The nuanced light and shade of “sharing and openness” and “withholding and closedness”: getting the balance right

With pictures 🙂

The Zone System in photography developed by Ansel Adams and Fred Archer where there is pure white and pure black and everything in between

I’d like to open my individual reflection for Topic 2 on “sharing and openness” regarding OEP with the following definition

 Open educational practices (OEP) is a broad descriptor of practices that include the creation, use, and reuse of open educational resources (OER) as well as open pedagogies and open sharing of teaching practices” Catherine Cronin

Below is a useful diagram indicating the poles of openness and privacy, challenges, digital literacies and values.

Figure 1. Four dimensions shared by educators using OEP.



My individual reflection will take the form of responses- both pros and cons -to the useful prompts provided in Topic 2’s Individual Reflection. But before I respond to the prompts it’s important to set the context of “sharing and openness” versus” withholding and closedness” pertaining to  OEP and its mate OER.

In society “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” in other words there is always a trade-off, an agenda, payback whether monetary or otherwise. It’s naive to assume that there isn’t. Even if no money changes hands, payback could be in the form of a particular agenda, or the acquisition of status that foots the bill. We live in a capitalist, hierarchical world and therefore all our exchanges are governed by profit making whether metaphorically (that hit of dopamine when you do a good deed) or literally money changing hands

Below, a great little diagram on navigating openness with thanks to Catherine Cronin

Figure 2. Considering openness at four levels.


So do openness, and its mate sharing, matter to me?

A remake of Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People

If I was cynical, I might say there is no such thing as openness. We are all governed whether overtly or covertly by systems, culture, and their systemic oppressions and repressions. And of course, our own baggage. But the impetus to be open and share do matter hugely to me. Afterall I’m an educator by profession- a profession which includes pastoral care, being curious, leading by example, sharing my knowledge, and learning from my students.

In my country the long shadows of colonialism, slavery, and social engineering (apartheid) still fall and so I embrace the idea of addressing social injustices through OEP and OER as showcased in Prof Bali’s heart opening webinar.  

There is something wonderfully subversive and rebellious about giving away resources and practices for free in a capitalistic world to those unable to afford formal education and readdressing unequal biased gender practices . Viva openness, viva sharing! Viva OEP and OER!

However, I am not naïve. All utopia’s have their dystopian sides.


-Regarding openness in my own personal practice

This is a bit of a conundrum as my openness will be another’s closedness. Equally my closedness is another’s openness.

A pic of an example of the Gordian Knot which is apparently syntactically the same as a conundrum or an unsolvable problem

In my own personal practice, I have to admit I am fairly careful. I’ve been burnt and I also need to be in synch with my professional persona. I notice that I avoid using images myself and my friends on Facebook and Instagram but maybe that is my nervous tic. Having said I recognise that whatever we post, whether impersonal or personal  is a self-portrait. And all information posted can be harvested for good and bad.


A word of caution – unlike the spoken word , once its on social media its there forever. You might change your point of view but social media has a long memory and this can be used against you both personally and professionally .


-Regarding the role of open educational resources in my own institution

On the most practical level the use of both OER and OEP are encouraged especially as they are free given that the budgets of most institutions are fixed and finite.  

I decided to interview some of my colleagues for their responses


Opensource software that enables the students to start projects at home (or carry on working at home) and then save files that are compatible with the course software. Sketchbook is for pixel art, so one can save files from there that’s compatible with Photoshop.


Other software allows them to create the final outputs for projects, such as Hitfilm Express which is a free motion design/compositing software similar to Adobe After Effects, Figma used to be free, one could use that for UX/UI design instead of Adobe XD, and Krita could be used for frame by frame animation. We also use Sketchup as a simple free online 3D environment sketcher, just to create rough structures over which the students can do overdrawing.


Animation – use OER for keeping up to date with the latest animation developments which if they were not on OER could be potentially very expensive. Also, some of the top animators studied informally using OER.

Acting-as an institution with limited access to some of the more prestigious databases (such as JStor, Taylor & Francis, etc.), we are often required to make use of open educational resources that exist online for free. Some of the databases and resources that I personally use frequently include:

Ø  OER Commons

Ø  Open Course Library.org

Ø  DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals)

Ø  MOVIE: A Journal of Film Criticism

Ø  Film and Media Studies Journal.

These databases and resources are available freely via the CityVarsity Library website. We also have access to EbscoHost, which is a paid journal that we are subscribed to.


  How do I regard the role of technology in open education?

Technology is a great tool to facilitate open education especially if it’s free. Used effectively it’s a great democratiser for learning. A great convenience, it facilitates learning anywhere, anytime. All well and good. However, for me, for it to be the most effective, it should be in conjunction with a face-to-face facilitator-because this is where the magic, alchemy or the release of good old oxytocin, the feel good hormone of learning, happens. Technology remains just a tool and needs to be used in a Digitally Literate (David White) way in other words with awareness.  

How do I see openness for greater inclusion and social diversity in education?

  “If knowledge is power, it should be used as widely as possible” Speaker from the webinar on Open Education

Open education is for me a form of activism. The approach of openness in terms of greater inclusion, social diversity and to redress social injustices and inequalities cannot be overestimated.  Best of all unlike formal education its limitless -no budget to worry about, or place (country of residence) or time -and it puts the learner firmly in the centre.

However, I can understand the fears and vulnerability expressed and the reluctance to sharing, given that another may take credit for one’s work. When used with acknowledgement the original work can be built on and so deepened and enriched. The question is how does one protect privacy, licensing and copyright?

 Finding and using openly licensed resources

This is fairly unchartered territory for me but the course has opened this up for me and I find myself sharing what I have learnt on course with both colleagues and students across the various departments I teach in with good results.

Help came in the link below which I have summarised below in 3 easy steps-ASE

1.       Align -find content that will help your students with the learning objectives of  your course

2.       Search –use an online repository for example MERLOT II,OER Commons, OpenStax, or Search Engines or Library Collections

3.       Evaluate-consider scope, authority, reliability, licensing accuracy and professionalism


Weighing up the pros and cons of open and closed technologies

The Ancient Egyptian way – with a feather and the human heart

Summarised from https://libguides.umgc.edu/c.php?g=23404&p=138771

I endorse the Pros and Cons listed below. I see that the Pros outweigh the cons


·         Very accessible

·         Easily distributed

·         Great scalability

·         Can be easily modified in keeping with the course materials

·         Supplement complement learning materials.

·         Can enrich course content.

·         Increases student interaction with course resources

·         Quick circulation.

·         Less expense

·          Reaches a wide audience when showcasing learning

·         A way for graduates to stay in touch

·         Constant updated improved resources.


·         Quality issues.

·         Extra effort needed.

·         Lack of human interaction between teachers and students.

·         Language and/or cultural barriers.

·         Technological issues especially in 3rd world or developing countries

·         Some info available is hard to access and modify.

·         Potential violation of copyright law. intellectual property/copyright concerns.

·         Non sustainable

The implications of different open course and MOOC formats in relation to my learning experience on this course.


My modified strengths and weaknesses summary from https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/chapter/section-7-5-strengths-and-weaknesses-of-moocs/

I placed some strengths in the weakness section


  • good for developing basic conceptual learning, and for creating large online communities
  • lifelong learning– true
  • challenges conventional and elite institutions to reappraise attitudes to online and open learning -yes
  • brand and status by making public their expertise -true
  • eliminate costs – and yet requires investment to be successful -contradiction


  • will require a good deal of adaptation, and substantial investment -true
  • Dependent on computers and an Internet connection -true-especially in my country during power cuts
  • only a small proportion successfully complete the course-true  
  • expensive to develop -true
  • rather than widen access attract those with already a high level of education-sad
  • Limited in terms of higher level learning – a pity
  • Assessment of higher levels of learning  challenging-problem
  • Copyright or time restrictions -problem