Toru on “the main tenet of open education”

Toru Iiyoshi recently made a great post about the main tenet of open education. Here are a few of my responses:

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,

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.