Openness in education has changed over time and now more than ever in this digital age we live in, it has an even more positive impact on education than a decade ago. Creativity is playing a larger role in the educational environment when it is combined with open educational resources.
Openness is ever-changing
In 1969, when the Open University (OU) in the UK began offering distance learning to those who may not otherwise have access to higher learning it was somewhat of a pioneer program. The aim was to make learning accessible to as many people as possible. It was not long afterward that other universities began offering similar programs. Today online classes are widely available, with many universities and community colleges offering an online study option, classroom learning or a combination of both. Less than a decade ago the numbers of students, both young and mature, had risen dramatically, but financial constraints of recent years have caused a drop in numbers of people participating in higher education. Open access has opened up educational opportunities to students in many countries that had limited opportunities before.
Open scholar – Technology has significantly impacted open education, with a bigger focus on digital resources and sharing via global networks. Many of the barriers to higher education that once existed are now gone, with worldwide access available to a huge number of open educational resources. The ability to share open source resources regardless of physical location has opened up far more educational opportunities for people who previously had little to no access, and even if they could get to a learning institution the cost was prohibitive.
Much as the term “digital scholar” has been used in recent years so too now is the term “open scholar”. There are certain activities an “open scholar” can do, including create, do open research, apply research, contribute and use open education resources, share with others, network, and more.
Openness facilitation – Of all the characteristics of openness it is argued that being able and willing to openly share is the key change brought about by digital technology. The ease of sharing has increased significantly through the advent of social media and blogs. The wealth of knowledge that flows through Facebook alone is astronomical, and Pinterest is another huge information-sharing platform.
Openness efficacy – Without a doubt openly sharing research and information has made it easier for vital information to reach the relevant people. Where once medical research findings were only available through published journals the sharing of such information can happen at a much faster rate.
As sharing typically attracts reciprocity the ability to build networks is also considerably easier as a result of current technology. The barriers to receiving and giving information (technologically speaking) are all but gone, and a mutually advantageous program of sharing information fosters better and wider networking ability.
Creativity and open educational resources (OERs) – There are two main types of OERs. Big OERs are those that are created as a result of a project such as the Open University’s OpenLearn program. Typically these OERs are of very high quality and as they meet the requirements of the educational institution in their original state they are very rarely modified in any way. Where the creativity lies is in the application rather than in adaptation of the resource itself.
Small OERs are typically created by individuals who are either inside or outside the education field. These OERs tend to be low quality and unpredictable, and may need creativity applied in order to function adequately.
Openness-creativity feedback cycle – As information is shared via the likes of YouTube, Facebook and blogs it in turn attracts comments from readers who may share additional information so that the one sharing the information initially receives the benefit of another point of view or research result. In such a way openness encourages creativity, which in turn encourages openness. Understanding the significance of this relationship between openness and creativity and how it can enhance educational opportunities will be key to the success of future scholars.