1.1 The variety of ‘open’
The word cloud in Figure 1 illustrates some of the terms associated with ‘open’, e.g. education, access, research, source, data, science, publication and massive online courses.
There is some obvious common ground between these terms and teaching and learning activity. For example the link between open research and open learning draws together two areas of open academic practice. Open science and open research share common roots and both benefit from the potential to speed up and enrich processes of discovery by utilising crowdsourced data, a practice which can also be applied to open educational resource activity. Crowdsourcing is also associated with emerging open knowledge transfer practices within the workplace (Tapscott and Williams, 2007).
It is not only educational institutions who seek solutions to difficult problems by posting questions to a network of experts. The effectiveness of this model has been well demonstrated through open source programming. The exchange of ideas and analysis across and within sectors can be mediated and transformed in the open environment, particularly when utilising online social tools. The values and norms around copyright and sharing of public-funded work are being revisited from within education and beyond. The potential of open knowledge is becoming more widely recognised and evaluated.
On the H818 course that forms part of The Open University’s Masters in Online and Distance Education we encourage learners to develop a network on Twitter. This can be very useful in both crowdsourcing information (the ‘hive mind’) and in increasing the reach of your own ideas or research (for example if you need volunteers to undertake an online survey).
- If you have an account on Twitter, perform a search on the hashtag #h818conf – this is the hashtag used for the annual Online Conference of the H818 course The networked practitioner. Every student on the course delivers a short online presentation about an aspect of ‘Open education’ under a subtheme of inclusion, implementation or innovation.
- If you do not have a Twitter account and do not wish to sign up for one, you can perform a similar search using Google – simply enter the terms Twitter and #h818conf and you should receive the same results as a search within Twitter itself.
- Browse the tweets (these go back as far as the initial conference in February 2014) to get an impression of the variety of topics covered relating to ‘open’.
- View the conference programmes on Cloudworks, where you can read the abstracts of any presentations that take your interest. To locate the conference programmes simply go to and search for ‘H818’.