Is there an OpenEd Divide? A narrow commentary on the #OpenEd21 conference
I don’t normally post work-related things on my personal blog, but this is something I didn’t feel comfortable posting on my work blog. So, here goes.
For institutions who have little support or opportunities to funding, even when there are opportunities nearby, how do they find out about them? Whom do they partner with? When those little faculty-driven projects, and we are not talking tech-savvy faculty on the cutting edge, we are talking little websites, a little self-written material they are getting out there, when those projects are not celebrated because the Open community has moved onto bigger, and yes very important, matters, how are smaller institutions and individual faculty or support persons supposed to find their way and see where they fit into the bigger picture of Open Education? Is there an OpenEd Divide happening now?
Don’t get me wrong, the OpenED21 conference was fabulous, covering many very important topics in the world of Open. But those of us at smaller institutions with little support or access to funding (and even when there are funding opportunities out there, we don’t know about them nor are we encouraged to find them) sometimes feel like we are being left further and further behind. There is a small group of faculty at our institution who are doing amazing, but small and not earth-shattering in the context of this conference, work but it is even hard to find ways of celebrating them within our institution (in a way so that people actually notice!), let alone at an international conference.
At our institution don’t have a dedicated OER librarian, or an OER program/unit, or an OER support system. There is no formal Open Education consortium in our province, although we are blessed to have BCcampus to offer grants and other kinds of support. Our librarians are strapped, in our teaching and learning centre, Open sits off the side of the desk of one instructional designer, by accident. Our copyright officer does all the copyright work for the whole college, not just Creative Commons licencing support. There are faculty adopting open texts, but it is challenging finding out who is doing what, and Open Education is NOT part of our strategic plan, nor am I sure many in administration really understand what OpenEd is or could be for the institution.
I came away from the conference this year, and last, with inspiration, resources, and then realized I have little capacity to develop or adapt resources for our own situations, or experience to deliver them confidently when I do develop or adapt them (and struggle to find ways to promote them to the institutional community.) And I imagine a faculty member coming to the conference, wanting to learn how to better support their students by creating/adapting/integrating OER into their teaching, but leaving with no idea where to turn to next – lots of great resources, but not many specific steps or guidance along the lines of “call me for help” to keep the inspiration going. And then if they do create something in isolation or with little support, and try to share their success, they feel like their efforts are miniscule or negligible in the context of the larger OpenEd community.
#OpenEd21: my suggestion is that this conference needs to find ways of supporting those of us trying to do something with very little in the way of support and resources, to be celebrated and promoted so perhaps we can make better connections with others struggling to do the same work. I am inspired when I attend (it is the best conference I have ever attended, virtual or otherwise), and then leave excited only to be dejected quickly as the reality of our institutional situation comes back to me. Please don’t leave us behind.