Work in progress in the open

So this weekend I find myself writing my first proposal for an international conference which is all a bit daunting, but I find myself wondering why? Fear of presenting … well maybe a little, though I’ll worry about that nearer the time if it gets accepted. The more I think about what to include in the proposal, the more I find myself wanting to get the work that is referred to completely polished before daring to speak about it in public.

The work itself is all about open education (in particular OERs) and digital repositories. A combination of a field which is still growing and diversifying, and technology which by its very nature, never stands still.

Many educators are nervous about putting their teaching resources and course materials out in the open for anyone to use. The current norm being that a vast set of a resources are held behind the secure walls of institutional learning management systems only for enrolled students to access. An enormous mountain knowledge that technically could be very easily made available to anyone to use/reuse. However I suddenly find myself more able to empathise with their position. It’s easy to make the tools available to share online, but it can’t be underestimated what a huge cultural change this is in higher education and beyond. For many, including myself, the focus at the outset quickly goes to the risks associated with this type of exposure rather than the opportunities of doing so.

parts-257161_640As I cast my mind back I’m reminded of when I completed my dissertation for my masters (about the discoverability of open education resources). Once the work was completed we were encouraged to make it available publicly. Once again this filled me with nervous thoughts, “I can’t put this out there, someone might read it”, “What if they don’t like it or disagree with what I’ve said”. I do however also recall looking for other examples of master level dissertations but they were few and far between and very different to my own. How I wished more people had posted them online!

Given the topic of my dissertation, my current profession and benefit of hindsight I can’t help but laugh at myself a little for my reaction to the idea of sharing my dissertation online.  I now consider myself to be a very fortunate in being able to reflect on what is currently still very distinct roles in education (whether open or closed) – the providers and the learners.

Whilst the aims of open education improving educational access and effectiveness worldwide must continue to be promoted, I think it would naïve to believe that this alone is going to get buy-in from everyone with the potential to release their educational content in to the open.  There needs to be greater understanding of the value of releasing open educational resources that educators can associate with, and also an understanding of what it means to be truly open – to allow a potentially global audience to use, reuse, revise, remix and redistribute under the terms of the license.

Personally I am more conscious of the contributing factors to why I have found the conference proposal daunting and this reflection of my own experiences has at least enabled me to recognise nothing is ever perfect.  Things are always changing.  Software is always being developed and improved.  New knowledge is always being gained in subjects by educators and researchers and resources are routinely being updated to reflect this.

I’m reminded that it is not always the polished end product that is the true value to others, but the sharing of ideas and information, that would  otherwise be hidden from them, and the opportunities this can create.


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