Thinking About Open

Note: This is an off topic #openlearning17 post.

This week I have found myself immersed in conversations about #OER, and the question of open vs. free keeps raising its head. As my colleagues work on their projects, they are getting swamped with trying to find the right content, and the temptation to go to free but not open is strong. And I get it. It is tempting when confronted with something you don’t feel confident about to go with the most concrete feature and focus your efforts there.

Reducing costs for students is a concrete goal.  There are direct strategies, and straighter

photo by samantha streamer veneruso CCBY 4.0

lines to that end. But open pedagogy feels harder because it is a bigger shift for some. If the emphasis on free, there isn’t as much of a challenge to shift instruction as the emphasis is more on how can I keep doing what I am doing but with free to students materials instead. It is a trade scenario.

For me, my dive into OER is about pedagogy and having materials that encourage and enable me to set up opportunities for students to learn  in ways I think are beneficial– and it allows the flexibility and freedom to let the students have a lot of control and leadership in that learning experience as well. It is a more challenging approach for some.  But I think the desire to move in that direction is there among many of my colleagues, but they are put off by feeling overwhelmed.

My struggle this week is that I am constrained by requirements and a process that inhibits my ability to let the awareness and understanding of open pedagogy grow organically. Instead, I have to relay requirements and expectations which I think makes people feel like dropping to the lowest common denominator and focus on the concrete.

Next week, I have the first in a three series professional development session with faculty focused on teaching in a digital age. The goal in this series is to model and practice this idea of open and connected learning while considering what teaching in a digital age means and what our responsibilities to students are.  I am so far in the weeds this week, I am feeling vulnerable and not confident that I can pull off the shift.



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