As more and more distance education and traditional brick-and-mortar institutions explore and embrace ‘open learning’; a lot is being written on opening access, open curricula, open assessment and open accreditation. Less is written on the impact of open learning on faculty and the systems needed to support and enable open learning.
What does ‘open teaching’ look like? What are the implications for the skills and value sets of educators and facilitators of learning? What are the implications of open teaching on minutely crafted permanence management agreements? How does open teaching shape our definition of faculty and their traditional roles of teaching, research, community engagement and academic citizenship? How does open teaching affect the need for permanent office space, infrastructure and office hours?
The above are some of the questions that we need to find answers for as we move into open learning. The legacy systems, assumptions and infrastructures that support and provide enabling environments for an era before open learning will not only frustrate open teaching but most probably prevent it…
Many authors have already written about the changing nature of teaching and scholarship in general. See for example George Siemens, Stephen Downes, Steve Wheeler, Gráinne Conole, and Martin Weller. These authors and others point to the impact of open learning on curriculum development, scholarship, faculty roles and the general move away from instructional design to learning design in open learning contexts. It would seem as if it is fairly undisputed that teaching in open learning context cannot (and should not) look the same as the traditional forms of teaching whether in brick-and-mortar or distance education institutions. Open teaching requires different systems and assumptions and we cannot expect that systems which supported traditional teaching will necessarily be appropriate for open teaching. If we would just care enough to notice…
So what are the questions inherent in moving to open teaching? The following is not a definitive list, but let us think about the following to start with…
- Who will be considered faculty in open teaching systems? What does tenure mean in a digital age and in open teaching contexts? Will we still need a separation between tenured and adjunct faculty? Do I need to a faculty to teach online?
- What does office space mean when we can teach anywhere, anytime? What do ‘office hours’ look like? How does a performance agreement look when our deliverables may change depending on the needs of our students and the scope and context of a fluid and open curriculum?
- What skills and values will we reward in open teaching systems? How will we enable and require creativity and innovation after years of rewarding obedience to bureaucratic systems of timely submission of tutorial letters and examination papers? Can we still afford to have faculty who long for the days where typists were the administrative core of departments? How do we deal with faculty who still think that Twitter is the name of a newly discovered planet?
- How do ‘materials’ production schedules’ look in open teaching contexts where content needs to be current and up-to-date, where “production cycles” sound like something from an era past?
- While team approaches to curriculum and learning development have become established as ‘best practice’ in most distance education and open learning institutions; how do ‘course teams’ look in open teaching? Who do we need to have on board to ensure well-designed learning environments?
- How does open teaching affect the obsession of many ICT departments in higher education institutions to allow and support only certain approved devices and software programmes? How does open teaching affect our seeming obsession with defending institutional Learning Management Systems (LMS) as the only official and sanctioned platforms for teaching?
- And lastly, what does the scholarship of teaching and learning look like in a digital age? What does scholarly teaching look like in an age when learning analytics provides us with a powerful tool for teaching? How does academic citizenship and community engagement look in an increasingly mobile, digital and open world?
In closing: It is crucial that we cut through the rhetoric of open learning and discern the implications for teaching. Learning will not change if we do not teach differently….
[Image retrieved from http://virtualschooling.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/mooc-introduction-to-openness-in-education/]