Made with Padlet

Dear reader,

The second topic of our intensive ONL-course began with the Padlet exercise and discussion (; embedded below), where Kay Oddone and Alastair Creelman had posted a video on openness in education for us to watch ( The video was captivating, and I was very curious to learn more about the possibilities of openness and sharing after having watched it. The whole idea seemed to open up a new world of possibilities – a world that I was eager to explore, to get the keys to unlock that door, and it was great that we got the opportunity to share our initial ideas via the notes on the Padlet and thus navigate openness and sharing.

At the same time as I was curious, however, something about this whole openness-business caused feelings of uneasiness and confusion. I wanted to explore that conflict now to hopefully learn from it through sharing, and therefore, in this blog post, I will try to reflect on some of the reasons that may be behind my conflicting reaction. On the one hand, I appreciate the idea of openness and sharing as a decent human being who cares about the well-being of others and that of our world, but on the other, my feet are also firmly on the ground as I am trained to optimize workflows, lead projects and am generally capable of multi-tasking both professionally and privately. I can therefore well imagine the amount of resources (mental, emotional, physical, financial) needed to manage the cross-fire of a plethora of demands, and instinctively thus, the idea of openness includes a huge or possibly irreconcilable conflict in my view: feasibility.

To start with the positive: The tips on available resources that we received during the webinar discussions of Topic 2 of ONL192 are great to have, and I will certainly keep returning to those in the future. They will be very useful whenever I will need to (re)design courses or assignments for my students. I had never heard about MERLOT, for example, and I had no idea that the site has so many resources available for teachers or anybody who is interested in the topics. That resource seemed so promising that I then began to examine it more closely (although I should have been drafting my blog post for this week!), and found, for example, hundreds of different types of materials for English – both language and literature. It would take me the working hours of the rest of this academic year to go through just some of the most promising modules that people have submitted there – but this is truly a first-world, luxury problem. For example, I found this wikibook via MERLOT promising:, and will perhaps offer some of the materials on certain topics as links for my writing-course students for further study. It will be interesting to hear the students’ feedback on the usefulness of these materials during our feedback sessions in the future. I am eager to let my students evaluate the materials also from their own perspective, and not only rely on my views as to what I think might prove useful for them. In this respect, when it comes to finding potentially useful materials, our ONL-Topic 2 of openness and sharing really opened up a new door for my students and me. Clearly, in the past, although I search for teaching materials online, I have not come across all potentially useful or specifically open platforms containing open teaching materials, such as MERLOT. I have been more traditional and relied more on “closed” materials, as it were, such as library resources, books, articles, and resources directly available via the websites of certain universities with similar profiles as that of my own. So, this resource will probably be one that I will return to quite often in the future.

In addition to learning about repositories for open educational resources such as MERLOT, we were led through the door to the world of Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs. Dave Cormier is among the first ones to have created such a course, and his explanation provides a useful summary of the concept (Cormier 2010). When exploring MOOCS in relation to the topic of openess and sharing, Class Central is, then, another resource worth visiting (, and the courses they offer vary from humanities and engineering to social sciences, education and medicine. As with the platforms for open education resources or OERs, I had had no idea that there would be so many different options available, all wide open to whoever is interested in the topic. Browzing the catalogue, I felt impressed and, I must say, a little tempted to sign up on a course in Japanese. However, at the same time, a feeling of uneasiness kept crawling back. Is this real? Are these keys truly there for the taking? Who put them there? Can I just take one? Will it work? Where will it lead? Who paid for this – I know I didn’t but somebody, somewhere, somehow had to have paid, right? Clearly, a brave new world awaits the one who knows how to work this system and dares to enter it through the door, but it was now becoming increasingly clear to me that this ultimately quite superficial taste of MOOCs and OERs during our ONL-course is not enough for me to be able to understand the implications behind this kind of scaffold for learning. Can the format be trusted? Will it truly work? I wonder whether such courses truly can be run in practice or in the long run – money makes the world go round even if you have developed a MOOC which is filled to the brim.

What to me seems a related point to the financial aspect was made by Martin Weller in the article that we read for this topic. He seems to especially have the context of the Open University in mind, and it would seem that there is an issue in the design of the so-called Supported Open Learning (SOL) courses – the necessity for support from a tutor during the course (Weller 2013). Obviously, this comes at a cost as Weller proceeds to mention – somebody, i.e. a teacher or a tutor, then, needs to take care of the students’ needs even on open courses. Having read that I am left wondering whether I have completely misunderstood the format or the goal of openness and open education. Somebody has to pay – but who is willing? Taxpayers? And pay – for what, exactly? Surely, this cannot rest on the altruism of teachers – or is that exactly the de facto pre-requisite for openness in education? Is the push for openness of education and of allowing a wide access for students who lack the means to attend campus courses just a demand on teachers to work more without compensation? I cannot get rid of this suspicion, even if I would agree on a general level that openness and sharing could be beneficial in many ways.

Openness also means sharing between colleagues, and such collaboration has been one of the most positive and supportive aspects of my career. This kind of practice is great from the viewpoint of professional and personal development, and it also saves time for all as teachers do not have to keep reinventing the wheel in solitude, ad infinitum, but can instead receive support from one another. At our institution, we share teaching materials with each other and quite often develop our courses together. The materials are designed for specific courses or specific needs (for instance courses in communication in English for engineers or Content and Language Integrated Learning- materials), and are shared by teachers who teach the same courses. This kind of sharing, however, is, funny enough, also one obstacle that we have when it comes to being open with our teaching outside of our own immediate context. As we work collaboratively, and teach a variety of courses, all teachers also end up continuously contributing to the creation and redesigning of the materials for each course that they teach. This means that I am by no means the only one who has been involved in the creation of the materials that I use in my classroom, and thus, I obviously cannot claim ownership or define the use, the copyright, of the materials. If the ownership or origin of the materials is not clear but in fact left vague and untraceable, then that material should not actually be shared further in an open way outside of our confined, closed Learning Management System and registered students. We would not know which CC-licence we should use, and since our team of teachers is not a static entity, it would be impossible to trace all those whose view we would need to have when it comes to the notion of opening the materials in the first place, or which licence should be used. In the past, the majority of our team of teachers did not add the licence icons to their materials, so there is no way that we could know now who created what to begin with or what their intentions may have been. Thus, I believe, we end up sharing those collaboratively created and modified teaching materials (slides, handouts) only to our enrolled students during our classes via our restricted Learning Management Site (in our case, a Moodle-based one). That is one obstacle for openness, and one which I cannot quickly change – not with any materials that I currently use when I teach our students, at least. Subsequently, even if the guide on the video was quite helpful in explaining the differences of the different Creative Commons or CC-licences (Watch Now UK 2012), I still would not be able to adapt that to existing materials let alone be comfortable about opening up existing courses to the whole wide world in the spirit of generosity and sharing. I would not know for sure that to do this, to go open with the materials, would be ok by all that had been involved throughout the long development process, and thus, I feel that my hands are tied in this particular context.

The next question is, then, if these problems stand in the way of opening up my current teaching to the whole wide world, why do I not just create a public site and publish some open materials there for anybody to access? Our facilitator posed that question for us during one of our PBL-meetings. The short answer is again, I am afraid, resources and time-management. To really go open, as it were, with a clean conscience as to copyright issues for example, would in my case then necessitate the creation of a completely new course and a new set of materials, without input from others, so that I could be 100% sure that what I put out there is my own creation, and to know for sure that the decision as to which licence to use would also be rightfully mine to make. This way, I could sleep easily, knowing that I would not have accidentally violated the rights of a colleague, but would actually probably have no time to sleep at all as it takes so much time to create a course and materials from scratch. To have the time to do that extra work while I have to prepare my teaching for the students that I am actually paid to teach by my University and take care of everything else that is part of life is just not realistic. Or perhaps I could nonetheless create something, despite time constraints, but then I would not be happy with the quality if I had only very little time to work on the stuff and as I would not want to be publicly associated with something half-hearted or less-than-helpful, I would then probably end up not sharing that material after all. So, long story short: even if I would agree that teachers should be generous and share, and I while I share everything that I do with my colleagues, I am against the notion that teachers should somehow be so altruistic about education, knowledge and sharing that they would have to do that at the expense of their other commitments or values.

 So, dear reader, I may well have misunderstood something central about the concept or the notion of openness in education, but what I wrote here is what I got from our second topic during our ONL-course. The inherent conflict that I cannot resolve for myself may not have been the intended learning outcome, but that is also one further price of openness. It will lead you to wherever it will lead you, and if you open up something you also give away control. If I were to go open with my teaching, I would first need a point of reference, an example close by to follow, a concrete map forward, together with money and a room of my own to refer to Virginia Woolf, and I cannot see such a path now. I must say that I have struggled during Topic 2, as I see a massive division between what would be ideal and what is actually realistic in this world of ours. Are the notions of openness and sharing sustainable, as they are now, or as they appear for me to be? Have I misunderstood this altogether, or are the current systems and practices too rigid for such a scaffold? It is an admirable goal to be open and to share our educational resources and knowledge with those who cannot afford them. This would increase equality of opportunities and create more possibilities for people who do not have access to traditional repositories or curators of knowledge, such as libraries, publications, schools, and universities, mediated through competent teachers, researchers and librarians. To be generous and open as David Wiley urges us to be in his video (Wiley 2010) is a noble goal and an altruistic one for teachers, but ultimately in my view unfortunately only a fairytale when reality comes knocking at the door. Completely open education, if not compensated, is just not realistic – and institutions that I know of lack the means, interest or both to pay for something that is not directly profitable for them. Thus, as I see it it is not a solvable equation – somebody has to pay for the openness, and if somebody has to pay for it then it is not truly openly available but will be left in the confines of those closed rooms, possibly as just a pipe dream of an idealist.

Perhaps, dear reader, you have nonetheless found the key to solve this conflict and could enlighten me – if you have, please share your thoughts through the keyhole of the comment field and show me the way over the threshold.

Thank you for reading. Please protect our planet.


Cormier, Dave. (2010, December 8). What is a MOOC? [Video]. YouTube.

Watch Now UK. (2012, May 9). Creative Commons & Copyright Info. [Video]. YouTube.

Weller, M., & Anderson, T. (2013). Digital resilience in higher education. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 16(1), 53. Available at

Wiley, David. (2010, March 6). Open Education and the Future. [Video]. YouTube.

Made with Padlet

Creelman, A., & Oddone, K. (2019, October 18). Introductory tutorial to open education. [Video].

Topic 2: Openness and sharing – do these keys really unlock that door?