Why open practice?

I gave a presentation recently trying to set out the arguments for engaging with open practice in higher education. I’ve shifted from the “because it’s awesome” argument to a more nuanced one. My starting point is that open practice is a smorgasbord of components from which one selects those parts that you feel most comfortable with and will most benefit your current role. For instance, an academic might be interested in developing a personal online profile, and also in open access. A librarian in open access, OER and an institutional profile. A researcher in open data, licenses and knowledge exchange, etc. However, a smorgasbord is a simplistic metaphor – it’s also a stew of different ingredients and it is difficult to extract one component from another. If you’re in for OER, you get a taste of online identity too. You can probably add your own food metaphor now. The point is that it’s not one thing, and thus we end up talking across a wide range of issues from “should I use Twitter?” to “what are the sustainability models for OER?”.

I presented four arguments about why people working in higher education should at least be aware of open practices:

  • The “get on the bus” argument – this states that openness is happening, you’d best get with it or else you’ll be left behind. I’m not keen on this, vaguely threatening, line of persuasion. We saw this with MOOCs and many university principals I think felt they “get on the MOOC bus or die” pressure. But there is something about a coalescing group of driving factors around openness – funding, mandates, platforms, licences, institutions – that gives weight to the argument that something is happening here that is worthy of attention.
  • The “it’s good for you” argument – I’ve outlined benefits of open approaches elsewhere, and this is what I used to focus on. There are many good reasons for engaging with different aspects of open practice – it’s good fro you, your institution, your project, society as a whole.
  • The “you need to understand this stuff” argument – however, there are downsides to various aspects of open practice. However, having an appreciation of these and how they affect you, your institution and your students (if applicable) is essential as aspects of them may be forced.
  • The “if you don’t control it, someone else will” argument – openness has commercial traction now, and as I’ve written about elsewhere, there are lessons from recent education history here. The LMS, publishing and MOOCs all became controlled by external forces, often to our disadvantage in education.

It may be that you’re involved in similar discussions in your place, so here is the slide deck if it helps:

4 Comments

  1. francesbell says:

    This is great Martin from an advocacy perspective but leaves me wondering what open education practitioners outside the academy would feel about this . They might subscribe to “It’s good for you” or even “you need to understand this stuff”. Really! – this can’t just be about people working in higher education.

    1. admin says:

      I agree Frances – I was giving the presentation to practitioners (academics, librarians, support staff) within a uni, so gave it that focus. Also, that’s what I tend to focus on because it’s what I know – I think different sectors require a knowledge of that area that I couldn’t profess except at some general level, eg secondary ed has quite different needs. Also, it’s a bit of an evolving set, so it’d be good if other added/adapted it

      1. francesbell says:

        And I am sure you did a brilliant job ! but open. educatiion. learning.resources – such an open and exciting space that begs to escape the academy- and is already there in some places eg ravelry.com

  2. […] open teaching practices) as much as I do [in the time I took to write this post, I stumbled upon Martin Weller’s one that clarifies some of these issues as well]. This post is just some sort of brainstorm of reasons […]

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