By Adrian Stagg and Emma Power, USQ
It’s been a big week of discussion and exploration, and today we’ll wrap up the course – and build an OER.
Join the Dark Side: we have openness
Open education has been positioned as by some authors as ‘disruptive’ (and many other education ‘buzz words’), even to the extent of claiming that within the next fifty years MOOCs will reduce the number of universities worldwide to ten. As we wrap up the course, I want to add a few critical perspectives and encourage you to reflect on how openness can be positioned in higher education, and to illuminate the ‘dark side’ of open education.
2012 was named the ‘Year of the MOOC’ (Massive Open Online Course) as universities globally offered free courses, sometimes with hundreds of thousands of students. The MOOC structure was heralded as a way to scale education in response to the millions of new university places required for the increasing global demand for education. However, there are some major challenges with MOOCs.
In most cases, MOOCs are free, but not open. The average MOOC is free to join (although you do need an account to view the content), free to access the content, and free to engage with other learners. Most MOOCs – despite the presence of the word in the acronym – are not open. By now you’ll know that open education is predicated on sharing and reuse (the 5Rs from yesterday), and most MOOCs are built with proprietary content that is ‘protected’ under a licencing agreement. Some providers stipulate that once content is written for the MOOC is becomes company intellectual property, and clauses in the contract forbid its use in fee-paying courses. This means that if you write a MOOC, and then want to use it as part of a degree program at your university, you’ll need to purchase the rights to your own content.
Returning to the claim that MOOCs would make higher education ‘obsolete’ and reduce the number of institutions to ten, one needs to examine the list. The proposed list was dominated by North American and European universities; no mention of Africa, Asia, India, or Australia. In such a proposal, white Western institutions are positioned as ‘educating the world’ – essentially using open education as a vehicle for neo-colonialism. One of the most powerful statements against this ideal is in the mission of OER Africa, citing the need to build ‘capacity, and join emerging global OER networks as active participants who showcase Africa’s intellection property, rather than passive consumers of knowledge produced elsewhere’ [emphasis added]. You can read a bit more about MOOCs in our previous ‘espresso’ course.
The research role in open educational resources provides an imperative for action. Over the last five years, there have been increasing calls from conferences such as OER Global for a more critical perspective. This lack of rigorous critique is ‘perhaps unsurprising when the concept of OER presents itself as such a self-evident social ‘good’ (Glennie, Harley, & Butcher, 2012). The challenge for open education researchers is one of critical reflection and research design.
Lastly, one needs to consider the reality offered by open education. If one subscribes to Bronfenbrenner’s development theory (1979), humans engage in development activities as a response to a change in role (whether real or perceived), but it is underpinned by an individuals’ ability to imagine the ‘new reality’. When open education advocates actively communicate the concept in adversarial terms with existing norms of higher education, or claim that open education will drive the current system to obsolescence, they present a reality too radical for commitment. For open education to be successful, advocates and practitioners need to understand how open education might already be part of their teaching and research practice, and how open principles align with and contribute to existing educational goals. Open education will gain traction when it is situated in existing disciplinary practice and when it presents an achievable and attractive reality.
Below are two of the videos from the 2012 Why Open Education Matters contest (we watched another video from this series earlier). When you watch these, apply the ideas above to the presentations. Did either video resonate with your views of education, and your reality? Did they present open education in a manner that was jarring, or confrontational? Lastly, would you have any advice for revising the content?
OER (Open Educational Resources) Introduction II by Brendan Walsh, used under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yfl1B6Qmp5g
Why open education matters by Degreed, used under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJWbVt2Nc-I
Building resources collaboratively
The power of open education resources lies in the ability to reuse and revise; this will be the focus of the last activity of the course. On Day One, you were asked to examine the OER Tree image from the Open Education Consortium. It depicts the three ‘roots’ of open education, namely Access, Opportunity, and Equity, and shows the ‘fruit’ of openness on each branch.
Today, we’ll engage with this image, revise it using this learning community as the lens, and in the coming weeks re-release a newly-licenced version for global use. It will have a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence, and I’ll be sure to let the OER Consortium know about the work.
Revisit the OER Tree. If you were to remix this for your own discipline, what would be the most important ‘roots’ of openness, and which ‘fruits’ do you believe are most important? If you can think of any part of the tree that should be added to, deleted, or modified, make your suggestions below.
Emma and I will then collate the responses and forward them to our colleagues in USQ Graphics who have agreed to design and develop the OER. Once completed, we’ll provide a follow-up post so that everyone has access to the new version.
Thank you very much for engaging with the course and participating in the daily discussions. This has been a great experience, and creating a resource with you all will be a rewarding experience – and something that this course can offer (freely and openly) to open educators. If you would like to continue the conversation, or have ideas for collaboration, please do reach out to us, but also look for staff in your own institutions who can support you (librarians, copyright officers, learning designers). Best of luck in your own open projects.
The text of this work is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence. All images and videos retain their respective licences.
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Bronfenbrenner, U (1979). The ecology of human development: experiments by nature and design. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Glennie, J., Harley, K., Butcher, N., & T, v. W. (2012). Open educational resources and change in higher education: reflections from practice Perspectives on open and distance learning Vancouver, Canada. (p. 7)