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Pursing Open Education Practice, Starting the Conversation and the Role of University Executives

Ken Udas (The University of Southern Queensland, Australia)
Session Information
October 30, 2014 - 4:10pm
Open, Global, Mobile
Areas of Special Interest: 
Open Education Resources; Institutional Initiatives
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Oceanic 5
Session Duration: 
35 Minutes
Concurrent Session 10

Openness is perhaps the most important development in education in decades. How can a meaningful discussion, activities, and outcomes be cultivated at your university?

Extended Abstract

The goals of the presentation include:

  • Improved understanding and advocacy for open educational practice (OEP).
  • Sharing practice with those developing activities, plans, and policies supporting OEP.
  • Creating a common dialogue about topics that make promoting the openness agenda difficult at universities.
  • Outlining the potential roles of executive leaders in nurturing a meaningful discussion leading to outcomes.

Who Will Benefit:
A range of individuals may benefit from active participation in the session including

  • those interested in open educational practice,
  • those who are advocating for an open culture on their campus, and
  • those responsible for the well being of the university mission.

Presentation Rationale and Description:
Openness in education, or OEP is perhaps the most important development in higher education during the past decade. OEP includes Open Education Resources (OER), Open Access publishing, Free and Open Source Software, open policy, open textbooks, open data, open technology standards, open metadata, open file formats, open research, and more broadly open education. The movement has resulted in dozens of education collaboratives, millions of open resources, new business models, Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs), micro Open Online Courses (mOOCs), and an explosion of alternative higher education organisations. State and national governments have pledged commitments to open public resources, as have international agencies, while a number of public funding agencies and philanthropic foundations have mandated that whenever their funding is used, all resulting intellectual property will be made available under an open distribution licence.

To ignore these trends, along with the reported savings to students that come along with the adoption of OEP, is to ignore the three principal sources of educational funding globally for teaching and research; a) public support, b) philanthropic support, and c) student financial contribution through payment of tuition and fees. There is a reasonable argument that consigning OEP as irrelevant today is not unlike having dismissed online learning as a fad 15 years ago. So, why does it seem difficult to develop a meaningful, robust, and sustained discussion about openness on many campuses? Why is the topic of openness so elusive to so many university leaders? How does executive leadership effectively advocate for the dialogue? And how can members of the broader university community support the conversation?

The presenter will outline 6 structural issues that make the dialogue difficult and will provide some suggestions and examples of practice to help institutional leaders address them through a sustainable dialog leading to institutional decision making. The following topics will be treated.

1. Open-washing: Like "organic" and "green" the term "open" has been used in ways that destroy the meaning of and educational benefits of openness. Open-washing makes it difficult to discuss openness in a rigorous way because we are exposed to the use of the term in ways that are intentionally deceptive.

2. Culture of Production not Participation: The power behind Openness is it potential to catalyze creativity and growth through participation. The launching of a new OER repository, an OER based course, or a MOOC has become the crowning achievement of OER participation, rather than contribution to an established community. Contributing to an Open Project is much more difficult (culturally) and harder to rationalize economically (funding), than starting-up a similar project with institutional branding. Many universities and university staff are happy to share what they have created, but are less culturally disposed to participate in an established community, use what others, have created, or join an existing open project.

3. General Understanding and Discrimination: The terminology surrounding openness has become quite messy. It is not difficult to understand why many well-intended colleagues have difficulty understanding and discriminating between openness, transparency, and fee free resources. It is not uncommon to have repeated discussions with colleagues during which the differences between OER and open enrolment are untangled.

4. Intellectual Property, Copyright, and Licensing: The relationships between intellectual property and access can be a pretty esoteric topic. The issue is made more messy by the Corporatisation of the university environment during the past 25 years, the pressure to develop external sources of revenue through commercialisation of intellectual assets through re-licensing and transfer and the understandable erosion of trust between university management and teaching faculty.

5. Data and Information Management: The effective use, capture, and sharing of OER requires some capacity to manage data and information openly. Anybody can create open resources and its storage tends to be distributed, permissions need to be verified, and principles of access and versioning need to be understood and supported.

6. Recognition: Faculty often indicate that although they would like to engage in OEP, the time spent and outputs attained are not currently valued by their university in terms of workload, promotion, and tenure. How can we recognize, value, and incentivize the creation and use of OER within the academy? If we take seriously our role in information dissemination and knowledge growth, and we really do think that openness (sharing effectively) is an important catalyst, then should participation in an open intellectual economy be rewarded formally and meaningfully?

The presentation will include an introduction provided by the presenter and a more interactive opportunity for participant discussion. During the presentation the six topics cited above will be discussed, as will the strategy being pursued at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) to build a community-wide discussion on openness and investment in activities that address the topics outlined above and others. Links to digital artifacts will be made available, and an open conversation among session participants will be promoted during the session. We will discuss and address challenges participants have faced, their successes, the nature of the USQ process, the benefits of executive advocacy, and impacts on the University. Participants should leave the session with a) an understanding of some topics that make a meaningful discussion about openness challenging, b) strategies for developing a meaningful community dialogue about the University's relationship to openness, and c) access to some digital resources developed and used at USQ to promote an institutional understanding and commitment to OEP.

Lead Presenter

Dr. Udas currently serves as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic Services and Chief Information Officer (CIO) at the University of Southern Queensland where he is responsible for providing strategic direction, leadership and management of the functions, centres and departments that comprise the Academic Services portfolio. With responsibility for ICT Services, Learning, Teaching and Quality, Educational Technology Systems, and the University Library, Academic Services enhances the University’s performance and innovation and ensures a clear strategy for the quality and support of teaching, learning and information access and use. Prior to serving USQ, Ken co-founded an education services company, Everspring Partners where he served as Chief Academic Strategist.

Ken’s diverse set of executive management and teaching includes roles in Slovakia, Austria, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, Australia, and New Zealand as well as in the United States, where he recently served as CEO of UMassOnline and Executive Director of Penn State World Campus. In addition to his managerial roles, Ken has enjoyed teaching assignments at numerous colleges and universities including UMass Boston, Penn State, University of Maryland University College, Babson College, and Univerzita Komenského. He has been teaching online since 1995. Ken holds a Ph.D. in Education Administration and a Masters of Science in Business Analysis, MIS from Texas A&M University in the US and has written and presented extensively on the topics of distance education, technology, and openness.

Ken serves in numerous professional associations. He is the co-founder of the Educause Constituency Group on Openness, and the Jasig 2-3-98 project that are focused on the emergence and adoption of open technologies, practices, policies, and initiatives, and how they affect the delivery and support of education. He is currently chairing the Educators Working Committee for the Free, Libre, and Open Works project hosted by the Open Source Initiative. He also serves on advisory boards and has actively participated in numerous professional associations including Educause, Online Learning Consortium, UPCEA, NUTN, IMS, and WikiEducator.

He occasionally posts at Latent Pattern Transmissions about the general nature of the university. kenudas.com