USNH Open Education January Event: Creating Advocates for Much Needed Change

USNH Open Education January Event: Creating Advocates for Much Needed Change

February 5, 2018

January Event Keynote

On Friday, January 19th, the USNH Academic Technology Steering Committee hosted this year’s January Event: Open Education: Be the Change, at the Derryfield Restaurant in Manchester. Thanks to the insightful discussion and lively participation of USNH faculty, and the leadership of internationally-known futurist and keynote, Bryan Alexander, the event was a success. As the event progressed, we invited attendees to document quotes, resources, pictures, etc. using Twitter and Padlet. If you didn’t attend, or would like to revisit highlights of the event, you can view the tweets, posts, and technology tools discussed, as well as videos of the Keynote and Student Perspectives on Open Education.

The theme of this year’s January event was Open Education Advocacy: Be the Change. In order for the spread of Open Education to be successful, those who are involved in the movement must advocate for the movement. Our purpose was to give ATI ambassadors and other USNH faculty the space to think about and plan their next steps with Open Education. We contacted internationally-known futurist and speaker, Bryan Alexander, to be our keynote, because Bryan himself is a skilled advocate in the field of technology and how it informs education.

Event Keynote: Trends in Higher Education

During the morning keynote, Bryan contextualized our work with Open Education through the lens of the future of higher education. On the one hand, the future trajectory that Bryan described was distressing. The cultural and political contexts in which institutions of higher education exist are transforming, and institutions aren’t adapting to these changes. For example, it is becoming increasingly necessary for college graduates to have more than one career path in life, wealth inequality is widening, and nationalism and elitism are growing movements. Additionally, changes are happening to students that institutions aren’t prepared for: there are increasing amounts of older adults, veterans, students with learning disabilities, and diverse populations in America’s colleges. Yet, as Bryan said, “we cling to the old model of a typical student” and teach only for the white, male 19 year old who was once the face of college. And of course, we are all aware of the dropping enrollments, lack of public funding, and higher tuition costs throughout America. 

On the other hand, Bryan painted a colorful reality in which the continued integration of technology in the classroom will make learning more accessible, international, community-based, and interactive. Bryan predicts the use of 3D printers, socially networked Learning Management Systems, and even Virtual and Augmented Reality in higher education. Open Education is a movement that offers solutions to some of the problems of modern higher education. Open Pedagogical strategies call for students to collaborate and participate in scholarship, rather than be passive consumers of knowledge. Students are doing this in Open Educational classrooms through the use of mobile apps, social media, cloud sharing programs, open access journals, blogs, and digital videos. With digital tools making it easier to access, rather than own, content, Open Access is picking up speed in the educational world. And of course, those involved in Open Education understand the growing economic need of modern students, and seek to use Open Access and Open Educational Resources to remove the paywalls barring students from their education.

According to Bryan, it’s positive that we are concerned about the future of higher education and are working together to improve and adapt it to fit the 21st century. Bryan encouraged USNH faculty:

“You all are here, gathered across all these different institutions. This is rare in American higher education; we are very very challenged when we try to collaborate across institutions. We’d much rather partner with a predatory third party company, than work with each other… I’m very glad to see you all today, and you should feel very positive about that… You are all here because you are motivated by the passion to help change people’s lives, to help people’s education grow, to help younger people or adults become better people.”

Student Panel: The Student Perspective on Open Education

Besides additional informational sessions, networking opportunities, and an action-planning workshop led by Bryan Alexander, the day included a panel of students sharing their authentic stories and experiences with Open Education. The panel included Haley Zanga and Marisa Benjamin of Keene State College, Heidi Paquette of Granite State College, Kayleigh Bennett of Plymouth State University, and Adia Mochrie of the University of New Hampshire. These students took time out of their Fridays (and for some, their winter vacations), and shared their thoughts on their classes that infused Open Educational strategies.

Students discussed the rigor of Open Education courses and how much more passionate they were about these courses, compared to traditional lecture-based classrooms. They told stories of struggling to pay for textbooks and how Open Educational Resources helped take some of the financial burden off their shoulders. They helped faculty understand some of the challenges Open Educational strategies posed for them, and how they overcame these challenges. Students assured faculty of the value they got out of being producers of content, rather than consumers. The tweets from attendees of the January Event included in this post help capture the eloquence and honesty of our panelists.

picture of student panel

(Student Panelists @PlymouthIDS)

Panelist, student, and future educator, Heidi Paquette wrote a blog post reflecting on her participation in the January Event. Heidi captures the precise takeaway that the planning committee was hoping from attendees of the event. It’s time for higher education to adapt to our changing culture and student population. It takes advocates to make these changes happen. We at the Academic Steering Committee hope that this event helped attendees think about how they can be advocates. I will end this blog post with Heidi’s thoughts on advocacy (used with permission):

“...While I had a great experience with open education [in the past], I’m not sure how much effort I would have put in to advocating for it. And then I went to the conference yesterday. From the fascinating keynote speaker, Bryan Alexander to the creation of our own advocacy plans at the end of the day, I saw more and more reasons why we should put time and energy into this growing movement…

Today, going back to traditional coursework and writing another 3 page paper summarizing my readings for the week that only my instructor will read was challenging. But I will persist where I am and be hopeful for the future of education- that more and more open pedagogy will be infused into the learning experience and make a huge impact on the level and quality of learning for our students.

As an educator myself, I am now determined to be part of that change” ("Open Education: Be the Change").

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Thank you so very much for this kind, nuanced, and attentive writeup!
It was a pleasure to read.

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