Scholars can no longer seek refuge in an ivory tower.

Today, to mark Open Education week,  I began looking at the readings for the Open University’s h817 Open Education course .

I started with an article by Martin Weller entitled ‘The openness-creativity cycle in education’ and published in the Journal of Interactive Media Education (JiME).

In this paper, Weller notes that the concept of openness in education is now taken for granted and that few talk in terms of resources being ‘closed’ or limited solely to an elite (paying) group of users.

He quotes from Gideon Burton’s article on the ‘Open Scholar’ : “In the digital age, the traditional barriers to accessing scholars and scholarships are unnecessary, but persist for institutional reasons”.

This begs the question as to how long these institutionalised barriers can resist to pressure from the digital networks in which Open Educational Resources (OER) are becoming the norm.

With sharing being the default position the million dollar question as to how this actually improves the learning process.

Should educational resources be adapted before being put online to make them more user-friendly and encourage interacting with other learners. Weller notes that the OU’s Open Learn team do not see interactivity as a priority which I think is a mistake.

My experience on Coursera’s  E-Learning & Digital Cultures MOOC was that the communication between fellow learners was the main reason it succeeded. Perhaps what the OU believe that the social networking aspects come from the learners themselves with the educators’ role being to choose a good set of resources  They may have a point, but I don’t think academics can afford to stay locked in their ivory towers and need to participate directly in any online debates and discussions that this material generates.

Weller is justifiably convinced that any notion of ‘closed’ education is an anachronism and writes that:  “In order to realise many of the benefits of a social network, openness is a pre-requisite, which means that it becomes an effective strategy for working”.

What we can conclude from this is that open education is no longer  an option but a necessity. Institutions that fail to acknowledge this will be increasingly marginalised and will ultimately become redundant.

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