I recently read an article titled Openness as Catalyst for an Educational Reformation by David Wiley in which he explains the importance of keeping information open and accessible. I felt he did an excellent job explaining the importance of open education resources and how it only benefits society. The statement that stood out to me most was in reference to how many educators hoard their knowledge and teaching tools. Wiley said “information technology is sometimes turned against itself and is made to conceal, restrict, withhold, and delete”. This is what occurs with tools such as learning management systems. The purpose of education is to disseminate knowledge throughout society. A culture is only as successful as its least educated group. I often wonder why educators are so stingy at times with their material. Are they worried about competition within their job market? I can sort of grasp why researchers would desire some degree of restriction to their information before it is published. But why with information that is already freely known and accessible?
Wiley compares this type of restriction on educational sharing with the Reformation. Instead of seeing all the possibilities the invention of the printing press had to offer, the church chose to focus on policy over education and limit it’s dissemination. The purpose of an educator is to teach, educate, and provide knowledge to those who are lacking. If you keep education locked and password protected, who is that ultimately helping? The pocketbook of someone? We have become a society that is constantly focused on being better at something or having more than someone else. This same view occurs in education. The popularity of open courses and open resources is attempting to close the gap of the haves and have nots in the education world. MIT has an excellent offering of free courses in their Open Courseware, with lectures, assignments, exams, and textbooks, completely free and accessible to anyone. EdX compiles open courses from all the top universities and offers them on a consolidated website. These types of offerings do not hurt the knowledge or experience of the educators involved. It enhances society by offering information to those who otherwise would not have the ability to obtain it.
We as a society need to focus less on intellectual rights, copyrights, and focus more on human rights which should include open access to information and knowledge across the board.