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Moving from openness advocacy to research

Openness in education – including content, teaching, pedagogy, analytics, or any other flavours – is a 15+ year trend that is starting to cross over into the main stream. I’ve been involved in numerous faculty/leadership meetings with different universities and colleges over the past year and openness has become one of those concepts that everyone agrees with, supports, and promotes. In a way, it’s like “diversity”, given lip service, recognition in planning documents and policy statements, but often not reflected adequately in practice.

A few weeks ago, David Wiley posted a statement on his site about a recent OER report:

The Babson OER Survey is incredible. If you care at all about OER, you absolutely need to read it…Many people think my prediction that “80% of all US general education courses will be using OER instead of publisher materials by 2018″ is crazy talk. But it isn’t. It’s not crazy at all. OER align better with faculty’s top adoption priorities than traditional materials do, and the majority of current non-users will try OER between now and 2017.

I’ve been thinking about this report and, if David is right about the scope of adoption, we have a serious issue. Openness in education is more advocacy than research. Sure, we’ve had the odd Yochai Benkler paper and a few publications from advocates of openness and a few researcher/philosopher/advocates (like Peter Suber and John Willinksky). But, overall, advocacy has driven adoption of openness (OER, MOOCs, open pedagogy, etc). This is rather odd. I can’t think of a trend in education that is as substantive as openness that has less of a peer reviewed research base. Top conferences are practitioner and policy/advocacy based. Where are the research conferences? Where are the proceedings? When they exist, they are often small clusters embedded in other conferences and publications. IF, as David argues, adoption rates of OERs in courses will approach 80%, the lack of a research community in this space seems like a significant limitation.


  1. Don Gorges wrote:

    Thanks George, I agree with your thoughts on moving from advocacy to a research community which has an unbiased position on the issues. We should be able to trust what we read about OER experiments’ results, however, reports which include half-truths and distortions of facts are unacceptable and will ultimately lead to a loss of credibility and mistrust of those most high profile advocates.

    Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 4:33 pm | Permalink
  2. I am excited to read through this website and org.

    Evidence report (2013-2014):

    Friday, November 21, 2014 at 2:32 pm | Permalink
  3. dave cormier wrote:

    I find your faith in Peer Reviewed research disturbing. (said in Darth Vader voice)

    What i actually wonder about is the automatic correlation of open pedagogy and open licensing. I personally see them as only distantly related, other than in the sense that they share the usage of a four letter word.

    Open pedagogy is about changing the power structure of education and changing our thoughts about what it means to learn and know.

    Open licensing is a technical issue about how content gets paid for and what people can do with it after it’s been ‘created’. If 80% of official ‘content’ in courses was OER this would be very relevant from a cost effectiveness standpoint for schools… and would potentially lead to better content. That’s good.

    Do you see them as more closely related than this?

    If anyone is wondering what i’m on about… I’m blabbed about it at length here

    Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 2:49 pm | Permalink