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October 25, 2012

Open Education’s Gathering Storm

Posted by: Katie Heasley

Today's Open Access Week post is by M.S. Vijay Kumar, coeditor (with Toru Iiyoshi) of Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge.

The recent Open Ed conference in Vancouver, with its theme of Beyond Content and an agenda that included diverse topics such as Transformation in Arts, Languages and Math, Open Assessment and Credentialing, as well as the profile of attendees, vividly demonstrated that the open education movement has far outgrown the original set of initiatives and card-carrying evangelists. The discourse is increasingly toward implications of openness in all aspects of the educational value chain, including its potential as a sustainable force for change. This is welcome and gratifying: the recommendations presented in Opening Up Education, while pointing to the initial success of open education’s gathering storm, also made a plea for considering systemic implications so that its transformative potential could be realized.

Overall, open education has engendered an educational ecology characterized not only by abundant resources, but greater agency to learners and communities. These characteristics position us to better address significant challenges such as educational cost, college completion, quality, persistence and performance. A good example is the Kaleidoscope Project, where seven community colleges collaboratively created courses using existing OERs. Kaeidoscope has demonstrated a significant reduction in cost/course/student (~ 98.%), however it also focuses on improving course design and learning results.

The latest entrant to the open education suite are MOOCS such as edX, which not only provide learning experiences at an unprecedented scale but usher in new opportunities for innovation—in how learning experiences are produced, where learning happens, how it is assessed and credentialed. They allow us to envision more profound structural changes in the relationship between individuals, institutions and learning and ultimately in the economics of education.

There are still significant challenges of readiness related to content and culture to be addressed in order to render this gathering movement a perfect storm of transformation, but the signs suggest that it is ripe for the opportunity.

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