Futuring open education at the University of Mary Washington OER Summit

Today I traveled to Fredericksburg, Virginia, to participate in the University of Mary Washington‘s Open Education Resources Summit, organized by the excellent Steven Greenlaw.

bike with flowers at Mary Washington 2016 May

Hippy bike on campus, or the Jim Groom legacy lives!

Many fine folks and organizations are represented, like OpenStax, Gardner Campbell, Lee Skallerup, Robin DeRosa,  Jeff McClurken, and more. It’s an exciting event, which I’m live-tweeting (hashtag #OERSummit).

Some themes and ideas that have come up so far (I’ll add more as I can): there’s a strong sense of open education working within a complex ecosystem.  For example, community college adoption of OER depends on the behavior of institutions that most of their students transfer to.  Another: individual faculty are often caught between publishers (so far, everyone here hates sales reps) and their tenure/hiring/promotion/review companies (strong sense of long-serving profs as obstacles).

A student panel (and why aren’t these mandatory for every education event?) described two undergraduates’ experiences with OER.  Which were very positive, including love for low cost, easy access, simulation games (for one class).  Students hated most things about traditional textbooks, and preferred renting to owning.  Baby boomer faculty shared stories of the staggeringly cheap prices for their books, to the groans of younger folk.

I’m also presenting at this Summit, on the future of open education.  That includes a set of scenarios.  First, I’m presenting two extremes, worlds where open triumphs or where it fails.  Here are the slides:

Second, I will break the audience into small groups, so that each could tackle a different scenario, presented in handouts.   Although they faced separate futures, they all had to answer the same set of questions, also present on the handouts:

  1. What are the implications of these developments?
  2. How would you learn about them?
  3. How are you likely to respond?
  4. How would you share your response?

They’ll answer these questions themselves, then report out.  The scenarios are called Government Push, A New Global Divide, Major Business Shift, and An Educational Divide Opens Us.  Here they are:

GOVERNMENT PUSH After extensive political discussion, energetic campaign rhetoric, and energetic lobbying, the United States makes a major commitment to open education and open scholarship.

Offices throughout the federal government move to require open publication from anyone working with them.  The Departments of Education and Labor announce large, long-term grants to support the creation of OER.  Some state governments, including Virginia’s, follow suit.

This major government push is for both OER and open scholarship.

A NEW GLOBAL DIVIDE Open education and scholarship fails to take off in the developed world, but becomes very widespread in the developing.   

Proprietary publishers rule the roost in OECD nations, including the United States, as open fails to win over faculty committees and scholarly societies, being seen as of unstable quality and an unreliable business model.  In contrast developing nations both produce and consume open education and scholarship, widely, due to economic needs, state and NGO support, and increasingly accessible technology.

Both sections of the world are in increasing contact thanks to globalization and technological advances.

OERSummit faculty panel

Faculty panel from diverse Virginia institutions.

MAJOR BUSINESS SHIFT In major business news, publishers Elsevier and Pearson appear to be entering bankruptcy.  Their revenue streams have been declining for several years, as students, faculty, and staff shifted purchasing to open access and open education.  Profits have collapsed.

Other major publishers are facing the same challenges, but haven’t yet hit the same wall.  Members of Congress have floated the possibility of federal aid.

AN EDUCATIONAL DIVIDE OPENS UP Open education has become the leading way schools assign content in primary and secondary schools, but the opposite is true in colleges and universities.

K-12 schools steadily, then rapidly adopted OER as purchasing budgets remained tight or declined.  Open became especially attractive to schools in poorer tax areas.  State government support further boosted open’s advances in public K-12 schools.  In contrast, post-secondary faculty are generally unconvinced that open materials and scholarship are of sufficient quality to be adopted.

I’m curious to see how participants react to each of these scenarios.  Which will they deem most likely to occur?  What parts of their worlds will they connect with them?

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4 Responses to Futuring open education at the University of Mary Washington OER Summit

  1. tabeles says:

    most of this is still bricks to clicks or early clicks into newer clicks. It’s all present oriented-this or next semester and still everyone is looking for a tech platform or solution. Of course Edu is still a lagging indicator and resistant to change. The problem is that methodologies need to think what needs to be accomplished first and tech second.

    On the other hand, in the world outside of academia, the so called Gig economy, the public space is littered with tech platforms supported by BigData analytics by such folk as Google and Amazon who know to the nth decimal place where you are, what you seek and all that good stuff as well as being driven by consumer or client needs. This is the perfect world for competency based education using current knowledge.

    Packaging of content or platforms as OER programs are still lagging indicators. Today its possible to source the entire 34,000 academic journals, the 2.5 milllion annual STM articles published every year and even have AI write script based on these and supporting materials. And this is not “n” years away.

    • Tom, thank you for the feedback. As you can tell from my posts here and on the email list we share, we’re on the same page about automation and educational transformation.

      However, I think you misunderstand both the venue and the timeline for the exercise covered in this post.

      The venue is higher education in Virginia, where for a significant number of institutions (community colleges, some of the state schools) the economic impact of reducing textbook costs is extremely salient. There may be political components to this as well, which the discussion addressed.

      The timeline was short term, which is where these possible futures neatly reside.

      Question: what are you referring to by “sourc[ing]” scholarly publications? Are you speaking to individuals or institutions being able to access articles (and monographs), or something else?

  2. tabeles says:

    Neil Stephenson nailed it in his SF novel The Diamond Age. Watson can carry on a personal conversation with “n” students where “n” is several hundred. Like Google and Amazon, Watson knows wether you are sleeping or awake, bad or good… (oops that’s Santa). If one remembers the 60’s program, Eliza, which was a very primitive Rogerean software program, the linkage is not so difficult to understand, especially with the works of folk like Kahneman and other behavioral scholars.

    Many will find Kevin Kelly’s book to be released this June, The Inevitable, very relevant here. Given the pace of change outside the ivy covered walls, perhaps it may be time to open up the walls so that what research has wrought outside can flow back in.

    • American education is indeed lagging parts of the world.

      I think a Stephensonian primer is coming. And actually coded an ELIZA (in BASIC) when I was in junior high.

      Kevin Kelly: does his _What Technology Wants_ hold up? I’ve been meaning to finish it.

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