Open ed as the anti-disruption

I keynoted at the Research and Innovation in Distance Education Conference , which has the theme “Examining Disruptive Innovations in Distance Education”. I didn’t actually attend in the end, because I had a (completely normal for this time of year) cough, and didn’t want people panicking if I had a coughing fit on stage. My apologies to anyone who was hoping to see me there (I know, it’d be a select group) and thanks to the organisers for letting me give my keynote remotely.

Now, you’ll know that disruption is not my thing. Initially I was asked to talk about how open ed (in different forms) may be disrupting higher ed, but I chose instead to talk about open ed as an alternative to the disruption narrative. My talk went something like this:

Disruption is not your friend. As I’ve argued on this blog before, disruption is a poor model for education, and leaves a dangerous legacy. But language is important, and merely talking about disruption frames the type of solutions we see as viable. So instead we should look for theories or approaches that promote aspects and values we want to see in higher ed, such as:

  • Cooperation
  • Focused on problems
  • Learner centric
  • Seeking to support educators
  • A better fit with education
  • Emphasise social justice

Open education as alternative. And I proposed open education offers one way of realising these. I then set out a number of aspects of open education, including open universities, OER, MOOCs, OEP, open access publishing, open pedagogy etc. For each of these you can see how they could link to the values above.

Open isn’t enough. Because it’s a time limited talk, I’m presenting a rather uncritical view of open ed, so I do at least acknowledge the issues, including:

  • Cultural imperialism
  • Openwashing
  • Open source communities
  • Neo-liberalism
  • Academic labour

Simply being open isn’t enough, you need to actively try to make it work to realise the values. But addressing these in detail is a separate talk.

The language we use is important What I want people to take away from this one is that terms like disruption carry implicit values and many negative connotations for education. So we should be critical of its use in ed and consider if other models might be better, of which openness might be one, but the main point is that other views are possible.

And lastly, not to be opportunistic and make everything coronavirus related but we are seeing this week how cooperation is important. Disruption is inherently against cooperation and the current crisis demonstrates why it is ultimately a poor model.

Here is my presentation anyway:

And here is a recording of the online presentation:

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