Questioning assumptions about openness

Like many of my colleagues on twitter this week, I spent most of Tuesday following the #MOOCs2 back channel from the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education’s MOOCs: What we have learned, emerging themes and what next event.  Inevitably the issue of degrees of openness arose with many participants questioning and discussing the variable openness of MOOCs and their relationship to OER.   Anyone who follows this blog will know that this is a bit of a hobby horse of mine so I followed the discussion with interest.

Quite coincidentally, half way through the afternoon OERs4OpenShools (@OERs4OS) tweeted

Hoping to find a nice example of an open OER based course I klicked the link and was met with the following


Now I know I could simple have logged in, but I can’t help finding it slightly off-putting when a site that purports to be open immediately confronts me with a log in screen.  In a fit of impatience I tweeted:

To which Javiera Atenas (@jatenas) replied:

As so often happens, I didn’t have the time to dig any deeper so it was left to Pat Lockley to point out that this site appears to be a ning community which most likely has no restrictions on joining.  Still unconvinced I replied:

At that point Pat pointed out that OER-Discuss, the Open Education Resources Jiscmail list of which I am a moderator, also requires users to sign up, which I had to concede is a very fair point.  The whole discussion certainly led me to examine my own assumptions and preconceptions regarding openness and to turn my original question “How open is open?” back on myself.  Is a simple log in screen really a barrier to openness?  Does it discourage people from engaging?  And on a more personal level, have I got unrealistic ideals of what constitutes openness?

 PS. For the record, I’ve now tried registering for OER4OpenSchools and it appears to have a three step registration process.
1. Enter name, e-mail and dob, answer question, fill in captcha.
2. Receive e-mail and click authentication link.
3. Enter full name, country of residence, job description and reasons for wanting to joining the community.
I confess I gave up at step 3. although the site owners are very apologetic about the authorisation and authentication process:

“We have to approve every new member to protect the community from “spammers.” We apologize for any delay this causes. Please tell us why you are joining this network.”

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