Reflections on Topic 2: Open Learning – sharing & openness

Learning from materials that others share online is inspiring, fun, and time saving. Both for professional teaching and privately. I happily share my materials with colleagues and friends. However, open sharing of materials I produce to strangers online is not anything that I have really considered. I’m not even sure my institution would approve if I did? Where do we draw the line between Public, Private and Professional?

During this topic, I have widened my perspective on what “open” really means. And one major realisation regards the difference between openness of the materials we as teachers produce, and openness as to who we are. Before taking this course, I never did reflect on what open learning meant. I had heard about the Open University in the UK, about huge open courses arranged by e.g. EdX, and open access sources. In my mind, “open” was a mix of open resources, practices, education, teaching, learning, and licenses. I had failed to see how they were connected. Nor did I realise how there are creative communities discussing, developing, and sharing thoughts and materials out there.

Could I become a contributing part in this new found world of openness? That was nothing I would have considered earlier. The materials I produce for my students feel kind of personal. I spend a lot of time and effort on it. If I let it free, then who would use it and how!? Letting things open on the Internet means to let go. That is a bit of a scary thought! Even so, I am not even sure my institution would approve. If I produce a recorded lecture, it cannot be uploaded to YouTube or other general social media. I am obliged to share it through a password secured media platform where only course participants are allowed access. And to be fair, that is a rather safe and comfortable way to do it. However, not necessarily the best way. It depends on our perspective.

Looking from a different direction, how can knowledge be anything but open? The social justice perspective really is important to consider. As Maha Bali states in both her webinar and publication1, in the right context, open education practices can support social justice with both economic, cultural, and political dimensions. It has made me think, if tax payers money pay our wages, should our work not benefit as many as possible if it can contribute towards a fairer world?

Another issue that made me think is why do we consider non-accessible university materials high quality whilst open online sources are often frowned upon? What if it could be the opposite? An open source that has been discussed and updated in a constructive community may be of much higher quality than something a university lecturer whipped up on his/her own. Also, there may be an increasing pressure for Universities to become more accessible. The Covid-19 pandemic made a huge difference. It proved that a lot of students can learn a lot online. However, it’s important to keep in mind that online learning is not the same as open learning!

Another perspective is private vs. professional. If we let the resources we produce free, will it not mean we make ourselves vulnerable? Teaching is after all rather personal, and our personality influence how we teach. However, if we manage to stay professional in a lecture hall, why couldn’t we on the Internet? As Robin DeRosa, a professor at the Plymouth state public university, puts it in the Teaching in Higher ed podcast: “Open is not the opposite of private”2. Teachers/instructors should be able to share a lot of their work openly online without their privacy being at risk!

1Bali, M., Cronin, C., & Jhangiani, R. S. (2020). Framing Open Educational Practices from a Social Justice Perspective. Journal of Interactive Media in Education

2Teaching in Higher Ed. Podcast Episode 183. Open education inspiration with Robin DeRosa   

Open is not the opposite of private