Liveblog: #oeglobal Keynote: Dirk van Damme

The first keynote of the Open Education Global conference is Dirk van Damme.  Professor van Damme acts as an expert in higher education, policy, quality assurance and accreditation.  His report, Open educational resources: a catalyst for innovation will be published later this year.

The presentation began with the observation that OER retain an incredible potential to change educational systems, but the transformative impact of ‘open’ is greater in science and research than in education.  Arguably, MOOC have stolen the thunder of OER without delivering the kind of systemic change that was predicted.  van Damme remains to be convinced that MOOC are truly open.

OER are partly a technical innovation, but rather can be seen as a force of social and educational innovation made possible by technology.  To unlock the innovative potential of OER it is necessary to align with the needs of educational systems.  When we examine these systems we see that there has been a relentless expansion of educational systems over the last couple of generations.  The impact of eduction on other social outcomes like earnings and status is also increasing; education contributes to a range of social outcomes, and we might even say that education is one of the most important factors of all.  Governments invest an enormous amount of money in education, with expenditure per student increasing in most countries.

The challenges facing education in the present day include:

  • equity of opportunity for education
  • ensuring the quality is maintained/improved/expanded
  • efficient use of limited resources
  • meeting ever growing expectations

We see deepening social problems and inequality which intensify the political and ideological differences in debates around education. Can we continue to assume that the industrial model of education that we have inherited is appropriate for our future?  What kind of jobs do we prepare young people for, and how do we meet the demand for skills?  If we fail to get this right there are burdens in other areas, such as welfare.

Curricula needs to be well aligned to actual need – but what are the core curriculum elements of the future?  They could focus on citizenship, lifelong learning, social learning, etc. But what we often see in practice is a focus on maintaining credentialism, and processes of screening and selection which discourage the kind of learning society that we need. We need to focus on the social and emotional aspects of learning, and tune assessment to support this.   We need approaches that are learned centred with structured design, and profoundly personal approaches which respect difference.

What role could OER play in this vision?  Six possibilities have been identified:

  • Foster new forms of learning
  • Support collaboration between educators
  • Reduce public/private costs
  • Improving quality of resources
  • Improving distribution of resources
  • Removing barriers to learning

The first two are the ones identified as most important in a survey of government staff, though all are relevant.  In general , governments do not need to be convinced of the benefits of OER, but want to see evidence of successful application in facilitating the learning process.

This kind of support could include:

  • A move from passive to active learning
  • Fostering peer-to-peer learning
  • Stimulating problem-based learning
  • Enriching learning resources through collaborative practice
  • Enhancing the social and emotional context of learning

The use of ICT has been identified as a major challenge for professional development. Professional collaboration is also a major challenges, and highly contentious for many teaching professionals, many of whom do not see this as part of their role.

Government support for OER through policy can take several forms:

  • Provision of OER & repositories
  • Support for communities of teaching practice
  • Framework conditions of educational settings (more important in some countries than others)
  • Supporting evidence based research for policy and practice

The talk concluded with some provocations:

  • Being ‘open’ is not a sufficient condition for changing education
  • The systemic impact of OER will ultimately depend on the contribution it makes to improving teaching and learning
  • Content and pedagogy are not distinct but interact
  • OER should be able to exploit and demonstrate its intrinsic superiority over proprietary materials in terms of both quality and capacity for educational innovation