales’ at a forthcoming open education conference in the USA. Wales has also been chosen to host the UK’s OER2015 conference.