By the early 2000s, the virtual learning environment (VLE) had become a vital part of many universities’ (and, indeed, some schools’) teaching, but until Moodle was released in 2002 the only reliable VLEs were commercial and expensive. Moodle is a flexible open enterprise system that can be used in many different environments and ways, and, crucially, as an open resource it is completely free. The idea of the open educational resource – a freely accessible, Creative Commons licensed piece of text, media or software for learning that can be adapted and re-used – was another ‘open’ development that has been widely adopted.
Drawing on this vast personal experience, he summarised the benefits of openness but also some pitfalls to avoid, including cultural imperialism – the idea that the US, and the West more generally, are and will remain at the centre of online education, and the danger of academic ‘gig economy’ workers underselling their services or even working for free. The list of benefits he offered was much longer: open education encourages sharing by default, collaboration, adaptation and transparency, provides a route in for new voices and even, perhaps, a route to social justice.
The lively question and answer session was again facilitated using PollEverywhere, and not surprisingly the most popular question concerned the topic at the top of everyone’s minds: coronavirus is perhaps the ultimate disruptor, but ,might this disruption lead, one day, to benefits for education? Martin suggested that the enforced pivot to fully online teaching was, at the very least, proving an excellent example of active collaboration, and that openness was even more important at such a troubling time.