I’ve been reading and educating myself through a variety of online and offline resources, through day-to-day use, and speaking with educational colleagues at a variety of conferences about open education. During this process I’ve seen a huge variety of terms used to describe the “open” concept and I’ve learned a lot. Some of the terms that you might see are: open learning, open education, open source, open courseware, open texts, open educational resources, flat classrooms, etc. And, after much reflection, I’ve decided that perhaps I finally understand enough to share my thoughts and opinions with you. This will be a series of posts, as the issues involved are complex and lengthy.
So, here I go with my first post.
From the dawn of civilization, whenever there was a perception that someone, or a group of people had a “special knowledge”, people have tried to barter, steal or derive financial/other benefit from that knowledge. The individual(s) with that knowledge quickly learned to guard the knowledge to maintain their advantage. Before public education became common you could either share in that individual(s) experience (apprenticeship or trade associations), or hope that they would share their knowledge, sometimes freely, sometimes for a cost. “The holders of knowledge” were teachers and professors however they only shared a part of what they knew. Students regurgitated that knowledge through testing, in order to prove their “acquisition” and “knowledge” of the subject. More recently, much of the educational literature has begun to recognize/promote a significant alteration in thinking – namely that education and expertise should follow an “open” or “low-cost” model of delivery with everyone contributing to learning about a particular subject, as equals, including the instructors.
This change of philosophy has several opponents highlighted by a recent blog posting discussing the reaction of publishers to a new government program offering $2 billion (USD) to developers using the “Open Educational Resource (OER)” business model. There is also opposition from higher education institutions that fear the offering education freely is likewise untenable in the long-term. Finally, educators themselves have been slow to pick up on the concept of “open learning” or “open education”.
There are, of course, notable exceptions. Publishers in a variety of scientific and artistic disciplines have increasingly begun to offer “open access” journals. The Voices e-magazine is an example of open publishing . (For a searchable list of other open access journals check out the DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) search engine.) Beginnning in 2005, the Massachussetts Institute for Technology (MIT) began offering its’ undergraduate and many graduate level courses online, for free or low cost. This evolved into the Open CourseWare Consortium that presently boasts the membership of, “over 250 universities and associated organizations worldwide committed to advancing Open CourseWare sharing and its impact on global educational opportunity (About the Open CourseWare Consortium (n.d.). Retrieved from http://ocw.mit.edu/about/ocw-consortium/).” The Open Education Resource University (OERu) and the Open Education Resource Tertiary Education Network (OERTen) are two initiatives described in the blog entitled, “Views, dreams & creative writing…” (Prasad, A. (2011, May 25). OERu to establish OERTen. Retrieved from http://apletters.blogspot.com/2011/05/oeru-to-establish-oerten.html). Finally, two educators (Dr. Alec Couros and Dr. Stephen Downes) with whom I share many common opinions are certainly, in my opinion, outstanding advocates for Open Education and they are working very hard to change the attitudes of current and future teachers and educators.
Changing attitudes is just, however, a small piece of the puzzle. In the next post we will be looking at the issue of copyright and OER resources.
Please leave your comments in the space provided below. I look forward to hearing from you!