This year I was delighted to have been appointed a Scottish Parliament Fellow by the Beltane Public Engagement Network. This meant I got to spend a day a week in the Scottish Parliament over a roughly six-month period.
I really can’t say enough good things about my experience as a Fellow, working closely with Donald Jarvie and Scotland’s Futures Forum. My understanding of public engagement, the policy sphere in Scotland, and the value of networking and collaborating beyond academia has been deepened, and it’s really had a big impact on how I think about my identity and priorities as an academic.
My Fellowship focused on online and distance learning in Scotland, and looked in particular at issues around Massive Online Open Courses. I briefed Parliament colleagues about MOOCs, co-ordinated resources and activities to get them to explore these courses by signing up for one in early 2014, and worked with the Forum and the Learning and Leadership team to embed MOOCs as part of the professional development infrastructure of the Parliament. The MOOC strand culminated in a workshop in April 2014, bringing together groups of non-academic experts in four topic areas, including wellbeing and community energy, along with MOOC experts from the University of Edinburgh, to discuss the potential for creating MOOCs for public engagement and knowledge exchange. These teams are now taking their ideas forward, with further input from me.
Two other strands of activity emerged during the Fellowship. The first involved discussions with the Shetland Learning Partnership, when Scotland’s Futures Forum was asked to help plan scenarios for secondary, further, higher and adult education in Shetland.
The second was a collaboration with the Forum to host a ‘Creative Futures for Scotland’ roundtable event exploring how the growing popularity of individual and collaborative creativity (for example, crafting, 3D printing and web coding) could impact on learning, innovation and wellbeing in Scotland.
All three areas of work are continuing beyond the end of the Fellowship. I greatly appreciate the support I’ve received from Beltane, Scotland’s Futures Forum and the University of Edinburgh.