The past couple of weeks have given me the opportunity to immerse myself back into the world of open education, and to reflect on what it may mean for KPU, since the wave of interest seems to be gathering strength.
You can come at open education from many directions: mine was originally through distance and online education while at the BC Open University and at Athabasca University. Beyond the issue of distance, openness towards the recognition of (and respect for) learning that takes place both inside and outside the academy is a powerful way to support non-traditional learners, and to personalize learning for each student and to connect it to the rest of their lives and the community.
It was also the root for the development of collaborative degrees across BC and the evolution of pathways from diplomas to degrees in areas such as Fine Arts and Design, Business, and many areas of Allied Health.
[Point of personal pettiness: in these and other respects, the former Open Learning Agency (parts of which are now at TRU) was way ahead of its time, enduring the sneers for decades of those in the traditional institutions who of course are now giddy with excitement because they want to copy the likes of Harvard, MIT and Stanford who are getting into the open arena.]
More recently, it has attracted those who see emerging digital technologies and the use of social media as catalysts of change, where everyone is connected to everyone else and to everything, and can collaborate effectively. Read Stephen Downes to get a good shot of this thinking.
Others look at openness in the context of the sharing of knowledge, whether teaching materials, the results of research and scholarship, data and all manner of reports from government and industry. October 22 to 28 is the 6th annual Open Access week, a global celebration of freely available research and reports, and all the benefits that this provides.
The open source movement in software enable developers to freely use applications, adapt and improve on them, and then share back their results.
Lastly, open education can be seen as a philosophical approach that links to the advancement of social justice and democracy itself. The ideas of the great educational philosophers of the 20th century: John Dewey, Paulo Friere and Ivan Illich have never seemed as relevant as we are increasingly able to break down the iron triangle of quality, cost and access.
David Porter, Executive Director of BC Campus came to KPU on October 9 to discuss global trends in higher education, and focussed mostly on open education. He drew quite a crowd and engaged with KPU faculty and professionals in a great Q and A session. He alluded to a major international conference on Open Education, which was held for the first time in Vancouver last week. Several KPU people were there, and I shuttled between a related event in Calgary to join a special panel organised by our Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology on Open Educational Resources.
At the Open Education conference, Minister John Yap announced BC’s intention to sponsor work to create free and open texts for the top 40 introductory courses in colleges and universities. BC would be the first province in the country to do this, and it continues a tradition of leadership for the province: we wait with baited breath for central Canada to pass judgement.
There were some heavy hitters with me on the panel: David Wiley, Cable Green and Brian Lamb, and I think between us we were able to stir up some good conversations about how open educational resources could impact how we teach and learn, and what would be needed to do that right.
The Calgary event was the fall meeting of COHERE: a group of universities that explore issues related to blended learning, where online and face to face methods are used to create flexibility and access and also to enrich learning. Tony Bates, one of the important voices in the open learning world was not only the keynote (twice), but also stayed to interact with participants and to provide closing comments: his recent blog explains more.
There were some KPU people there: Meg Goodine, Panteli Tritchew, and June Kaminski, who is now the CASN 2012 Nursing Faculty e-Health Award winner.
KPU is going to join COHERE, and we will host the 2013 fall meeting on October 23 to 25. Stand by for more news on that.