In order for connections to form, openness is important.
But how open? Is there such a thing as too open?
Should all content and materials be freely available? What value does a university gain from keeping research “closed”? What about teaching? Should that be open as well?
I would argue for materials and research to be open. That’s easy. Yes. Open.
Teaching, though….hmmm, more complex. In cck09, it seems to work to have it all open (though what goes on between the instructors/facilitators and the students taking the course for credit is closed to me and the rest of the non-paying students. Granted, if I sent George and Stephen a private email, that would be too, but I’m talking about assessment/feedback on assignments, and whatever – if any – other stuff they get).
I think openness in online courses would be a leap for most of the faculty I work with. They see the online space (in our case, a Moodle course) as equal to the classroom, where they have the right to close the door. And the responsibility to moderate and “take care” of the teaching space, which includes the “walls” of the moodle shell and a very exact headcount. What’s more, our model is cohort and team-based, and there are lots of closed spaces within closed spaces, for teams to work privately from the rest of the class. Some courses have “open” team spaces within a course (so team 3 people can check out team 2’s stuff), but I’d say the majority are not like that. Part of it is probably competitiveness in some form, part is an assumption that people want/need a private space to work. Do they?
It reminds me of the thinking behind anonymous surveys: we assume people will only give honest feedback if they can do so anonymously. I used to work with a great professor who balked at that, saying that people need to have the guts to say what they have to say and be prepared to defend their views – it was considered part of the learning of the course. I don’t know, I think it’s easier to be anonymous. You can lob your feedback over the fence and forget about it. Similarly, it feels easier/less risky to be “closed”. But as I said in a recent post, there may be something incredibly valuable in being in that position of feeling that pressure/risk. It might drive you in useful directions.