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Renewing our focus on open thinking

With an inspiring speech by Sir John Daniel, CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning, the BCcampus Opening Education event kicked off on Monday, October 17 at the wonderful a Simon Fraser University Centre for the Arts.

As a prelude to Open Access Week, BCcampus and partners invited higher education institutional participants to a special event exploring the ways in which Open Access and Open Educational Resources (OER) are opening up education, and how these ideas might provide an action agenda for B.C. higher education practitioners.

The event included a keynote address and panel presentations in the morning, and interactive sessions in the afternoon that were designed to collect feedback from the face-to-face participants as well as from online participants who followed the day’s events via live web stream and a backchannel Twitter feed. The web stream archive for each section of the Opening Education event can be found here –> open.bccampus.ca

Sir John’s speech on the topic of Publishing with Public Money for Public Benefit set the tone for the day on a high plane, one that validated the interest and commitment of audience members for making educational materials more freely accessible and remixable. Sir John’s speech also challenged us to confidently marshall our arguments in support of open education, open government and open data – in his words, “to provide a common wealth.”

The panelists, Venkataraman Balaji (COL), Wayne Mackintosh (OER Foundation), Rory McGreal (AthabascaU) and Joy Kirchner (UBC Library), each took a turn highlighting opportunities in the OER space for higher education institutions to engage students and instructors about the principles of open thinking, and in each case demonstrated examples of practice from their areas of interest to show what is possible and where the future could take us. Their panel segments were web streamed.

  • Balaji’s segment showed how COL has instituted open policies for its collection of highly valuable educational resources. He also complimented Canada’s expertise in agricultural sciences and how open knowledge in this domain could be used globally in support of food security initiatives
  • Wayne provided a passionate overview of his work with world-class open projects WikiEducator and the newly minted concept of the Open Education Resource University (OERu).
  • Rory spoke with his customary vigour about copyright and educational rights, highlighting Athabasca University’s approach to open access journals and other resources that it believes should be freely accessible under the mantra of open scholarship.
  • Joy presented a recent case-study of action on the scholarly communications front at the University of British Columbia, illustrating the actions that a large university must undertake in an effort to support its employees, instructors and students to operationalize a balanced approach to copyright management and open access.

In the afternoon, Paul Stacey led an interactive session using wireless clickers that probed and collected audience opinion on several central issues associated with open thinking that might help us to build a systemic action agenda, at least within the B.C. higher education sector.

I followed Paul with an Etherpad session with the face-to-face participants and the online audience to collect action items and ideas on three themes that might helps us move forward on the open front.

  1. How do we help educators learn more about open?
  2. How can we best promote open teaching and learning practices in our institutions?
  3. What can we do to influence policy in institutions?

For me it was a refreshing and re-energizing day, one that reinforced the spiral approach that needs to occur with innovative ideas as they move from the periphery to the centre of our thinking. Open content and open access in higher education are barely a 10-year old concepts in a digital age, but ones that I truly believe are beginning to show signs of becoming a larger part of the consciousness of students, instructors and institutions.

Re-published from David’s blog: conviviality