A new chapter: ‘Open Educational Resources’

Having decided quite a while ago that I needed to set up a new blog, I didn’t have quite the right impetus to do it until now. My old one has been more about work-in-general, whereas this one should focus on work-in-progress, specifically in the open education space. My hope is to put digital pen to paper more often to discuss developing ideas. So this new blog is a new chapter in that sense for me, but the main point of this post is also to mark the publication of a literal new chapter, which I am excited to share at last. I will also take this opportunity to say a few thank yous and explain the approach taken.

The chapter is actually described by the publisher (Springer) as a ‘living reference work entry’ and it is part of the volume Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory, edited by Michael A. Peters. Markus Deimann, the section editor, invited me to contribute this entry on Open Educational Resources (there is an open access manuscript version available here). I was honoured to be asked, but quickly realised that this was not as straightforward a task as it sounds. Should it be a history of OER, explore differences in definitions, consider the various strands of related research? I started making notes, reading, writing, and rewriting, but the chapter was slow to form. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and it seems to me that the same might be said of an apparently solo-parented article or book chapter. This is certainly true of mine, but perhaps I am just lucky to have had the support and guidance of friends near and far. Specifically I wish to thank Dawn Marsh for her fine-toothed comb, Joana Barros who always tells me when I don’t make sense, as well as Javiera Atenas and Catherine Cronin, who are always so generous with their thoughts.

I have also been assisted on this journey by others who didn’t necessarily know it at the time. A few months ago I listened to an excellent podcast from Tara Brabazon (in conversation with Steve Redhead, Sunny Rue Chivaura and Glory Gatwiri) prompted by the anniversary of an early work of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, the book Policing the Crisis. In the podcast Tara mentions that the book investigates ‘the career of a label’, in this case mugging, and about how this influenced her own PhD research, in which she looked at the career of the label youth. And this got me thinking about how one of the things that greatly interests me in this nebulous and wonderful field of open education is what we might call the career of the label open. And this also fed in to my thinking about the question: what would I want to tell someone about OER, if they were going to start learning about it by reading this?

And so, in this short chapter, rather than attempt a comprehensive literature review or history of OER, I tried to give some sense of the career of open in education – the idea that this term has historicity and contingency attached, that the educational resource with an open license attached to it is a relative newcomer. I also wanted to reflect the more recent turn towards discussion of Open Educational Practices (OEP) and signal why this is an important development, rather than simply a ‘rebadging’ of OER. For me, this means exploring the benefits of thinking about OEP as a lens for studying and transforming practice, rather than as a list or collection of practices considered open. I am looking forward to returning to this theme in an upcoming conference paper at OER17 which will be an opportunity to reconnect with many more of the people I haven’t managed to name above, but who also keep encouraging me to ask open questions.