Improving the Open Education Conference

This morning I sent the following email to the 2,253 subscribers to the Open Education Conference mailing list. I extend the same invitation to you.

My apologies in advance for the length of this email, but I hope you’ll agree the subject warrants it.

The work of the open education community is so important that we must leverage every resource available to better support student learning and success. The Open Education Conference is one of those resources. And it can be better. It needs to be better. How we can use the conference to its fullest potential in order to catalyze and facilitate more, better, and deeper learning for all students – particularly for those students who are the least likely to succeed without the work we are doing?

There are an infinite number of ways to approach this question. But I am confident that each of them envisions a conference which is more diverse, equitable, inclusive, and participatory – an event that is more open – than OpenEd has been in the past. There is simply no way the conference can reach its full potential without engaging the passion, energy, ideas, and commitment of the full community. Every person. Every viewpoint. Every voice.

And let’s be honest – the conference hasn’t done this very effectively in the past.

There were amazing keynotes and conversations at the conference this year addressing this question and related issues. I was particularly inspired by Cathy Casserly’s idea of a “listening tour” in which she proactively sought out ideas, criticisms, and suggestions about the broader open education community as well as the OpenEd Conference, including thoughts about how it has missed the mark and how it can be improved.

As I listened during the conference, I heard the full range of comments from “this has been the best conference of my professional career” to “we must make significant changes to better reflect the values of our community and include those we mean to serve.” I believe it’s possible for both of those statements to be true and that what’s essential right now is to listen, and then engage.

The idea of a listening tour where I might attempt to listen to every person, every viewpoint, and every voice in the open education community is truly daunting. And yet there is no acceptable rationale for sampling in the context of a desire to strengthen the conference’s commitment to every person, every viewpoint, and every voice. But where to begin?

There are 2,253 people who have attended one of the fourteen OpenEd conferences and have chosen to remain subscribed to the conference email list. (You receive the opportunity to unsubscribe with each year’s informational email about the upcoming conference. You have that option again at the bottom of this message.) If you’ve received this email, you’re one of those 2,253 people.

Would you please – please – be willing to take a few minutes to share your thoughts about how future Open Education Conferences can be more diverse, equitable, inclusive, participatory, and open in order to better support us all in the critically important work of helping our students be more successful? There are two ways you can help:

1. The first way you can help is to answer a few questions about the conference. Your answers can be as short or as long as you like. Your answers are completely anonymous. I hope you will be as brutally honest as you feel comfortable being in questions asking you to critique the conference. And I hope you will bring all your creativity and imagination to questions asking about the future of the conference. If you choose to permit it, your anonymous answers will be shared openly. If you prefer your answers to remain private, they will.

2. The second way you can help is to have a brief (30 minutes maximum) phone or Skype conversation. If you’re willing to talk, I want to listen. My commitment to you is that I will talk to each and every person willing to give of their time to help make the conference better. Every person. Every viewpoint. Every voice. If you’re willing to talk, please submit your name and email address so I can reach out to schedule a time with you.

While I wait for you to respond, I’ll be reading the 6500+ tweets tagged #OpenEd17 and the many blog posts they include.

Thank you for your commitment to students and for all that you do for them. And thank you for your commitment to open education and the Open Education Conference. I’m incredibly excited to hear what you have to say and I’ll report back regularly on what I’m learning.


David Wiley, PhD
Founder and Steward
Open Education Conference

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