Stuck in the middle with . . . open #oepsforum14

During her ALT-C keynote this year, Catherine Cronin quoted Michael Apple , reminding us that “education is inherently an ethical and political act”.  Both Catherine and her fellow keynote Audrey Watters gave a rallying call for us all to create our own narratives and provide an alternative to the emerging and dominant (neoliberal) narratives around education.  Yesterday at the OEPS forum, Martin Weller also brought up the need to create new narratives, particularly in relation to open education, in his “Battle for Open” keynote.

I’ve written before about my concerns about who can afford to be open, and again it was in the context of the OEPS project. I don’t want to revisit that, however I think there is a danger that the lasting narrative of this project could be subsumed into the larger narrative of the OU. This worries me.  Not because I think that the OU shouldn’t have its own narrative around open education. It has, and continues to do excellent work around opening up access to education and resources. It’s more a niggling fear that a project which states:

“The Opening Educational Practices in Scotland project facilitates best practice in Scottish open education. We aim to enhance Scotland’s reputation and capacity for developing publicly available and licenced online materials, supported by high quality pedagogy and learning technology.”

doesn’t really seem to be able to articulate (yet) how this Scottish narrative is going to be created, shared and be distinct from the wider OU story.

I think an opportunity was missed yesterday to have more a more constructive dialogue with people working in Scotland and to start joining up a few dots about what is/has happening and how the project could play a really effective role in supporting practice.

I do feel for the project team as they are really caught in the middle of a Political ( and I think this is a case of a capital P) decision to give a substantial amount of funding to the OU, and not to other Scottish institutions or indeed to the grass roots movement of Open Scotland who have worked in a largely unfunded capacity to raise the profile of open education in Scotland.

I know it is still early days for the project, but I think that there are a number of things that they could do to mitigate some of the uncertainty, and to an extent unease, that I (and I suspect some others) have about the project. And surprise, surprise, open is the key.

The project has an opportunity to really push the boundaries in terms of open governance.  A number of institutions are on the project steering group. So, why not have names of the members and perhaps a short statement on their particular interests in open education and their hopes for the project/ways they think they will be involved?  Let’s see steering group minutes on the website too. The project is also reporting to Universities Scotland, let’s have any updates share on the website too.  Why not take a leaf out of the OER Research Hub and have an open project evaluation framework on the website?  Again I’m sure the project are working on their evaluation criteria, but there is an opportunity to involve the wider community in this part of the project too. In terms of sustainability and sustaining change in practice having commonly agreed and shared evaluation criteria is really important. They could be the bedrock for the many narratives that the project could support.

And just because it’s been running round in my head  – here’s that song.

6 thoughts on “Stuck in the middle with . . . open #oepsforum14”

  1. Another cracking post Sheila! The question “who can afford to be open?” is reverberating around my brain making different connections – thanks.
    Having retired – I am no longer stuck in the middle of HE (but a big Stealers Wheel fan) and doing/looking at MOOCs has helped me to focus on the learner, and more importantly, the could-be and turned-off learners and hopefully they will have multiple routes to learning and lots of volunteer labour to help them if they wish (giving and receiving). Open resources (not just MOOCs) are key to community organisation and individual networking that stands outside formal education – open or not.

    1. Thanks Frances, and yes the OEPS is hoping to work with community and other 3rd sector organisations so there is a real opportunity here. The cost of open tho’ still vexes me so look out for more posts around that

  2. Great post, Sheila — and many thanks for the mention. I’m only just learning about the OEPS (via tweets this week and your blog posts), but your post seems to be a clear call for open practices — and this is surely A Good Thing. In all of the debates about the definition of openness, there seems to be relative consensus about the different interpretations (e.g. open=free; open licensing/OER; open practices; open “way of being”; etc.). To expect open practices (including open governance) of a project focused on “best practices in open education” seems wholly appropriate.

    Like Frances, I’m very interested in how openness provides opportunities for for connecting/learning/working across boundaries and sectors (e.g. schools, universities, communities, NGOs, individuals, etc.). Asking the tough questions re: governance, funding, etc. is hugely important — so please keep speaking and writing like this. The new narratives are yet to be written.

    I was reading Keri Facer earlier tonight (Learning Futures, 2011) and one of her final quotes seems appropriate here: “The future is not certain. The socio-technical developments of the next 20 years will not evolve smoothly and inevitably along one predictable trajectory. They will emerge messily and unevenly out of the aspirations, struggle and compromises between different social actors. We cannot determine the future that will unfold. We can, however, create schools that are public spaces and democratic laboratories that can play a powerful role in tipping the balance of that change in favour of sustainable futures for all of our students.” Seems like a statement which applies to building the future of open education as well. Happy to be toiling alongside you 🙂

    1. Thanks for this Catherine. There a lot of smart people involved with the project so hopefully they are thinking along these lines but I think it’s up to the rest of use to keep asking questions as openly as possible. This has the potential to be something unique and I just want to make sure that happens

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