Safe spaces and shared interests

With the rest of the OER Hub team I spent last week in Cape Town at the OE Global conference. Prior to every OE Global we run a two day seminar for around 10-15 GO-GN students. If you don’t know the GO-GN, it’s a Hewlett funded project, establishing a global community of PhD researchers in open education. During the two day seminar we bring together some of these to present about their work, share issues, talk about theories, debate methodologies, etc. Many of them then present at the main conference also. The whole motivation for setting up the network was to try and grow the OER research field, and to help many students who were often the only person in their host institution working in this field, which can be an isolating experience.

I think each year we have seen those aims realised to a greater extent, which demonstrates to me that the field is maturing. This year it was a real privilege to be with such an amazing group of researchers. Their research covers many areas of open education – OER usage by teachers, open education practice, critical theories of openness, MOOC learner experience, etc. There is also excellent global coverage. But what really impressed me this year was how the group bonded and used the opportunity to support each other, arranging a Slack channel, setting up ongoing discussions around theoretical frameworks, spending a morning in a quick hackfest, etc.

Beck recorded a lot of the participants talking about the impact GO-GN has for them, the video is below. Two things came out for me in this. The first was how several of them raise the idea that GO-GN is a safe place, where they feel comfortable exploring areas they’re not sure of in their work. A PhD is often a very exploratory process, and although it comes together in the end (usually) there are big basins of self doubt on the path to that goal. The second was how many had found useful connections that have really pull together their work, for example around someone else using a similar method. So, if you’re doing a PhD around OER, OEP, (or know someone who is), then get in touch with us. Next year’s OE Global is in Delft, Netherlands. We have a lot of activity going in inbetween, including our monthly webinar series.

GO-GNers, I salute you!


  1. What a great post about all-that-is-GO-GN, Martin. Thank you, and thanks Bea, Beck, Rob & Natalie for your feedback and support in Cape Town as well as in creating and sustaining this network for so many of us. It has been a joy and privilege to be part of it. Onward! :)

  2. Indeed! Thanks to the OER team! Fabulous people that made it possible to create this safe place were we feel supported and not judged. An opportunity to open up our doubts and preoccupation finding always generous ears and brilliant minds that did shed some light on those not so clear spaces of our research. We had an amazing time together, thank you all for making this possible!

  3. […] this event is just part of a broader programme and network of mutual support. Chrissi Nerantzi and Martin Weller have written wonderful blog posts about the GO-GN Cape Town experience already; mine will follow. […]

  4. Sarah Lambert says:

    Yes, thanks so much. The impact of the people, their generosity with time and ideas, the smarts in the setup and planning, all contributed to an incredible experience. I think we’ll feel the benefits for some time to come. Ideas for collaboration on writing are brewing. :-)

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