Why Open Policy matters for you -Alysha’s Blog
Policy might be a word that inspires confusion, or fear, but it seems probably important? Well policy is important, but most of the time it isn’t very noticeable as it runs in the background of our lives. However, policy is an area where real change can happen in best practice and working standards. It can act as a call to generate interest in a particular area beyond an institution who author a policy (as with Open Education Policy, which I’ll come back to) and it can lead to adoption of principles or standards across institutions. Open policy enables more transparency and explains how the goals, aims and values that guide institutions (such as a university) are articulated in action and practice. As a recently graduated student, policy is an area I find very interesting as I believe it to hold a lot of power to implement positive, meaningful change. Policy is important to everyone, even if we aren’t aware of it, for example, in our everyday lives we are told how organisations will use and store our data, such as data retention policies.
What is Policy?
Policy is regulation, or guidance of an institution, that has been agreed by stakeholders (participants). Or it could be described as “a high-level overall plan embracing the general goals and acceptable procedures” from this online dictionary.
It is sometimes a requirement to follow policies, whilst other times, policies are a set of guidelines to aim for. Lorna M Campbell has written a great blog post about some different Open Policies for Teaching and Learning here. Policy can also be something that is supportive and encouraging, rather than mandatory. This is the case with the University of Edinburgh’s Open Education Policy. Therefore, it is a policy that is engaged with when people decide to use it. From my perspective, this type of policy is something I wasn’t really aware of, I used to believe that policy was more about ‘red tape’. However, now I consider policy productive, and that policy can encourage people to have a positive impact. For me this is the key aspect of Edinburgh University’s Open Policy, that it enables people to create open licensed materials. Open policy helps democratise knowledge through making systems or protocols open for the public to access. This helps empower people to participate in things such as creating Open Educational Resources, by giving people an outline and vocabulary to articulate open licence projects through. With this guiding framework of open policy
What is Open Policy?
Open Policy are policies that are open licensed, so made publicly available. There are also policies about Open Education, which are frequently Open licenced, meaning anyone can read them.
Why does Open Policy exist?
The benefits of Open Policy are that these best standard guidelines and protocol are public to increase standards and hold institutions accountable, additionally other institutions can learn from external policies. Within Open Education, Open Policy allows a collaborative approach, where policies are used to define intentions for Open Education large scale plans. An example of this is the Open Education Policy for Edinburgh and the United Nation’s call for joint action on Open Educational Resources.
Who makes open Policy?
Generally, institutions make policies, however policy is extremely varied and usually not open licensed. For example, the Scottish government makes a huge amount of policy, but town/city councils also make policy, and universities are another more obvious example. Businesses and charities also make policy, so do schools, and a myriad of other organisations. Policy is normally written through a project team, sometimes with one author who seeks and collates feedback from those affected by the policy, and use this process to reach agreement. For example, Edinburgh University’s Open Policy was developed with support from EUSA (Edinburgh University’s Student Association) to push for a University wide Open Policy. Lorna M Campbell has written a really informative blog post about Open Policy at Edinburgh here, which explains more about open policy at Edinburgh University.
Another type of policy I find fascinating is urban planning policy, which I wrote my dissertation about. This is very applicable to most people’s lives, but which they may not have considered before, especially is city/town plans. These should be open access in the United Kingdom, and are policies in the sense that they are plans that are meant as guidance for the future years of an area. These should involve community engagement (also called participatory planning) and are usually openly advertised for the community to read when they are finished. The Edinburgh 2030 City plan is due to be published in late August 2021 after a consultation period and the “Choices for City Plan” preliminary document it is openly available. This is an example of a type of open policy that democratises knowledge, basically letting people access information. This core idea of Open Policy is clearly very relevant to Open Education in allowing more people to access knowledge. And Open Policy is actually key to what Open Educational Resources are made and the ways they are used. For example, Edinburgh’s OER policy states that OERs should be uploaded wherever is most applicable for them, for example, the OERs that are aimed at children and young people are uploaded onto the TES website, but other materials are more useful in other areas, such as 3D scans of objects on SketchFab through Media Hopper (the university’s media holder repository). In this way open policy reveals the workings/aims of organisations and can increase participation in making Open Resources.
I hope this post has made policy a bit less of a small word for a lot of confusing things, and that you have enjoyed my perspective on the significance of Open policy in general and within Open Education!