An OpenEd Conference Update

After two amazing keynotes at #OpenEd19 this morning, I read the following statement to conference attendees:


In 2003 I invited a small group of about forty people interested in open content and open courseware to Logan, Utah. Since then, this annual meeting has grown year after year to where we are today – 850 people interested in everything from open educational resources and open educational practices to sustainability and social justice. This annual conference has been a remarkable forum for the community to meet, share ideas, and foster collaborations, and the conference community is larger and more diverse than ever before. 

With that growth comes change. That little meeting I convened 15 years ago has evolved organically in a way that has served the community fairly well. However, as currently constituted, the conference does not leverage all the energy, enthusiasm, passion, and leadership ability in our increasingly large and increasingly diverse community. And so the time has come for us to reconsider, as a community, how we wish to organize ourselves, learn from each other, and collaborate with one another. 

In order to make the necessary space for that conversation, this year’s Open Education Conference is the last I plan to organize. As of this Friday afternoon the conference will be adjourned indefinitely. This is not a call for another person or organization to come forward to keep the same conference running the same way into the future. 

Rather, it’s a call to reset and start over. To go back to the drawing board – as a community – and critically examine all of our assumptions about conferences, to grapple with a range of ideas about how we want to learn from and collaborate with each other, and to talk frankly about our end goals and guiding values. And when something like a consensus starts to emerge, the community can choose what to do next. To borrow a phrase, this is an opportunity to revise and remix what is, honestly, a very traditional academic conference, into something – or some things – far better.

This reimagining must be owned by the community. It must be driven by the community. And it would be inappropriate for me to try to facilitate that process beyond extending a brief invitation. And so I invite all of you to use the breaks, lunches, dinners, and other free time you have here in Phoenix to engage in this critical reimagining and to explore with one another the possible shapes future meetings of our community – or communities – might take. I expect this will be a difficult, messy, and at times even painful process. But most things worth doing are.

On a personal note, I want to thank the hundreds of people who have made the conference incredible over the years by presenting, reviewing proposals, convening sessions, volunteering at the information desk, and in countless other ways. Thank you to our Program Committees. Thank you to our sponsors. Thank you to Utah State University, Brigham Young University, BCcampus, and Lumen Learning for serving as the conference’s fiscal agents and logistics leads over the years. Most of all, thanks to each of you. Thank you for giving a bit of yourself to this community, for building each other up, and for moving the work forward. And, as always, thank you for everything you do for students.