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The Role of Collaboration to Sustain Open Education

This blog post has been written to meet the requirements of the course OPEN9600, Open Education Policy and Leadership, as part of the Professional Program in Open Education offered at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.


Collaboration is at the heart of the open education (OE) movement, with its principles implemented in its various definition. We often talk about collaboration between professors and students (McGeary et al., 2021), collaborative knowledge creation (Bali et al., 2020), and collaborative learning (Cape Town Open Education Declaration, 2007). But this is all from the praxis point of view. What about collaboration for sustaining open education from a policy and advocacy perspective?


I consider collaboration as an essential part of open education awareness and advocacy to achieve a real engagement and transformational impact, at the local/institutional, national, or international level. Open education, with its related concepts such as open educational resources and open educational practices, is based on a paradigm shift of teaching and learning and the whole higher education system (I am focusing my reflection on higher education here). Adopting open education principles means redefining how we perceive education.


To implement these great ideas, we need people with common values, goals, and visions. But how can this be achieved at all levels (local, national, international), when we are all evolving in different contexts, with different priorities, and with different capacities?


For me, I think it really starts with a local community. For example, Canada as a country cannot completely support international initiatives if we do not have a strong community of advocates, leaders, and participants at the local and national levels. Therefore, I think that collaboration should start small. And then, the more widespread the conversation becomes, the more “external” collaboration can be built. To explain this idea, I like this infographic (Figure 1) that explains six patterns of Open Education international cooperation, in relation to the required institutional engagement and their potential transformational impact (Nascimbeni et al., 2021).


Figure 1. The six patterns of Open Education international cooperation, in relation to the required institutional engagement and their potential transformational impact (Nascimbeni et al. 2021)

When looking at the infographic, we see that the collaboration starts at the local/institutional level and goes up to the more transformational impact that can resonate at the international level. The more we are engaged with open education, the more we are perceived as leaders and influential. It is important to say that not all institutions will achieve transformational impact, but if there are leaders in the field, this is where collaboration becomes essential to help those who might have limited capacities or knowledge to become active in the OE movement. Therefore, I see that framework as working in both directions, either from local institutional initiatives to national/international leadership and collaboration or from national/international leadership and collaboration to institutions. In short, those who have reached a higher level of engagement can then help support those who are still in the beginning stages. Collaboration is also about sharing your expertise with others. For example, institutions such as Kwantlen Polytechnic University have reached transformational impact with their Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) initiative, which is leading the way in Canada. If collaborating with other institutions on similar initiatives, their knowledge and expertise on the topic can be essential for the development of similar successful programs in Canada and elsewhere and could ultimately lead to policy implementation and a paradigm shift of teaching and learning in the whole higher education system.


I could reflect endlessly on the idea of collaboration within open education. I haven’t addressed “open collaboration”, consortium and networks, such as the Regional Open Education Leaders Network (ROEL), initiatives and organizations such as OE Global. But the main takeaway would be that I see collaboration (at all levels) as the first step to achieving fundamental changes in policy and education. Unity is strength!



References

Bali, M., Cronin, C., & Jhangiani, R. S. (2020). Framing Open Educational Practices from a Social Justice Perspective. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2020(1). https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1254006


Cape Town Open Education Declaration. (2007). Cape Town open education declaration: Unlocking the promise of open educational resources. http://www.capetowndeclaration.org/read-the-declaration.


McGeary, B., Guder, C., & Ganeshan, A. (2021). Opening up Educational Practices through Faculty, Librarian, and Student Collaboration in OER Creation : Moving from Labor-intensive to Supervisory Involvement. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 16(1), Article 1. https://doi.org/10.21083/partnership.v16i1.6149


Nascimbeni, F., Burgos, D., Spina, E., & Simonette, M. J. (2021). Patterns for higher education international cooperation fostered by Open Educational Resources. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 58(3), 361‑371. https://doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2020.1733045




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