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How does Open Education Work?

Openness and Education

ISBN: 978-1-78190-684-2, eISBN: 978-1-78190-685-9

Publication date: 19 December 2013


For an extended period of time education was mainly formal, that is a system with clear roles, goals and responsibilities. Education resembled an immutable and closed system with few, if any, connections to other parts of society. However, during the last century significant changes occurred in many areas of society, culminating in global reform movements to democratise education and to increase participation by opening up education. A current and prominent example of such a movement is Open Educational Resources (OER), which is a global attempt to facilitate the flow of knowledge, reduce the costs of education, and establish an educational system based on humanistic and moral values (i.e. sharing). Yet, recent developments are progressing at such an accelerated speed that it is hard to predict the ‘real’ value of OERs for educational purposes. Also, within OER little reference has been made to previous forms of Open Education, such as Open Classroom/Open Learning in the 1960s and 1970s or to the even older German progressive education (Reformpädagogik). Current OE forms can be characterised as a mixture of economical (‘education as a commodity’), moral (‘education as a common good’) and social (‘education as a shared enterprise’) claims, each of which contribute to the emergence of Open Education. This introductory chapter attempts to set the stage for a sound engagement with openness in education. It provides a conceptual framework that discusses major developments throughout the history of Open Education from a philosophical standpoint. Special attention will be paid to the concept of Bildung (self-realisation, self-cultivation) as an in-depth theory that can not only inform what happens when learners utilise OER but also allows one to reflect on the impact of OER on society. Selected cases of Open Education will be reviewed and then framed with the theory of Bildung. Eventually, this will lead to a set of lessons learned that are aimed at guiding current debates on Open Education.



Deimann, M. and Sloep, P. (2013), "How does Open Education Work?", Openness and Education (Advances in Digital Education and Lifelong Learning, Vol. 1), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 1-23.



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