Open Education Week (OEW) is usually held the first full week of March, but it’s not the only time we could/should talk about open education. OEW is an international celebration with ideas and collaborations from around the globe, but what exactly is it that OEW celebrates? Why Open Education, of course! Okay, but what does open education mean? People often conflate open education with open educational resources, but they are entirely different though connected.
Open education is one facet of an even larger open access movement. The open access movement includes all the different types of open movements: science, software, publishing, pedagogy, resources, etc. OER on the other hand are the resources themselves – usually digital – that facilitate open educational practices. For more information about the benefits of OER see this previous blog post: https://libraries.wm.edu/blog/post/benefits-using-open-educational-resources. With all these different uses within the open access movement, it can be difficult to understand what exactly people are talking about when they talk about open education.
For many, the use of OER in the classroom is about saving students money on expensive course materials. For others, OERs allow for innovation, creativity, and customization in the classroom which I argue is the point of open education. The digital revolution has altered the way education can be experienced. This revolution was again shifted and altered due to the coronavirus global pandemic. Access to information and navigating this information are essential modern-day skills necessary for success. Open education as a philosophy and a practice seeks to provide and enhance these skills. Open education seeks to maximize the power of the internet to make education more affordable, accessible, and effective.
Open education is founded upon a few principles. One such principle is that textbooks should not be a barrier to education. Textbook prices have risen at almost three times the rate of inflation. This is one of the largest out of pocket expenses for students and sometimes isn’t covered by financial aid. OER solves the problem of expensive textbooks by providing no-cost/low-cost options that can be retained forever. Another principle is that students learn more when they have access to quality materials. Students would often choose not to purchase a textbook due to cost and would suffer academically. Using OER ensures that every student begins with the same resources at the same time.
Technology holds the potential to improve teaching and learning. One of the greatest benefits of open education is that it supports innovation, creativity, and flexibility in the classroom, the workplace, and in everyday life. The final principle of open education is that better education ensures a better future. Education is the key to advancing society’s goals from building a strong economy to leading healthy lives. Increasing access to education and creating platforms for more effective teaching and learning shows how open education can benefit on a global scale.