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chess-Public_Domain_image_from_Pixabay.jpgJoin us on Monday 27 Nov from 10.00-11.00 (AEST) and contribute to planning this Fishbowl.  Read on for more details, and then join us via Zoom

2017 is being celebrated as the International Year of Open, but what do we really have to celebrate in Australia?

Our team will be participating in a Fishbowl session at ASCILITE2017, held in Toowoomba, Australia.  The session encourages participants to reflect on the actual progress of openness in Australia.  

The tone of the Fishbowl is one of constructive critique, examining whether open education in particular has a robust enough following, and evidence of outcomes to become part of mainstream education.  In the lead up to the conference, we’ll be offering the different viewpoints of the initial session chairs, and inviting you to post comments that can be incorporated into our content - essentially we’re openly developing the structure of our Fishbowl (which are transparent by nature, of course).

The third post is from Dr Neil Martin, exploring the relationship between openness and institutional prestige.

Openness and OEP – a threat to institutional prestige?

The university has been around in more or less its current form since the Middle Ages (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00zf384 ). Elite universities both old and new pride themselves on the quality of their students, research, and teaching and learning facilities. Traditional universities (e.g., Oxford) will consider their tradition of excellence and listed buildings as fundamental to their prestige whereas the best modern ones (e.g., National University of Singapore) will point to their cutting edge research and facilities as they solve the world’s grand challenges. As far as these organisations are concerned their prestige has been earned and they are justly rewarded through research grants, endowments, and positive media coverage of their ranking. Should they therefore potentially jeopardise their status through open approaches?

Openness represents both an opportunity and a threat:

  •   Shared learning materials may be judged and compared for quality – it allows us to “peep behind the curtain” which may be uncomfortable for some
  •   Open research does allow access to large datasets but also presents a potential threat to patents and enterprise initiatives. In addition, some open access journals are not considered to match the prestige of the university
  •   When open educational practice (OEP) is taken to extremes the very nature of the university as a provider of learning content is challenged. What is the value add of going to university when access to learning experiences can be provided elsewhere?

Unsurprisingly therefore, top universities have only dipped their toe into openness and open practice, for example through:

Openness and open educational practice, including the development of OERs, represents a risk paradigm and therefore elite universities in particular have remained cautious. It is these universities that often have direct access to the levers of power in education and perhaps do not see the widespread adoption of open practices as top of their priorities. In addition, many of these universities are not agile organisations with schools and research centres having a degree of autonomy. Such organisations within organisations will likely try to protect their own interests and are unlikely to adopt open practices unless tangible benefits are perceived.

Perhaps widespread adoption of openness has not yet happened because the benefits on offer are perceived to be add odds (or at least irrelevant) to the individual interests of and within universities - particularly elite universities. Perhaps therefore, newer and less prestigious universities need to continue to stake their claim within the open space and offer an alternative to traditional models.

So, what do you think?

Does openness and OEP represent a threat to institutional prestige?

What other concerns do you have?

Tell us your opinion on Twitter #OEPfishbowl or comment below.

This series of blog posts will introduce some of the barriers to the adoption of Open Educational Practice in Australia we have identified. We value your voice in these discussions - join us by tweeting your thoughts #OEPfishbowl or by attending our live Open Fishbowl at the 2017 ASCILITE Conference at the University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba Campus on the 5th December 2017.