It needs courage to open the door to your classroom. My compliments to the open course workplace learning (#ocwl11). I happened to sneak in @ the online session (‘Kamingespräch’ /  Where was the kamin/fireplace? 😉 about ‘Learning between course and community’. OCWL is a university course at the University of Tübingen with regular students’ participaton AND everyone can just walk by and listen. It felt a bit like going to the science-version of Hyde Park’s Speakers corner.

Does open education solve the discrepancy between theory and practice? is one of the questions in their blogparade. Here are my three considerations about the theory/practice debate in relation to E-learning.

1. most important about open education in an e-learning setting is that we make learning processes visible and transparant. It’s not just happening in a closed physical room, among the selected invited. It’s recorded, one can trace documents, comments, linking, citations ….. This has wide-ranging implications, e.g. we learn much more about the learning process; every learner has a lifelong recorded, digital open education presence.

2. nothing can be more practical than a good theory. By opening up academic courses one could possibly meet with experts from many other disciplines and produce new applications. You can also invite guests to take part to induce this process. It does involve an awful lot of good and continuing moderation though.

3. An Open Course can be situated in a long tradition of public academics. Academics who gave open, public lectures. I’m certain many of you know examples for different countries. For the Netherlands I like to mention Clara Wichmann, who was part of an early 20th century group of intellectuals giving free and open lectures every sunday. The idea was to keep sciences alive, make it lively. A 21st century example is making science lectures part at a popfestival, practiced at the Lowlands musicfestival.

I have some questions. About the role of the teacher: When communication becomes less insider-directed and more outsider-directed, does this imply that the teacher should be a multi-talented public relations type? And does this maybe have a negative effect of the university as a free and separated place to think and experiment? What about educations’ role to criticize authority? (see: Martha Nussbaums latest book, on Education (Not for Profit). And about visibility and transparancy: there are limitations here, like we protect personal data. Do we need a protection of educational-records-data and the student as well?

I love pioneering stages. Please keep trying out new things out there in Tübingen. Happy to receive comments, any language goes,

Ellie Smolenaars.