Open in the Evening: Openings and Closures in an Ecology of Practices

Havemann, Leo (2020). Open in the Evening: Openings and Closures in an Ecology of Practices. In: Conrad, Dianne and Prinsloo, Paul eds. Open(ing) Education: Theory and Practice. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill Sense, pp. 329–344.



Recently a critical turn has emerged in the open education literature. In addition to voices which have critiqued open education as under-theorised (Bayne, Knox & Ross, 2015; Edwards, 2015; Gourlay, 2015; Knox, 2013; Oliver, 2015; Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012), another strand has called upon scholars and practitioners to refocus their attention on open educational practices (OEP). From this perspective, open forms of education (like education in general) are framed as a range of processes undertaken by human beings, rather than consisting specifically in the resources they create or amend. This framing appears to offer the possibility of deeper insights into actual practices, but whereas the forms of openness afforded by OER or MOOCs are well understood, it is less obvious what exactly makes a practice open. However, this inherent ambiguity might be viewed as a strength rather than a weakness of OEP: while much of the literature discussing OEP has framed the concept in relation to OER, there is a more expansive concept of OEP which recognises other forms of openness and ways of opening (Havemann, 2016; Cronin, 2017; Cronin & MacLaren, 2018; Roberts et al, 2018).

Taking its cue from this line of enquiry, this chapter considers the question of what is open about (or opened by) open education, and how the concept of OEP can potentially aid this investigation. It focuses on a case study of practice at Birkbeck, University of London, which is an institution of higher education that itself grew out of a particular instance of opening almost 200 years ago. The case study will illustrate the senses in which Birkbeck, along with the particular case of practice under study, is characterised by an interplay of openings and closures.

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