It’s the season of giving, which has me thinking about generosity. How can we be generous in the field of education? How can we give back to the teachers and learners who are trying so hard to make our world a better place?
One way is by contributing to the growing body of teaching and learning materials that comprise open educational resources, or OERs. According to UNESCO, OERs are "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." In other words, free teaching and learning materials that anyone is allowed to use.
I had the pleasure of attending the Open Education Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia in November, and the spirit of generosity that pervaded the event was overwhelming. I learned about community colleges that were saving their students thousands of dollars on textbooks by using open textbooks and other OERs, as well as people and organizations who are developing teaching tools and resources that are free for anyone to use.
The prevailing attitude at the conference was that we need to shift our thinking. Right now, closed is the default. Textbooks must be purchased, learning materials must be paid for, and access to knowledge in the higher education system is only available through the gateway of the admissions process. Is there another way? What can you do to be more open?
For starters, you can give your content an open license so other people can use it responsibly and respectfully. If you’re building content in Canvas, share it on Canvas Commons, where other Canvas users can see and use the cool materials you’ve created. Make your Canvas courses publicly available so lifelong learners can drop in and soak up the information you have to offer. (Don’t worry; your students’ data will remain private, even in public courses.) If you have a cool course, share it on Canvas Network, where thousands of learners can access your content for free.
The human race is unique in its capacity to learn and grow; learning is what makes us special. This holiday season, consider being generous with your learning materials by making small changes. Adopt one or two of the practices mentioned above, and you’ll be well on your way to embodying the spirit of giving that not only pervades the holiday season, but the open education movement as well.
Senior Manager, Partners & Programs