US: An open future for higher education

Education, and in particular higher education, has seen rapid change as learning institutions have had to adapt to the opportunities provided by the internet to move more of their teaching online and to become more flexible in how they operate. It might be tempting to think that such a period of change would lead to consolidation and agreement about approaches and models of operation that suit the 21st century. New technologies continue to appear, however, and changes in attitude indicated by the integration of online activities and social approaches within our lives are accelerating. How should institutions react to these changes?

In this article from EDUCAUSE Quarterly ,the authors write that one part of the answer seems to be to embrace some of the philosophy.

One part of the answer seems to be to embrace some of the philosophy of the Internet and re-evaluate how to approach the relationship between those providing education and those seeking to learn. Routes to self-improvement that have no financial links between those providing resources and those using them are becoming more common, and the motivation for engaging with formal education as a way to gain recognition of learning is starting to seem less clear.

What is becoming clear across all business sectors is that maintaining a closed approach leads to missing out on ways to connect with people and locks organisations into less innovative approaches. Higher education needs to prepare itself to exist in a more open future, either by accepting that current modes of operation will increasingly provide only one version of education or by embracing openness and the implications for change entailed.

In this article we look at what happens when a more open approach to learning is adopted at an institutional level. There has been a gradual increase in universities opening up the content that they provide to their learners. Drawing on the model of open-source software, where explicit permission to freely use and modify code has developed a software industry that rivals commercial approaches, a proposed 'open content' license was matched by parallel decisions that releasing content for the good of others better matched educational aims than extracting commercial gain. The establishment of a funded programme by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation encouraged sharing educational content and helped establish a firm foundation for more open approaches.

Full article in EDUCAUSE Quarterly, Volume 33, Number 1.

* Doug Clow is a lecturer in interactive media development, Patrick McAndrew is associate director (learning and teaching) and Eileen Scanlon is professor of educational technology, all at The Open University.