Emancipation through Open Education: Rhetoric or Reality?

Lane, Andrew (2016). Emancipation through Open Education: Rhetoric or Reality? In: Blessinger, Patrick and Bliss, TJ eds. Open Education: International Perspectives in Higher Education. Open Book Publishers, pp. 31–50.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0103.02


Many claims have been made as to the potential freedoms offered through open education and how these freedoms may change or democratise higher education. However, are those freedoms truly helping those most in need of emancipation, and what freedoms do they provide for learners or teachers? This chapter tries to answer that question by firstly examining the various discourses surrounding education and emancipation and also open education. It notes that the framing of education and open education can be subject to differing perspectives and outlooks, including distinctions between formal, non-formal and informal education and the relationships between teachers and learners. The chapter then provides a critical overview of the emancipatory effects of open education on learners and teachers (and organizations) as instantiated in open universities, massive open online courses (MOOCs) and open educational resources (OER). It examines the key features and freedoms offered by these examples in relation to formal, non-formal and informal education and in relation to the existing modes of ‘closed’ education and argues that despite the promise of open education it has had relatively little impact on these existing modes and that the reality will be less profound than the rhetoric suggests.

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