What is it?
'Open Education' means different things to different people. But essentially it can be understood as a collection of practices that utilize online technology to freely share knowledge. It can mean sharing:
- scholarly research (open access)
- teaching and learning materials (open educational resources)
- tools or computer code (open source)
- research data in a machine readable format (open data)
- how you work/learn (open practice)
- access to your classes (open courses)
From the Cape Town Open Education Declaration:
The expanding global collection of open educational resources has created fertile ground for this effort. These resources include openly licensed course materials, lesson plans, textbooks, games, software and other materials that support teaching and learning. They contribute to making education more accessible, especially where money for learning materials is scarce. They also nourish the kind of participatory culture of learning, creating, sharing and cooperation that rapidly changing knowledge societies need.
However, open education is not limited to just open educational resources. It also draws upon open technologies that facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues. It may also grow to include new approaches to assessment, accreditation and collaborative learning. Understanding and embracing innovations like these is critical to the long term vision of this movement.
British Columbia is a leader in open education. The Open UBC site showecases some examples of open teachign and learning practices at UBC. The OER Commons collects and presents a diverse range of open educational resource providers. In 2009, 2012, and 2015 BC hosted the international Open Education Conference. Videos of all presentations are archived on the conference site.
Uses and Benefits
The motivations and benefits of joining the worldwide movement of open educators involve both high-minded and more practical concerns.
Why reuse open educational resources?
- There is a rapidly growing pool of freely available, openly licensed online materials being shared by major institutions and by passionate individuals.
- Open educational resources may lessen the costs to institutions, instructors, and students associated with licensed materials.
- Utilizing existing resources can free up instructors from some largely redundant tasks, allowing them to focus on other elements of the teaching process.
- Most open educational resources can be revised or remixed to be specifically tailored to individual learning challenges.
Why share educational resources?
- Sharing materials online can connect coursework with a dynamic global community of educators, often resulting in collaborations and informal peer review.
- Sharing materials enhances the profile of the individuals and institutions that make them available.
- Producing materials in open platforms such as blogs and wikis can result in a more efficient development process.
- Shared materials may benefit others, offering help to those who may need it and resulting in a richer and more enlightened public discourse.
This 15 minute TEDxNYED Talk from open education pioneer David Wiley provides an overview of the role and importance of openness in education:
- You might search for openly licensed materials by using freelearning.ca, or by toggling the "usage rights" button on Google's Advanced Search interface for materials that are "free to use or share".
- If you are interested in licensing your materials for sharing, the most common terms are defined by Creative Commons. See also the Creative Commons ccLearn portal. Their FAQ is worth a look. If you wish to speak with a local expert, the UBC Library can help, or you might consult with the Vancouver-based Artists Legal Alliance.
- Special issue of EDUCAUSE Review (Volume 45, Number 4, July/August 2010) on The Open... with features on higher education, instruction, technology and students.
- Mackey, T. P. (2011). Transparency as a catalyst for interaction and participation in open learning environments. First Monday, 16(10).
- The Open Education Handbook, a guidebook to many aspects of open education that is collaboratively written and continuously updated because it is openly licensed and easily edited.
- UNESCO A Basic Guide to OER (2011) - explains what Open Educational Resources are and the benefits to their creation and use.
- UNESCO Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education (2011) - a document that outlines some of the main issues involved in implementing OER in higher education, to help encourage such implementation.
- The JISC OER InfoKit - "aims to both inform and explain OERs and the issues surrounding them for managers, academics and those in learning support."
- Towards Open Education - An online community for BC open educators.
- Remember, there is no 'one true path' for open education. Open education is a diverse (and occasionally contentious) movement, and you should adopt strategies that feel right to you.
- You can start small. You do not need to leap directly into creating full-scale open courseware projects. As Martin Weller has written, there is big OER and little OER. There is nothing wrong with opening up a single lesson at a time, or having students produce a single public resource as an assignment. Alternatively, you might start by trying to run a complementary course or subject blog (such as this or this), or moving some course activity to the UBC wiki (such as this or this).
- Join the discussion. There are hundreds of authors and bloggers writing on issues related to open education and social learning. If you are new to the field, you might start by following the prolific and provocative works of Stephen Downes and Danah Boyd, and checking out the many others that they reference.