Trends and the Future of Open Education 

Post by Amanda Coolidge, executive director, BCcampus 

In the evolving post-secondary landscape, open education has emerged as a transformative force, reshaping traditional paradigms and fostering a more inclusive and accessible learning environment.  

Trends in open education reflect a global movement towards democratizing knowledge, breaking down barriers to entry, and embracing innovative pedagogical approaches. The overarching theme of the future of open education is open education practice.  

Open education practices can broadly be understood to offer agile, collaborative approaches across institutions, systems, age categories (high school versus college), and nations. With open practices, educators can move forward through uncertainty with hope and mutual support.”

How do we respond to generative AI in education? Open educational practices give us a framework for an ongoing process, Mills, Bali, and Eaton (2023) 

Through open educational practice, there is a promise of a more equitable and interconnected educational ecosystem, where learners from diverse backgrounds can access high-quality resources, collaborate seamlessly, and chart personalized learning journeys.  

Four trends are particularly relevant to BCcampus’ role in the open education landscape: 

  1. Measurable Skills and Micro-credentials 
  1. Artificial Intelligence 
  1. Emergence of National Open Educational Resources (OER) Strategies 
  1. Indigenous Perspectives in OER 

Measurable Skills and Micro-credentials  

The integration of OER plays a pivotal role in bolstering measurable skills and facilitating micro-credentials. Open badges are a digital credentialing system, offering indicators of achievement for micro-credentials. Open access platforms should align with open education principles and democratize access to educational content, supporting the broader adoption of micro-credentials. 

Various strategies integrate open education with micro-credentials, including collaborative content creation, peer review mechanisms, community involvement, open assessment models, open learning analytics, and open pedagogy. These approaches aim to cultivate collaboration, community engagement, and transparency in the micro-credentialing process, enhancing the learning experience for participants and supporting measurable skills development. 

At BCcampus significant work has been done on developing process and best practices in micro-credentials in the province. 

Artificial Intelligence 

Artificial intelligence’s (AI) influence on our infrastructures, educational systems, and classrooms is evolving. While fear and uncertainty may characterize many educators’ experiences when dealing with AI, open educational practices can offer some hope in the short and long term.   

In the article, “How do we respond to generative AI in education? Open educational practices give us a framework for an ongoing process,” Mills, Bali, and Eaton (2023), specific open educational practices responding to AI are described: engaging with broad communities, sharing drafts, crowd-sourcing curation, building on others’ experiments, collaborating with students (also known as open pedagogy), and planning for continuous revision and reflection. 

Open practices are embedded throughout a joint statement on AI safety and openness, penned by leaders in the open space in October 2023. The main premise is that open, responsible, and transparent approaches is critical to keeping us safe and secure in the AI era. 

As an organization that provides funding and support for open educational resource (OER) initiatives in B.C., BCcampus has been considering some of the potential benefits and implications of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools like ChatGPT and the use of AI-generated content as part of the OER creation process. To help institutions and open educators grapple with the unknown of OER and AI, BCcampus’s Open Education Team developed guidelines to consider if you plan to use generative AI tools during the OER content creation process.  

Overall, if we use the principles of open practice encouraging community, sharing, access, and collaboration, we can co-create cross-institutional responses to AI in education. Facing the fear of AI does not need to be siloed; we need to be proactive about sharing collective experiences and seeking assistance and guidance when needed. 

Emergence of National OER Strategies 

The emergence of national OER strategies in both Canada and the United States is a response to the growth of open education. BCcampus has been supporting this kind of work and is leading the efforts to increase coordination across provinces, states, and institutions to advocate at federal levels for open education policies. 

Canada: The Open Educational Resources (OER) National Strategy – Stratégie nationale en matière de ressources éducatives libres (REL) group was formed in June 2021 and is facilitated by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL). It began engaging diverse interest holders including national student groups, representatives from provincial open education organizations, scholars and advocates in open education, and individuals and groups representing institutions of higher education, to develop the National Advocacy Framework for Open Educational Resources in Canada (2023). 

Written and reviewed by a diverse group of open educational resource practitioners and experts from Canada’s post-secondary education system, the National Advocacy Framework aims to facilitate cooperation and coordination by OER stakeholders with regards to national OER advocacy. It outlines a series of arguments and considerations for involvement of the federal government in OER. 

As open education work continues to grow at institutions, in states, and across regions, questions increasingly surface about how we might coordinate and advocate more effectively as a field. This includes how to advance open education policies at the national and state levels, how to reach institutional leaders, and how to expand sustainable funding.  

Indigenous Perspectives in OER 

Consideration of Indigenous OER is increasing as there is a recognized need to be able to provide guidance to people working within open education on how they can engage respectfully with Indigenous communities and Knowledge Keepers. 

UBC librarians and co-investigators at Toronto Metropolitan University and BCcampus are pursuing new research into open educational practices and Indigenous Knowledges. This ongoing research project funded by CARL, entitled “Foregrounding Indigenous Perspectives: Community and Collaborator Affinities and Conflicts in Open Education,” will provide new insights and identify gaps in the open education community’s understanding of Indigenous perspectives.  

Kayla Lar-son, member of the Métis Nation of Alberta and the Indigenous programs and services librarian for the Xwi7xwa Library at the University of British Columbia (UBC), has been speaking about the 6 Rs of Indigenous OER. This is an Indigenous focused framework for incorporating Indigenous Knowledges into openly licensed teaching and learning materials. The Rs are influenced by the FAIR/CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Sovereignty, Ownership Control Access & Possession (OCAP), and were originally adapted from the 4 R’s of First Nations and Higher Education and the UBC Longhouse Teachings.  

BCcampus staff have taken OCAP training to better understand Indigenous data sovereignty, the rights of Indigenous Peoples to collect, own, store, and use the data collected about and with Indigenous Peoples. We also ask all our research fellows to take the course. As open education continues to grow, we must uphold the inherent and inalienable rights of Indigenous peoples

The Future of OER 

Open education has a transformative impact on the learning landscape. Open education, characterized by inclusive practices, is shaping a future where measurable skills, micro-credentials, and innovative pedagogies play pivotal roles. At BCcampus, we are interested in learning more about open badges as we look to the future of OER. 

The importance of open educational practices cannot be underestimated in responding to the challenges posed by artificial intelligence, and the importance community engagement, transparency, and responsibility. As Director of Open Education, Clint Lalonde wrote “There are two issues I think are imperative to keep in mind as we grapple with the implications of ChatGPT in open education. First, the current tools will not be the future tools. Secondly, we cannot ignore generative AI tools and hope they will go away. AI has been slowly working its way into our tech for decades, and generative AI tools are only the latest incarnation”. It is important we all pay attention to what is happening in the generative AI space and approach these tools like we do any other education technology — with a critical and ethical eye that balances the pros and cons to assess whether the tool helps us achieve our goals as open educators. Finally, the emergence of national OER strategies signifies a coordinated effort to advocate for open education policies at higher levels.  

The consideration of Indigenous perspectives in open education also highlights the growing need for respectful engagement and the protection of Indigenous rights as the field continues to expand. As Kayla Larson writes “Within the open education community there needs to be careful consideration for Indigenous Knowledges and self-determination, which are deeply rooted in community defined ethics and protocols, and that do not fit into ordinary academic contexts.” Only then does open education have the potential to create a more equitable, collaborative, and culturally sensitive educational environment.