Time flies when you’re having fun, and over the past two weeks we have enjoyed reading your reflections on the topic of Openness, and learnt so much in the process! In this second blog post written by the three co-facilitators, Raheel Lakhani, Karin Muller and Charlotta Hilli, we would like to share some of the interesting aspects raised by course participants in their blogs, some common themes and some issues that serve as food for further thought and deliberation.

ONL participants were thinking about openness, access and the cost of it all during the second topic. Structures like funding and copyright issues are inevitably a part of the discourses on open education and open learning. Magdalena Sandell writes about how openness is about democracy and equal rights. Something that Sarah Hagström adds to by looking at open access in the context of research and resources, and specifically how costs and unfavourable publishing agreements (or derailed negotiations) may lead to less information and sources being available. She comments that a consequence is that libraries cannot offer the same amount of information anymore and everyone; research, society and of course the end users, suffer.

The extent of openness may however depend on the specific discipline and context. Certain disciplines like language writing and communication do not have secrets and trademarks to protect and fit well into the openness paradigm. Other disciplines might struggle to become completely open if funding is tied to patents and secrecy. Open generally means free and Patrik Klintenberg sees problems with the quality of the produced material if for example MOOCS cannot generate any money they will become unsustainable in the long run.

Openness should also be looked at from the student’s perspective and Elizabeth Blackburn cautions that while openness may be suitable for the teacher, this isn’t necessarily so for the student, and specifically the learning process. Possibly students still need the opportunity to work out their thoughts in private, or in the classroom. Mesfin Tessma also looked at this topic from the students’ perspective and point out that self-directed learning may be improved where students have access to open education resources. This can be attributed to the fact that further resources are now available, they can be visited repeatedly, and the delivery of content may also be more appealing. Judy Botha has looked at some inspiring open projects which benefit students, such as an online learning network that is suitable for institutions with low internet access and an openly licensed digital storybook which assist with literacy development among students.

Openness needs some individual efforts too and we need to change how we do things. Mariah Sandborgh tackles her openness in her teaching and research, and considers that it is not only about openly sharing recorded lectures, written material or reference lists, there are things more inherent in the facilitation of learning, pointing out that sometimes it is the format of a course or course module that is the core learning material. Related to this point, James Brunton shares an interesting course outline where openness was included in the design and students first did a literature review on mental health among youth and then prepared a digital product on how to improve adolescent mental health and wellbeing that could be shared openly. Openness is not only for teachers, it is something students need to reflect upon too, and Brunton’s course is an example of how to do that.

Florence Oloo points out that for higher education to become truly open curriculums will need to be rewritten. As long as teachers own the information and the design process there will not be complete openness. She suggests something in line with what Brunton did in his course, one way to include openness in higher education is to create teaching and learning materials with academics and non-academics. Truly sharing knowledge and experience sounds like an amazing future for higher education and the local and global society, does it not? Perhaps a good test for doing some introspection as teachers can be found in the pencil metaphor for adopting technologies shared by Ana Barral (and Helena Loof) – are we  the leaders, the sharpeners, the wood, the hangers-on, the ferrules, or the erasers?

Katarzyna Bobrowicz looks at it from a research context and asks us if we mean open or accessible. She identifies issues with the present discourses that are related to openness where experts cannot be humble about their findings or unsure of the impact of results in public or open debates because no one will listen to that. She writes:

“I think that this is the first problem with openness. We cannot really be open and honest about possible troubles with our theories and our data because someone else will happily step in and tell the public how things really are. Expertise will always lose with overt confidence, and we simply cannot help it when we decide if we should listen to someone or not.”

Fear of criticism as well as lack of recognition, were aspects also considered by Anne Duplouy, and although she agrees that open education is not easy, it also has positive connotations. Quoting Cronin, she writes that:

“openness is about sharing knowledge, using new teaching methods, valuing social learning without geographical boundaries and across cultural differences, and developing (digital) literacies by challenging traditional teaching through the use of digital tools”

Now if we are able to take the not-so-easy and the fearful parts of open education, and put it into perspective against the above benefits and the opportunities, it still looks to be a worthy pursuit!

Raheel Lakhani, Karin Muller and Charlotta Hilli

Topic 2: Open Learning – Sharing and Openness

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