Why should Open Education (OE) matter to Geneseo?

SUNY Geneseo Campus

Open Education (OE) at Geneseo honors the school’s mission of fostering a “dynamic and inclusive scholarly environment” by enabling both instructors and students to engage in more open, public-facing scholarship. Furthermore, as a public liberal arts institution, Geneseo prides itself on both excellence and access, which is precisely what OE offers. We care about our students and would rather see them focus their energy on learning and producing excellent scholarship as opposed to worrying about how they’ll afford their next textbook, or, in the worst of cases, avoiding entire classes because the book is prohibitively expensive. Our faculty are award-winning instructors and scholars whose contributions to the Open community would make multiple and lasting impacts on learners and instructors alike throughout the world.

Geneseo has taken the lead on truly innovative and exciting OE projects, including:

DOMES (Designing Open Modules on Environmental Sustainability): An open curriculum in which Geneseo instructors Suann Yang (biology) and Karleen West (political science) wrote openly licensed modules in their individual course’s that incorporated student work from the other’s course so that each course simultaneously informs the other even though they are from completely different disciplines. This project is a fabulous example of Open Pedagogy work that services the broader community in and outside of Geneseo as our faculty contribute to the Open knowledge-sphere.

Five Geneseo Monuments: Exhibition Catalog: A student-written, designed, and compiled catalog of local Geneseo monuments for an art history class taught by Alla Myzelev. This project is a fabulous example of student applied learning under open pedagogical practice.

Milne Publishing: SUNY Geneseo’s publishing service hosts several openly licensed textbooks, including 3 forthcoming texts authored by Geneseo faculty: Inanimate Life by George Briggs as well as Yo Puedo 1 and Yo Puedo 2 by Elizabeth Silvaggio-Adams & Ma. Del Rocío Vallejo-Alegre.

Open Education and social justice: promises & pitfalls

Open Education, for most, is an alluring concept in higher education, promising free, unfettered, democratized access to knowledge consumption and creation. Many consider OE to be the solution to a systemic problem in higher education that gate-keeps knowledge and blocks content behind paywalls surmountable by only a specific portion of the population. Furthermore, OE and Open Educational Resources (OER) have the potential to challenge educational content framed and penned by predominantly white, male, Western perspectives by providing a much larger playing field for voices from diverse and varied backgrounds. It’s this potential OE has to innovate and expand that is alluring, that excites folks who have been struggling against these barriers for so long.

But what happens when OER don’t deliver on these promises? What happens when OER end up either perpetuating or, in their very worst moments, exacerbating existing barriers and structural inequities?

It’s tempting to think of OER and Open Education in general as inherently good, and, therefore, in no need of regular assessment or evaluation. When, in reality, we know that in order to deconstruct the existing racist and gatekeeping structures at play in and around our higher education institutions, the work has to be intentional, consistent, and, more often than not, uncomfortable. Open Education itself doesn’t invite marginalized and underrepresented voices to speak, the people who believe in OE and its potential need to make that effort. If they don’t, then things won’t change, period. And when things as harmful as systemic racism and discrimination don’t change, the harm they cause exponentially increases.

The Open Education Global conference, held virtually in November 2020, hosted a panel that speaks to this issue called “Open Education, Race, and Diversity: Promise vs. Reality” highlighting efforts that have both been successful and less so at various institutions around the country. This work is ongoing, and we hope that you’ll join us.