Two omnipresent themes at OER/open education conferences are sustainability and critical pedagogy. Unfortunately, they are often parallel but separate tracks. Sustainability focuses on “business models” and resources, while critical pedagogy examines students and learning. This session aims to integrate the two by presenting a framework for analyzing the economics of open education/OER with a critical pedagogical perspective.
OER is often described as a commons. David Bollier, when speaking at OpenEd17, Jim Luke (Luke, 2018), and others have expressly likened open education and OER to many of the commons studied by Nobel-prize winning economist Elinor Ostrom. Indeed, “commons” is in the very name of the CC licenses most often used for OER. David Wiley (Wiley, 2018), however, has challenged the applicability and usefulness of thinking of OER as a commons, largely on the grounds of sustainability and the differences between natural resources and knowledge resources.
If we treat open education as a commons, is that model sustainable? Will OER become depleted, a “tragedy of the commons”, as biologist Garret Hardin once described? Alternatively, can open education thrive, be sustained by the community, and become a “comedy of the commons”, a term used by many economists to describe a successful commons?
Clearly, open education as a commons is different from the fisheries or shared pastures that are the popular illustration of a commons. The institutional analysis literature on the commons offers useful insights. Elinor Ostrom (Ostrom 1990, 2005) developed a framework for analyzing commons and identified principles for sustainable commons management. Understanding how these principles apply to OER and open education will help us develop and improve the sustainability of the open education ecosystem. This literature emphasizes that “commons is a verb” (Bollier, 2011). It is a social-economic system, not just a pool of property assets. Sustainability is more about social norms, behavior, and communication than it is about finite resources.
In line with Sean Morris and Jesse Stommel’s (Morris, Stommel, 2018) call for critical pedagogy studies to “help examine, dismantle, or rebuild the structure, hierarchies, institutions, and technologies of education”, we must go beyond just questions of “business models”, cash flows, and economic sustainability. We must consider whether the norms and behaviors needed for sustainability of an open education commons support or enhance inclusive critical pedagogies. Does open education/OER as commons foster or hinder critical pedagogical practices? Who benefits and learns in an open education commons? For whom and how does the commons exist? In short, is an economic model of education as a commons compatible with the praxis of critical pedagogy?
This presentation explores and updates a model and framework of higher education as commons presented at OpenEd18 (Luke, 2018). In particular, the framework is extended to include critical pedagogical considerations of open education-as-commons. The focus is on showing how institutional structures and practices necessary for an economically sustainable open education commons is not only compatible with, but necessary for, critical and inclusive pedagogies.
n.a., this is a traditional, research presentation for 20 minutes
Morris, S. and Stommel, J. (2018). An Urgency of Teachers. Fredericksburg, VA: Hybrid Pedagogy, Inc.
Wiley, D. (2018) “Questioning the OER Orthodoxy: Is the Commons the Right Metaphor for our Work with OER” [online] iterating toward openness. Available at: https://opencontent.org/blog/archives/5800 [accessed 30 Nov. 2018]
Luke, J.(2018) “OER, Higher Ed, and the Commons” [online] econproph.com. Available at: https://econproph.com/2018/10/09/oer-higher-ed-and-the-commons/ [accessed 30 Nov 2018]
Ostrom, E. (1990) Governing the Commons. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ostrom, E. (2005) Understanding Institutional Diversity. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Bollier, D. (2011) The Commons, Short and Sweet. [online] David Bollier news and perspectives on the commons. Available at: http://www.bollier.org/commons-short-and-sweet. [accessed 30 Nov 2018)