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Transformation Is Focus of Open Ed. Content Conference

Greetings from Canada, where I will be bringing you the latest education news and developments from the 9th annual Open Education Conference, held on the campus of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver from Oct. 16-18. The theme of this year's conference is "Beyond Content," with a look toward the future in light of the many successes that the open educational resources movement has achieved in recent years.

While there is a vast amount of quality content and infrastructure now created and available online for the open educational resources movement to use, how do educators push the conversation forward and truly harness the potential of open educational resources? That is a question that Gardner Campbell, the director of professional development and innovative initiatives for the division of learning technologies at Virginia Tech explored in the kick-off keynote here at the conference this morning.

As massive open online courses, or MOOCs, have emerged in higher education—with university partners such as Princeton, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, as well as Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley taking part in establishing courses through MOOC providers such as Coursera and edX—some say the vision of open education advocates has been realized. But has it?

Maybe not, said Campbell. While these examples point to the strength and interest in the movement, he said they may not accurately portray the vision that some open education advocates have in mind. What education really needs, he said, is "megachange"—transformation that will break free of the structures and systems already established by academia and instead create something new which truly harnesses the potential of open education. "Open is a certain attitude towards systems and the desires those systems empower," he told the audience here, rather than open education being something you adopt or a path to go down.

To make his point, Campbell showed a detailed rubric created for students in a college course explaining exactly how blog posts should be written in order to receive full points. He highlighted the last point on the rubric, which encouraged students to "be creative" after prescribing in great detail how and when blog posts should be written as well as what exactly they should say. That kind of prescriptive instruction is contrary to the "opening" of education as he would like to see, he said. Blog posts that look like term papers do not "open" education, he said.

Campbell's disruptive vision of what open education can and should be for both teachers and students sets the tone for many of the themes I hope to learn more about during this year's conference. Stay tuned for the latest from this group of education thinkers.

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