Putting a twist on the traditional lecture style presentations that delegates have become accustomed to, Brian Lamb, from the Office of Learning Technology, led an open discussion titled “Promoting Openness in Higher Education: Which Way Now?” at the 2009 Canadian e-Learning Conference. The discussion revolved around the open education movement as well as particular challenges that are being faced. You can view and contribute to the discussion at http://wiki.ubc.ca/TOE.
Brian started things off by noting that openness in education started at more of a grassroots level, and that lately, there has been a large upsurge in open education activity. It seems that more and more people are becoming aware of such topics as intellectual property rights, copyright, and access to open education resources. As evidence at the Canadian e-Learning Conference, almost everyone who attended the Richard Baraniuk keynote address knew about the creative commons. Movements have been started to share open education resources, as seen with MIT OpenCourseWare and the OpenCourseWare Consortium, as well as a BCcampus initiative which allows users to access free educational resources from across the globe.
Other delegates jumped into the discussion, noting that there is a need to get higher level support from an institutional level, as well as from government, in order to support the grassroots movements that are happening. One delegate touched on the notion that most institutions want to keep control of their material, and do not want to make it open to the whole community. What needs to happen are more swap meets with more people of like minds, so that they can share information amongst their colleagues. One thing that needs to be done is to bring people from different educational silos together.
There is also a need to realize that there are different ways to share open education resources, be it with the OpenCourseWare Consortium, Connexions, or other forms of open education resources. There is also a need to address the mindset that is currently dominating academic institutions, where faculty and staff are more than willing to use someone else’s textbook, but are not as willing to use someone else’s course notes. What needs to happen is for people to learn about the pedagogies that other people are using, and use this to inform their own teaching practice. It was noted by one delegate that most open education resource sharing involves course content, but not further information about a course. What might be of use would be to encourage instructors teaching an upper level course they haven’t taught before to reuse and repurpose content that is already out there – this would be an easier way for them to learn about content, than to relearn it on their own.
The discussion about openness in higher education will continue on the presentation wiki, and the Open Education Conference in August 2009 will delve deeper into the current state of open education.