As a newcomer to the open education community I observed that there is a core group of smart and passionate people who were doing their thing. At first the opportunities for where and how I could participate were not obvious or clear to me. I don’t think I’m the only person who has been puzzled by how to become an active participant, instead of a bystander, in this community.
I’m completely inspired by the idea of a Z-degree, or a degree program where there is no cost for textbooks for any of the classes, but feel that’s a daunting goal from where most of our institutions are at currently. I’m excited about how some faculty are moving away from disposable assignments to assignments that further knowledge creation and sharing, but I don’t regularly teach so this isn’t something that connects with me either.
While the open education community is much more decentralized and open source communities have some additional structures (like feature road maps and release dates) there are still some valuable lessons that can be learned.
Evergreen open source ILS community
I was an active member of the Evergreen open source ILS community in the early days and saw that as the community grew and matured that members started thinking of how new people could get involved, make valuable contributions, and create a sense of community with the shared goal of making better free and open source software for libraries. The Evergreen website now has a prominent page on how people can get involved. These activities include jumping into the IRC channel, joining the mailing lists, answering other people’s questions, writing documentation, testing code, code contributions and funding development.
The On-Ramp: Creating Collaborative Processes
I like how Jono Bacon clearly describes this as a four step process in his book The Art of Community Management (which is also CC licensed!)
- Identifying the on-ramp – make it clear that participation is welcome and encouraged
- Developing knowledge – what skills and knowledge gaps exist? How can they be bridged?
- Determining contributions – which areas/projects/ideas need help? What problems need fixing?
- Growing kudos – recognizing people’s contributions
Implicitly I’ve felt that my participation is welcome, but I come from communities where the culture is very DIY and pitching in and doing things is valued. I’m massively extroverted and gregarious. In my experience higher ed is more structured, siloed and hierarchical than open source communities, so the open education community would benefit by making the invitation to participate clearer and more direct.
For most people in education, faculty, instructional designers, education technologists and others, identifying how to bridge a skills or knowledge gap is what we do. This is a strength of ours.
I’ve observed that leaders in the open education community receive a lot of formal and informal kudos, in the form of awards, fellowships and prestige through publishing. Recognizing the unsung heroes and the non-faculty advocates who are working in this community is also key to encouraging participation and diversity. Mary Burgess and David Porter’s closing keynote at OpenEd 2015 is a great example of raising up many individuals’ contributions for the community to acknowledge.
The third step, determining contributions, is where we need to better articulate how people can do something useful to move open education forward.
Identifying on-ramps for Open Education
I find it useful how David Wiley points out that as an advocate for Open Ed you need to make different arguments with different stakeholder groups. I’d argue that the initial steps to participation in the Open Education community look different for different people. Here’s my initial brainstorm.
— ASWSUV (@ASWSUVancouver) February 15, 2016
Tweet a photo of your textbooks with the receipt using the hashtag #textbookbroke to join other students protesting the absurd cost of textbooks.
Find out what kind of advocacy your student union is doing around open textbooks and affordability for students.
If you don’t already know, find out the cost of the textbooks that you assigned for your courses.
Ask one of your colleagues at your institution who is using an open textbook out for a coffee and ask them about their experience making the change.
Find out what kind of advocacy your faculty association is doing around open educational resources.
Add open educational resources as an information item for your next Board meeting.
See where your institution ranks in terms of adoptions and student savings. Is your institution one of the top 4 in BC?
License your subject guides and presentations with a Creative Commons license and put them online so other people can reuse them. Reuse and remix other people’s CC licensed work instead of writing things from scratch.
Do an audit on a couple coursepacks and see if students are being charged again for content the library has already paid for access to. If so, reach out to those instructors and show them how to deep link to the article, if they don’t already know this.
Next level: Figure out how much people at your institution (students through textbooks, the library through subscriptions) are paying the big publishers. Depending on what databases your library licenses Wiley or Elsevier might be good candidates. Librarians can likely access a booklist through the library and get an estimate of the number of students through the Registrar’s Office.
Making it easier for more people to get involved in the open education community is critical for broadening participation and creating change.
What are some other low barrier initial steps that people can take? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thank you Zak Greant for all the conversations that we’ve had about the mechanics and politics of various communities over the years.