Embedded or insurgent? – where Sheila’s been for the past few weeks.

Bi-centenary Tricolour, 1989, Ian Hamilton Finlay with Gary Hinks,

Bi-centenary Tricolour, 1989, Ian Hamilton Finlay with Gary Hinks.

I’m conscious that so far in 2015 my semi-regular weekly round ups of Where Sheila’s been or what Sheila’s seen haven’t quite made it to 2015.  This is due to a number of things including #byod4l and other work “stuff” which I have been the focus of any blogging I’ve been doing.

I’ve been at GCU for about 15 months now. So no longer a newbie, toddling around more confidently now and waiting for the terrible 2’s to strike.  I know more people, I’m getting involved in more things (e.g our annual Programme Leaders event -see the sketch note here – earlier this week), have seen a cycle of the academic year.  In many ways I feel that I am embedded in the institution.  Embedded is quite a loaded term and nowadays is most commonly associated with journalist in war and conflict situations, not with universities.  However I have just finished reading Martin Weller’s The Battle for Open, and so military analogies have been on my mind bit.

Whilst Martin states the case for the battle of open very eloquently and persuasively in the book, I have still have some concerns about the battle analogy. That said,  I have been swayed a bit by the general argument running through the book.  Open is a “thing”, it is accepted in education from open access publishing to OERs, there is more and more evidence of it’s impact both for individuals and institutions, there can be economic as well as altruistic benefits.  It’s the next bit of the open journey, after the battle that I’m thinking about. The war after the battle if you like, and who will “win” that, and what is my own role in that next stage?

Like many others I identify myself as an open educational practitioner. I share as much and as often as I can.  I have gained so much from being open, the altruistic aspect of open-ness has had a real impact on my career. I don’t think I would have the job I have if I hadn’t adopted open practices. I certainly wouldn’t have been considered as one of the keynote speakers for OER15 if I hadn’t.  That said, I acknowledge that I have had the luxury of time to develop my open practice – others have/do not.

So in my current role, and the bigger war for open-ness what should I do now? Open-ness is becoming more accepted here at GCU, we have OER guidelines developed by our Library which should very soon be actual policy. I am aware of open education being talked about more by many members of staff, including some of our senior management. I’d like to think I’ve had some small part to play in that. But if I’m embedded there must be a  tension that I just report/work from “behind the front line”? Shouldn’t I be part of  an insurgency and fighting the good fight, exploding open-ness all over the place?  In reality, like most open practitioners,  I think I’m probably doing a bit of both.

We all have to work within our own contexts and structures to actually bring about change – particularly mainstream change. I don’t want to have to think about fighting battles all the time. I just want to help improve the learning and teaching experience for our students and staff.

I would love to be able just to change a few words in this article on 5 Reasons Your Company Should Open Source More Code to 5 Reasons Your University Should Be More Open , pass it up the chain and voila suddenly job done. But as we all know it’s not that simple.

Mainstreaming anything takes time, it can be dull and frustrating. That can lead a lot of warriors going off to fight other more exciting battles. Will open-ness, in all its flavours, ultimately just be for some and not all? Just some of the thoughts that  will be taking up a lot more of my time as I prepare for OER15.

5 thoughts on “Embedded or insurgent? – where Sheila’s been for the past few weeks.

  1. Oops (fat fingers on fone pressed send too early !) love your blog 🙂 the rest of my comment should say looking forward to seeing you and our adventures at oer15 !!!

  2. Loved your blog – can only say that in working with you and other colleagues in JISC and CETIS I was inspired by and hope to continue flying the flag for ‘sharing’ and openness in HE. Best of luck for OER15.

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