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Open Education: Exciting Opportunities & Complicated Challenges


What Is Open Education?

Open education is in simple terms the initiatives and strategies used to broaden traditional learning through the use of Open Educational Resources (OER).  The concept of open education sounds exciting in theory, especially as an educator.  However, just thinking about its general definition causes one to miss aspects of open education which need to be seriously considered before educational organizations hop on board.

Why Does Bonk List Opportunities of Open Education First?

Bonk (2009) lists the benefits of OER before the challenges because he is trying to persuade an audience that open education is positive overall.  Traditionally, I see most people list the bad news first to get it overwith and leave their audience on a high note.  For example, a store receipt lists a customer’s savings towards the bottom.  The order of the positives and negatives really just depends upon the author’s or seller’s purpose.  In this case, Bonk challenges his readers to be prepared to deal with the challenges.  He explains, “If you lack answers for them, any promotion of a more open educational world will abruptly end” (Bonk, 2009, p. 375). Therefore, Bonk is acknowleding the roadblocks and putting responsibility on the organizers and consumers of OER, which I appreciate.  If we as consumers want a more open educational environment, we must be proactive and design it purposefully.

Exciting Opportunities of Open Education

One promising aspect of the Free and Open Source Software Movement (FOSS) is that, “There is increasing demand and expectations that Web technology will be free” (Bonk, 2009, p. 139).  The freedom that comes along with the movement could eventually lead to a more generous society as people begin to share these resources.  Bonk (2009) states, “Altruism has always existed, but the Web gives it a platform where the actions of individuals can have global impact.  In a sense, zero-cost distribution has turned sharing into an industry” (p. 141).While I believe Bonk’s idealistic point of view is wonderful in theory, I do not see it being that clear cut.  This leads to what I think is the biggest challenge to OER: copyright issues.

Biggest Challenges of Open Education

Bonk (2009) asserts, “Clearly, not all knowledge that is shared was meant to be shared” (p. 378).  Issues of copyright include someone sharing your resources without giving credit, knowing your legal rights if someone does use your information incorrectly, sharing information accidentally, sharing confidential information, and people that just simply ignore copyrights (Bonk, 2009, p. 378).  Open access to information is great, but consumers do not always know if they obtained that information soundly.  Sharers of information will have to be incredibly careful when it comes to copyright law.

One of the biggest issues I thought about while reading was the discrepancies in people’s connotations of the word free when it comes to OER and FOSS.  Bonk (2009) reminds us, “For some, the word is related to commerce.  For others, it refers to freedom of speech or freedom to change, distribure, and use something” (p. 139).  In a perfect world, OER would be both.  It’s crucial to define “free” before OER can be used effectively and responsibly.

Open Education & Learning Activity

During the learning activity I have planned, students will be creating WordPress blogs to demonstrate their learning during the research process and also to give feedback to each other.  Since WordPress is free to use, I am making use of OER.  It is awesome that students will be able to use this site with no cost, however, I must be aware of copyright issues to make sure students blog responsibly.  Overall, this week’s reading reminded me how important it is to pre-teach safe ways of using technology.

Reflective Question (for educators who have used OER): What benefits and drawbacks have you encountered while using OER?OERu-logo

Click here to watch a video about why open education matters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJWbVt2Nc-I


Bonk, C. (2009). The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education. San Fransisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass.


1 Comment

  1. clynn826 says:

    Great post. As an educator I have definitely experienced more benefits than drawbacks with OER. I frequently use Edmodo and Teachers Pay Teachers, which provide free technology and resources I can use with my classroom. I also use Prodigy Math to reinforce math skills with my students and other free resources to help them learn. As for higher education, I have never taken a free online course, but I think that option is a great idea in some instances. My concern with OER is that we need to question the credibility and accuracy of many of these resources and teach our students to do the same. If the resources are legitimate, then it is a great tool to use.


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