Open Education

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Open Education = movement for an open education

Its main tenents are discussed below.

See also our entry on Open Educational Resources


Discussion: The Main Tenets of Open Education

Toru Iiyosh

"The main tenet of open education is to make educational assets freely available to the public. This is becoming easier and less expensive as network and multimedia technology evolves. Indeed, tens of thousands of open educational resources already exist online, from well-packaged course materials such as MIT's OpenCourseWare project, which allows anyone with Internet access to browse and use MIT course materials, to educational software such as physics professor and Nobel laureate Carl Wieman and his colleagues' Physics Education Technology project, which provides a suite of interactive simulations for teaching and learning physics. But several obstacles may stand in the way of using these and other powerful tools and resources in ways that will actually improve the quality of education.

First, although the tools and resources are readily available, transferring practical knowledge about how to use them is not easy. Indeed, this kind of pedagogical know-how is notoriously hard to make visible and portable. While some might argue that such knowledge is already built into educational tools and resources—that a syllabus, for instance, already embodies what the user needs to know about using that syllabus—the vast majority of this kind of practical knowledge remains tacit and invisible in the experiences of the educator or educators who created the materials. Thus, a crucial task before us is to build intellectual and technical capacity for transforming "tacit knowledge" into "commonly usable knowledge." Building this capacity is urgent, as the process of creating and sharing quality educational knowledge needs to catch up with the burgeoning availability of open educational goods. This is why Carnegie's Knowledge Media Lab is working, along with its partner programs, organizations, and institutions, to develop and disseminate support tools and resources that capture not only materials but the stories and experiences of real teachers using those materials in the concrete settings that define the dynamics of teaching and learning. For instance, as I write this piece, a group of community college faculty is assembling at the Foundation to develop public multimedia Web sites documenting the approaches and tools they have created—and the thinking behind those approaches and tools that will allow others to adapt and use them in different settings.

Second, true success in open education requires a change in education culture and policy. The education community values activities like scholarly writing and pursuing new research questions and generally counts these in the faculty reward system. But given higher education's penchant for originality above all else, adapting or improving another's educational materials is rarely understood to be a creative, valuable contribution. Thus, while we expect scholars to build on the work of others in their disciplinary research, we treat teaching as a private, highly territorial enterprise—an attitude that robs the education community as a whole. If there are no incentives for faculty to use and enrich open educational goods to transform their teaching and student learning, pedagogical practice will always struggle to advance.

Finally, we must look beyond institutional boundaries and connect efforts among many settings and open source entrepreneurs. Administrators and faculty leaders should help institutions strategize about how to support and sustain open education on a long-term basis. An initiative like the Sakai Project, for example, which is working to design, build, and deploy a new online education platform that includes course management, electronic portfolio, assessment, collaboration, communication, and other tools actually coordinates multi-institutional collaborative efforts and offers institutions the chance to collectively advance teaching and learning. All participants—core schools and institutions, vendors who provide hosting and support, and faculty and students—contribute to the project and, ultimately, to the open source collaboration and learning environment. This is the kind of cooperation and knowledge sharing that will catapult open education to a new level." (http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/about/sub.asp?key=245&subkey=1151)


David Wiley

Response by David Wiley at http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/258

"The main tenet of open education is to make educational assets freely available to the public.

I think this statement is unnecessarily narrow. I believe the main tenet of open education is to positively impact people’s lives through the provision of educational opportunity. There is very much a progression to this: first, there must be free and open educational resources; second, there must be free and open tools and supports (including real live human beings who will answer questions learners have) for utilizing those resources; and third, for some learners there will need to be free and open credentialing mechanisms (both assessments and trusted assessors) to establish to third parties (like employers) that learners really do know / really have the skills / etc. that are taught by the resources. Positive impact on the lives of real individuals is what open education is all about. I fear that any statements of the main tenet that restrict themselves to enabling work or subgoals may set us up for failure.


First, although the tools and resources are readily available, transferring practical knowledge about how to use them is not easy. Indeed, this kind of pedagogical know-how is notoriously hard to make visible and portable.

I believe the move from “learning object repositories" to “open courseware" is a big step in this direction. Courses preserve more of the context of use and tell more of the story of how resources can be effectively utilized. As OCW resources move toward media that tell more of the entire story - e.g., video or audio of the instructor actually engaged in teaching and modeling the use of resources - we will come closer and closer to solving this problem. *Surprisingly,* setting up a camera in the back of the classroom or attaching a podcast mic to an instructor can be much less expensive over the long run than paying undergrads to take notes during lectures, digitizing those notes, double checking them with the professor for accuracy, etc.


Thus, a crucial task before us is to build intellectual and technical capacity for transforming “tacit knowledge" into “commonly usable knowledge." Building this capacity is urgent, as the process of creating and sharing quality educational knowledge needs to catch up with the burgeoning availability of open educational goods.

I couldn’t agree more with this statement more. Not only is it key to helping individuals reuse existing OERs - it is the key to empowering more people to produce and share OERs.

Second, true success in open education requires a change in education culture and policy. The education community values activities like scholarly writing and pursuing new research questions and generally counts these in the faculty reward system. But given higher education’s penchant for originality above all else, adapting or improving another’s educational materials is rarely understood to be a creative, valuable contribution.

I’m glad to say that this is beginning… Now that some of the net generation are getting tenure we’re pushing on this fairly hard. For example, a co-author and I just had a paper accepted at a rather prestigious conference, for which Erlbaum will be publishing the proceeding. When we were asked to transfer copyright to the paper we simply said no. We said we only were willing to give them a non-exclusive right to publish and that we would keep the copyright. Somewhat surprisingly, Erlbaum agreed. Now other faculty in my department are saying they’ll never give away those rights again.

An initiative like the Sakai Project, for example, which is working to design, build, and deploy a new online education platform that includes course management, electronic portfolio, assessment, collaboration, communication, and other tools actually coordinates multi-institutional collaborative efforts and offers institutions the chance to collectively advance teaching and learning. All participants—core schools and institutions, vendors who provide hosting and support, and faculty and students—contribute to the project and, ultimately, to the open source collaboration and learning environment. This is the kind of cooperation and knowledge sharing that will catapult open education to a new level.

The Sakai Project is a great example of how open source-like approaches can work. Moodle provides an example of a success in a similar space with a much more traditional open source approach." (http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/258)


More Information

A history of the open educational resources movement: very well done slideshow with music at http://nostatic.com/work/diyTimed-web.mov