Opening up ASCILITE: a call to action

I’m involved in in what I would call a deeply enviable space for learning and teaching.

"How university open debates and discussi" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by opensourceway

Open education, whilst certainly not a new concept, is starting to gain traction across the Australian and New Zealand higher education sectors (to varying degrees), and the attention it receives makes for interesting and exciting times. There are big issues that challenge practitioners such as institutional and national policy, the business case for open education, promoting and rewarding open educational practice, and even finding ways to recognise that many educators are already teaching openly. The possibilities for collaboration – both nationally and internationally – are extremely promising, and the potential impact on Australian students is positive. Reduced costs that lower barriers to education, better access to resources, more flexible pathways for study and recognition of prior learning, and opportunities to be engaged as co-creators of knowledge are all achievable in an open environment.

However, when we discuss openness, the most common foci are textbooks and learning resources. Why? Perhaps it is because replacing the textbook in a course with an open counterpart can be relatively simple. Repositories exist purely for the purpose of disseminating free and open texts. There is a defined cost associated with publisher texts, and it is easy to demonstrate student savings. Learning resources are already created for courses, and most universities have a repository for Learning Objects. Again, it can be an easy discussion.

The harder side of openness is practice, not resources, and as John F. Kennedy said ‘we do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard’. Recent workshops at the University of Southern Queensland led to very interesting debate on the value of resources for learning and teaching for the contemporary university. Are resources why students engage with a university? Do they select a higher education institution for the quality of the resources? Or is it perhaps something else?
The workshop conversation spent a lot of time on the notion that it is interaction and engagement – not resources – that represent the best value proposition for the student. The chance to interact with lecturers and peers, to receive feedback, and to be credentialed; these were perceived as valuable.

It makes me think that conferences are not that much different.

"community" (CC BY 2.0) by mikemcsharry

ASCILITE, like other conferences, is dependent on content for the schedule (and we’re still taking submissions), but is that where the true value of a conference lies? Or, as a previous post stated, is it about the connections, the discussion, the open sharing of ideas? Is it about testing or reporting your idea through a session and then engaging in questioning and discussions? Perhaps the value of the conference lies in the quality of the coffee?

In previous years, ASCILITE has openly licenced the conference proceedings and made them freely available to world. We’ll continue that tradition this year. One opportunity though, is for open streams for the conference, and the opportunity for open practitioners to gather, discuss and disseminate open education initiatives from across the sector. Openness – like learning and teaching – benefits from a community, and I’d like to see more papers and presentations this year about open education in our region.

It may be your chance to test an idea, meet new collaborators, and make that idea just a little bit bigger.

Like I said at the beginning – it’s a deeply enviable space.