Question #5: What do you think is the biggest benefit of Open Education and what do you think is missing?
Definitely the biggest benefit is to, in a sense, decolonize knowledge, and to make it accessible to everyone. Open Education can open the floodgates of knowledge and not have it be exclusive to those in the academy or attending college. If someone wants to teach themselves something, especially if they can’t afford to register for classes or go to a college, they could still look at the materials and get a sense of what they should be learning if they could afford to go to college. Especially for folks that are in shifting industries, I can see this being super impactful. Open education can be part of retraining opportunities for folks in industries that are no longer viable or are diminishing. People could look at open materials to see if there’s something they would want to explore instead of having them pay for something only to find out that’s not what they want to do.
There’s great potential in OER in that way that it makes things accessible to a variety of audiences. However, there’s a couple of things missing. The first is that the movement seems to be decentralized, which has its pros and cons. With decentralization comes a lot of duplication of efforts. Folks are creating multiple textbooks for the same exact topic and then not really addressing some of the high need areas like technical education. We need collective infrastructure that provides leadership. Right now there’s a lack of cohesion in the Open or the OER movement and that’s just from the U.S. perspective. I’m very new to OER and to Open Education so I’m still learning.
The other thing that I think is missing is representation. I’ve been working with one particular state that has been trying to develop OER materials and want to include indigenous knowledge and perspectives to increase their equity efforts. That is commendable but we also need to be careful about communities that maybe don’t want that knowledge out there. We have to be respectful of that. We have to understand the history that comes with why a community maybe doesn’t want to share that knowledge, which again circles back to why we might not understand that if we’re not represented in textbooks. It’s a vicious cycle. As one of my professors said, not all knowledge is for the academy. That sentiment seems to go against what Open is about but there are communities that might not feel safe or comfortable sharing their knowledge. We have to respect that while still not omitting them from the conversation.