A Culmination of Openness Elements

My assignment 1 for the the Openness in Education 622 course…

The dictionary.com entry for the adjective form of the word open includes more than forty definitions, making it understandable why there are many elements to the term openness in education. The literature on the subject reflects these wide and varied elements, however three aspects of openness stand out: open cost, open license and open access.

Like most endeavors on a mass scale, educational resources are often subject to economic pressures. If cost is one of the obvious ways in which an educational resource can be open, then it also provides some of the most basic challenges. Cost raises question of sustainability, since with free resources there is the temptation to infuse cash from an outside source, potentially compromising other elements of openness (Mackie, 2008). Additionally, ownership and copyright are important issues that can limit the ability for no-cost educational resources to exist. The abundance of non-rivalrous goods are forcing the legal world to re-examine the idea of copyright as property, and to consider the implications between what is considered copying compared to use of the loaded word piracy. Publishers, financially invested in educational content, have the ability to advocate over decades and generations for stronger copyright laws and restrictions. As well, they also have the benefit of 300 years of legal precedence since the Statue of Anne was passed (see The Surprising History of Copyright in references).

Licensing, already illustrated as directly impacting the issue of cost, is another major element of openness that stands out. In reaction to the strict laws and restrictions as mentioned above, open licensing has gained momentum with the Creative Commons licenses and tools (see Creative Commons in references). Open licensing seeks to put more control into the hands of the creator, going over the head of copyright restrictions, and potentially severely reducing the need for middlemen such as distributors and lawyers to broker the deal between creation and use. The involvement of institutions can make openness more difficult to obtain than when the individual makes decisions (Mackie, 2008).

Although there are many elements involved in open access, the individual is at the heart of this concept. The history of the Open University shows how a large number of individuals have been affected by successful open education that focuses on open accessibility. Open access is also a concern across time, as distributed content, now more than ever, will enable individuals in future generations to access discourse, potentially increasing productivity (David, 1990). Open Source is an additional form of access that has been shown to be a successful model for production, powered by individual access to and interaction with the construction of programs and other learning resources. The individual, when granted open source access, blurs the boundary between producer and consumer generating a more motivated interest, and resulting in a product that caters more specifically to individual needs (Mackie, 2008). In educational terms, this can be compared to the blurring of the boundary between educator and learner. The Right to Education is also another consequence of open access, driven by the ideal that all individuals around the world deserve access to education. However, this raises the issue of culturally specific educational resources (Hatakka, 2009), and how methods are embedded in the resource itself (Siemens, 2008).

The word education can be perhaps as varied as the word open, creating immediate problems whenever The Right to Education is discussed. For myself and my context, I try to consider education with a wide lens: to educate is individual intentional learning. Regardless of how blanketed a course is, the decision to take part in that course, to choose to develop in a certain way, resides in the individual. My main teaching context is situated in an Asian country, with learners choosing to increase their own language skill. Thus, the major implications in my context are regarding open access, and especially the embedded view that comes with all language learning resources and authentic interaction. Open Educational Resources need to consider method in cross-culture contexts, an aspect of openness that is often difficult to examine, but can be the difference between access to education or not.

Not only do individuals learn a language for its own sake, but they learn it as a means for accessing other information and activities. Openness has another dimension that I think is important to consider, and this is the Opening of Potential. To paraphrase Alexander Hamilton in debating governmental structure: necessities will grow to fit resources. In open educational contexts, the growing of needs, in individual potentials, is one of the major implications of openness in education, and this idea is an underlying theme throughout the literature. For example, in The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Raymond (1998) describes an environment of needs that is created for the individual user, and how this propels his project and the open source movement. Open Potential also underlies the idea that strict copyright reduces the potential for creativity and a culturally robust society. As well, Mackie (2008) challenges the reader to compare Open Educational Content (OEC) with Open and Community Source Software, and in doing so I link the openness to the top end of OEC use, in opening up our our needs rather than fulfilling our choices. Just as much as language learners study language in itself, they generally learn a new language to access information, to access people and situations or, as many students have told me, they learn English to think in a way that they cannot in their native language.

The definition of Open Educational Resources is difficult to pin down because of the fluctuating elements that make up the various meanings of the words educational and open (Geser, 2007). I suggest that it is this Opening of Potential that is the ongoing culmination of the various dynamic elements encompassed in the concept of Openness in Education. As resources grow in an open world, so does our potential.


One thought on “A Culmination of Openness Elements

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