A difficult thing, this openness craze. I see my kids, and their friends, sharing material on social media I would never even consider sharing, let alone openly. On Facebook people write about and share humongous amounts of quite personal and incredibly uninteresting things. At the same time people seem increasingly secretive about some things and kids at school shower wearing underpants or don’t shower at all. Makes me think of a line from “Sound of Music” (a great film from 1965): “When God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window” except I think here it may be the other way around: When God opens a window, somewhere he closes a door. A need to preserve some aspects in a tiny private corner?
Where I work there has always been an openness in the sense that if you are going to teach something for the first time and somebody else has done it before, you are welcome to borrow files and use any material you like. Among teachers attending our courses the question of ownership and copyright is brought up intermittently. I’ve never heard it the other way around “imagine what I would be able to gain if I used and developed existing material and shared it openly” – largely I think because you have to experience for yourself real benefits of open practices and still many of the colleagues haven’t.
Weller & Anderson (2013) refer to Holling’s definition of resilience from his paper on the stability of ecological systems: ‘a measure of the persistance of systems and their ability to absorb change and disturbance and still maintain the same relationships between populations or state variables’. On a great many levels open educational practices clash not only with personal convictions but also with existing rock-steady structures in HE; financing, assessment and orientation towards fixed “outcome sums” to name a few, as mentioned by Kop et al (2011). The shift in educational practices and delivery of education of any kind that will be necessary is bound to be a tough nut to crack, but as more and more people see the advantages it will eventually come about, sluggishness or not on the part of HE institutions.
One web-based course that I’m presently involved in, LATHE – Learning And Teaching in Higher Education, is run through LUVIT, one of the fourteen (yes, fourteen) different LMS’s presently in use at Lund University. LUVIT was created at LU and has been around for quite some time. We have had problems retaining LATHE participants with drop-out rates around 30%, but lately a real effort has been made to improve support from facilitators. This seems to have made a real difference, judging from course evaluation and decreasing drop-outs. However, certain functionalities are not available in LUVIT, like notifications when someone comments on a post, and the whole layout is unfriendly and unintuitive. So, in the end we may be migrating the whole course to something completely different to increase the sense of openness and better the conditions for collaboration.
The lonely bird perched on a telephone wire makes me think that a few weeks ago I had never taken part in a flexible online open course (and hardly knew they even were out there more than as distant concept, like MOOC), where as now I have earned a first set of wings and can fly whereever I like…