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Why Open Matters – thoughts from activity 1

This has been an interesting start to the course.

I enjoyed Stephen Downes scene-setting video, given his significant inputs into the theory of connectivism, I was not surprised to see him evangelising about the importance of sharing. As I blogged earlier (The classroom…) I am still unsure whether everyone is as willing or able to embrace the online as the sole, or even primary arena for learning. I think it is important to differentiate between the consumption of knowledge (which can be a very private thing) and the contribution of knowledge as you struggle with concepts online.  For many, making the latter anything but private may be a step too far. Steve Wheeler’s (@timbuckteeth) earlier words of encouragement to go public have spurred me on to write this posting. He lauded the process of blogging as helping to refine his thinking. That may be true, and helpful for the individual, but I still wonder how transferable that journey is to another learner – are all the twists and turns really more informative than the final lucid prose?

The next big star rolled out was Desmond Tutu. Another evangelist, this time we were treated to his warm voice encouraging us to adopt open source software and worldwide sharing to overcome inequality.  He poured scorn on patents and I was unsure whether there was a subtext that some laws should be ignored if they get in the way of learning. This theme was also picked up in the course’s Fair and Reasonable Practice survey. I like things for free and have contributed my time and skills to several open source projects, but I don’t see them as the only solution.  Unless institutions that benefit from open source software get better at contributing regularly to their maintenance, then there is a risk that the coders and testers will founder as “the day job” gets in the way.

That said, it is not all doom and gloom. It has been very useful to see the course practice what it preaches and make use a range of content made available under creative commons licences – such as the excellent guide to reflective writing from UNSW, Australia. I think there is a lot of scope for sharing at the individual level, helping individuals avoid re-inventing wheels. If money is a barrier to that and openness can at least sometimes help reduce that, then who can argue against that?

Image credit: opensource.comhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/5537457391/

4 thoughts on “Why Open Matters – thoughts from activity 1”

  1. Malcolm – a valid point. Open is not the only solution – its part of an evolving ecosystem to improve efficiencies and learning in the higher education sector.

    For us at the OERu – our mission is to widen access to more affordable education for those excluded from the tertiary education sector. As a philanthropic collaboration, of necessity our courses are based solely on OER – its the only way we can provide free learning opportunities in a sustainable way. Where possible, we assemble courses from existing OER and open access materials rather than authoring from scratch which generates economies for the model. Our courses are mapped to official courses on the books of our partner institutions which enables us to offer formal credit through the OERu network.

    1. Wayne, thanks for taking the time to comment. I have to say that of the five (possibly six) MOOCs I have taken part in so far, this is one of the best. I mean that because there has been a clear emphasis on contribution and “learning by doing” –sensu John Biggs. It manages to tread a difficult line – provide a lot of supportive material if required (e.g. the guides to setting up blogs) without this obscuring the main task – engaging in the debate. I am looking forward to the next activity 🙂

  2. Hello Malcolm. This is my first reply to #OCL4Ed but I must say that I am enjoying reading the different styles of post. I share your thoughts that promoting the use of OERs is not all doom and gloom. But I am conscious that I have an employer who compensates me for the development of any material that I produce. I wonder when the tipping point will occur?

  3. I am also enjoying the insights from other people’s postings. I came across Alastair Creelman’s blog. He posted about a speech in the UK by Lord Putnam who contrasts the willingness to embrace change in the schools sector with an apparent conservatism amongst HE staff. He cites an exchange of over a million lesson plans by teachers on one day in January. Could that be a tipping point for the school sector?

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