Do open access and open education need to work together more? That was the question posed by Pat Lockley and discussed on twitter on Friday evening by a group of open education folks using the hashtag #chatopen.
Open access in this instance was taken to refer to open access repositories of peer-reviewed papers and other scholarly works and associated open access policies and agendas. There was general agreement that open access and open education proponents should work together but also recognition that it was important to be aware of different agendas, workflows, technical requirements, etc. Suzanne Hardy of the University of Newcastle added that it was equally important to take heed of open research data too.
Although the group acknowledged that open access still faced considerable challenges, there was a general consensus that it was more mature, both in terms of longevity and uptake, and that it was embedded more widely in institutions. Amongst other factors, the relative success of open access was attributed to the fact that most universities already had policies and repositories for publishing and managing scholarly outputs, while few had comparable strategies for managing teaching and learning materials. Phil Barker added that research outputs were always intended for publication whereas teaching and learning materials were generally kept within the institution. Nick Sheppard of Leeds Met also pointed out that most institutional repositories could not handle teaching and learning resources and research data without significant modification. This led to the suggestion that while institutional repositories fit the culture of scholarly works and open access well, research data and OERs are much harder to manage and share.
In terms of uptake and maturity, although there was general agreement that open access was some way ahead of open education, it appears that open data is catching up fast due to institutional drivers such as the REF, high level policy support and initiatives such as opendata.gov. Funding council mandates were also recognised as being an important driver in this regard.
Different interpretations of the term ‘open” were discussed as the open in open access and open education were felt to be quite different. The distinction between gratis and libre was felt to be useful, though it is important to recognise more subtle variations of open.
There was some consensus that teaching and learning resources tend to be regarded as being of lesser importance to institutions than scholarly works and research data and that this was reflected in policy developments, staff appointments and promotion criteria. Furthermore, until impact measures, funding and business models change this is likely to remain the case. Open access and open education both reflect institutional culture but they are separate processes and this separation reflects university polices, priorities and funding streams.
The group also felt that different communities had emerged around open access and open education, with open access mainly being the concern of librarians and open education the domain of eLearning staff. Phil refined this distinction by suggesting that open access is driven by researchers but managed by librarians. However Nick Sheppard of Leeds Met suggested that the zeitgeist was changing and that open access, open education and open research data are starting to converge.
In response to the question “what open education could learn form open access?” one lesson may be that top down policy can help. Although open education processes are more complex and diverse than open access, the success of open access could aid open education.
Pat wrapped up the session by asking where next for open education? What do we do? Lis Parcell of RSC Wales cautioned against open education becoming the domain of “experts” and emphasised the importance of enabling new audiences to join the open debate, by using plain language where possible, meeting people where they are and providing routes to help them get a step on the ladder. There was also some appetite for open hackdays and codebashes that would bring teachers, researchers and developers together to build OA/OER mashups. Nick put forward the following usecase:
“I want to read a research paper, text mined & processed, AI takes me to relevant OER to consolidate learning!”
Finally everyone agreed that it’s important to keep talking, to keep open education on the agenda and try to transform open practice into open policy.
So there you have it! A brief summary of a wide-ranging debate conducted using only 140 characters! Who says you can’t have a proper conversation on twitter?! If you’re interested in reading the full transcript of the discussion, Martin Hawksey has helpfully set up a TAGS Viewer archive of the #chatopen here.
If you want to follow up any of the points or opinions raised here than feel free to comment below or send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks once again to Pat Lockley for setting up the discussion and to all those who participated.