Opening up my own teaching and learning practice

The issues of open learning for me seem to revolve around ownership – but also about accountability, and about the kind of communities we want to build. One of the things that seems very useful to me is opening up my practice to comment by other educators, and the potential use by educators and students from other contexts around the world… The kind of feedback we get in a university environment is unfortunately not always perfectly suited to developing our practice to become better: students rate fun/easy lectures high even if they don’t learn that much, and other educators rarely have the time or the social skills to give each other open, honest, and useful feedback.

Learning practice may also include sharing. Many of us have the kinds of learning styles that accord well with David Wiley’s maxim that “if there is no sharing, there is no learning” (Open Education and the Future, 2010). But from a teaching perspective, putting one’s practice online seems to be to open up the possibilities for benchmarking between educators, and for breaking out of the closed atmosphere of particular classrooms. And of course the tools that we use for open learning have themselves impacted on the learning: learning through remixing, through commenting, etc., are also just as important.

There are of course risks involved. The strong normative drive from universities and other education providers to get teachers online, what kinds of problems might you be causing that are not anticipated? Is this just another step in the neo-liberalisation of education systems, which aims to reduce the costs of education while extracting more ‘value’ from academic staff? Will tenure and other aspects of promotion eventually be tied to online savvy, and open education be used as a way to separate progressive from reactionary teachers?

These risks notwithstanding, there are also reasons to be hopeful about opening up teaching and learning. People will be able to collaborate from all over the world. Education will become more ‘open’: but, as we discussed, ‘open’ can be many things to many people (Weller, 2014). We all have different definitions, but it is hard to have one conversation or one debate when this is the case. Openness in education can be conceptualized under at least four headings:

  1. Creative Commons
  2. Open Educational Resources (freely accessible)
  3. Open Educational Practices (shared, public, generated across different groups)
  4. Massive Online Open Courses – area constantly changing, even what acronym stands for is changing

Each of these conceptual areas has different dynamics, different pros and cons, and even its own literature.

The ‘open’ movement is part worldwide phenomenon. It claims to increase sharing, interoperability, and transparency. Implicit in this idea is the notion that the opportunity to access learning is supposedly open to all.

Some definitions that thus need to be cleared up include:

Sharing:no longer does only the teacher hold the information, learners share with each other, students might share their work with each other, increasing feedback and communication.

Transparency:publicly sharing your practice and your thinking. Recognises that learners are co-learners and co-constructors of knowledge. Just as one can have an open and honest personality so can one have an open practice.

Interoperability:a term that comes from open source software development, where source code is freely shared. Making knowledge inoperable, remixing and sharing knowledge between universities and individuals.

There must be some kind of framework for how to share with people while respecting their rights, which is where the Creative Commons sets of licenses come into play. These various licenses usefully combine together to allow attribution to respect the holders of the original copyright, while not preventing reuse, remixing, or other forms of fair use, based on the license condition (Watch Now UK, 2012).

In addition to dealing with issues of attribution course designers must also consider how to structure open education. For a long time there was the hope that “Massive Open Online Courses” (MOOCs) were going to revolutionise education, and contribute to the growth of higher education around the world (Cormier, 2010). But much of this potential remains untapped. The potential of MOOCs to revolutionise, and even decolonize, the higher education space is something that needs to more carefully considered as part of a more thoroughgoing critical digital pedagogy  (Stommel, 2014). 

Works referenced

Cormier, D. (2010). What is a MOOC?Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eW3gMGqcZQc

Open Education and the Future. (2010). . New York, NY. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rb0syrgsH6M

Stommel, J. (2014, November 18). Critical Digital Pedagogy: a Definition. Hybrid Pedagogy. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from http://hybridpedagogy.org/critical-digital-pedagogy-definition/

Watch Now UK. (2012). Creative Commons & Copyright Info. Watch Now UK. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YkbeycRa2A

Weller, M. (2014). The Battle for Open. London: Ubiquity Press. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://www.ubiquitypress.com/site/books/10.5334/bam/

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