The Scottish Crofting Federation
Crofters make a unique contribution to rural Scotland, and their way of life is promoted and supported by the Scottish Crofting Federation. With primary agriculture as the focus and condition of European-funded training, the organisation saw the potential of open educational material to allow them to continue to provide comprehensive training for crofters at no extra cost.
At an exploratory workshop delivered by the Opening Educational Practices in Scotland (OEPS) project in 2015, Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) staff were introduced to the open educational resource, Rural Entrepreneurship. The discovery of the module, which had been developed by The Open University, was timely as SCF were about to develop a course for new entrants to crofting. However, the Scottish Government had placed a new condition on the funds it provided for training which required the SFC to focus its courses on agricultural production rather than secondary aspects of crofting such as business management, despite the fact that many crofters supplement their incomes by running businesses.
'The module was a great fit for the new entrants course we were developing,' said the SCF's Training and Development Manager, Lucy Beattie. 'As many crofters want to know how to set up and run a business.'
Access to Crofting Toolkit, the course subsequently developed by SFC signposts participants to Rural Entrepreneurship. The online module has a number of advantages: it's free; it can be accessed by crofters located in remote locations; and the material can be studied at a time and a pace that suit crofters who work round the clock. In addition, participants receive an online badge on successful completion of the course.
Lucy Beattie and her training colleagues studied the open module before incorporating it into their toolkit. They found it easy to access and of high quality. Moreover, as it was not 'high spec' in terms of the bandwidth required, it was perfect for crofters living in areas with patchy access to the internet.
Access to Crofting Toolkit was launched in August 2016 as a face to face course that takes place over one weekend which is complemented by ongoing online peer support through Facebook. By May 2017, 100 participants had attended the course, with some coming from as far afield as New York and South Africa, and of those, two thirds had completed the Rural Entrepreneurship module.
Based on their experience of participating in the OEPS workshop and using the Rural Entrepreneurship module, SCF staff see huge potential for open educational resources. SCF would like to contribute to the pool of open material available but do not currently have the resources to develop their own courses. However, they now look for relevant open material which could be incorporated into the courses they will develop in the future for the 17,700 crofters in Scotland, any aspiring crofters elsewhere in the world, as well as anyone else with a general interest in the crofters' way of life.