Open Education: From Resources to Practice
Written by Adrian Stagg and Emma Power, University of Southern Queensland
Welcome to the second Coffee Course on Open Education. You may have taken our first coffee course back in March as part of International Open Education Week, or you may be new to the ideas that we’ll discuss. Either way, your participation, and conversation are encouraged. You’ll find that the richness in this sort of course comes from discussing ideas with colleagues and we always learn from the participants too.
Through the daily posts, we’ll explore deeper aspects of openness (‘down the rabbit hole’) and discuss some of the practical elements of creating, (re)using, storing, and sharing Open Educational Resources. There will be one or two Learning Activities each day; you can respond to these in the comments section below. The flexibility of this course is that you can engage when you have the time – to paraphrase Gandalf from ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ – a learner is neither late nor early to a Coffee Course; they engage precisely when they intend to.
Learning Activity 1: Joining the community
As your first activity, please go to the comments section and introduce yourself (you can access this by scrolling down to the bottom of the page). You should include:
- Your name
- Your university or sector
- Your role, and
- What ‘being open’ in education means to you.
I’d then encourage you to look over the comments posted by others and respond to at least one other person who raised a perspective that you either haven’t considered, or builds on your own ideas further.
You’ll probably see that ‘open’ means many different things – and it’s possible to have a discussion about openness with a wide range of views represented, and respected.
Why ‘mere access’ isn’t enough
Open Educational Resources (OER) became quite the discussion for higher education starting almost twenty years ago. With the advent of the Creative Commons Licence, creators had a mechanism that allowed clarity of reuse, that could be ‘ported’ into local legal systems (Australia has done this). It means that creators can set the terms of legal use (and reuse) for anyone.
At this point, you might like to watch a short video explaining the rationale and use of the licences:
However, ‘mere access’ to resources is not enough. If uploading content to a website doesn’t guarantee learning, then how would open educators expect that filling repositories with open content would change or supplement educational systems?
At this point, Daniel Ulf-Ehlers and Grainne Conole coined the term ‘Open Educational Practice’ (OEP) to denote that in order to be successful, OER needed more. In the definitive article Unleashing the power of OER, they outlined the dimensions of openness and the factors that influence whether the movement would be successful. If you would like to gain an understanding of the main concepts, read pages 1-5 of the article.
So let’s bring this all together:
- The heart of open education is about the freedoms that come with free and open licencing. Creative Commons allows for free sharing, (re)use, repurpose, revision, retention, and remixing. Open isn’t just about ‘free resources’, but should always include the freedoms associated with sharing. Read more: What difference does it make?
- When one moves from resources to practice, the conversations change dramatically. Instead of asking questions about how one makes content open, and where it should be stored, institutions ask ‘what teaching practices are now possible that weren’t before?’, ‘how do we work with others to co-create resources?’, and ‘how do we create an environment in which engaging with OEP is recognised, supported, and rewarded?’. You can see that the second set of questions are much deeper – and much more complex – but need discussions for open education to be sustainable and usable.
As you can see, open education started to move beyond a simplistic notion of providing access to learning content, but how to use it, share it, grow it, and recognise open practitioners.
Context drives priorities
Whilst the freedoms to (re)use materials, and a recognition that open education needed to move beyond access were important steps, the third part of the discussion should be context. Whilst reading today’s post, you might have thought ‘I’m not sure that would work for me’, or ‘what if open practitioners knew about this great tool at my institution?’ – and you should, because context matters.
Your approach to learning and teaching, role, discipline, school, institution, country, local policy, access to technology, and many more criteria make up the context for your use of OER. It’s a complex environment that needs to be acknowledged before any plans for OEP can be put in place.
An example of context mapping occurred in 2007 through an international community of interest led by Susan D’Antoni. The resulting report showed critical differences in openness priorities by geographic region, but as we’ve already discussed there are many more factors to consider than just location. Whilst the report is now a decade old, more current literature drawn from these participating countries shows very little shift in the priorities identified by D’Antoni’s work.
The priority list for respondents included (in no particular order):
- Awareness raising
- Communities and networking
- Quality assurance
- Copyright and licencing
- Capacity development
- Learning support services
- Research support
- Technology tools
- Assessment of learning
It’s certainly possible to merge some of these priorities, and suggest a few more, but we’ll work with this list for our closing activity today.
Learning Activity 2
Consider three contexts: your immediate practice; your team (this could be a work team, a discipline team, or a organisational unit like a School/Faculty), and your institution.
From the list above, select up to two priorities for action for each context, and provide a brief explanation outlining why they apply to those contexts.
Please post your responses in the comments.
Today has set the scene for exploring different facets of openness. Tomorrow, we throw the ‘quality cat’ into the ‘learning and teaching pigeons’ – discussions about quality in higher education are always lively, so we look forward to your company.
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.