More on Risk

David Wiley’s got a fascinating post up at Iterating towards Openness about the generation of open educational resources (OER) and whether we should take a consumer- or producer-oriented approach to production. The dilemma is whether or not resources created to meet a producer’s needs are necessarily limited in their effective scope and impact. Should our approach to OER creation focus on generating resources that are user-oriented, instead?

Wiley thinks not, and he uses this quote from the Cathedral and the Bazaar to support his argument:

Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch.

In the open-source world of software development, the impetus behind creating something new should never be to survey the user base and then develop the product to meet the perceived need. Instead, open-source producers need to look to themselves for inspiration and trust that the resources they create will have a meaningful impact and will be adopted (and further developed, owned, and expanded) by a community of users.

He goes on to talk about the issue of contextualization of learning resources and the the common (mis)conception that learning resources need to be created in as context-agnostic a way as possible. The idea being that if there is too much context to a learning resources, it won’t be as inherently resuable.

But I agree completely with Wiley. Context is what gives content meaning, and when we divorce the two we end up with stale, dry resources that no one would want to re-mix, re-use, and re-own.

(Side note: At lunch with Steve yesterday he told me about a presentation Gardner made recently to our freshman seminar faculty at UMW that I think drives at this point: Gardner, can you share the NASA video–or at least the point you were making with it?)

As usual, when I read these kinds of analyses my mind starts to make a million connections. All of this makes me think of the very human aspect of all that we do–and how vital it is that our work remain connected to ourselves, our communities, and our contexts.

A few days ago, I blogged about risk in higher education and how unwilling institutions were to embrace it these days. The commodification of higher education has taken it’s toll on our enterprise, and these days we seem to be more concerned with focus groups and user surveys than the messy, risky behavior of human connection.

Schools are so busy worrying about FERPA and privacy that they simply can’t allow themselves to be risk-takers when it comes to fostering connections among students and faculty.

It’s been quite a week. I’m trying to absorb and assimilate a lot of information coming out of Faculty Academy and beyond. Ultimately, I’m left with a feeling of increasing urgency that we need to find a way to embrace risk and be okay with the messiness of human connection and context. Education isn’t supposed to be easy or formulaic. The resources we create should vibrate with our passion. We should be okay with that; we should rush to meet that challenge.