Open Education: Have I Been Open to it?

I am entering the second block of my latest module in my Masters in Online and Distance Education. This module, H817, is called Openness and Innovation in E-Learning and for the next seven weeks we’ll be considering openess, in terms of Open Education and Open Education Resources.

Our first activity is this – blog about our own personal experience of open education to date. It has made me stop in my tracks, have I been open to to? have I realised I was even taking part in it?

The philosophy of open education is to offer access to high-quality educational resources and experiences, free from the barriers of entry requirement, monetary restrictions etc. Open education goes beyond the simple act of sharing information, but looks to actively encourage collaboration, and I would argue an important aspect of that collaboration in a breaking down of formal hierarchy, privilege and platform.

Open education gives us Open Educational Resources (OERs), commonly online and digital, OERs can provide knowledge, resources, activities and debate with the aim that collaboration can see this disseminated, reworked and become an on-going learning environment. That said, OER does not mean a free for all and unusable chaotic landscape. What we have seen with OER is educators and learner sharing common standards, which may be required (such as Common Core State Standards) or informal standards which may be culturally or context driven and this providing a base for further development.

But this digresses from my experience of open education. Let me take you back many years, when in my late teens I was taken seriously ill, left bricks and mortar University and was housebound for some time. I was still craving education, mainly to prove I was still relevant and that great word, ‘normal’. The internet was a way off, mobile phones were bricks and even the library felt like a marathon.

In those days I discovered correspondence courses which I signed up to…with embarrassment, I mean they weren’t ‘proper’ learning were they. Whilst my peers were graduating and entering the jobs market I was completing essays to be sent by post to get a certificate that I assumed people would laugh at or consider little more than something free from a box of cereal. How many times have we heard someone ridiculed by suggesting they got their degree through the post, or even today the concept of the diploma mill – everything being tarred with the same brush and all that.

I would watch Open University broadcasts on any subject on the television, Sunday morning teach yourself Urdu programs – what I release now was I was taking part in open education and for myself at time it was a vital learning lifeline bourne out of accessibility issues.

A little later, now confident in my self made bedroom University of Rebecca, I applied to do my Masters in the Sociology of Sport with the University of Leicester by distance – one of those proper, real, brick universities with tutors and professors who worked with the government. I passed, with distinction.

Fast forward better health, entering the workplace and being almost ‘normal’ 🙂 and along came the internet and I soon found a myriad of learning opportunities to dip my toe in*, often for free or for a small fee. A love of learning, but admittedly a fear I must also keep up with the people who went the ‘normal route’ you’d find me signing up for a range of courses from leisure interests to computer skills and now I am taking the plunge to solidify what has become my career and interest in learning via online methods and technology in my Masters.

Fears still persist. I still crave the recognition and official acknowledgement of my learning with a shining certificate and still fear those I have obtained through OERs don’t carry weight or merit. Yet I’ve never really stopped to consider the wealth of learning and knowledge gained via OER in general and how I believe and hope that has manifested itself in my professional capabilities. Of course, I have a fear about this blog alone which I am daring to make public and ‘proper experts’ could come and point and laugh but as a previous post points out I am learning that the L&D community the is hugely welcoming and respectful so fear be gone.

Other than this Masters, my most recent OER experience was a course on Cousera where I paid the small fee to complete the certification which involved peer reviewed assignments and gave me that comfort I appear to crave of a standard form of measurement we have been trained to desire/require through secondary and tertiary education. This raises a lot of questions.

Firstly, even if small, we still see a monetary barrier to achieving this comfort of measurement so how do we measure learning and impact for the individual? My bugbear of being able to click play on a LinkedIn Learning video, go do the washing and come back to find it says ‘completed, here’s a certificate’ is a common cause of a Rebecca rant.

Secondly, more than ever, I am not keen on people telling me what I should learn or do next. My eyes have been opened to the ability of personalised learning journeys and I like it. How will the corporate beings who still want to steer their employees cope, not to mention that dreaded fear of if you let someone plan their own journey it may culminate with them leaving us.

Thirdly, whilst I have mentioned that OER has not become a free for all, we do still have the looming shadow of the word of the moment ‘fake this and fake that’ and the unscrupulous who will twist what is presented as an OER to be a money making scheme or certainly something of little value to the individual. Often those individuals are some of the more at risk or naive persons for whom OER should, and can be, a wonderful, powerful tool in their development, in finding their voice and being part of the wider discussions. OER can be a driving force for diversity and inclusion, for accessibility and flexibility but how do we in more powerful and privileged positions ensure that is the case.

One thing is for sure this is going to be an interesting block to study!

*in the interest of openness, I hold my hands up to being one of those people who has signed up for far many more courses than I have actually completed but that folks, is a story for another day!

5 Comments on “Open Education: Have I Been Open to it?

  1. I signed up for the Future Learn course- The Online Educator. Unlike the other Moocs I participated in (both Coursera), you couldn’t sign up whenever you wanted. Also, after the course closes, you cease to be able to access it until you pay a fee- £52. Getting this email prompted me to actually visit it and the materials look really interesting and the platform is nice to use. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll have time to do it now, but will be recommending to colleagues at work.

    Peer review: my favourite element of the Coursera course was the peer review. I loved reading my classmates’ comments on my work and I loved reading theirs. The Coursera peer review interface was really nice, unfortunately the Moodle peer review tool is clunky and complicated-looking. Not had good experiences with Turnitin’s Peer Mark either.

    Was thinking though, after we have our results of TMA1, I was going to see if anyone wanted to share their TMAs. If just one person wants to swap that will be enough for me, but if there’s interest, I can arrange the swaps.

  2. Rebecca, I think you were well before your time and have more hands-on knowledge and experience of OER than most. You write very well, by the way, and I would willingly read any book you had written. Victoria.

    • Thank you Victoria for the very kind and encouraging words!

  3. This has got me thinking about courses which I have signed up to before, especially when they’re free or really cheap. I wish I had more time to spend on looking at them, but they always tend to fall off my to-do list eventually.

    I think the more successful times that I have made use of OER are when I have found something as and when I needed it, rather than longer courses where I’d have the best intentions of getting around to looking at it at some point.

    • Hi Paddy – hope you are keeping well (and studying hard!). Sorry for my late reply, been battling a rather vicious flu.

      I think you make a great point about an experience of an OER feeling like a success when it’s been something you found as and when needed. Actually in this week’s activities one of the things I have been thinking about is what we frame success and participation in using OERs to be – we can’t just think ‘completion’. If we drop out of an OER longer course but it’s because we went on a fresh tangent or we got we we needed from it surely that is a success but how do we capture that when we are asked to demonstrate the worth of the OER. We are still stuck in a ‘bums in seat’ metric whirlpool!

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