Education, iterations, and openness – new possibilities

By Dr. Connie Blomgren

Figure 1: Open Pedagogy
Figure 1: Open Pedagogy. Adapted from Hegarty, B. (2015). Attributes of open pedagogy: A model for using open educational resources. Educational Technology. P4.

Recently, the name change for Athabasca University’s MEd was approved and the twenty-five years of a “Masters in Distance Education” became a “Masters in Open, Digital, and Distance Education”. What does this matter and what does it mean? What does it mean for me, an associate professor teaching within this program and more importantly what does it mean for my current and future students?

Due to the COVID-19 virus the pivot to online learning has been experienced unlike no time previously, yet prior to the current pandemic, 12-16  percent of Canadian higher education students were taking online courses (Bates et al, 2017). Since 1995, there have been many changes to the delivery options for education – we now have mobile phones, YouTube, and learning platforms of various kinds and versions. Over the years and concomitant with the rise of digital tools, educational changes have occurred. So the addition of “digital” to our program name makes sense. But what about “open”? What is open education? And how do I continue to iterate, change, adapt in my role of being a teacher of teachers?

I confess that I know a fair bit about openness in education – its history, its pathway to various definitions and conceptions of what entails openness. There are open educational resources (OER), open science and open data, open access publishing and scholarly journals. And of course, there is the shape-shifting term “open pedagogy”. As academics do, I have selected a camp to inhabit, a definition of open pedagogy that is simultaneously binding yet expansive, and I have chosen Browyn Hegarty’s (2015) eight attributes of open pedagogy as a framing device for my researching, thinking, and being part of open pedagogy.

But how am I living out these attributes? Especially during the pandemic? By flipping my regular face-to-face professional learning opportunities online, like most others have done. In this last year I have taken the Creative Common certificate and completed a mini-MOOC on graduate supervision. Additionally, I attended the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate’s 2020 CPED Virtual October Convening – upon the one day that non-members were able to attend.

This convening allowed me to learn more about innovative responses to the changing needs of education doctorate students. Dr. Jill A. Perry presented “What is a Dissertation in Practice Anyway?” to help conference attendees like myself further recognize a problem of practice as distinct from a traditional research problem. Familiarity with what a problem of practice dissertation entails allows for a more fulsome inquiry disposition and moves past solutionist thinking. Through her Challenge Room and Mural activity, conference participants brainstormed and listed ideas to three pre-established questions; we dove into collaborative thinking and extended ideas through discussing them. The digital visual collaboration tool Mural helped us collect our thoughts for the wrap- up and for her post presentation purposes. Dispersed yet synchronously together, we pulled apart our thinking about the importance of a problem of practice, an inquiry disposition.

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Where is OER now and where is it going?

Open Education Conference  |  By Dr. Connie Blomgren

Where is OER now and where is it going?

openEd1From October 11-13, I  was in Anaheim attending and presenting at the OpenEd 2017 conference. I  met old friends and new. I collected business cards and learned from those I met in sessions or as I took a coffee break. Old connections and past experiences  were renewed in unexpected ways – as well as making new connections and possibilities. This process of change and revisiting the old are part of being open…and of being part of the Open Educational Resources (OER) world and its larger affiliation with the open movement.

OpenEd 17 – Sharing, Gratitude, and Hope

Highlights of the conference included the venue itself –  the beautiful open design of the Hyatt – with its atrium spanning 10 stories and enclosed with north light passing through panels of glass. Inside and out palm trees reminded us how the natural world can always be part of teaching and learning – that we are alive and daily growing albeit in small ways.

OpenEd2The opening keynote by Ryan Merkely – a fellow Canadian – amid this primarily American audience reinforced that OER ties to Creative Commons and that there will be a CC certificate offered in April 2018. He summarized how CC is working on 3  aspects – teaching,  partnering and  movement-building – as forming their current and near future focus. This concept of the significance of the commons was  a theme further explored by the Friday morning keynote by David Bollier who encouraged us to reframe what OER means beyond the increasing drive to commodify content and to recognize that *open* is not the same as a commons. He asked – who IS taking care of open resources?  And encouraged us to be  mindful that a faux commons is possible i.e. we need to think of the Commons in more abstract terms.

With over 700 delegates this conference has grown substantially since its first offering with 40 attendees. The following highlights reflect only the various presentations, round table discussions and insights gained from the afternoon *unconference* that I attended. It is a sampling of the breadth of topics and flavours offered this year.

In the Open Your Eyes to Open Education: 1 Day PD Offerings Introducing K-12 Educators to OER given by  Cassidy Hall (Doceo Center University of Idaho), I learned about the model of professional learning that K-12 teachers access regarding OER development. Like the state of Utah, Idaho looks to K-12 OER as a solution for quality resources developed by teachers. Reviewing K-12 OER Materials (  gave an overview of the purpose behind Ed Reports which arose when American educational  publishers stated that their resources were Common Core aligned but there was no vetting available to examine such claims. The website is  purposefully designed to make people dig into an analysis and as more instructional materials are being tagged as OER, both by publishers and educators, Ed Reports continues to use a practitioner based peer review process to ascertain the merits of a curricular resource.  The review process for OER materials is as rigourous as for non-OER and involves several peers in making a determination.

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