The next steps in embracing open education

Three steps to getting open education into mainstream

Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash

By Pim Bellinga
Co-Founder of Grasple

In the last few years, open education has quickly gained momentum. But with its success, challenges arise. Educators turning to open education often feel overwhelmed or don’t know where to begin. So, what are the common roadblocks when adopting open education, and how do we collectively overcome potential barriers?

The momentum
Open education is a philosophy that revolves around producing, sharing, and building on everyone’s knowledge. It encompasses resources, tools, and practices that all strive to eliminate barriers to learning. An important aspect of open education is the access to open educational resources (OER). Open educational resources are all learning materials that are freely available and accessible to students and educators and useful for teaching, learning, assessing, and even research purposes.

For decades, open education has been promoted, and for good reasons. Open resources have tremendous benefits over copyrighted materials for both students and educators. In the Netherlands, this is one of the most-heard arguments in favor of open education. After all: what is public must remain public. In other countries, where education is often funded privately, open education allows for more affordable learning materials. This makes high-quality education accessible to a larger group of students. But even though more and more professionals embrace open education, it somehow failed to reach mass adoption. Until now.

In the last few years, we’ve noticed the tides are changing. Open education initiatives emerge across the globe, and organizations are starting to implement these innovations more and more. Recently, the directors of the Universities in the Netherlands, the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences, and SURF shared a declaration in which all stakeholders agree that learning materials produced with public money must remain freely and publicly accessible. Educational institutions believing that the future of education is open is a major step forward, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.

Potential barriers
Declarations such as the ‘National approach to digital and open learning resources’ indicate that open education quickly gains momentum. It’s a transition many educators have been waiting for.

A recent survey among educators in the Grasple network shows that instructors face different challenges when using open educational resources in their classrooms. We asked them about the possible hurdles when increasing the use of open education materials, and the overall hurdles to using open education or open content. Common answers from our survey are:

  • “You may not be able to find exactly what you are looking for to use in your lectures.”
  • “It may be time-consuming to have to create the material from scratch.”
  • “It is difficult to find the best fitting materials for my courses because there are too many materials to sift through.”
  • “There is not enough material available in my area of teaching.”
  • “Sharing is not a priority, and possibly difficult for our reputation.”

Overcoming barriers together
Overall, this survey taught us that many educators find it difficult to trust the quality of open learning materials. Some feel they can’t find suitable learning materials for their area of expertise, and others simply don’t have the time to switch to new learning materials or get familiar with a new tool.

All these objections are valid, and we know there’s a long way ahead of us before we can all turn to open education. But we’re happy to hear educators do believe these hurdles can be overcome. So, what are the next steps when considering (and implementing) open education into your education?

Tap into high-quality open learning materials
One of the most common objections to adopting OER is (a lack of) quality. Educators often feel that open learning materials don’t offer the same quality as copyrighted materials or lack a trusted source that validates the content’s quality. While we’ve always relied on publishers, it doesn’t mean learning materials are of higher quality when copyrighted.

When it comes to open educational resources, all learning materials are created and validated by the community. Here, the authority is the masses – and other experts within the field. It’s like Wikipedia. In the early days, people didn’t believe Wikipedia could offer the same standard as Encyclopædia Britannica. But research shows that the community-regulated platform comes close to Britannica in the accuracy of its scientific articles [1].

We now see that institutions such as BC Campus in Canada, TU Delft and University of Utrecht in the Netherlands share open educational resources through initiatives such OpenStax and ShareStats. As a result, incredible collections of high quality open education resources are released to the public.

Utilize the work of other educational professionals
Another barrier when turning to open education is that it’s time-consuming, especially when creating open content. But one of the best things about open education is that you don’t have to do everything yourself. Turning to open education gives you access to innumerable educational resources; created and optimized by educational experts. The number of available resources can make it difficult to sift through or find the best-fitting materials for your classroom. In these situations, we advise educators to select curated learning materials from educators or institutions that align with their educational vision. The big advantage of open education is that you can always edit resources later on, so they exactly meet your needs.

Select a platform or solution that aligns with your vision
Many educators value a solid content repository or database, one that makes it easier for them to find what they need. Others want to use a platform that enables them to create more learning materials and share them freely. While several open learning platforms are on the market, not all platforms are truly ‘open’. For instance, some companies can market themselves as open, while content is only accessible by paying. So, when turning to open education, it’s crucial that you use a platform or solution that aligns with your vision, your workflow, and your teaching habits.

Open education is here to stay
The adoption of open education is accelerating. We’re entering uncharted territory, and we must collaborate to make it work. By trusting the quality of curated content, selecting the right platform, utilizing the work of others, and sharing your own, we can achieve greatness. Because by embracing open education, you will improve access to high-quality education for students and educators worldwide.

What do you believe to be the biggest barrier for educators to embrace open education? Please share your thoughts and experiences on Twitter or send us a message on Linkedin. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

References