A critical consideration of contemporary openness in online education




Dearmon, Matthew Jacob

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As the so-called Open Education Movement develops amidst the maturation and growth of computer and Internet technologies, there exists a need for a critical understanding of Open Education itself and its implications for online learning and teaching at distance and scale. To that end, this project essays to establish the limits and possibilities of Open Education as they exist within the context of contemporary neoliberal ideological infiltration of public and higher education, as well as associated processes and structures of licensing, funding, and curriculum. Utilizing a deschooled critical approach grounded in postmodern theories of rhizomatic formation and contemporary notions of the commons, this textual and theoretical research begins by stating the need to clarify what is meant by the term, "open education" and verifying whether and to what extent existing scholarship has engaged the subject at a level appropriate to the threat posed by neoliberal policies, discourses, practices, and enclosures. Applying a transformative research paradigm to a textual analysis that views purposefully-selected free-and-open learning, education, and teaching websites as examples of material culture, this research project seeks to understand Open Education outside of the strictures and limitations of institutionalized education. By examining the mission of selected sites, their promotion of open licensing practices, funding resources that make such learning possible, curricular decisions made at networked scale, and a sample of learning experiences, a conception of limits and possibilities emerges within each of these domains. It is suggested that by encouraging reciprocal learning and teaching through the most permissive level of attributive licensing that encourages sharing, open education can indeed realize some measure of its potential to proliferate open and inclusive learning practices at scale. Due to its low barrier of entry, relative openness, and non-reliance on institutionalized funding, Wikiversity is promoted as a promising site for future efforts through a model of Openly Shared Learning Opportunities (OSLO), even though continued care must be taken to resist corporatocratic and neoliberal intrusion. By removing traditional boundaries established by the need for "teachers" to "educate" learners, OSLO reinvigorates both the subject and the Multitude through engagement with the digital commons.


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