Reflections on OpenEd17

I was fortunate to be able to attend the OpenEd17 conference in Anaheim, California this month with a group of CUNY faculty from various campuses and the Office of Library Services. The theme of the conference on open education was “Sharing, Gratitude and Hope” which gives you a sense of the powerful emotions that were floating through the sessions. It may seem strange to talk about emotions when reporting on a conference about open education, but throughout the presentations one heard passionate views of open education as a values movement striving towards equity, diversity and social justice.

Here are some take-aways from some of the conference presentations I attended. I hope others will join the conversation by adding Comments. The 3-day conference was chock-full of great presentations—I could only attend some of them. (No, I didn’t skip out to Disneyland!)

Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, gave the first Keynote about the open education movement. He said, “Open has to be about more than the 5Rs – open also has to be about our values.” Those values, he said, are “access, equity, innovation, creativity, diversity and inclusion.” Merkley talked about Creative Commons as a Machine, which is built around CC: Search and a Movement, which goes beyond providing copyright licenses. Creative Commons is a community that “enables sharing and reuse of creativity and knowledge through the provision of free legal tools.” Spreading the word on open access and open education will be furthered by the new CC Certificate program to teach open tools and practices to communities around the world.

The next Keynote was the most powerful of the conference for me, and for others, judging by the comments on Twitter. A panel of students from Santa Ana College presented personal stories on OER enabling them to succeed in college. If their textbooks were not free, they would not have the money to buy them, delaying their registration for courses and completing their degrees. The money saved on textbooks was used for essentials: food, transportation, paying bills. Otherwise, debt would pile up and curtail their education. Hearing this directly from students made an indelible impression. I came away feeling that OER is not just a good thing to do—it is imperative. Too many students will be kept from gaining an education by the barrier of textbook costs when this is a solvable problem. CUNY’s Shawna Brandle gave a presentation on the Kingsborough OER initiative which has focused on making the financial case to faculty.

Open Pedagogy was discussed at several presentations. The value of open assignments over disposable assignments was cited by several speakers. A panel on “Leveraging Partnerships to Bring Open Pedagogy to Scale” provided librarians’ perspectives on building programmatic support for open pedagogical practice. Open Pedagogy is made possible by the 5Rs. These librarians discussed the intersection between open pedagogy and information literacy. Amy Hofer of OpenOregon.org gave a shout out to our own Silvia Lin Hanick of LaGuardia Community College who has written about this. Librarians can open up their teaching practice by involving students in assignments, for example. A major point of the panelists’ presentations was that open pedagogy has been difficult to bring to scale at most institutions. Information Literacy and OEP are part of good teaching practices that should be integrated into instructional design of good teaching. Student work should be made visible and open as part of OER and open pedagogy. Students could be invited to design assignments and remix OER.

How to promote OER to leadership on campus was presented by a group from San Francisco State University. They emphasized that students tell the best stories. Two webpages  were created for student perspectives and a faculty showcase with personal narratives on experiences with OER. I was impressed by the high quality infographics and videos on these websites.

One afternoon was devoted to an Unconference during which we were free to engage in conversations on topics suggested by attendees. I attended a group on Research and Open Education. In answer to my question, “What can we measure?” (in addition to cost-savings), I received several ideas: levels of student engagement (faculty perception); how students access materials; course evaluations by students. This got me thinking about how we need more data on the effectiveness of OER. David Wiley spoke about the need for assessment data and construct-relevant behavioral data.

David Bollier gave one of two final keynotes on the Commons as a self-organized social system to manage resources. Cathy Casserly spoke eloquently and frankly about inclusion and diversity in the open education movement, and offered challenges on how we can do better to listen to diverse voices from around the globe and include them if we are true to a social justice mission. Our CUNY colleagues from BMCC Jean Amaral, Daphne Sicre, and Brenda Vollman discussed strategies for creating more diversity in the OER space and exploring success and challenges in developing culturally relevant and relatable OER content.

At the end of the conference, I was inspired by all the creative voices I heard. CUNY should be proud of the work faculty are doing in this movement. I was left thinking about sustainability, ownership of the scholarly infrastructure, and assessment of learning in open education. I am already eager to attend OpenEd18!

To view slides from several OpenEd17 conference programs: http://bit.ly/2h1fino

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