Open Education 2030 workshop on school education

Last week I participated the Open Education 2030 foresight workshop on school education. The workshop was organized by the The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies in Seville. It was second of the three workshops that aim to provide input for the European Commission’s new initiative “Opening-up Education”. The other two workshops focus on openness in lifelong learning and in higher education. Before the workshops there was a call for vision paper on open education in 2030. Vision papers for lifelong learning and school education are published on the Open Education 2030 weblog.

The workshop started with a presentation of recent trends on open education by the local organizers Christine Redecker, Yves Punie and Jonatan Castaño Muñoz. After the presentation we were divided to groups to identify the most important issues for open education 2030 in four key areas:

  • educational resources
  • personalization & flexibility
  • social interaction
  • open schools & society

I decided to join a group on educational resources. In the discussion we agreed on the following top five issues related to educational resources on 2030. We also had to rate the importance and difficulty of these issues on 10-point scale:

  • More research (importance: 10, difficulty: 6) is needed to make evidence-based decisions.
  • Indexation, interoperability and open standards (importance: 9, difficulty: 9). With the vast amount of educational resources the key issue is in finding the right content. The content has to be described with appropriate educational metadata for indexation by search engines. For interoperability it is important to follow open standards. Unfortunately we can see that big companies are using proprietary solutions to keep the content locked in their ecosystem (e.g. iBooks Author and iTunes store).
  • Legal framework and business models (importance: 8, difficulty: 10). There is a need for business models that would allow the co-existance of commercial content developed by the professional textbook publishers and open educational resources developed by the teachers. How can the teachers revise and remix the commercial content? How can the commercial publishers reuse high quality open educational resources? How are teachers rewarded for the high quality educational resources that they have created? We have seen how the music industry has transferred to new business models but in case of educational content it will be more difficult. For music it is clear that the listener will pay for the downloads or streaming service. But who is the paying customer for educational resources? In some cases it might be the school, but also the parent or the teacher.
  • Teachers’ and learners’ interactions, teacher training (importance: 7, difficulty: 8). It is important to look from the teachers’ and learners’ perspective and understand how they interact with educational resources. Also, teacher training is highly important.
  • Authoring models and tools (importance: 6, difficulty: 7). More research is needed on different authoring models. Publishers, teachers and learners should be all seen as possible authors of educational resources. Future authoring tools should support revising and remixing the educational resources by teachers and learners.

Issues related to educational resources

Our second task was to develop scenarios for school education in 2030. At first we had to agree on the key tensions that will differentiate the scenarios. After a lively discussion we agreed that the two main tensions will be between autonomy-control and formal-informal learning. Some of us still felt that two dimensions are not enough for positioning the scenarios. For example there is often a tension between human-centered and technology-centered approaches.

Key tensions for open education

I joined a group that started working on the scenario for formal school setting with high learner and teacher autonomy. We didn’t come up with a concrete scenario but rather a description of the context.

Scenario A

In order to develop actual scenarios we should have a problem or design challenge that we need to solve. For example one possible real life challenge is related to closing local upper secondary schools in rural areas due to lack of students. This process is currently going on in Estonia and probably in other countries as well. How can we address this issue by more open school system where students and teachers have high level of freedom?

On the second day of the workshop we continued discussing the scenarios and roadmap of actions until 2030. It was rather difficult to set milestones after 2020. I proposed the following three milestones for the roadmap:

  • Develop quality assurance framework for user-generated open educational resources (2015)
  • Support the development of business models that allow reusing, revising and remixing of educational resources by the publishers (2016)
  • Implement new forms of gradeless assessment (open badges, etc) on a larger scale (2018)

Open Education 2030 roadmap

It is important that the European Commission has turned its attention to open education. I have participated in similar workshops before and I feel that our understanding of openness in education is getting wider. It is not only about OER’s and MOOC’s, but also about decentralizing education and giving more freedom to learners and teachers.

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