Frances Bell

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The Paradox of Openness: The High Costs of Giving Online

The following abstract is for a Symposium that will be presented at ALT-C 2011 by

Frances Bell, Cristina da Costa, Josie Fraser, Richard Hall and Helen Keegan

It is considered, eclectic and interesting and we hope it will attract rich discussion before during and after ALT-C 2011. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to guess who wrote which part (and I have to say one of them is pretty easy to guess), and then to go on to engage in meaningful discussion.


This symposium will examine the paradoxes of giving and receiving online in education in a changing economic climate.  Each of the panellists will briefly address topic areas within the symposium theme, followed by an opportunity for present and at distance audiences to contribute, concluding with a 25 minute plenary discussion.

Symposium delegates will be provoked to reconsider the costs of participation online by paid and unpaid participants in ‘open’ discussion and sharing of resources.

Open Educational Resources exist within communities that create, use and sustain them (Downes 2007). When ‘communities’ in Higher Education break down due to redundancy and casualisation of labour what happens to OERs? Are they sustained? Can they reach out to other contexts?

All areas of education, including the school sector, currently face significant financial challenges and uncertainties. Institutions are increasingly reviewing the provision of devices and services, and looking at learner owned devices and commercially owned ‘free’ cloud-based services. What is the real price of an education system supported and transformed by embedded learning technologies?

Ownership in the age of openness calls for clarity about mutual expectations between learners, communities and ourselves. Ideas and content are shared easily through open platforms, and yet attributions can be masked in the flow of dissemination: does credit always go where it is due?

Openness in the production, sharing and reuse of education/resources is meaningless in the face of neoliberalism. Where coercive competition forms a treadmill for the production of value, openness/OERs are commodified. Control of the educational means of production determines power to frame how open are the relations for the production or consumption of educational goods or services, in order to realise value. The totality of this need, elicited by the state for capital, rather than the rights of feepayers, parents, communities or academics, shapes how human values like openness are revealed and enabled within HE.

Scarce research monies focus attention on impact factors, arguably stagnating practice. For publications, Open Access can increase wider societal impact but at the expense of career progression.We explore the tensions, paradoxes and professional costs on societal benefits, individual agency and academic progression.

openOpen Accessopen education

francesbell • June 16, 2011

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  2. Pat Parslow June 17, 2011 - 4:25 pm Reply

    A major cost of not sharing online, for the individual, is that the institution that employs you typically claims copyright to your work and you may increasingly find yourself unable to use it when you change institution. In an environment of increasing casualisation of the workforce, this may be of sufficient consequence to eclipse any possible concerns about attribution etc. As the noose of tightening budgets closes, and private institutions enter the field, it also seems likely that institutional claims on IPR will become more fiercely guarded, and push the balance further in favour of making your work available to all whenever possible.

  3. francesbell June 17, 2011 - 4:45 pm Reply

    That is a really good point for discussion Pat, especially the point about changes that might come with the increased involvement of private institutions. Reminds me of

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