Open Education Policy at the Universitat Politechnica de Madrid

Interview with Edmundo Tovar, Executive director of UPM Open Education Office.

This interview is part of a series on best practice examples in the area of Open Policy in Higher Education. Practitioners share their experiences on formulating, implementing and integrating Open Policy and Practice at their respective institutions.

In the following interview Edmundo Tovar shares his experience as Executive director of UPM Open Education Office with us. Special attention is paid to the institutional policy and support for teaching staff in publishing OER, as well as the network one can grow through open practice.

Interview conducted by: Gijs Houwen, Delft University of Technology (TU Delft).

Can you start out by telling us something about UPM’s commitment to Open Educational Resources?

We are a member of the OpenCourseWare-Consortium and currently have 150 courses published. We are included in several OER Repositories, iTunes and Miriadax, a Universia platform for Spanish and Portuguese MOOC’s.

How did you go about the formulation, reception and passage of policy (process). What did you consider key in this process?

In 2010 UPM implemented an Open Access policy, through which we want to promote publication of staff and students in our UPM Open Repository. In order to support this we provide recommendations on how to openly publish research and academic materials. This policy is also binding when it comes to research that has been publicly funded by either Madrid, the national government and the EU. Research groups granted public funding through UPM are required to self-archive digital copies of their work the UPM Digital Archive.

Next to Open Access we also support open education. In general there is a publication process in place for OCW, we also provide templates, advice on how to publish OCW and the production of materials. Furthermore we provide our staff the platform in which they can publish content, and give them feedback about the number of visitors to their materials. What is maybe most important is that we have a procedure in place that allows our staff to move education materials from our internal closed platform to the repository.

Are MOOC’s also part of your strategy, and how do they relate to your other OE and OA activities?

Concerning the MOOC’s we provide training and support for video and course production as well. The professors that are developing a MOOC still do this on a voluntary basis, and we do our best to facilitate them. Our experience with MOOC’s so far is that it requires a substantial time commitment from the professors. Therefore we are now pushing for the university to recognise this workload. Generally evaluations with our staff are done primarily on the basis of research activities. We would like to reform this and include teaching activities for a MOOC in our staff evaluations.

Do you see any urgent challenges Open Education is still to meet? Either at your institution, in Europe or in general?

As I just mentioned: the criteria on which our staff is evaluated can be an added motivational factor. We would like to reform these criteria and include teaching activities for a MOOC in our staff evaluations, to motivate and reward the volunteers who are producing MOOC’s with us. Next to this we are in an ongoing dialogue with our teaching staff to try to engage them and see in which ways we can motivate them to join the open education movement.

In which way do you think accumulating support and forming coalitions both within and outside of the institutions should be addressed?

When we started out we got support from the vice-rector of the university, who is our current rector. So right from the beginning had high-level strategic support which helped us a lot. However publishing Open Education materials is still on a voluntary basis, we aim to work with those who show interest and mainly focus on these enthusiastic ‘early adopters’. From this core of enthusiasts we aim to build and include more and more of our staff. Because we had support from the (vice-) rector however, we could provide support to the enthusiast and facilitate them to ease their workload.

Can you tell me something about the goals and objectives of the specific policy (open as a means to what ends?), anddid you identify relevant indicators for measuring these goals?

When we started out with publishing OER we focussed more on the production side: making sure we were able to produce OER and getting the right procedures in place in order to do so. Now that we have that we have started focussing more on (re-) use of OER. Our strategy for this is to create more specific policies that include the use and re-use of OER. Next to that we are also working on getting a communication plan in place to highlight and support best practices within our institution.

How did your initiative fit within existing university processes and policy? And where there any issues encountered during the process of formulating/implementing policy (legal, institutional or otherwise)?

Our publication and production process is largely independent from the rest of the processes in the university, we have support processes for OER but they are not yet part of regular education practice. However we would like to integrate our open education practice into the formal education and education processes of the university. We are already moving in that direction by using our internal education platform as the basis for publishing OER, but we would like to align these processes better.

If you were to evaluate your policy and process right now: what has your policy brought / delivered so far, and how has this progress been tracked?

I think an interesting point that we have not discussed yet is the external objective we have for ourselves: to grow our network and engage others in Open education. For example by collaborating in European networks and by sharing our current practices with our wider network. So by trying to engage others in Open Education and sharing our experiences we are also expanding our network.

Would you maybe like to share any important lessons learned with your colleagues who are in the process of setting up open policies and creating awareness on the topic?

Generally Open Education is an easily explainable initiative, easy to get support for. This engagement and involvement in the movement has been very satisfactory for me and my colleagues. The difficulties however seem to lie in the organisational change that you need. It is hard work to change the structure of the university and you must be willing to fight for it. Adapting to new things such as OER is an ongoing process, not just in the practical sense of production of materials but also for example the recognition of the teachers efforts. So concerning this ongoing process within the institution, it is hard to implement the various aspects at an operational level. We also organise periodical events to draw attention to open education within our institution. Once people start recognising your efforts, it becomes easier to get support and implement the process in university practice. So focussing on the core that is already interested in combination with a focus on the important research topics within your university can be a worthwhile strategy.


EU Lifelong Learning Programme
with the support of the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union


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