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“Openness is about being generous” claims Dr. David Wiley, Associate Professor of Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University during his TEDx lecture. And, in a rhetorical exercise, he compares the opposition to openness to the 15th century draconian English laws that forbade the reading of the Scriptures in the mother tongue under the threat of deprivation of property and capital punishment.

He claims that education is about sharing, and it is hard to negate this. But sharing is not a zero-sum game in which you either share with everyone, in every situation, out in the open. And similarly, being generous is not equal with putting all your things out in the open or giving out the same thing to everyone regardless of the context. There is a difference between generosity and extravagance, and in the enchantment with digitization academics too often fall into extremes, either being

There are few elements which, in my opinion, should be considered before going forward with full openness in online environment:

  1. Allocation of resources – preparing a good, open material takes time and resources which means that you have to take them from other tasks you might have. And while for some matters it might be the best way to share knowledge in that way, at other occasions a static, recorded or written material might be less effective and beneficial than in-person sessions. Sure, more people might have access to them, but in a shallower way. And the advancement of science, or public benefit might be much higher if a number of students will be given personal support. We need professionals in every area of life, and to great focus on open materials might take time from those on whose expertise we will rely in the future.
  2. How is open access organized? – the most visible aspect of this includes Article Processing Charges (APCs) for open access publications. Open Access had in its roots a very noble idea behind it – it wanted to make the results of research easily accessible to all members of society, especially if research was publicly funded. But it ended up costing the society twice, due to the mechanisms of double dipping and increasingly rising APCs. And when the increasing number of funding schemes began to require open access publishing, the researchers began to be hostage to their own enthusiasm towards open science – it gave even more power to the already strong publishing houses. This does not mean that open access should not be on the agenda, just that the organization of it should be considered before it ends up costing all of us much more.
  3. Development and context – Education is not only about accumulation of knowledge, but also, if not first and foremost, about a gradual development of understanding and skills. When materials are put online, in a totally open context, there is only so much that one can do to ensure that it will be framed in the right way. If the material is complicated, and requires strong critical or analytical skills to comprehend, there is no way of ensuring that it will be read in the right way. And, if the matter can be used for political purposes, putting things out may be, at best, misread and even, at worst, maliciously implicated into someone else’s vision.
  4. Relations and mental health – Finally, growing digitization in academia means that there is less time for building relationships, and more spent in front of the screen, which may perpetrate what is already a growing problem – loneliness and detachment.

As indicated above, sharing is not a zero-sum game – there should be a balance between different types of activities, including open education/science/research. The Swedish academic system seems to have a good grip on the whole concept – it includes research and university teaching as the first two tasks of an academic, and tredje uppgiften (third tasks) as the public outreach activities. Within these tasks one may try to be as open as possible. For the rest, it is best to think twice before overenthusiastically approaching openness, as there is such a thing as “too open” in education.

Is there such a thing as "too open" in education?