I have just been to Cambridge 2012: Innovation and Impact – Openly Collaborating to Enhance Education, this year a combination of the annual OCW and OER conferences. It was a pleasure and a relief to be among a group of like-minded people with similar interests, who agree on the fundamental values of sharing and collaboration in education, who grapple with the challenges of inculcating a culture of contribution in universities (and other educational institutions,) who think studies of content re-use are riveting, and who have lively discussions about the minutiae of open education. It was encouraging to realise how widespread open education activities are becoming. There are so many good projects in the UK and the US (so, it is not unusual now to be an Open Education Fellow) and it is indeed a global movement as we heard about ambitious projects in Indonesia and across 60 universities in Latin America for example.
And yet I was concerned- specifically about silos, and about divides.
The concern about silos is about the numerous communities and interest groups which co-exist in the open scholarship space who are working in substantially overlapping areas, in parallel. It is a problem. Firstly from the point of view of many outside of the open scholarship space (like government, funders and even most academics themselves), all this open education stuff is pretty much the same; many conflate open education with open source in any case (of course there are many differences, but only when you are already in the discourse communities). Secondly, there are substantial areas of mutual interest, such as the foundations and implications of open licensing, advocacy about the use of public funds for the public good, the challenges of innovation in institutions with deeply entrenched cultures, the kind of digital infrastructure needed to enable open practices, mechanisms for tracking re-use and so on. The simple diagram I included in my talk at the conference makes the point that OER overlaps with both e-learning and open access. I think pretty much all of us at Cambridge 12 were from an elearning background, and that we need to get better at talking with and participating in the established communities in open access as well as the emergent groupings interested in open data, open research and Alt – metrics.
It is not necessarily realistic to attend the same conferences (there are only so many we can go to), but we can invite speakers, engage in conversations, read each other’s literature, learn from one another’s research and collaborate on joint projects. I do think that there is beginning to be some fluidity and cross over, (such as the focus on open practices and the interest in the open education landscape at JISC), and this is great. Let’s consciously do more of this.