Open educational resources and the (missing) educational debate: engaging with past literature in a future-facing field

Year: 2013

Author: Peter, Sandra, O'Connor, Kate

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Over the last decade the idea of open education has been of significant interest internationally and the subject of major international conferences and reports. More recently, the rise of the global Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) phenomenon has generated a frenzy of public debate about the potential for a disruption or unbundling of the higher education system (see for example Shirky 2012, Pappano 2012). This paper examines the debates around open education and MOOCs in the literature and more broadly. It draws on literature reviews taken as part of two research projects: one exploring openness as a philosophical and historical concept and the production and framing of open educational resources, and the other considering changes in curricular understandings and practices in the construction of open courses. This work has included systematic content analyses of prominent open education and general education journals, conferences and reports.
Drawing on these reviews, the paper points to some of the limitations for how and where debates about open education and MOOCs are being constructed. It suggests that debate around open educational practices and initiatives has thus far been limited to technological imperatives and confined within a tightly defined and technologically driven field. Current reports have tended to focus on developing and increasing the number of available resources and learning how they are being used and/or adopted, and the published research around open educational resources has largely tended to follow these practical developments. The debate within journals where open education is a prominent topic of discussion has been mainly concerned with issues of access, sustainability, technology, design and copyright. Discussion of educational considerations (pedagogical and curricular) within papers exploring open education in these journals is limited, and where apparent has tended to not engage with broader educational research. Likewise, in the general education literature, research on open educational initiatives has been largely absent. These trends have meant that important considerations about broader educational issues are for the most part neglected in the discussion around open educational initiatives. As these initiatives gain traction around the globe, this paper calls for a broader debate about their implications that takes into account the purposes of education and the university more broadly.