Open Unis & Open Ed

Sometimes you read a post that encapsulates something you’ve been worrying at for a while. I had such an experience the other day when I read Tannis Morgan’s account of my own inaugural. In it, Tannis asks “But here’s the thing: how many people in the OER community in North America even know that Canada has three open universities, all of which were modelled after the UK Open University? And to what extent are open universities in Canada visibly inserting themselves into the broader open movement?”

The first part of her question is something I have asked more broadly on this blog. Or moaned about anyway, that the open ed movement as more commonly conceptualised in North America (OERs, Open textbooks, MOOCs) is largely ignorant of much of the open education movement that arose elsewhere in the form of open universities. But it is the second part of her question that struck home. Open universities globally have perhaps been guilty of being a bit aloof from engaging in the new emergent open education movement.

And there is mutual benefit in this exchange. For the OER/open ed movement there is much to learn regarding supporting diverse students, widening access to education (what is the aim of open ed after all?), developing education material that can be studied independently, understanding the needs of non-traditional learners, etc. But for open universities there is also much to gain. The new open ed movement has been more technologically driven, and the use of tools such as annotation, open textbooks etc can be used for traditional open ed students too. Similarly, there is innovation around open pedagogy, decolonising the curriculum, student agency, means of improving equity for students, and so on.

Bringing these two variations of open ed together more meaningfully then is worth pursuing. Tannis has done a lot of the heavy lifting in this area, but we can’t leave it all to her. This has helped me frame my own focus for the next phase of my work. As I mentioned an earlier post, I am now the Chair of the Open Degree Programme at the OU. This can be seen as old interpretation open ed, but I think it has potential to bridge into the new version also. Whether that’s the push for adoption of open textbooks, a domain of one’s own, open pedagogy etc in house is yet to be determined, but also the translation of open degree programmes in arenas where it could be a useful device. In short, I’m going to stand around at OpenEd/OER conferences with a badge saying “Ask me about Open Universities” and at Distance Ed conferences with one saying “Ask me about OER”.

One Comment

  1. Fair point Martin. As you say, the Open Universities seem to have hidden their light under a bushel so to speak and lost some of the traction that they once had.

    Openess is when a Fitter becomes a lecturer – thanks OU!

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