Satellite research seminar: ‘openness’ in education

by Scott Rodgers on May 16, 2017

Neon_Open_SignNext week I have the pleasure of hosting another very interesting research event – a presentation from my colleague Leo Havemann, a sharp Learning Technologist at Birkbeck. Leo will be speaking about just what we might mean when we invoke the idea of ‘open’ in higher education, and in particular how we tend to fall back on an idea of making resources – rather than our pedagogic and research practices – open or available. The full abstract is below.

The event is free and open to all, no registration required.

Satellite Research Seminar
6pm, 24 May 2017 (followed by a wine reception)
Birkbeck, University of London
Room G01, 43 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PD

Free and open to all

Openness in education: content, collaboration, connectivity

Leo Havemann
Learning Technologist, Birkbeck


The proliferation and politicisation of the concept of openness in educational contexts invites us to consider whether teaching and learning in higher education (HE) can ever truly be considered open or closed and therefore what, if anything, is to be gained by claiming educational practices are open. A key strand of the drive to open education is the movement for Open Educational Resources (OER), which proposes that the application of open, permissive licenses to teaching and learning resources is a means of widening access to knowledge and enhancing teaching quality. More recently, the literature on Open Education has seen a shift away from a resource-focused discussion, to an inclusive but wider notion of Open Educational Practices (OEP) (Andrade et al., 2011).

OEP are often understood to involve working with open content and facilitating access to knowledge ‘in the open’, such as through the development of open resources by students as a form of assessment. However, the nature of openness when discussing OEP is more multifaceted and elusive than in the OER context, as the aspirations and implications of OEP resist simplistic and bounded explanations and are perhaps better understood as residing in forms of collaboration or connectivity (Cronin, 2017; Nascimbeni & Burgos, 2016).

While many educators within HE choose to share their work and reveal their processes for the benefit of others, enthusiasm for OEP may be dampened by the perception that this creates additional labour and lacks professional recognition and reward. This seminar will consider the usefulness of the notion of OEP with regard to a case study of a Birkbeck module designed to support students to ‘Step Up to Postgraduate Study in Arts’. I will also consider the structural, technical and skills barriers that inhibit the wider adoption of openness in education, arguing that OEP is best understood as a commitment to opening up access to knowledge as a social and public good, which connects to deeper historical notions of the purposes of HE.


Andrade, A., Ehlers, U.-D., Caine, A., Carneiro, R., Conole, G., Kairamo, A.-K., Holmberg, C. (2011). Beyond OER: Shifting focus to open educational practices: OPAL Report 2011. Retrieved from

Cronin, C. (2017). Openness and praxis: Exploring the use of open educational practices in higher education. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Retrieved from

Nascimbeni, F., & Burgos, D. (2016). In Search for the Open Educator: Proposal of a Definition and a Framework to Increase Openness Adoption Among University Educators. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning,17(6).

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