Unwritten History Open Education

I read a post on All MOOCs, All the Time by the unnamed doctoral student asking if we were examining the open education history in a biased way.  I guess it depends on the definition of open education, which we are still writing.  What is included in that definition in turm depends on what we include in the history.

For a start, what I would like to superimpose on the history of open education timeline are the dates of the establishment of certain institutions dedicated to open education.  I can see some convergence with the open source movement, but open education is not so recent.


“The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (CLSC) was started in 1878 to provide those who could not afford the time or money to attend college the opportunity of acquiring the skills and essential knowledge of a College education. The four-year, correspondence course was one of the first attempts at distance learning.” Chautauqua History

I bet some more stuff happened in between, but I’ll fast foward to the 20th century…


The Open University was estblished and it opened to its first students – 25,000 of them – in January 1971


Athabasca University was established and in 1972 piloted an open distance course that set it on its open path


SUNY Empire State College was established in and modeled on the OU

Over time open universities have been established in other countries and new models have evolved, but we can’t assume that open education began with us whether we be boomers or millenials.  The Chautauqua Movement never resulted in the credentialling offered by colleges and univerities but it was certainly influential and those who participated developed expertise.  Maybe it was more about learning than credentialling.

Our bias is living in our own time and a history that still needs to be written.  Even the Wikipedia entry for open education starts with a bare mention of the OU and starts the history in 2002.  Are there folks out there who can fill in the gaps?


A Tremor in the Force: Building an Open Education Culture

Open education and open initiatives require an all-encompassing cultural shift for most of higher education.   Christopher Mackie’s chapter got my attention with this statement:  “Every credible vision of OEC [Open Educational Content] sustainability that I have seen relies in some significant part on the hope or expectation that higher education institutions and their faculties will adopt OEC production as a core value.”

Teaching resources and content are only a part of what will need to shift.  It makes me think about whether we value publishing outside of traditional circles in tenure and promotion actions (institutional policy).  And to wonder if expectations of influence in the field are tied to the values that lock publications behind publisher copyrights and fees (higher education and learned society culture).   These areas, among many, are highlighted by Yuan, MacNeill and Kraan as issues that need resolution to enable the success of open initiatives.

Open creation and access to content is another part of a culture shift that is required, which have further implications in the traditional domains of scholarship, teaching.  However, as Verena Roberts suggests there need to be shifts in our views of how learning can occur and the environments in which learning takes place.    She includes Anderson and Garrison (2004) ideas of the shifting in interactions to student-student and student-content rather than teacher-student and teacher-content in her presentation.  This shifting of interaction is significant cultural shift.

Picking up some ideas from Chris Dede, perhaps the most important shift is in how knowledge is created, moving from a hierarchical meritocracy to a collective democracy.  This of course dramatically changes the power-base in who creates, approves and owns knowledge. In fact, if fully realized there would be no base or center.

I’m sure there are other implications for higher education, but this is a start.

I wonder if this must be a seismic shift or if it can ripple out and build from a small disturbance.  When does the old higher education model break or become inconsequential? 

Still Hope for Me and Open Education

I am now almost a month into my new role as acting dean of the School for Graduate Studies at SUNY Empire State College.  I had hoped to slip in quietly after the faculty had gone off for their summer reading period.  As the saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men [and even women] often go astray.”  An accreditation project that was way behind will squeak out the door before the close of the month, an awesome feat that took a lot of teamwork.  It always feels good to achieve what looked impossible.

Oh! The faculty have returned, the terms starts in a couple of weeks, the last day of regular registration is on Friday,  and I still have a number of student theses to read.   I have visions of enhanced learning design, weekend residencies, faculty load reports, and of course enrollments in my head.  Just over the horizon is the budget.  The academic year seems to be spoken for already.

Still, I still have hopes for what we can do in terms of connectivist learning and for developing robust community spaces for our programs. Our new Master of Arts program Learning and Emerging Technologies, still in its infancy, is most exciting in this arena.  Our transition to Moodle/Mahara will open some doors into a broader learning environment.  The MBA faculty are developing a course that will be published in an OER.  The teacher education faculty are building a Virtual Teaching Incubator that will connect us with the schools and teachers.  So wemake progress on some open learning projects. I will learn some more about Openness in Education through another MOOC offered by George Siemans and Rory McGreal at Athabasca University.