The Open Road near South rim, Grand Canyon. Photo by N. Ernst

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

(from Song of the Open Road by Walt Whitman)

In the last few weeks we have all explored openness and sharing, topic 2 on this course, and I have thought much about it, not the least because I optioned to be one of the team leaders for this one. I truly believe in the usefulness of openness and sharing, especially when it comes to academic work and I love the fact of making research available through open access policies. David Wiley’s candle metaphor of a shared light is suitable here. Why not be generous? 

Photo by Hakan Erenler on Pexels.com

Sharing and openness also include teaching and resources. But it’s complicated; or we complicate it. Copyright law restricts you and other instructors so one question is how to access high-quality learning material. However, another thought entered my mind. Let’s say that you are an experienced faculty member, an established professor. You don’t feel like you’re a fraud. You can allow yourself to share and be open. But what if you’re not? Then you might feel anxious or embarrassed to share because you lack some of that confidence that comes with the years of experience. You might think that your material is not worth sharing or you might be afraid of being judged, mocked, or even exposed to net hatred. 

One question that came up in my own group about openness and sharing in the academic world was Why? The topic was approached in a critical way and some were reluctant or skeptical to the very thought of sharing. Why share things you have been working so hard with? David Wiley points out that open education resources (OER) is a means to improve and enhance learning as well as teaching (Wiley 2014). And I can see how the conflicting impulses are made visible here. On one hand, universities around the world rely on students’ enrollments. Having a college degree is valued rather high in many circles. Should then knowledge and expertise be accessible for some people only? On the other hand, we have a pretty good example called the Open University in Britain that has been running for about 40 years now. 

A final thought on this matter lands in the pandemic context of the current and on-going covid-19, and the development of vaccine. Without openness and collaboration scientists and researchers would not have been able to work so quickly to find a vaccine. If you’re an altruist, you believe in openness and sharing in teaching, learning, and research. Still, you need to mind the pitfalls, but when you have, you might be able to step along that open road, wherever it may be leading.

The Open Road