On Openness: Early Reflections/First Impressions

Philosophically, I’m totally sold. Openness (openly sharing work, ideas, etc) is good, and can be great (just ask anyone featured in Alan Levine’s Amazing Stories of Openness – really fun and inspiring stories!). Practically, I’m also sold. Daily, we all learn because of others’ commitment to being open with their work.

It sounds like there’s a “but” coming; there isn’t, really.  I do hear “objections” or “concerns” about openness, but I think there are “answers” or at least reasonable responses for each of them.   For example:

  • What about money? I did work and shared it online and no one paid me
    • As illustrated in the Amazing Stories of Openness, people put good/useful stuff online, and no one sends them a cheque at that point, but later, maybe, they end up getting offers and opportunities that can turn into cash.  Worse case scenario: you reap other benefits (notoriety/becoming known in the network, expanding your collegial circles, and learning). Worse case scenario: you’ve contributed value to the network. Hey, that’s something!
  • What about money? If courses are online, students won’t come to school and pay tuition
    • well, yes they will. because they still want the credential, and the full teaching/learning experience. Course materials online do not a course make.  We know this by now. Also, openness can be viewed as a marketing strategy: try before you buy!
  • What about my Intellectual Property?
    • My sense is, the Open culture is one of referencing/citation/giving credit. Because it’s the right thing to do.  Just look at all the RTs and @usernames on Twitter. Even there, where every character counts, people make giving credit a priority. And I think  the network will keep people honest. I bet there are “Amazing Stories of Referencing” out there – people pointing to the original writer if/when their work isn’t credited (by accident or otherwise)
  • How do we organize and find and determine quality of all this sharing?
    • we tag it. cream rises to the top. have faith in the network

I guess I have faith in the network.  And I guess that has to be experienced, which makes it hard to “sell” the idea to others. I am lucky to work at a forward-thinking institution that is taking open-minded, thoughtful steps in this direction.  We choose open source software. We participate in open courseware initiatives in our province. We are looking for ways to move in this direction in a way that makes sense for us.

In a related story, instructors I work with are becoming more open, too. More students are using wikis for team projects because they support collaboration and publication of student work. How cool to make a “real” contribution to the knowledge in your field vs. handing in a paper that’s only ever read by the instructor, graded, and forgotten.

I think back on days when the Learning Object Repository was a hot topic. Things are different now.  Will this “new wave” of openness/sharing succeed where the “Learning Object Repository” style of openness didn’t? I think so, because it’s letting people share in their way, and creating technologies and ways to FIND, as opposed to trying to get everyone to do X in the same way. Make sharing easy, and people will share.

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