“Education is inherently an enterprise of openness”
In his 2010 Lecture at TEDx, David Wiley contends that the notion of openness is built into the enterprise of education. “Open” as in open content, open textbook, or open source means sharing. Education, likewise, is about sharing in the spirit of generosity. In this sense, education is essentially open. Wiley further compares the shift to open education to leaving behind the childish behavior of screaming “it’s mine”.
Openness and sustainability
But one does not need to be childishly selfish to be concerned about getting one’s work recognized or simply making a living from it. The copyright laws were originally created to encourage creative ideas allowing writers and artists to make a profit from their creativity and efforts. In his book Digital Scholar, Martin Weller has also discussed ways how the work of academics sharing their ideas via blogs, wikis, and videos can be measured and rewarded. Likewise, academic institutes offering free content need to be sustainable.
Wiley and Johansen’s research, A sustainable model for opencourseware development, addresses the last point. Through examining the costs for opening existing distance content in Brigham Young University and the number of paid enrollments using Google analytics and browser cookies, the study shows that open content courses is financially feasible and can sustain itself without outside funding.
Now, why doesn’t opening the content decrease enrollment? Why do the students still take the course even when the content is open? Even if the content is incredibly rich and attractive, why pay for things that are freely offered? Most likely in this case that the students are paying for the certificates or degrees.
But in a world where education content is open, how important are certificates and degrees from the academic institutes? Or rather, how important are academic institutes? And how important are learning outcomes?
Openness and deinstitutionalization
In the Open Course Wars, Wiley envisions the state of the OpenCourseWare movement in the year of 2045. He supposes that many universities have adopted open courseware, which allows students to reuse, redistribute, revise and remix course materials; a world where few would consider buying textbooks, not even ebooks given their Read Only mode; few would consider sitting through lectures given that the content exist in multimedia forms freely available online.
But Wiley clings onto the idea of formal assessment. In 2045, he envisions, students no longer needing to “suffer through classes” but are only “required to demonstrate their competencies through assessments”.
In such a world of openness and mass contribution and collaboration, why do we need test centers run by academic institutes? Wouldn’t the “assessment method” be already built into such process where the experts and apprentices interact, doing away with the institutions?
Why cling onto specific learning outcomes? Wiley writes that even an open course like MOOC has outcomes, which is “to provide people with a more efficient path to deepening their understanding of connectivism”. But, I’m not sure learning how to recognize learning networks and navigate through them is the outcome for this or that particular course. Rather it is a precondition for acquiring knowledge in an open, and connected world in which both the knowledge and the world itself are changing constantly. And this is an idea that learning or teaching shouldn’t contradict. Pre-defining outcomes for learners or placing learning in a specific network, however, can set limits on learning.