Innovation in open teaching and learning has become increasingly attentive to the commercial potential for scaling up as witnessed by the growth of massive open online courses (MOOCs) since 2012 (Urrea, Reich, & Thille, 2017). This attention intensifies under conditions of austerity and disruption, as both educational institutions and their technology company partners search for new markets and new means of profitable operation, targeting learners locally and across the world to whom education can be delivered with maximum efficiency and minimum cost. Drafting open pedagogy into this effort is troubling and invites us to revisit poorly-cited open education theories from the 1970s (see Rolfe, 2016) in order to understand the ecologies that shape open learning in the present.
Using two relatively small, non-profit platform projects as examples, we will revisit the community-centered philosophy of open pedagogy found in this early work and to ask new questions about scale while searching for productive ways to release open learning practices from their current institutional harness using two examples: #smallstories and Young Writers Project (YWP). We suggest and discuss the possibility that small open online communities enable peer-based pedagogy in ways that larger ones might not. The foundational ideas drawn from Claude Paquette’s (2005) summary of early open pedagogy serve as a framework and allow a structured understanding of the stories and processes that will be demonstrated in our examples.
Paquette (2005) further observes and reflects on three value pairs that constitute axes of negotiation in the open classroom. Autonomy and interdependence counterbalance one another creating the founding tension for peer-based open learning that requires learners to fashion their own autonomy in continuous negotiation with their community. Paquette then suggests that open learning is energised by student agency (freedom) but is tempered by the need for students to learn responsibility and to recognise that their choices interact with choices that others have already made or will make. Balancing freedom with responsibility extends the complementarity of autonomy and interdependence. Finally, democratic ideals bring the principle of freedom of speech to the open classroom including the freedom to speak controversially; this principle however requires ongoing active participation of students in the management of learning and in the resolution of disputes.
The online nature of our two examples amplifies these three tensions and transforms the context for their negotiation.
Unlike traditional educational settings envisaged by the open pedagogy of the 1970s, open online spaces are asynchronous, translocational and even global in scope. Creating the possibility of group negotiation is a familiar challenge to any educator working in open, online spaces.
Paquette, C. (2005). La pédagogie ouverte et interactive: une brève histoire. Retrieved from http://arc-en-ciel.csdm.ca/files/Pedagogie-ouverte-et-interactive.pdf
Rolfe, V. (2016, November). Open, but not for criticism? [Slide presentation]. Presented at #opened16, Richmond VA. Retreived from: http://www.slideshare.net/viv_rolfe/opened16-conference-presentation
Urrea, C., Reich, J., & Thille, C. (2017). [email protected] ’17. In Proceedings of the Fourth (2017) ACM Conference on Learning @ Scale. New York, NY, USA: ACM.