OEGlobal Voices – The importance of practicing what you preach

In occasion of Open Education Week 2022, a podcast with open education leaders at TU Delft and the University of Edinburgh highlights the role universities play in opening up education for the less privileged, the challenges institutions face in making ‘open’ a default mind-set and the benefits it brings.

“I’d like to see Open Education becoming the default”, says Willem van Valkenburg, Executive Director TU Delft Extension School for Continuing Education. “The way I look at it, it is not a question of ‘Do you want to make it open?’, the question is ‘Why do you want to make it closed?’. In our collaborations with faculties, we always focus on unburdening teachers so that it should not take them more effort to make education open than for doing their regular business”, he explains. Both he and Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services and Assistant Principal Online Learning at the University of Edinburgh, stress the importance of enabling open policy at all levels of the institution – from a strong commitment and support by the executive board to finding and encouraging those teachers who want to be involved.

 It is also very much about practicing what one preaches; in Valkenburg’s case, it can be as simple as “using and attributing open licensed images in presentation slides as this can make space for questions and opportunities to talk about open”. It also helps that their institutions have put in place processes that promote openness – for example a requirement for all materials used in TU Delft MOOCs to be open licenced.

Driving the conversation

Both leaders cite the importance of the UNESCO Open Educational Resources Recommendation and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in driving government policy choices and focusing the conversations about sustainable development and the reuse of educational materials. Highton remarks on the redistributive aspect of open education practices: “I work in some rich northern institutions where there is a wealth of learning resources and it doesn’t take away from my institution to share some fraction of our materials in a way that makes it possible for other teachers to use”, she says.

Additionally, open practices can be instrumental in easing cross-institutional collaboration; for example, there are many European projects where funding requires open licensing, such as a current project on Urban Resilience in Delta Regions where the requirements for open has facilitated the bringing of experts together.

Spotlighting open practices

Valkenburg, who is a long standing advocate of open education and the recipient of international awards for his leadership in open practices – such as the OEG President’s Award – talks about how the ‘open’ landscape has changed in the last decade and relates a recent proud moment at TU Delft when he got to present nine lecturers with the Open Education Ambassador Award for their efforts in promoting open education.

Listen to the podcast or read its summary transcript at OEG Voices 033.

Do you want to know more about open education or want to get involved?

Check out the OEGlobal website or visit TU Delft’s OE Week 2022 pages for information on current practices, lecturers’ experiences, our OER, publishing an open textbook and our We Like Sharing open photo catalogue and annual photo competition.

Image credits: podcast by OEGlobal; ‘Open Abierto Ouvert’ by Stefania Usai on WeLikeSharing CC BY-NC-SA

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