If I’d known about the Cape Town Open Education Declaration, I might have waited until today to write my first post on open source higher education. Released officially today, the Declaration is a call for openness along the lines I wrote about last week.
Reading the Declaration this morning, I was particularly struck by the following phrase:
Creating and using open resources should be considered integral to education and should be supported and rewarded accordingly.
This statement gets to the heart of what I advocated in my two previous posts, but also adds a new wrinkle.
When we think of “rewards” for using open source education resources, there are two very different kinds of rewards. The first is of the sort I wrote about earlier–our enterprising student is able to acquire the knowledge she needs to succeed in her major and, after taking appropriate exams and/or completing appropriate assignments, is rewarded with credit toward her degree.
But there is another kind of “reward” that needs to be built into our approach to open source higher education–one implied in the Cape Town Declaration. Educators also need to be rewarded for using open source educational resources in their teaching.
The system for evaluating teaching and learning in higher education is so messy and haphazard that to call it a “system” is to imply a structure or rigor that does not exist. The vast majority of educators are evaluated based upon impressionistic reports from peers who visit a class session or two and end-of-term student satisfaction surveys.
If Professor X was to make liberal use of open source educational resources created by colleagues at other institutions, would his peer evaluators applaud, or ask themselves why he wasn’t creating those learning opportunities himself? I suspect that the answer to this question will be entirely dependent on departmental cultures. In some departments Professor X will be applauded, while in others, booed.
But I also suspect that students–those other evaluators of teaching and learning–will largely applaud if, and only if, the resources our professor brings into their course are deemed to add value to the learning experience.
I would argue that where departmental culture is receptive to open source educational resources, the possibilities for innovation and entrepreneurial learning will increase. And, I suspect that from that entrepreneurial culture new forms of educational delivery will begin to emerge–forms not dependent on the “course” as the primary mode of content delivery.