Friday, 17 July 2015

Open education - FOS Day 5

So here we are - at the final day of FOS, and the final scenario. This time it's about the concept of open education. The scenario presents an academic who feels uncomfortable about making his material available freely. He has devoted a great deal of time and effort to producing the material for the benefit of his students, and he doesn't feel it is fair that someone else should just be able to come along and use his material 'off the peg'. He feels that they should create their own materials, just as he has done.

I have encountered this view so often in my academic career, and I have to confess that I have even held similar views myself in the past. I can even recall colleagues speculating that external examiners only took on the role so that they could see how things were done at other institutions and steal all the good ideas!!

Fortunately I realised some time ago that the benefits of being open far outweigh the perceived disadvantages associated with loss of ownership. If you are willing to share your resources then you can benefit from access to other peoples resources. Furthermore, by making your resources openly available, you subject them to scrutiny which can lead to enhancement of those resources. So - the concept of openness is based on mutuality. However, this openness will always be susceptible to abuse. What do we do about that? I think the answer is .... nothing! If some people just take your resources but give nothing in return - so what? Yes - they have gained something, but have you lost anything? In my view you haven't. You still have those resources. Intleectual property issues can be adequately addressed by Creative Commons licenses.

For me, once I had accepted this viewpoint, it changed my outlook with regard to openness.

I have become increasingly interested in open education practices over the past few years. I took part in a JISC-sponsored project a few years ago to produce a set of open education resources (OERs) for the built environment. The project was called ORBEE (Open Resources for Built Environment Education) and I contributed three learning packages in the field of Building Adaptation and Conservation. I've just checked the website, and sadly it no longer appears to be live, so I can't link to it. My involvement with the project really raised my awareness of the whole OER scene, and the use of Creative Commons licenses.

I have also taken part as a learner in two MOOCs. One was an Irish History MOOC run by Trinity College, Dublin under the Future Learn banner, and the other was the Carpe Diem MOOC which Gilly Salmon ran at Swinburne University in Australia. These were very different experiences with quite different levels of engagement, but both were interesting in their own ways.

I would like to explore open education practices in more detail. I'm currently working my way through Martin Weller's book (The Battle for Open) and it is a useful foundation to explore the area.

I'm afraid I don't have time to create anything today, as this is my last day before going on leave and I'm trying to tie up loose ends. However, I will highlight a fantastic open resource which I recently discovered. It brings together a wide range of creative resources. I like to use a lot of images in presentations, and the photography resources available here are absolutely brilliant. It's called Makerbook 


  1. Hi Tony,
    Just quick comment to say how much I enjoyed reading your posts all week. A kindred spirit when it comes to 'learning design'. Enjoy your holiday.

  2. Tony,

    I too have been enjoying and appreciating your posts. In my experience, the fear my colleagues express around sharing is the fear that they'll get found out for distributing copyright materials to their students. The copyright policy at my institution rather reinforces that fear by emphasising what you can't do rather than educating us on how we could exploit open resources and benefit from Creative Commons and other open-use licenses.