Where Have we Come from a 2015 UGH

Open Education Week is, yes, a celebration of the achievements of Open Education and OER, but where do we have some critical exchanges about it? We have had a few open discussions during the OEWeek Live conversations such as what defines the “open movement”.

And a few people have asked about how much is at stake by become more tied/beholden to commercial platforms and systems.

So not for fighting but some good back and forth I am tossing one into the mix. I am prompted by a tweet this morning by my friend and colleague Andy Rush (Hi Andy!).

Andy is linking to a 2015 blog post by @actualham following her participation at the Open Education 2015 Conference. Back then Robin was making a strong call for going beyond the open resources and content.

Read the whole blog post (remember when people engaged in rich topics in blog post, look at the comments too?) but especially as a highlight:

I don’t think that advocating for a pedagogical approach to OER makes me radical or an outlier. But my sense is that the movement is cohering around the “gateway” of open textbook adoption. But don’t worry, I am told, once we hook ’em, we can slip in the pedagogy!

No. No!

That hook is going to puncture our foundational beliefs about the power of open.

I am calling for a (radical?) pedagogy caucus, a core, self-identified group committed to placing pedagogy at the center of the OpenEd movement. I am going to stop apologizing for my sense that textbooks are the wrong way to pitch open.

Yes, we have seen more attention and effort on open pedagogy (much of it led by Robin), but have we gotten closer in 8 years to a “(radical?) pedagogy caucus”? Have we placed “pedagogy at the center of the OpenEd movement”?

I’d be very interested in hearing from you, Robin!

Now the gauntlet is put down… who will pick it up?

Robin’s ears must have been buzzing, the past couple of days! @JamesGG posted about the same blogpost on Masto.

And it’s an ongoing conversation, spanning literally decades.

My sense is that OEG has a special role to play, both in hosting such conversations, and in providing avenues for collective action in the OE movement.

In Nantes, 10 months ago, something of a split was noticeable.

Let me draw a caricature. No offence to anyone involved. You’re all doing important work.

A dominant part of the discourse and many OE activities centred on something of a publishing model. Needs not be about textbooks. It does relate very nicely to the textbook model. It’s about creating, sharing, and discovering open content, often revolving around the source’s credibility (which just so happens to come from established institutions in the so-called “Global North”). We should and do celebrate those accomplishments.

There’s another side to this, that we can associate with on-the-ground practice. Student associations leveraging wikis to develop their own learning experiences. Passionate teachers who bring relevance to any resource, including renewable assignments done in their classes. Transnational initiatives to decolonize knowledge, bringing insights from the “Global South” to have new meaning in the “Global North”. Communities of practice which bring learning experiences beyond institutional walls. Public servants rethinking learning objectives in a more fluid frame. Open platforms allowing for collaborative learning. And a whole “Landscape of Open” involving everything from Open Budgeting and “Linked Open Usable Data in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums” (LOUDGLAM) to Open Pedagogy, Open Access, Open Science, and Open Textbooks.

Of course, this distinction is fraught. These aren’t two sides opposite one another. There’s no conflict brewing. It’s just a slight difference in focus. And we obviously need both parts of the OE equation.

For decades, many of us have been advocating for a balance. (In my own case, it’s just about 1.6. For others, it’s six.)

An interesting path is suggested by David Wiley’s August 2022 post on learning outcomes (emphasis added):

Below, I want to discuss three (of the many) potential confounding factors that often go uncontrolled in OER efficacy research, and which there are strong grounds to believe would impact student learning: the teacher, the support that teachers may receive when they adopt OER, and instructional design.

Wiley takes these as “confounding factors” for valid reasons. Someone else might take them as ingredients to use in a recipe for meaningful learning experiences. As with most recipes, the way you handle these ingredients matters a lot and the results are literally subjective (perception by a subject, whether it’s tastebuds or a learner’s understanding).

Which makes it exceedingly hard to do controlled studies… and remarkably easy to “stir the pot” together.

Curious if @danmcguire will chime in.

Labeling the act of using OER as Open Education, or Open something is a problem.

Developing Professional Staff: Open Education is a Problem for OER in K-12 (developingprofessionalstaff-mpls.blogspot.com)

Thanks for the invite to chime in, which means to ‘join harmoniously.’ Well, I’m not sure if what I have to say is so harmonious. It’s not possible to use OER in a K-12 environment without connecting it to the pedagogy of the school. The beauty of OER is that it can be made harmonious to whatever pedagogy is in use. It may come as a surprise to people in Higher Ed, but K-12 schools all have some kind of pedagogy fairly well articulated; the articulation varies, of course, from school to school. Becoming a licensed K-12 teacher requires the study of pedagogy. Becoming a Higher Ed teacher doesn’t. All you need to do to become a teacher in Higher Ed is convince some professors that you are good at professing - mostly by writing and occasionally speaking.

To get a teaching license I had to first take 30 credits in various discipline pedagogical theory and then spend a year doing weekly practicums at two different schools, and then a 5 month apprenticeship called student teaching. I was observed by multiple professional teachers and administrators in all of those experiences and provided with verbal and written feedback. All those schools had different pedagogical approaches. The school where I got my first teaching job had a fourth approach; it was called open schooling. I was at an open school for the next 15 years. OER wasn’t a thing, then. Every educational leader in every school in K-12 has studied and practiced a variety of different pedagogical theories and practices. Pardon them if they may be a little hesitant to jump on a new pedagogical bandwagon regardless of the tune the band is playing.

We find harmony in diverse ways. At the very least, we need to welcome diverse voices to the choir, especially if it creates some productive dissonance.

Indeed an important point to consider. Across the world, there are people who teach in secondary education without a license and there are teachers in post-secondary education who did go through advanced studies in andragogy and/or pedagogy. (I’m pretty sure there are institutions which require that and maybe governments as well.) Still, the point remains that there are important differences in academic requirements for teachers. Indeed, several people in Higher Education (especially in universities) claim that “pedagogy” is completely irrelevant to their work. Part of the reason is that “ped-” is technically linked to childhood learning and andragogy isn’t very popular. Probably the most important reason, though, is that (in many systems across the world) university professors primarily work as experts in their academic field. The narrative is that their time is mostly spent “doing research”. In practice, many tenure-track and tenured faculty members spend an inordinate amount of time managing research funds and teams. Add to this the perverse incentives behind the so-called “Publish or Perish” model and you get a recipe for teaching disasters.

The case of “community colleges” is interesting, here. (Different names across the world. Using it as a broad category. My dayjob is in such a system: in Quebec, “cegeps” are tuition-free colleges which bring together vocational training and pre-university learning. The system came out of the 1960s as a way to democratize Higher Education.)
Typically, community college teachers aren’t required to conduct research. Their professional development is radically different from faculty members in universities, even when their courses may feel similar. There can be a lot of work around continuous improvement of their teaching practice. Like teachers in other contexts, they may have “ped days”.
I’m guessing that some college systems do require licensing for teachers. What’s clear is that those teachers’ incentives align more closely with those of teachers in other levels.
No wonder @CCCOER is such a vibrant part of OEG!

The case of “contingent academic labour” is also interesting. As was briefly discussed during yesterday’s second OEWeek Live informal conversation, a number of us have enjoyed a larger degree of freedom in terms of our teaching practice than fulltimers. That freedom goes hand-in-hand with our precariousness… and against the prevailing discourse about “academic freedom”.

I digress…

In terms of learning theory, Open Pedagogy is historically linked to several approaches/movements/trends in education, including several of the ones you mention along with many others (hooks, Siemens, Stewart, Vygotsky, Freire, Piaget, Downes, Illich, Freinet, etc.). Quite frequently, teaching practitioners on the ground will settle on a particular approach (possibly coming through a reform) and will become reluctant to adopt/adapt new ones. Same happens for many professions. The job of pedagogical counsellors may then revolve around accompanying teachers through the practical tweaks which we can apply to make teaching as impactful in a new context. In such work, calling something “Open Education” is probably not that useful. Showcasing the work
Those often unrecognized in the Open Education movement. It’s been the case for public schools in Quebec, some of which still use «pédagogie ouverte» in their documentation.
Thing is, though, OE itself isn’t about the theory. It’s about a practice. And it’s an ongoing movement with deep roots.

Let’s do this together!

OK, together it is. I agree with everything you’ve added. Thank you.

As a kind of followup…
I feel relieved, thanks to @brsmith, @AmandaGrey, and Elena Kuzima (with backup vocals @rjhangiani). In their panel about ZTC, they’ve made clear the validity of diverse approaches to eliminating textbook costs. Yes, replacing commercial textbooks with open ones is really useful, in a number of cases. The “Orgo” case still brings tears to my eyes for the beauty of the story behind it. And because there are so many people using this single textbook, many of them becoming doctors, it’s an opportunity to create a global community of learners, if OpenStax ceases it (by providing means to communicate around the book).
Also, working with learners to adapt a text can work really well. In that case, the textbook format is useful because it provides a clear structure which then decreases the cognitive load of managing bits and pieces.
An approach which has rarely been discussed during OE events is the use of Fair Dealing (Fair Use in the USA; likely other terms elsewhere). That can be done through a coursepack, of course. Interestingly, it sounds like coursepacks have changed drastically, at least in Canada.
Canadian Copyright, Fair Dealing and Education, Part Four: The Disappearance of Course Packs - Michael Geist

Oh, and an interesting opportunity, here, is to open up our syllabi. Especially if we find some way to standardize references for the learning material we use. That could help us track OER adoptions, for instance. And it could help new teachers select appropriate material. And while there have been teachers in some universities who balk at the idea of sharing their syllabi because they perceive those resources to be too high in value, it’s become a fairly common practice to develop at least an archive of course outlines within a department or program. If EdTech tools made that sharing easier across the board, we’d have a recipe for success. (IIRC, @moodler told me about an attempt to facilitate syllabus-building and sharing in the wellknown Learning Management System. Sounds like the effort hasn’t fully paid off. Which doesn’t mean the approach can’t work.)

Anyhoo… Going back to approaches to eliminate textbook costs…

The specific approach that I personally enjoy the most is linked to the Collaborative Syllabus (which, as Amanda pointed out, qualifies as Open Pedagogy). It’s something that I’ve done with groups of up to 30 people or so (always with undergraduate students). After building a list of topics with learners, I’d find a variety of texts for the coming week, as we went along. All texts were available to students through the university’s proxy (or equivalent) and I did my best to focus on Open Access articles. Learners would choose one text from a longer list and would become responsible for that text, using that as basis for classroom discussion. The breadth of learning was typically much greater than in any kind of textbook-based course by the simple nature of “distributing reading”. It also worked better with my approach to critical thinking than with the typical “voice of authority” textbook.
One issue, there, is that it wouldn’t have been possible for me to report in advance on which texts I’d be using. At one institution, it did require a bit of back-and-forth with the department head as syllabi had to be approved and they needed a list of readings for formal approval. Still, I did have an impressive reading list at the end of the semester.

All this to say (!), it’s a highlight of #oeweek 2023 for me that we can talk about diverse approaches to Open Education, from Open Textbooks and alternatives all the way to attempts to centre marginalized voices.

Great to see this in depth discussion.

One small note:

Isn’t this what the Open Syllabus Project does already? If I understand it correctly, it never reveals or shares uploaded syllabi, so it does not matter if it has a reuse license or not.

That’s where a solution might lie. Promote data sharing through such a project. One approach would be to make that easier to do through whichever tool people are already using to build their syllabi, from Word to a custom tool.

To slightly expand on this…
There have been attempts at syllabus builders because there’s a need. When prepping for a new course, especially, it can be quite time-consuming and somewhat error-prone. My guess is that most teachers do the same thing: search for examples online and get inspiration from those. If you’ve already done a syllabus or 20, you start from one as a template. Some institutions provide boilerplate text for things like academic integrity and the writing centre. You check your institution’s academic calendar to schedule class meetings to flow through the semester (or quarter, etc.). It can be a bit of a puzzle to match material with weeks or topics, even with textbooks.

Where the fun starts is when you search for material you haven’t already used. For recent PhDs, for instance, it can require moving from a very thorough understanding of a part of your field to adopting a generic stance which feels like watering down the material. In some cases, you might tie the material to assessments you have in mind. With a textbook, that could easily be quizzes and exams, which is where testbanks prove so useful. “Adopting a textbook” can feel like shopping for an appliance: you check a variety of features and reviews, test out a few things, try to assess how things will fit together… Sure, the “Zero-Cost” feature might be a prominent one. And people may have a generic measure of “quality”. In the end, though, you select a textbook as something which will take a lot of space in your room. You probably don’t want to have to “fight” it all the time.
In a “granular”/“modular” approach, the stakes on each item are fairly low. Of course, it also necessitates finer-grained decision-making. With OERs, the possibility to adapt the resources is very attractive… if you can think of ways to embed that adaptation work in your overall approach.

So, the ideal syllabus-builder would hit all the points. People could curate lists of material, tracking their experiences. For OERs and other CC-licensed work, the full TASL attribution would come along and people could check for compatibility between licenses. Data on use of OERs and other zero-cost options would automatically reach the people who need to know about such things (library, registrar, etc.). Linked Open Data on the material used could serve the core OSP mission (on representativity, etc.). A collaborative syllabus practice could gain support from making such syllabi dynamic and easy to update. There could even be triangulation with data from typical Learning Analytics approaches, especially in terms of access to the pieces of material (“did my students watch this video, read that chapter, get stuck on this slide…?”). It could even become easier to have a space for instructors using the same material to communicate with one another, sharing tips and tricks.

Maybe this is all “crazy talk”. It sure would put textbooks in a new context.

From all the scrambling we hear now, we just prompt for it in Docs/Word and some AI will spit out a syllabus…

What’s that? Oh, I guess my filters have been working. :wink:

The human point, here, is about open collaboration. Sure, machines might be involved. It still starts from human intention and attention.