Can there be ‘best practice’ in open education?

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A recent paper in IRRODL Elements of Open Education: An Invitation to Future Research, caught my eye on future research in open education.

Theories of open education

The authors provide a tour of theories of open learning starting with Wedemeyer’s (1971) conceptualisation of openness as wholly self-directed learning. This resonates with some recent perspectives on networked professional learning but also with Connectivism (Siemens, 2005) and Heutagogy (Hase & Kenyon, 2000).

Ideas of sociability and community as components of student-centred learning underpin the theory of rhizomatic learning and the “community is the curriculum” (Cormier, 2008). Holmer’s (1983) take on openness centres on the openness of interactions between the student and teacher as as reflected in Communities of Inquiry (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2000).

Jung and Latchem (2011) discuss openness in terms of the relational and dialogic roles of teacher, learner and the digital environment. Openness enables learner autonomy in navigating more or less bounded networks of learning materials and teacher and peer interactions. These theoretical perspectives form a foundation for the promotion of open educational practices as enacting the values of openness (Cronin 2017).

Open education practices emphasise interaction, dialogue and sharing become an imperative for practising in a democratic and socially just manner (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012).

There can’t be ‘best practice’

This emphasis on the role of teaching in open education, whether by a human teacher or through design of learning activities or the use of technologies, underpins much of the Manifesto for Teaching Online. The new book on the Manifesto draws on theories of sociomateriality to place teaching in complex gatherings of people, texts, objects, technologies and pedagogies. In turn, these generate emergent and unique practices and experiences open to both multiplicity and difference. Open education practices cannot be reduced to repeatable models of so-called best practice.

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