Education has long been touted as a benchmark for how advanced a society is in the world. As digital transformation has made its way into the education sector, expanding education to be more adaptable and accessible has never been easier. The Internet and mobile apps allow students to complete lessons and share information from anywhere in the world at a much lower cost than on-site education.
At the same time technology has changed education, the expectations of students have changed too. Students today behave much like consumers with businesses — they expect quick, easy customer experiences with their schools as they do with their favorite brands. This newfound standard for the student journey has caused many grade schools, EdTech startups, and colleges alike to bring their internal processes and institutions as a whole up to speed with technological advancement.
The concept of open education seeks to close the gap between the legacy solutions and outdated practices of traditional education and the opportunities of open learning and EdTech.
What is open education?
To start, open education is an attitude, a practice, and a method of teaching. At the center of open education is the belief that education is strengthened when shared openly. It seeks to accomplish many of the same goals as the open-source technology community: equal and easy access to information, closing divides and disparities, and sharing knowledge with the wider community.
Open education relies on open educational resources (OER) and open licensing. OER refers to educational materials that include permission for anyone to use, modify, and share at zero cost. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation defines OERs as “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.”
How do OERs differ from other online courses like MOOCs?
MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. It would appear that MOOCs fall within the umbrella of open education, but they are actually quite different. Free materials and courses such as most MOOCs allow users only fair use rights or rights stated in specific licenses issued by the publisher. However, their material cannot be legally copied and users cannot alter anything in the course without explicit permission granted from the copyright holders.
On the other hand, open educational resources (OERs) are like open-source code. They grant all users rights without needing to request permission from the copyright holders. The users’ rights are clearly specified and easily understandable, which is unlike the legalese usually found in proprietary educational material like MOOCs. Given this understanding, it’s easy to see how online courses provide the degree of accessibility that OERs do, but not necessarily the flexibility and accuracy to up-to-date information that OERs offer.
When one is granted an open license, users of an OER participate in these five characteristics (known as 5Rs) of open education:
- Retain. Make, own, and control your own copy of the content.
- Reuse. Use the content as-is.
- Revise. Adapt, adjust, modify, improve, or alter the content yourself.
- Remix. Combine the original or revised content with other OER to create something new.
- Redistribute. Share your copies of the original content, revisions, or remixes with others. This a definite no-no with closed copyright licensing.
The benefits of open education
There are several benefits of using open education in the education sector. When it comes to enhancing the student journey, the degree of flexibility and accessibility that open education provides can help students to learn more effectively. Schools are already feeling their success, too. In fact, entire districts and education systems have already massively adopted open education and have plans to do so in the future. For example, the University of Texas Arlington recently announced that the college is investing over $500,000 in OER grants for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Not only can educators make changes on the fly to lessons as information is updated over time, but students can help to point out mistakes or outdated information easily too. This feedback can then be used to make the lessons relate to current events, more accurate in information, and easier to understand from a user experience (UX) perspective.
Those are just a few examples of why open education is superior to proprietary course material. Here are other benefits students can expect with open education:
- Create savings for students, as OERs are significantly less expensive than on-site education. For example, SUNY and CUNY student savings were estimated in about $12 million from using OERs and not traditional textbooks
- Increase academic freedom for faculty members, since they can change the lessons
- Provide better learning experiences for students, since the UX can be updated easily
- Cater to students with different learning styles and speeds of learning, allowing students to work at their own pace
- Mitigate expenses, helping to save schools money on physical space and bodies to conduct lessons
- Achieve greater student success, contributing to the greater educational mission
The vast majority of districts that use open materials include them as formal or supplements to an existing curriculum or program. For example, teachers may use an open lesson plan online to add an enrichment activity for students or to provide additional practice for students struggling with a concept. A real-life use case includes users who have downloaded the materials on EngageNY, the online library of common-core-aligned curricula hosted by New York state’s education department, over 45 million times.
The future of education
With digital transformation changing the way students use technology in their learning, it also affects the way schools provide education too. As schools continue to face declining enrollment rates, moving forward with open education is a viable solution. Schools are able to enhance the student journey and combat industry challenges commonly found in education today through open education. They are also able to attract and retain top talent at their schools by providing a better student experience.
For schools seeking a competitive edge to overcome the sector’s pressures to meet new learning standards, smart campuses and open education adoption will help determine who survives and who is eclipsed in the wake of digital transformation.
Are you looking for a way to digitally transform your school to provide a better student experience? Check out our education workflow page for more information about we help schools modernize their systems for students of today and tomorrow.
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