reflections and ideas on open and distance learning - by irwin devries

Category: open (Page 1 of 4)

Six weeks with Wiki Scholars

The sun is shining, I’m fully vaxxed, and I think it’s time to get back to the blog. I suspect future digital archaeologists will uncover one of those interesting sedimentary lines in the blogocene indicating a world-wide gap in digital ink production during the Covid-19 Era. Anyhow, that’s the excuse for my extended pause in writing. But onwards.

In open education we’re fixated on authentic and renewable assignments; creating, improving or adapting open educational resources; and embracing digital pedagogies in our teaching and learning. Knowing that, I jumped at in invitation to complete a Wiki Scholars class organized for interested writers through the international GO-GN doctoral candidates research network in open education and hosted in collaboration with WikiEducation. This six-week program provides wiki training with the goal that each participant will create or expand one or more Wikipedia articles on open educational resources. The (virtual) classes were expertly run by Will Kent, a program manager with WikiEducation, and it was great to see many familiar faces from our shared open education networks.

Some members of our Wiki Scholars class

Some things I learned

  • The MediaWiki platform on which Wikipedia is based has improved considerably since my previous involvement with the tool in the early 2010s. In particular, the visual editor makes it much more accessible to non-markup and -code aficionados, and the automated referencing tool is a huge time-saver, especially since there is such a strong emphasis on referencing everything.
  • There is a clear system of policy and guidance on ensuring a reasonable degree of relevance, appropriate tone and quality of articles, including a robust community of volunteers who check articles and maintain the platform in good condition. Some volunteers have done this work for many years. Many of these people are invisible heroes.
  • The platform includes a mind-boggling array of ancillary sites, ranging from Village Pump, Tea House, and WikiFauna to events pages and conferences. Xtools can be used to analyze user activity. Tips on writing better articles and methods to recognize exceptional Wikipedia contributors are just a few examples of the many programs and wiki pages active behind the scenes.
  • The Signpost online newspaper publishes articles about Wikipedia by its editors, with articles that include introspective critiques of Wikipedia itself. An example of a current concern — something that is also discussed more broadly in the field — is a critique of Wikipedia’s epistemology and under-representation of minority authors, thus providing a venue for self-reflection and related scholarship.
  • Wiki Education has a program to support instructors in integrating Wikipedia into course assignments.

What now?

Having gotten closer to Wikipedia over the term of the Wiki Scholars class, I’m now planning to join the many other educators who found ways to incorporate it into their classes. Such exercises not only mobilize knowledge in new ways, but also afford an opportunity to include and explore issues of representation, epistemology, sources of knowledge and other such critical matters in our open educational practices. In addition, I’m thinking about which articles I want to review and add to, and what I want to write next (suggestions welcome BTW).

Speaking of writing articles…

For my project in the program, along with some small edits or additions to an article on OER in Canada, I developed a short article on the Open Learning Institute of British Columbia (OLI). While I blogged about OLI some time ago, one blog post doesn’t compare to a page in Wikipedia given the amount of traffic that passes through Wikipedia. OLI was an important, bold and seemingly forgotten part of the Canadian province of BC’s history in open education that existed from 1978 to 1988 before it transitioned to the BC Open University and Open College, among other components, under the Open Learning Agency (OLA).

Its DNA now lives on at Thompson Rivers University, Open Learning (TRU-OL), and the basic principles espoused by OLI and many of its open education initiatives — as well as new ones — continue to flourish. While this history is not directly connected to the OER theme of the Open Scholars course, OER is a product of open education and related movements, the seeds of which were planted long before the emergence and definition of OER in the early 2000s.

Having worked in various capacities with the original OLI, OLA and, most recently, TRU-OL, I’ve personally experienced the mood and tensions of introducing and maintaining open education approaches that run up against existing structures. Then, as now, open education remains a challenge to closed, proprietary, hierarchical, surveilled and corporatized approaches to higher education.

The article is only an early and frail contribution to this part of BC and open education history, but it’s a start. Over time, I hope to add more research as well as images to the article, but it will take some effort as there is not much out there without digging through archives and print materials in libraries. I welcome any related resources, corrections, additions and other improvements, along with discussions in the talk page.

Research as ceremony: Living a congruent lifestyle

This is the first of a series of short reflections I want to share, based on my live tweets of a streamed session by Dr. Shawn Wilson on indigenous research methodologies. I don’t find this easy, because I have to confess how little I know, how much I need to learn, how much I fear not understanding in the right way, or distorting things through my own European roots and lens of privilege. I’m selecting the tweets to write on as they resonate for me at the moment. The two I bring forward here were breathed into life for me at the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls march in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side today.

Being with the gathering today, seeing the people and the vivid images, hearing the tragic stories of so many Indigenous women and others, yet also feeling the support and strength among those assembled…What is my relationship to this?

…a time of reflection on reality as relationships… …relationality is our reality. Our roles in relationships are our ways of being.

As I understand from Dr. Wilson’s explanation, indigenist research methodologies compel us beyond a research methodology as a technique that can be used at will, to a way of inquiry embedded in the way we live and connect to others and the world around us. A way of seeing the connections between things, people, ideas in a way that changes us. We need to live our research.

“Stages of ceremony–Incorporate into your lifestyle. Bring new knowledge from ceremony in own life and use/share. This is where wisdom comes from. “If your research doesn’t change you, then you haven’t done it right.” Part of the axiology of research.

This stage of the ceremony turns our research lens both outward and inward at the same time and asks us to confront who we are, what our beliefs and philosophies are, and how we live them out before, during and following our research. I’m reminded how easily research can become disconnected, dispassionate, severed from things that matter. I don’t have answers but rather a question to take away: What does this mean for us as teachers, researchers, learners?

Indigenous research methodologies with Dr. Shawn Wilson

These are my Twitter notes from a remote live stream of an indigenous research methodologies session by Dr. Shawn Wilson, held this day at Royal Roads University, which I shared with the knowledge and approval of the facilitators. There’s a lot to unpack here, which I’ll work on at the right time, but for now since I didn’t create a proper Twitter thread I’ve copied them here in a chronological sequence for anyone who might be interested.

* Modified Feb. 14 to add several tweets missed in the original transfer

** All images are screen shots from the presentation.

Traditional Indigenous knowledge is a system of science. Science is the system behind our knowledge. Indigenous peoples would not have survived without science.

What are the four main assumptions behind your research paradigm? Should be easy if you’re a grad student or PhD (paraphrasing)

What philosophy informs your research approach? PhD should = Dr. of Philosophy. But we usually look at other philosophies rather than our own

Not knowing what you believe about your own philosophy & worldview affects your research. Also you are not seeing your own white privilege.

Culture as iceberg – visible culture above and underlying philosophy below the waterline

Beliefs & values are what make “me” Indigenous, not just visible parts of the culture. “Who am I inside?

Research paradigm: Nature of reality, ways of knowing, values, methodology–ways of acquiring knowledge. Ontology–what is real. What is worth researching? What methods are appropriate? Axiology–your values. Who owns the knowledge? Applies to all research.

Research methodology is a reflection of a worldview

State our world is in requires a different way of looking at things. We’re f-ing up the planet.

“Wetigo disease” – Colonialism as psychosis – greed knows no limits, perversion knows no borders, deceit etc. (missed some).

Wetigo disease – description of capitalism

Yowi wanders around aimlessly, can’t see its reflection. Has no skin (i.e. no kinships, relations, accountability).

Laughter scares Yowi away. But recognize the Yowi’s power.

Indigenous research carries some answers.

Audience Q about spirit. A: Personal belief vs religion. Religion top part of iceberg that is visible. Often religions become disconnected from their spiritual base. But mostly related to each other at the core.

Love how Shawn Wilson laughs freely and frequently while he talks.

Indigenist/indigenous. Don’t need to be indigenous to follow an indigenist research paradigm. But also know there’s a different lived experience. It’s the philosophical system you want to follow. But comes with rules to live by.

Lovely picture of family, kids, seniors... Everything around us in relationship. We are accountable to those relationships.

…a time of reflection on reality as relationships… …relationality is our reality. Our roles in relationships are our ways of being.

“Our ways of knowing are based upon relational epistemology”

Live stream comment

“Our ways of being – reciprocal, respectful, responsible”

Why research is a ceremony: Reality is relationships – Space ‘between things’ in relationships is sacred – Stepping between things in relationships enters us into sacred space

Relationships also between ideas, things, abstractions… “Research is a ceremony for building a closer relationship with an idea”

Stages of ceremony: * Live a congruent lifestyle. (e.g.: Live it first, before you start. If doing health research be healthy. If research into environment live an environmentally responsible lifestyle.)

Stages of ceremony * Prepare the space – most western concepts fit in here as well. * Assemble – bring together actors or ingredients (with intention)

Stages of ceremony – * Engage in Ritual: all working / thinking together at the same time. Ritualized manner – repeatable, people know what’s coming next, thinking about the same thing. Miracle will happen. It’s a miracle when you can teach someone anything

Stages of ceremony- * Incorporate into your lifestyle. Bring new knowledge from ceremony in own life and use/share. This is where wisdom comes from. “If your research doesn’t change you, then you haven’t done it right.” Part of the axiology of research

Distinguish between data, knowledge, wisdom (when lived, incorporated into lifestyles)

How to document? Everything from tattoos, artwork, environment – many ways to read and relate to others. Different people trained to read in different ways.

Engaging with the world – not just in nature

You don’t have to be out in the wilderness to see relationships in the environment. Listening to the land.

Audience Q: Thoughts on appropriation? A: Indigenist vs indigenous paradigm, i.e. without claiming indigenous understanding. Can use a belief system without appropriating lived experience. Understand different relationships to the knowledge

All these things affect the products of our research. Paper, widget, whatever we come up with. “Some products can fundamentally change our belief system.” Cycle. That’s why don’t need to be stuck in culture.

I get to understand concepts in a non-language way. Then I need to translate it for people. Then you need to translate my words back into an idea. But if you have different knowledge systems there can be misunderstandings. Different ways to tell a story.

…need cultural bridges

Stalled video stream gave me a chance to take this final screenshot …. Thanks Dr. Shawn Wilson for sharing your Indigenous knowledge and wisdom today.

Dr. Shawn Wilson during a live stream stall

Thanks to Royal Roads University for offering this session. I think we all learned a tremendous amount in this brief time. I should add there are parts of this discussion that I didn’t know how to relate in Tweets, for instance where visioning of relations and a discussion about dimensionalities came into play, with analogies to the delightful Flatland novella. I think you had to “be” there…

As curious observers

I can hardly believe it was already more than two years ago that a small group of us Canadian west coasters had just finished up the OER17 conference in London and were heading to Edinburgh to meet up with a few colleague-friends. We used a brief break in our travels to wander around parts of the city. Along the River Thames I came across a poet-for-hire and commissioned a poem on the topic of being open. I shared this poem in an earlier blog post “I can feel it kicking.”

Well, it’s still kicking. I came across a poet-for-hire today at a farmers market close to home, and commissioned another poem on the same topic: open.

Poet Zaynab Mohammed

Sometimes we try to describe “open” in academic language but somewhere along the way it seems to elude our grasp. The concept, rich, deep and complex, keeps slipping away as we try to chase it down. Sometimes it beckons, and other times it advises care.

In the science fiction movie Contact, scientist Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) tries to describe a mind-boggling celestial event. She finally gives up and says, instead, “They should have sent a poet.”

There must be something about a thoughtfully considered concept of “open” that invites a creative flow of energy and breaks through the clutter, as this new poem is as captivating as the previous one. One part, to me, speaks especially to our efforts as a community to better understand the seemingly inexhaustible meaning of open:

so as curious observers / we learn depth / when we braid our parts / open to the streams

So here it is:

And here’s what it sounds like…

Maybe we need a few more poets.

The Words We Use

OER17 The Politics of Open

The recent #OER17 The Politics of Open conference in London generated more discussions and blogging than most conferences I can recall. The conference blog roundup lists almost 60 links, and a number of those in turn curate or comment on other reflections and archives. It seems issues and questions that have been brewing in the OERniverse over the past few years came to something of a head during those tightly packed two days.

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 11.12.37 AM

The OERniverse explained

A quick scan of the titles reveals such words as serendipity, emotion, heart, privilege, voices, reflections, provocations, identity, personal, political, critical — terms that evoke matters somewhat beyond everyday understandings of open educational resources or practices. I myself didn’t escape the vibe, and had to find an outlet in poetry to begin processing that buzzing noise in my head.

A prominent theme in the discussions involved attempts to work the boundaries of openness toward open/critical pedagogy, extending past the perceived affordances of the 5Rs of Openness and other tools of open education practices such as Creative Commons licensing, which continue play a dominant role in open education practice. This theme has been in play for a while, and one of the more recent examples was Clint Lalonde’s blog post: Does open pedagogy require OER? That’s one of those maddening, deceptively simple questions.

OER-enabled pedagogy

Then, when I was in the middle of writing this post, David Wiley took a stand on the language of “open pedagogy” and “open educational practices,” setting them aside in favour of OER-enabled pedagogy:

OER-enabled pedagogy is the set of teaching and learning practices only possible or practical when you have permission to engage in the 5R activities. – Wiley 2017

This definition is consistent with Wiley’s historical explanation of the 5Rs. For instance, in contrast to the sample of terms from OER17 I noted above, we see language around permissions, permitted activities, free, unfettered, access, copying, personal ownership and control, along with functions that are typically associated with 5R content:

The 5Rs of Openness are about rights

– Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content
– Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
– Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
– Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
– Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend) [emphases mine]. – Wiley 2014

Wiley’s blog tagline “pragmatism over zeal” seals the deal, if you want to get real. Along with the legal/copyright aspects, practical questions of content formats, discoverability, availability to others, and so forth ensue from the 5Rs, as well as pedagogical activities such as non-disposable assignments and reorganizing or transforming content. Interestingly, a little less pragmatically and a little more zeal-fully, any pushback against onerous copyright restrictions in education comes with an underlying ethic of resistance. It’s about sharing, the commons, hegemonies of commercial publishing and textbooks and ed-tech companies. This battle has been going on for a long time and will continue until the sun burns out. The many good things that breaking down such restrictions enables include lower costs to students, more flexibility for faculty, and improved access to learning.

But then too, this is part of a wider history around open/critical pedagogy and open educational practices. In a recent blog post Tannis Morgan delves into the history of openness with some fascinating examples (and with visitor comments that are worth a read too).

Open_education_definition

Open education definition – Friesen 2009

Norm Friesen traces emancipatory and critical-pedagogical precursors of open education to the work of such figures as Gramsci, Benjamin and Friere, and offers a Venn diagram to illustrate intersecting aspects of open education. While copyright is an element, it links with other areas including technology and teaching and learning processes.

Among his key points: “Education generally, and open education in particular are about questioning the world and [its] parameters, and about changing them.” This statement could be seen as a fairly classic description of open/critical pedagogy, and stands in contrast against functionally oriented definitions based on OER.

The 5×5 Rs of Ours

Amidst post-OER17 ruminations in an Edinburgh taxi, Brian Lamb tossed out the idea of finding R words that would extend beyond the original 5Rs of Openness. Words with open/critical pedagogical potential. Resist. Reclaim. Renew. RRrrrrwhatever…. It picked up steam. By the time we arrived at our hotel, we decided to get serious and finish this project here and now.

IMG_5388

Hard at work in the office

Naturally, the best locale for such work is a pub, especially if you are in Scotland, and even more especially if it’s named The Advocate. And when Michelle Harrison dropped by, we were a full-on R-Team.

We excluded most R words that used “re-” as a prefix, since that could include almost anything. We turned to an online Scrabble dictionary to make sure we weren’t unintentionally bypassing useful words. Toward the end, we went through a fairly complicated process of sorting, gleaning, clustering, adding and erasing. There was an unusual amount of scribbled-on paper on the table, given that all three of us prefer to burn up bits and bites rather than trees. In retrospect, we were pretty methodologically sound, given the locale and its primary offerings.

RteamaAs we approached the finish line, we found that the emerging five groups of five words could be clustered into meaningful sequences — open/critical pedagogy learning design patterns, or at least prompts, if you will. For example, the column that starts with “respect” could be used to prompt a learning design of remembrance. Not remembrance in the manner of the reductionistic Bloom’s taxonomy, where memory (for crying out loud) is demoted to the basement of cognitive activity.

michelle

Scribing the Rs

Not that. Think of remembrance as, perhaps, an approach to learning and teaching about Japanese Canadian internments, or the history of residential schools in Canada, or the Komagatu Maru, or so many other histories that call out for critical remembrance:

  • Respect. Begin from that place.
  • Recognize. Try to see it for what it is.
  • Relearn. Don’t stop at what was learned back in school. Dig deeper. Hear the stories.
  • Retell. Share the story with others.
  • Reconcile. Find ways to be part of the healing.

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 12.49.50 PM

Of course this list can change, and there’s no reason to be stuck on one letter. But it was fun to try. Can the 5Rs of Openness be helpful with this type of activity? Certainly. Can they be extended outside the permissions frame? I think so — it just means looking at them differently. So, there are Rs, and there are Rs. And of course, there’s the rest of the alphabet too.

I can feel it kicking

It sounded like this. That’s the clacking of a typewriter operated by a London street poet I hired on a recent sunny afternoon in the Bankside district along the Thames. I was just feeling inspired do something creative in that moment, even if it meant outsourcing the work. After all, I had just visited the Tate Modern gallery with several wonderful colleagues, strolled by the Globe Theatre of Shakespearean fame, and attended the fabulous #OER17 conference in London. But also I was a little jet lagged, which made my poet’s appearance the perfect answer to my creative urges. All he needed from me was a title, and I gave it to him after about two seconds’ thought: “Being Open.” The title came naturally, emerging out of the endless discussions many of us engaged in during and after the conference.

After alternately gazing into the sky and clacking on the typewriter, he tore the sheet from the typewriter’s carriage, read it aloud, and then handed it to me. He seemed quite pleased with it. As for me, I was delighted.

FullSizeRender

Being Open

It captured the right things for me. It fluidly blended boundaries of openness and genesis. It hinted at the promise of careful transparency. It recognized the necessity of opening up to and hearing from others, and suggested new life, new things to come. It seemed perfect for the moment, especially given the boundary-stretching discussions about openness we experienced at #OER17.

I’m sure others will see more, less, or just other things in this poem. But I can feel it kicking.

Ed tech really matters: A reminder

A moment ago I followed a link in a Tweet by Stephen Harlow which he posted in response to a query regarding a learning repository:

The link points to an archived 2004 blog post by Alan Levine that includes a discussion between him and Bruce Landon. This caught my attention, not so much because the topic of the discussion is still very much relevant today, but more so because of Bruce Landon himself. This is Dr. Bruce Landon, a brilliant cognitive psychologist, researcher, college teacher and ed-tech aficionado who was also a close acquaintance of mine at the time of that post.

Back then both we worked in ed tech in neighboring institutions, he at Douglas College and I at the Justice Institute of BC. We collaborated on several ed tech projects, and also he was particularly devoted to increasing accessibility of educational web resources for the visually impaired. I’m sure some ETUG members of that time remember his presentations and challenges to all of us to do better in this area.

Shortly after this time I moved on to something else and, as can sometimes happen, we fell out of contact with one another, not by intent but rather by changing circumstances. The last time I talked to him was when he kindly provided me a reference for the doctoral program that I was just starting.

The link to this eleven-year-old blog post prompted me to look him up, and I learned from a local news item that some years ago Bruce suffered a serious stroke and has been undergoing a long period of rehabilitation. The article also linked to a YouTube video of a recent electronic speech by Bruce to students at Douglas College, which I struggled to view through blurred eyes:

As surprised and saddened as I was to stumble across this news via this strangely circuitous route, it was also humbling and inspiring to see how Bruce is now himself using the very types of technologies he advocated for in his ed tech work. It just reminds me that in spite of the many frustrations we run into, ed tech work really does matter – especially with a reminder that we need to remember accessibility in our work. Thanks Bruce for your inspiration, and I’ll be dropping by soon to reconnect!

Care, or empty chatter – what will it be?

It’s an hour before noon at work on Dec. 24th, and the few people left in the office today are slowly winding down before the office closes at lunchtime. In a cubicle down the hall several children brought in by their parents for the morning are giggling and having fun, while a little farther down the cutest puppy ever is yipping away in an editor’s office. Home-baked goods and chocolates are everywhere. Upstairs on the next floor a potluck lunch is starting and I’m about to head up for a final snack and some friendly chitchat with my colleagues in Open Learning.

Communities everywhere gather around the sharing of food

Communities everywhere gather around the sharing of food

I’ve always appreciated the sense of community in my workplace. Underlying the day-to-day routines I see a lot of collegial respect for learners wrapped around an overtly shared passion for making learning more accessible for everyone.   The atmosphere and ethos are something I never want to take for granted because they grow in communities based on respect, caring and trust. And trust is, seemingly paradoxically, a force that is both incredibly strong and binding, and incredibly fragile once it is broken. I remind myself that one can never understand the breadth of experiences that others have of the same place, and that is the scary thing. The break can happen anywhere, not just over there, but also over here, where we live. Right here. Today.

Against this setting I think about the deeply troubling events that have come to light in the media over the past week at the Dalhousie School of Dentistry, and sadly know that this is only one instance of something that is so much more widespread throughout our society. The sickening trauma to the women who are directly involved, and more widely among all who experience misogyny in countless ways in their day-to-day lives, seems unfathomable. And in this case, as in so many others, incalculable damage has already been done to many and will continue for the foreseeable future, with even more far-reaching effects to come. Communities of all kinds are left shattered.

All our programs, innovations, technologies, papers, presentations and everything else we do in ed tech and open education are empty chatter if we don’t understand that the core of our projects is respect, caring for one another, and building communities. We need to tell ourselves this, speak up boldly when we need to, stay alert, and continue to explore how we all can do our part to both nurture and model that core ethic among our ourselves and our students.

Learning about learning design with learning designs

It was quite an experience to be in a classroom in Otago Polytechnic with the power trio of Sue Bennett, Shirley Agostinho and Lori Lockyer along with a cluster of very obviously experienced curriculum developers and learning designers at #Ascillite2014 in Dunedin, NZ. The workshop, “Learning design techniques and tools,” was a hands-on session in which participants mined a selection of provided sharable learning designs to address learning design challenges of our own making by means of design sketches using a set of basic symbols and notations. After preliminaries, participants paired up for 20 minute design sprints and reported back an array of extremely interesting and creative design representations that addressed some fairly complex design problems.

The history of learning designs as patterns that can be represented in some way and then shared with others either to copy or to use generatively as inspiration for new designs goes back to the early 2000s, when learning object enthusiasts started running into brick walls. I.e., these objects are pretty and all, but how do we string them together into meaningful sequences? And if learning objects are to be more than just simple media resources, how is their implicit learning design to be described using metadata? Many sharable learning design initiatives came and went over that period and it would take more than a quick blog post to recount those stories here. I think many of the initiatives became entangled in debates about learning design models and metadata, and in concurrent efforts to tie learning design representations to complex design tools including those that would produce digital learning pathways with runnable code, that simply weren’t sufficiently usable and nuanced to allow for the types of adaptations that are made when learning designers work generatively off others’ documented designs. A brief overview of learning design issues can be found in the Larnaca Declaration, which was promulgated in 2012. (While “Declaration” seems a little somber for a discussion on learning designs, I do love Larnaca and I can’t think of a better place to proclaim one.) One item in particular of note in the Declaration is the concept that learning designs themselves can (and do) become OERs for others to use repurpose.

Back to the workshop: I appreciated the simplicity of the sharable learning design concept as implemented in the session: low-tech tools used to spark collaboration and quick design sketches by experienced designers and developers. The process brings to the foreground a lot of interesting questions such as, Ok here’s an artifact created by learners – what now? Is it just a make-work project for points? Where does it go? Where and how could others use it? What activities do we build around it? What support is needed  and where would it come from? How is it connected with the bigger purpose of this learning event? Where are the gaps in this design?

Design sketch

Beyond the immediate design setting, I can also see how such design representations can be used to mentor novice instructional designers and faculty in the creative practice of learning design, expose how the various pieces need to interconnect, and provide a mechanism to consider and discuss which technologies may be most helpful in the implementation of the designs. With the design challenges facing educators engaged in emerging approaches and technologies, more than anything we need creative learning design methods and tools based on sharing and collaboration. And ideally, ones that are simple, intuitive, inspirational, lightweight, sharable and open.

An open agenda

Two years ago I attended the inaugural meeting of OERu (Open Education Resource university) founding institutional partners at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, New Zealand. I was excited at the prospect of meeting people from around the world whose institutions were willing to step out and sign on to such a nontraditional project. I was also keen to visit this charming country, as it was my first time there.

Earlier that year, Paul Stacey had written a reflection in which he imagined a University of Open, a concept that “synthesizes multiple ‘open’ initiatives into a common core operating principle that defines the university and the education it provides.” These initiatives included use of open source software for administration and teaching, building programs from OERs developed internally or elsewhere, adoption of open access publishing, implementing principles of open data and government, and use of open pedagogies.

One of the many comments was from Wayne Mackintosh of the OER Foundation, where he invited Paul to participate in an upcoming meeting in Dunedin. Work there had already been under way for some time to develop a likeminded concept, the OERu, which was intended to integrate multiple open practices under one roof. A discussion co-facilitated by Paul and Wayne was set up in BCcampus’s SCoPE to develop the OERu concept further and was followed by the most recent meeting of partners – the one in New Zealand I mentioned at the beginning of the post. A lot has happened since then.

Soon another meeting of OERu partner institutions will take place at Thompson Rivers University, my home institution. As before there will be options for both virtual and F-F participation. A discussion to plan the agenda is taking place in SCoPE again and is open to all. There is indeed much to talk about especially since the higher education landscape has changed so massively in the past two years.

Having an open discussion about the agenda is just one of many reasons I enjoy the OERu concept – gutsy, grassrootsy, based mainly on volunteerism, an authentic mission that is not driven by a profit motive, and a commitment to being open in as many ways as possible. It’s a refreshing change from the growing array of initiatives riding the “open-but-not-really”  bandwagon currently careening through the higher education landscape.

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