Open Conference on Open Education/Critical ideas

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Video recording copy.
Audio recording copy.

Links[edit | edit source]

Summary[edit | edit source]

Copyleft and history of open education[edit | edit source]

  • Open education movement draws on copyleft principles, applying more liberal usage rights to works that are automatically protected under copyright laws.
  • There has been a legacy of investment in capital infrastructure but not on delivery of education in developing countries. Need to retain a broad focus on a range of issues and activities that go along with the concept of opening up education.

Definition of open education

Definition of 'open' is going to fragment (fragmentation is already occurring). Different meanings will be adopted in different contexts; meaning will be appropriated by organisations to describe the types of activities that they are engaging in. 'Open washing' already occurring with MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). MOOC activity, e.g. Coursera, does not fit the 'reusable' definition of open which is the core aspect of open that came from Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement [1]. This aspect of open was developed in FOSS for a very particular reason, but FOSS movement never stipulated that commercial activity was forbidden - in fact commercialising open software was seen to be a marker of success for open software.

Issues to consider in adopting open education policy[edit | edit source]

Having an OE policy needs to address a range of issues. The discussion is often too focused on technology-based resources, their IP issues, how to share/access them. Need to think about more than just what we're going to put on the internet:

  • Original concept of open learning went beyond technology allowing access to mainstream education.
  • To what extent do institutions limit access to their educational offerings through systematic restrictions such as academic calendars? Can academic calendars be made more flexible to allow greater access?
  • In order to 'accept' a diverse range of students, institutions need to acknowledge the work students have done in all settings - through recognition of prior learning etc. What about informal learning? How to recognise that credit?
  • How do methods of delivery - not just online, but also in lectures and tutorials - affect openness of learning? Need to consider curriculum design and educational objectives; look at ways that curricula itself restricts access in some way. Focus on how to achieve educational objectives in different ways by adjusting teaching style/practice to achieve the same objectives/outcome - without having to change the syllabus.
  • Lazy lecturing - reading masses of text straight from overhead/powerpoint slides and handouts. You can have poor educational practice regardless of the technology you're using.
  • Inaccessibility of locked 'learning management system' (e.g. Moodle) is an extension of the overhead projections or powerpoint slides with masses of text, which are inaccessible to some learners.
  • There needs to be an adjustment of learning activities, systems, etc, to different cohorts/groups. There is a reluctant to change resources that we've invested a lot of time and money in developing.
  • How do we respond to large student cohorts? How do we account for individual learning styles in those settings?
  • University-centric understanding of learning. Need to engage our thinking and conversations about open learning with the wider education community, and focus less on La Trobe.
  • We make assumptions about what learners can access - often assume they have cheap access to fast internet. Consider learning communities that do not have access to internet. How does our view of open education apply in those settings?

Other barriers to the institution include:

  • Codification - of subjects, buildings, classrooms. Look at the method of codification and consider how this might be improved.

Adopting open educational practices coincides with pedagogical developments[edit | edit source]

The move towards open education coincides with changes to pedagogical practice that makes education more engaging. Need to have new ways of learning, new ways of teaching in a more open environment.

  • Teaching spaces need to be adapted to accommodate collaborative learning. Collaborative learning spaces - e.g. redesign of library.
  • Teaching practice starting to change within faculties to adapt to new pedagogical 'trend'.
  • Australian governments are reacting to the open agenda by setting guidelines for best practice in openness and transparency.

Permeability of the university[edit | edit source]

How might universities integrate with what's happening outside? Universities can go out and work with communities, but it's more difficult for external groups or individuals to get involved in university projects. What about relating to and linking to other learning centres, e.g. public libraries, schools? How do we get back out into the community? Resources, partnerships with greater community - two-way partnerships - not just us buying/vying off people.

  • Need to make our boundaries more permeable, such as by using platforms that are more familiar to the general population, e.g. YouTube, etc, instead of Moodle.

Even though it’s an institutional system, the La Trobe Library eRepository has this permeable power. The role of repository in pushing materials outside of La Trobe is not to be underestimated, especially when all other systems are locked to outsiders. This is an important way for us to be able to connect with external communities, because the repository is searchable.

Proprietary systems[edit | edit source]

University-supported systems/platforms are attractive to many (and therefore not questioned by many) because access is easy and the institution does it all, provides support, etc.

  • In the absence of this central support for selected systems, how do academics choose from other available platforms/systems?
  • Do we need to provide better training and support for academics to develop necessary skills to assess and use other systems?
  • Developing skills to use more universal systems provides transferability of skills, which is becoming increasingly important with the increasing casualisation of the academic workforce.
  • There needs to be a shift from dependence on having institutions provide all the systems for academics to use, without questioning what should be used or how they should be used.
  • Too much choice for academics in selecting more open platforms (which have a range of different governing principles) - how to choose another platform? Easier if the institution has made the choice for us all.
  • Proprietorial processes inhibit our ability to get our work done, having to use proprietary systems and products can be limiting.

Even within the university system there is restricted access; staff excluded from tendering processes. No safe space to critically assess the systems provided by the institution - closed decision-making process on what platforms selected. If decisions are made without reference to open education principles and practices the closed system will perpetuate.

Potential obstacles/conflict of interest among academics[edit | edit source]

Conflict of interest: academics with a personal interest and set to gain financially from prescribing their own textbooks. Some academics have long-standing arrangements with publishers, significant financial reward for that work - from publishers, not the university. This status may threaten the adoption of open educational practices within La Trobe.

Role of the commons in modern society[edit | edit source]

The commons is now largely a foreign idea. Is this idea of corporatised, organised open education encroaching on commons space? What of corporations such as publishers using commons content and publishing it for profit? Is corporate participation in 'open education' an example of enclosing commons spaces? How then is knowledge for the benefit of all?

Some published ideas[edit | edit source]

  • Neary, Mike and Winn, Joss (2012) Open education: common(s), commonism and the new common wealth. Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization, 12 (4). pp. 406-422. ISSN 1473-2866
  • Winn, Joss (2012) Open Education: from the freedom of things to the freedom of people. In: Towards teaching in public: reshaping the modern university. Continuum, London. ISBN 9781441124791
  • Blackall, L. (2009) The New Colonialism in OER. blog category "Neo-colonialism"
  • Blackall, L. (2009-2012) What about Academic Capitalism? blog category "Academic Capitalism"
  • Mason, J. (2012). Ideas on openness in education Opening content for Deeper Inquiry.
  • Hall, R, (2013). The University and the globalised learning landscape

Reference[edit | edit source]


  1. Wiley, David, & Gurrell, Seth. (2009). A decade of development…. Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 24(1), 11-21. doi: 10.1080/02680510802627746