By Carina Bossu, Lecturer Learning and Teaching (OEP), University of Tasmania
This is my first official blog post, which is exciting and a little scary at the same time. I was invited to contribute to the TELall blog as part of being an ASCILITE Fellow, which is a great honour!
In this blog, I would like to explore several concepts and approaches related to being an open practitioner in today’s higher education context. But, first I believe that it would be a good idea to try to define OEP. I used the word “try”, because there are several definitions of OEP, and also because “open or openness” in education can mean different things to different people. In a recent article, Catherine Cronin helps us to understand these differences, mostly in educational settings, as she explores different interpretations of openness in education. She also provides a succinct and helpful definition of OEP:
Open educational practices (OEP) is a broad descriptor of practices that include the creation, use, and reuse of open educational resources (OER) as well as open pedagogies and open sharing of teaching practices (Cronin, 2017).
But, what does it really mean to be an open practitioner? I believe that most of us working in higher education today are to some extent open practitioners, mostly those working closely with learning and teaching, including educators, educational developers, instructional designers, student support staff and librarians (yes, they can be educators too!).
Open practitioners are those who look for innovative ways to enhance learners’ experience through effective use of learning technologies, they tend to engage with social media and adopt new approaches to learning design, including open pedagogies (Conole, 2015; Nascimbeni & Burgos, 2016).
Most importantly, open practitioners are those who are willing to share their discoveries and initiatives, and receive feedback and input from peers and learners from their discipline and beyond. It is a reciprocal exercise where the people who share now will definitely benefit from it later (or even immediately), and those who are at the receiving end, will most certainly share as well. A quote from Wiley and Green (2012), who are OEP experts, remind us that:
Education is, first and foremost, an enterprise of sharing. In fact, sharing is the sole means by which education is effected. If an instructor is not sharing what he or she knows with students, there is no education happening (Wiley & Green, 2012).
Being an open practitioner does not benefit the practitioner only, it benefits learners from all walks of life, institutions and learning and teaching as a whole, including empowering others to be more open (Bossu, Brown & Bull, 2014).
As educators move to a more conscious stage of becoming an open practitioner, there are a few things that they can consider adjusting, reflecting and acting upon. Perhaps one of the key steps towards engaging more specifically with openness is to understand open licenses, particularly Creative Commons licenses. These license are the “soul” of OER. Knowing them, how they work, their reach and restrictions will empower practitioners to make clear decisions about the adoption of these resources and their impact on teaching and learning practices. Another step is to understand your institutions’ policies, strategies and procedures regarding OER. For example, if there is existing permission to publish content created by you under the Creative Commons licenses, and if the institution has an open repository to upload resources you created. The Open License Toolkit is an instrument that can enable and assist educators in making decisions regarding the adoption of Creative Commons licenses within the Australian higher education context.
Also, reach out and get support from those who are open practitioners, or who are inspiring to be, in your institution, in other institutions, throughout your professional networks and beyond. Such avenues are a way to get further engaged with open practices to learning and teaching. You could also access a whole range of freely available online resources developed to support practitioners, researchers, advocates and decision makers. You will find some of these resources on the websites of some international organisations such as Commonwealth of Learning, International Council for Distance Education, UNESCO, and at dedicated research institutes, including OERHub, to name a few. For those interested in deepen further their understanding, there are also slightly more structured opportunities such as this free short course on Becoming an Open Educator, this Introduction to Open Educational Practices, and this 10 Module introductory course on How to Use Open Educational Resources. The above are just a few examples, but there are no shortage of resources and opportunities to learn more about being an Open Practitioner.
My final suggestion to future open practitioners is to join a Special Interest Group (SIG) focused on OEP. In fact, I would like to take this opportunity to invite members of the ASCILITE community to join myself and my colleague Adrian Stagg in our 30 minute presentation/discussion about “Developing an Australian Open Educational Practice SIG”, which will take place at this year’s ASCILITE conference. Some of the aims of this presentation are to establish the basis for a SIG in OEP in Australia, and to provide OEP and open practitioners with a national level community of practice in higher education. Non ASCILITE members can also join this SIG.
I hope the reflections explored here will encourage educators and practitioners to experiment with and realise the opportunities of OEP, which include, but are not limited to, widening participation in education, enhance student learning and experiences through quality resources and appropriate students support, and of course a commitment to sharing knowledge and opening up to the world’s learners.