A view of openness from the Great White North: From tiny ripples to surfing the waves of openness – guest post by Nick Baker


While open educational practices are slowly becoming an embedded part of the higher education landscape globally, there is still a long way to go before we can consider them as mainstream in Canada, or North America in general. Around the world, the open movement is growing, driven by the many dedicated individuals who truly, madly, deeply believe in the benefits of open access to knowledge and education. Yet, the majority of our colleagues (and senior administrators) still seem to have very little awareness of the potential, or even existence of, open educational resources. Those who are still carry mistrust, convinced that free = poor quality. What, one wonders, might it take to get their collective attention, or to convince them open can mean high quality?

Anyone reflecting on the last two decades of open education activities in North America might remember that it is 20 years since David Wiley came up with the idea of the Open Content Licence – a first step towards open licencing of educational resources. Then there was that little project known as the MIT OpenCourseware Initiative, which has had 200 million visitors since 2001 engaging with content from 2,400 MIT courses made freely available to the global community (at least, those with a solid enough internet connection to access the resources). Or what about the Merlot OER repository, which started 20 years ago and has over 80,000 items in its database of open resources? And who could forget the original cMOOC that was a product of George Seimens and Stephen Downes’ experiment with connectivist teaching and learning approaches, which predated the MOOC hysteria by several years (of course, the term MOOC was even coined by a Canadian – Dave Cormier). More recently, BCcampus’ and eCampus Ontario’s respective open textbook repositories and resources to encourage adoption, adaptation, and creation of open educational resources have emerged as important players on the open practice landscape in Canada and beyond. These and other initiatives have led to the formation of the Canada OER working group, bringing together various provincial open education initiatives with the aim of leveraging their work to save students money.

There is a lot of good stuff happening in open educational practice in Canada and the US, but until fairly recently, it didn’t seem to have the same profile locally as elsewhere in the world. The conversation about open educational practices in Canada and the US is becoming louder and more insistent, and it is being driven by many voices outside of academia, as well as a band of champions within. How do we help to facilitate and amplify those voices so that real change can happen? We are making some headway in driving OERs into the mainstream, but it has been a long, slow, bumpy road so far. This got me thinking about why that might be, and what could be done to accelerate the trend.

By Nick Baker, University of Windsor, Canada.

Twitter: @nbaker

Email: [email protected]