OpenEd 2012 (2/2)

Following on from my general blog post about OpenEd12, there’s lot’s of the conference that I’m not going to comment on – too much time has passed. However, for me at least, there were two presentations that highlighted pivotal issues and which have shaped how I’m thinking back on the year. One from Rory McGreal and Terry Anderson presented on disaggregating the university (audio link, not sure where the slides are) which they followed up with Anderson, T., & McGreal, R. (2012). Disruptive Pedagogies and Technologies in Universities. Educational Technology & Society, 15 (4), 380–389. Though sadly at first glance the paper doesn’t put the question as starkly as “~where is the RyanAir of higher education? or why does education think it can avoid such competition in some areas?). They’re certainly not the only ones talking about this question but it’s heartening to continue to have a more nuanced articulation of models of doing tertiary education differently be considered by two people with their level of experience both in the academy and in the open movement; as gulp-inducing as the presentation and implicit realities for those working in the sector might be. George Siemens also made this point about the lecture in one of the  NGLC Summer Learning Series webinars discussing MOOCs – whether we like it or not some aspects of HE are open to disruption. Whether lectures or support services, the currently bundling that is higher education is likely to diversify and outside of a few institutions appears highly susceptible to change (and frankly many of those who might chose to be immune to change are highly involved in it) .

The other presentation was David Kernohan, Amber Thomas (not present), & Sheila MacNeill’s presentation on the prehistory of OER (somewhat focused on UKOER). I’m familiar with most of what David and Sheila talked about and was involved with them in a fair chunk of it. The details are in their presentation but I was really struck by their three strands of the open education movement slide which captures something important about where the ‘Open Education’ movement (in the UK at least, but I suspect more widely) came from and why. The convergence of efforts from a number of different domains helped create a peculiar opportunity for, interest in, focus on, and shared identity around OER.

Graphic showing origins of a number of communities involved in open education as a braid

Braid of Open Education Origins by (Kernohan, MacNeill, Thomas )

I think that the diagram is particularly important at this stage of the ‘Open Education’ movement because it helps us remember that we all got into this for similar but slightly different reasons and as we begin to see other options emerge we have different responses to them and are perhaps surprised at each other’s responses. It may also help us remember that together these strands achieved something that they might not have otherwise been able to do.

Perhaps the obvious example of this identity tension is that many new MOOCs are ‘free’ but not exactly ‘open’, they offer (in lowest common denominator terms) access to educational stuff and various forms of structure around it. Is this:

  • a good thing,
  • an inevitable thing,
  • a hijacking of good intentions,
  • an abomination,
  • a beginning of a new model?

I’ll not claim that there is an answer but, as much as I value open, I’m beginning to feel that free (as long as it lasts) is also a good thing (not the best, likely to mutate, but nevertheless good). [One of the perils of writing something and not finishing it is that life happens – FWK is now both an example of models mutating and of the benefits of open over free for the community in the long term].

I also wonder if this mixed heritage is one reason that newcomers to the community may not quite get some of the things that frustrate some of us and perhaps help understand why some funders, though also committed to open, are backing MOOCs.

There’s more that could be said about this but for now I’m left grappling with the double-edged priority of access to education – I want licence/license to be secondary to reach and impact but I know that is somewhat shortsighted. It’s easy for me to say not using an open license will cause problems in the long run but I’m left with the fact that I still like CC: BY NC SA for my work (rather than work funded to be open) and there are plenty of colleagues who see that as a dead end.

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