openness,  Presentation

The open ed landscape


I gave a presentation for the Disruptive Media Learning Lab in Coventry last week. This year I’m trying to do new talks each time (I’ve another post on that), and was asked to give a talk to an audience who weren’t that aware of issues of openness in education. So I tried the metaphor of thinking of different places on a map. This gave me:

  • Open access – a well developed, sustainable city with infrastructure
  • OERs – a friendly, well populated town, that could expand into a city, or may just stay the way it is. Has nice schools.
  • MOOCs – these are reminiscent of the ‘ghost cities‘ in countries such as China. They have been developed quickly, and they may become populated over time, or they may remain largely empty
  • Open educational practice – stretching my metaphor here, my argument was that this is a very mixed, broad category that is really about people, so think of it as a large open market on the outskirts of a city
  • Open data – the metro system in a city that keeps everything flowing
  • Open citizenship – open education takes place amidst a broader context of open citizenship, so we should view this as the overall map or landscape.

Using this analogy allows some comparisons between the various areas in the open ed landscape. For instance some were more formalised and others more experimental and some are more fragile and others more robust. But there are common elements between all of them, which make them part of this landscape:

  • Enabled by the network – obvious but digital technology drives all of these areas, so we have to understand the key aspects of the digital, networked environment
  • Reallocation of resources – many of the models rely on spending money or using time in different ways, for example in producing open content rather than purchasing copyrighted works.
  • Practical benefits of open – they bring the practical benefits of openness to the fore, eg more citations, different learning approaches
  • Sharing as default – the base assumption underlying them is that sharing stuff is the starting point
  • Moral argument – there is often an ethical dimension to the arguments for adopting an open approach

Like all metaphors (at least all of my metaphors) it is flawed and only takes you so far, but I feel there is more to explore in it. And yes, I am considering a Game of Thrones version.

Slidedeck is below:


  • Howard Scott

    I’ve written about metaphors on my blog before. Helpful as allegories and signposts, but not so much for critical realism or drilling down to abstracts.

    Interesting post, and I especially like some claims that resonate with my own research: particularly ‘sharing’ and ‘networks’ as cohesive and orientating, respectively. In saying that, I think with ‘Open’ we may be in danger of conflating resources and processes as impersonal – analysing the social and emotive presence is key.

  • Dominik Lukes

    I think the MOOCs as ghost town is only apt from the perspective of an insider trend setter. I’d say it’s more of a once trendy bar about which you say ‘Nobody goes there any more, it’s too crowded.’ Maybe MOOCs are not the ‘future’ of education (and certainly not of pedagogical innovation) but they are reaching lots of people who don’t care about educational ideology – they just like the opportunity to access some content of interest without any commitment or pressure. And I see loads of MOOCs (not on pedagogical content) being run again and again, so their publishers must be seeing some success. Another possible metaphor could be IBM – who ever hears about IBM any more – or buys them, yet they turned a once exciting new futuristic business into a sustainable but incredibly boring one (sort of like Udacity – of course, they somehow undermine my metaphor with Watson, so it would have been more apt 2 years ago – but who knows, maybe MOOCs will have their Watson moment).

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