Thursday, 23 April 2015

Reflections on OER15

Last week I presented at OER15, a national conference on Open Education. This year it was in Cardiff and brings together an international audience to present, discuss and debate on all that is "open" in education.

Last year I wrote a brief blog post about co-chairing the conference, OER14. This year I was able to revert back to being a committee member and presenter at OER15!

Open Community

I am a passionate Open Educator and I feel a little bit like the OERxx conferences have perhaps come of age. I won't go into the history (you can read a bit about that in last years blog post), but I think it's a conference that has grown and evolved. Initially starting out as a dissemination conduit for the amazing #UKOER work with the first conference in 2010. 2014 was the first year in which the conference was sustained without "funded projects" to guarantee attendees and 2015 has once again shown that the OERxx conference has well and truly established itself as the UK's "go to" conference on Open Education. Now attracting international speakers and audiences I think it is an important window into the "grass roots" nature of Openness in the UK. The keynotes this year were collectively an excellent example of the diversity of activity taking place in "open". Cable Green kicked off the conference with his keynote and the key message that:

Failing to share publicly funded HE resources ‘immoral’. 

Open by Default
 I think it's hard to argue with this kind of sentiment, why should we not make any materials open that were funded publicly?  Martin Weller went on to close the conference with his keynote which warned us about "Open Washing" whereby a corporation labels their activity as "open" but in fact it's not really. (Read the article linked above for more details).

Open Washing

To me this indicates that "open" is in fact becoming mainstream and of course we should push back against open-washing, but we could perhaps see it has an indicator that the "Battle for Open" is being
fought well. What is important for the open community is that we remain vocal in what "we" really mean by open, and not allow it to become a distorted term. Sheila MacNeill gave a personal perspective on what it means to be open. Airing her own washing she talked about us as individuals being the "open resource" and being proud to be open practitioners.

Airing our Open Washing

I can very much align my own experiences to Shelia's, that in fact we are perhaps fighting a battle for open everyday within our institutions. It sometimes doesn't feel like we are winning but I think we are (slowly). When both the strategic development of open and the front line battle for open comes together you end up with, as an example, the fantastic work being led by Josie Fraser on the DigiLit Leicester project. This work is fundamental in embedding the concept of "open" in at the earliest stages of learning and teaching and is important in recognising that it's not just Higher Education who are championing open ed.

Finally I would just like to say a thank you to those who attended my workshop session. Readers of my blog & tweets will already know that I am developing a Facilitated Open Online Course (fooc) and I used the OER15 conference as a course development opportunity. What better way to develop and open, online course than to get 20+ experts in open education to be critical friends to your ideas. Even better was that many of them also want to develop and run the course with me. This for me epitomises what the "open movement" is all about. Collaboration, Sharing, Selflessness, Giving etc etc. Sheila is right that we should be proud to be Open Practitioners and we should tell everyone that we are and what that means. There is still a scuffle for open and we should keep fighting the cause.

If you want to find out about Open Education then why not check out the Staff Guide to OER that was developed as part of our work on Open Educational Resources in 2009 and linked below.