Lesson 1.2 The benefits and impact of Open Education
General benefits of Open Education
Watch this short video to understand why Open Education matters:
Opening up education is important for various reasons, as noted in a recent report by the European Commission:
‘Opening up education is important in the European policy agenda for many reasons. First, it allows access barriers to education to be reduced or removed (for example, cost, geography, time, and entry requirements). This can make it possible for learners to up skill or re-skill in a cheaper and flexible way – an important consideration in the economic crisis faced by Europe today. Second, it helps to modernise higher education in Europe, since contemporary open education is mostly carried out via digital technologies. Finally, it can bridge non-formal and formal education, by making it easier for HE institutions and other accredited institutions to recognise certificates of learning achievement (to include badges) they each issue to learners (JRC 2016: Opening up Education: A Support Framework for Higher Education Institutions)’
This is particularly relevant in times of massification of higher education. Stimulating supply and demand for high-quality open education is essential for modernising education. If universities really want to find more resources to invest in better teaching and research, it is essential that the open sharing of resources is encouraged. Knowledge must be shared and spread, teachers inspired to network and collaborate on course development, and institutions discouraged from fragmentation and a silo mentality.
Furthermore, Open Education can be a catalyst for teaching and learning innovation. For example, in terms of access to learning, institutions which embrace Open Education are pushed to think further about supporting the adaptation of courses to special needs (for example, students with special needs). They can, therefore, widen up their reach and increase the opportunities for participation in education. An example of how OER can be used to increase learning accessibility is https://opentextbc.ca/accessibilitytoolkit/.
Transformative potential of Open Education
The idea of free and open sharing in education is not new. In fact, sharing is probably the most basic characteristic of education: education is sharing knowledge and information with others, upon which new knowledge, skills, ideas and understanding can be built (https://www.oeconsortium.org/about-oec/). Through Open Educational approaches, students can get additional information, perspectives and materials to help them to succeed. Workers can learn new things that could help them in their current employment, or retrain to get new skills that might help them undertake a career change. Faculty can draw on resources from all around the world, researchers can share data and develop new networks, and teachers can find new ways to help students learn.
‘Life is sharing’ (Alan Levine, CC-BY 2.0 Generic)
Through Open Education, people can connect with others they wouldn’t otherwise meet to share ideas and information. Materials can be translated, mixed together, broken apart and openly shared again, increasing access and inviting fresh approaches. If we look at open educational content, we can see that its transformative educational potential revolves around two linked possibilities:
- Increased availability of high quality, relevant learning materials can contribute to more productive students and educators. Removing restrictions around copying resources can reduce the cost of accessing educational materials; in many systems, royalty payments for textbooks and other educational materials constitute a significant proportion of the overall cost of education (http://wikieducator.org/A_Basic_Guide_for_OER/A_Basic_Guide_to_Open_Educational_Resources:_FAQ).
- Having the possibility of adapting existing of materials provides one mechanism for constructing roles for students as active participants in educational processes, who learn by doing and creating, not by passively reading and absorbing. Content licences that encourage activity and creation by students through re-use and adaptation of that content can make a significant contribution to creating more effective learning environments.
Impact of Open Education on different stakeholders
We can identify the benefits for each of those involved in using Open Education approaches – the learners, the organisation and the educators.
Learners can benefit from:
- Applying knowledge in a wider context than their course would otherwise allow
- Freedom of access and enhanced opportunities for learning
- Support for learner-centred, self-directed and social/informal learning approaches
- The opportunity to test out course materials before enrolling
Educators can benefit from:
- Student/user feedback and open peer review
- Reputational benefits, recognition
- Benefits (efficiency and cultural) of collaborative approaches to teaching/learning
- Reaching a wider range of learners
Educational institutions can benefit from:
- Recognition and enhanced reputation
- Wider availability of their academic content (linking to widening participation agenda)
- Efficiencies in content production
- Increased sharing of ideas and practice within the institution
- Increased understanding of IPR
Other sectors (eg, employers, public bodies, private bodies, 3rd sector) benefit from:
- Access to repurposable content
- Input to scoping, development and endorsement of open content in their focus area
- New potential partnerships with content providers and other sectors
- Increased understanding of IPR, curriculum development and learning technologies