In April 2017 the Royal Roads University, School of Education & Technology hosted a Virtual Symposium. As part of the Masters of Arts in Learning and Technology (MALAT) program, this Virtual Symposium was designed to introduce new students to the field of digital learning while also serving as a platform for experts and graduating students to share their research and knowledge.
Three tracks were part of the Virtual Symposium including “Lay of the Land” with sessions presented by experts in the field. The “Work in Digital Learning – Stories from the Field” is a track which the event organizers described as a “day in the life of” from working professionals in the field of digital learning. The “End in Mind” track had students close to completion of the MALAT program sharing a summary of their research or the process involved in completing their research, consulting project or thesis.
Open Education as a concept and practice was prevalent in many of the presentations and in the questions asked from the audience. A misunderstanding around the definition of Open Education exists that requires further clarification. A traditional misconception is that this model is about providing free education through open sources such as YouTube. The Open Education Working Group defines this free education model as Open Educational Resources (OER) and expands to outline “Open Education (as) much more than just OER and involves aspects like opening up relevant educational data and changing both institutional and wider culture.” (Open Education Working Group, n.d.). Dave Cormier explained during his presentation that Open Education is not free education but rather freedom in education. Students have access to education who previously would not have through location or circumstances. For example, Open Education allows a student to complete high school or post-secondary school through distance learning from remote regions around the world or to attend university using practical experiences as part of the application process rather than a qualifying diploma or degree (Royal Roads University, n.d.).
During the discussion “Open culture, open education, open questions” Catherine Cronin outlined that in most cases currently students are forced to build bridges between formal education and bounded online spaces i.e.: Learning Management Systems (LMS) and open online spaces i.e.: YouTube. Specifically they are expected to look for resources through OER and to participate in Open Education practices, however, they are not mentored on how to navigate successfully between the bound and open online or unbound spaces. Anecdotally I have seen educators routinely expect young students to be able to work comfortably in online or networked spaces without introductory instruction and not offer support or training when they were unable to work effectively in these environments.
Open Education and the extent of openness shared by educators was discussed by Catherine Cronin. Cronin shared a chart created from her recent research on Openness and explained that “openness is not a binary construct” (Cronin, 2017) and that Open Learning is not a space but rather a quality and is contextual. Some educators, for example, are comfortable sharing much of their professional life online through social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter, however, are resistant to share personal information with students and a general audience. She explained that who, where and why information is shared online is important and that the discussion surrounding the topic is complex and personal and must continuously be negotiated (Cronin, 2017).
Open Education models have shown to be successful in student engagement and success. As more evidence is compiled regarding this model educators may benefit from exploring integrating Open Education in their curriculum. Special consideration should be made to ensure students are mentored on navigating the Open Education Resources and integrating them into traditional bounded spaces.
Cormier, D. (2017, April). Intentional messiness of online communities. MALAT Virtual Symposium. Symposium conducted at Royal Roads University, Victoria, BC, Canada.
Cronin, C. (2017, April). Open culture, open education, open questions. MALAT Virtual Symposium. Symposium conducted at Royal Roads University, Victoria, BC, Canada.
Cronin, C. (2017). Openness and praxis: exploring the use of open educational practices in higher education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/issue/archive
Flexible Admission. Royal Roads University. (n.d.) Retrieved July 20, 2018, from http://www.royalroads.ca/prospective-students/flexible-admission
Open Education Working Group. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2017, from https://education.okfn.org