March 4–6 is Open Education Week. Organized by the Open Education Consortium (OEC), Open Education Week raises awareness about open education and shows how it’s important to teaching and learning. To really understand the impact, let’s first look at what open education is.
What is Open Education?
Open education refers to teachings, resources, and tools that are freely available to use and share. In addition, truly open materials allow people to modify or adapt the original materials. These materials, referred to as open educational resources or OERs, have a specific license attached to it that outlines usage, distribution, and modification.
The Creative Commons Attribution International (CC BY) license is one of the most common open source licenses. Under this license, you can share the resource in any format so long as you attribute the original creator and you use the resource for noncommercial purposes. (More details about the creative commons license can be found on the Creative Commons website.)
Open education can be taken one step further into the world of open pedagogy. Open pedagogy looks at teaching and learning from a theoretical viewpoint and works to develop open materials that other teachers can use. The world of open pedagogy is still young, but early efforts reveal a promising future.
Why is Open Education Important?
Education is the key to change and is central for improvement—as an individual, but also as a community. Open education provides access to education that people may not have otherwise. By gatekeeping education and limiting it only to those who can pay, we do a disservice to everyone. (Textbooks are marked up 400%. Trust us, education often costs more than it should.) Open educational resources help break those barriers, and Open Education Week helps draw attention to them.
How You Can Help Open Education
The first step to supporting open education is to support organizations and business that contribute to the OER world. In addition to the OEC, Affordable Learning Georgia (ALG) is working to create more OERs and even includes open courseware on their website. The UNG Press has partnered with ALG and eCore and now offers 18 OER textbooks, each with a free digital copy available on our website.
Encourage people around you to learn about and share open materials. OERs aren’t limited to the teaching world. Open sourced programs like Inkscape and Scribus are alternatives to Adobe Illustrator and InDesign. Even Google Docs is an example of an open source alternative to Microsoft Word.
No matter what, don’t gatekeep education. It doesn’t help anyone and only restricts what people can learn. Open education is the forward trend in the academic world and is a welcome addition to fields of teaching and learning.