The open education sin bin – more open washing for #oer15

Blue rubbish bins in a circle(image:

As part of the research/preparation/blind panic for my #oer15 keynote I’ve been having a closer look at the origins of open washing and in particular greenwashing.  The seven sins of greenwashing website defines greenwashing as

“the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service”

As many have pointed out, there are many similarities with open education. Just replace environmental with open and that definition works well.

Maybe it’s just my inner Presbyterian guilt, but I have also been slightly obsessed with their seven sins of greenwashing.  These are the sin(s) of:

  • the hidden tradeoff
  • no proof
  • vagueness
  • worshipping false labels
  • irrelevance
  • lesser of two evils
  • fibbing

Again lots of parallels with open education practice/resources/products/platforms.

The theme of #oer15 is mainstreaming,  religious connotations such as sin are, I think, very detrimental to mainstream practice. Sometimes you do have to scare people into action – particularly when you are trying to save the planet – but for every day educators, I feel we have to be a bit more realistic in the trade offs we make in relation to open education.  Surely it is better to do a little openly than nothing at all because you are too frightened of doing the wrong thing and the OER police coming to get you.

So whilst I hold no truck with fibbing, no proof, vagueness, irrelevance I think we have to engage somewhat with “worshipping false labels” and a lot with “the lesser of two evils”. I know that practically every day I make a trade off with the lesser of two or even three evils.  Does that make me a sinner, less of an open practitioner?  I don’t think so. Does it make me think about my practice and how I could use more open, open stuff? Yes, of course it does.

Mainstreaming is about compromise which can be frustrating but open is still a scary word to some people and a little trade off can led to some big gains later down the line.  Perhaps it’s all a bit Star Wars where we have to see things “from a certain point of view” but again that’s what mainstreaming is all about.

I’ll be sharing more next week in Cardiff – so please hold off  striking me down with lightning bolts until then. if you have any thoughts, please let me know in the comments.

7 thoughts on “The open education sin bin – more open washing for #oer15”

  1. I am not quite sure how you would categorise it but Beale’s list reveal that ‘fake’ OA publishers appear to be a booming business (from 18 to 693 in 4 years). I know that Beale’s list has attracted some criticism but I have found it very useful to check out those invitations to publish that appear in the email.
    I am committed to publish Open Access if possible and can’t afford to pay article charges and so I am always on the look out for genuine OA publishers.
    My own personal view is that a danger for Open Education and Open Access is a sort of missionary zeal (to follow up your religious theme) and see Openness as generally desirable but sometimes paradoxical. Anyway, better stop before I get into a preaching rant:)

    1. Thanks Frances, yes I share your fear of that missionary zeal whilst at the same time not wanting to support anything that makes false claims or actually charges for open access publishing for example. I’m just really trying to be open and share things before my talk. Thanks for not ranting:-)

    2. I think it is definitely great to publish open access, but how open is it when you have to pay massive APCs for the privilege, in order to continue to subsidise corporate profits. Yes, it is more open than completely closed, but seems to me there are elements of openwashing with that business model. Another lovely term for fake open initiatives that I came across when preparing a presentation on open practices is ‘fauxpen’. I tend to be more concerned by this trend of wrapping oneself in the flag of openness, than by the missionary zeal of those who want everything open, but maybe that’s just me.

  2. Hi Sheila,

    Thank you for sharing some of your thoughts around mainstreaming open ed. My big question is, if it is always appropriate or we just follow blindly what everybody else is doing… and feel lost as many open learners do?

    See you next week 😉

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