OER Synthesis and Evaluation / OpenPracticesConclusions
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Page history last edited by Helen Beetham 12 years, 2 months ago

This page is part of the Open Practices briefing paper



Questions and contradictions remain inherent the idea of openness. Is availability on the open web ('in the wild') paradigmatic of open practice, or are the participative practices of communities to be preferred because – despite requiring authentication to enter – they appear to be more sustainable? Do open pedagogies necessarily depend on open content, or might they revolve around learner-generated content, securely sequestered behind a firewall? How do the common values of public knowledge play out in research communities with very different investments in their data? Whatever the perspective, it is clear that 'open' is not a single quality that educational practices have, or lack.


In summary, although educational resources are an essential feature of the digital landscape, and one that students need to engage with, it is not clear that educational practitioners should focus primarily on producing/releasing open content if they want to enhance access to educational opportunity and public knowledge. Releasing educational content under open licence demands some confidence and expertise. The UK OER programme has highlighted legal, technical and pedagogical considerations that may seem insurmountable to individuals, particularly in the absence of strategic institutional support. OER may not, therefore, be the first sign of openness in educational practice. Other practices may have more immediate pay-offs and a lower adoption threshold, while OER development continues quietly as – for example – materials developed for virtual learning environments become more 'open-ready' through better practices of content design.


We believe that future funding should address open content development and management within the wider landscape of open educational practices. For some subject disciplines, for some learner markets, and for some institutional business models, OERs will prove a worthwhile investment on their own. For others there will be more significant benefits from the use of open tools and environments, open publishing models, open pedagogies, and open research/scholarship approaches. Central funding alone will not open up valued knowledge for public use, nor will it reverse the marketisation of some knowledge services, but it can provide examples of local benefit and allow knowhow to be shared.


The open education movement remains an emergent phenomenon, tragically coincident with an abrupt fall in the funding available to education across the Western economies, and in the UK with a deeper convulsion in the funding regime that makes institutions reluctant to invest in new practices that do not produce immediate returns. The benefits of open educational practices are uneven, slow to emerge, and dependent on other factors. The greatest potential benefits are communal rather than tied to the competitive advantage of individuals or institutions. It remains to be seen whether the gaps in our understanding of open practice will be filled in the coming years, and whether the emerging practices of open knowledge sharing become mainstream enough for the true benefits to be felt.



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