The first thing that has struck me about Open Education Week is how genuinely global it is. Scroll through the list of events and webinars and you’ll spot Brazil, Mexico, China, Korea, Africa, Spain, Europe. The big brand US universities might get more press coverage but they are certainly not the only innovators or the only approach. Look to OERu and OER Africa for different models of collaboration.
The second thing I notice is how open education goes across the boundaries of formal and informal, children and adults, across academic disciplines, into professional development and into making and crafting. Universities don’t own the “open education” space any more than any organisation could be said to own “learning”.
The third thing that strikes me is that we really have reached a tipping point in the availability of learning opportunities online. David Kernohan asked on Monday “is open education becoming mainstream?” . The reality of the networked world is webcasts, podcasts, courseware, etextbooks, a huge range of content created by anyone and shared with the world. This is the reality now, but for those of us working in education, we need to make the most of this opportunity. We need to be digitally literate, but more than that, we need to find ways of doing our work online, to become open practitioners and digital scholars.
For a compelling description of this opportunity, see David Wiley talking about “Why Be Open?”
For educational institutions to thrive, we need to explore models for how we can work in this space, with all its opportunities and risks, all its noise and vibrancy. It is here that we see possibilities for new models of collaboration, peer learning and accreditation. To see how some UK Universities are responding to this opportunity, see four case studies on institutional approaches to open education, released this week.
And check out the huge range of activities that are taking place across the UK.
These are not always easy or obvious decisions for institutions to make: the ideas of open education can be a threat to the status quo. Good decisions navigate this space carefully. As Martin Weller wrote in The Digital Scholar, “in education, technology is often talked of in utopian or dystopian terms”, but the reality is often more complex. My colleagues and I have been trying to move beyond this polarisation by sharing our pictures of the open education space. At the core of the discussion are some crucial questions about the economics of openness, which were eloquently described, entirely independently, by Paul Stacey. This storify shows the discussion develop: click the links to see each blog post. Hopefully this is the start of an ongoing conversation.
“Open education” matters because it’s already happening all around us. The fact that the US Dept of Education is teaming up with Creative Commons and the Open Society to launch a video competition on Why Open Education Matters suggests that although it may not be mainstream yet, it is very real. The models continue to grow and combine with the ethos of open access and the methods of open source.The choice for us, as individuals and educational organisations, is in how we respond.
Amber Thomas and David Kernohan