Making the case for open education
Knowledge is power--and an open education system ensures everyone has access to the resources they need to build knowledge and gain an education
The phrase “knowledge is power” is one we are familiar with. We as a society believe this to be true, as demonstrated through the rising costs of higher education, lack of accessible learning materials like textbooks, tutors, and even classes. Because knowledge is power, we have monopolized and monetized almost every aspect of learning.
Now, as we navigate through the pandemic and are adjusting to a new normal, the need for a truly open education system has never been more important. Before the pandemic, students who didn’t have access to textbooks could check them out of the student library, but now the necessary tools for a classroom include a new MacBook, Wi-Fi connection, and a comfortable and safe environment to learn –a steep price to pay, especially if you can’t afford it. Sixty-five percent of students skipped buying required textbooks during the pandemic, despite concerns for their grades, and those who still want to do the reading are forced to get creative, by even scanning individual pages in the student library.
Because we are more separated than ever, the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted the system into a new way of learning, and open education is crucial for creating a global marketplace of users who are looking to share and receive knowledge to further their own education and understanding. Our students and educators are more distanced than ever, making it even harder to share ideas and hold lively debates.
The days of the Socratic Seminar or just a casual study group with friends in the quad are temporarily over. And as much as we all hope to be back there soon, we must find ways to encourage sharing open educational resources, which can break down barriers of affordability and accessibility.
Where we need to go
We didn’t come out of the pandemic without learning a bit ourselves. We learned that there is extreme opportunity in digital education and resources, that distance doesn’t mean a dream school is off the table, or that a certain class or piece of knowledge can’t be had or shared. And we learned that creativity, talent, and critical thinking, can all be discussed and learned through digital wavelengths.
Armed with this knowledge, the world’s information should be at the fingertips of anyone and everyone who is interested – so why is it not?
We know that it is because where there’s money, donors, and endowments, there’s no reason to share education for free. So, the perspective needs to shift–not to how we can offer all these things for free, but how we can support our students, uplift them, and give them the best tools they need to learn and fully understand the material at hand.
It’s time to shake up the traditional education system and fully believe in a more open system that includes a digital and/or online, collaborative component to complement in-class learning. The potential for virtual learning will only grow, and students will continue to find a use and need for accessing free educational resources and sharing knowledge online.
Historically speaking, knowledge has always been shared–by students, parents, and educators–and in the spirit of education, a more open and shared system where knowledge and resources should not be monopolized.
The most ambitious scholars and educators have always aimed to spread knowledge with as many people as possible, and it’s important to disseminate that ambition between your user base, network, and peers.
As the world eventually eases back to its pre-COVID norms, we shouldn’t be expecting to see students turning back to textbooks and traditional classrooms for education–virtual learning is here to stay. Although textbooks, in-person lessons, and university programs will remain staples in the education system, students and educators must continue to prioritize virtual learning alongside their studies to continue sharing helpful open educational resources.
Open knowledge for everyone–students, educators, and life-long learners–will simply level the playing field for all, while encouraging collaboration and the sharing of resources to create a more educated global base.