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Open Praxis

Looking back to look forward: open education in historical perspective

About "On the role of openness in education: A historical reconstruction"
Inés Gil Jaurena

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1As editor of Open Praxis, the scientific journal published by the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), I would like to thank Distances et Médiations des Savoirs (DMS) and Martine Vidal for her kind invitation to participate in this special issue. The collaboration with other journals in the field of open and distance education in a compilation of selected papers published in the last years is a unique opportunity, thus my appreciation and gratefulness, also on behalf of ICDE.

2I have selected the paper entitled ’On the role of openness in education: A historical reconstruction’ (Peter & Deimann, 2013) for this special Distances et Médiations des Savoirs (DMS) issue, for various reasons.

3First, this paper was the one that opened the first issue published after the relaunching of Open Praxis as a scientific peer-reviewed journal in 2012. For that reason, it is a pioneer paper with a symbolic meaning in the new stage in the history of Open Praxis and on my own history as an editor. With this regard, the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) is the leading global membership organisation for online, open and flexible education, and it celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2018 (ICDE, 2018). Open Praxis is ICDE’s regular publication, and replaced the ICDE Bulletin in 1993. It was a printed journal published twice a year until 2003. In 2005 it became an electronic journal and was hosted for the first few years by Lillehammer University College, Norway, published from 2005 to 2009. In 2011, ICDE announced its intention for Open Praxis to be relaunched as a peer-reviewed open access journal. A call for bids was held in order to designate a new host institution. Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED) was selected as host for the period 2011-2013 (renewed for two-year periods until 2019), with Inés Gil-Jaurena as editor. The first issue in this new stage was published in January 2013 (Open Praxis, 2018) ; thus, it has a special meaning and the selection of a paper published in this issue became natural. Among the eleven papers included in the issue, I selected the one written by Sandra Peter and Markus Deimann, which was also the first paper in the issue as it provided an appropriate framework for the special topic covered in the issue: openness in higher education.

4A second reason has to do with the wide audience the paper has reached: it is listed in the ’top ten’ most downloaded papers in Open Praxis and in the ’top three’ abstract views (source: OJS reports provided by the journal system). And it is the second most cited paper in Open Praxis along its history ; until August 2018, it has received 120 citations (source : Google Scholar). The paper has been used and mentioned in relevant publications in the open and distance education, e-learning and educational technology areas, such as scientific journal papers (Ahn, Pellicone, & Butler, 2014 ; Knox, 2014 ; Van Acker, Vermeulen, Kreijns, Lutgerink & van Buuren, 2014 ; Aires, 2015 ; Chang, Hung, & Lin, 2015 ; Yousef, Chatti, Wosnitza, & Schroeder, 2015 ; Aparicio, Bacao, & Oliveira, 2016 ; Cronin, 2017 ; Otto, Bollmann, Becker, & Sander, 2018), books (Conseil supérieur de l’éducation, 2015 ; Weller, 2015 ; Veletsianos, 2016), conference proceedings (Amiel, Soares, & Ochoa, 2014 ; Lockridge, Levine, & Funes, 2014 ; Teixeira et al., 2018) and other documents (Anderson, 2013 ; Jordan & Weller, 2017), all over the world. Given this broad impact, the paper is a good representative of the success of Open Praxis in contributing to the debate about open, distance and flexible education.

5But, beyond the re-starting meaning of this first paper in the new Open Praxis stage and the wide audience the paper has reached, it is the content of the paper itself which has made me select it to represent Open Praxis in the Distances et Médiations des Savoirs (DMS) compilation. The paper opens a special Open Praxis issue focused on openness in higher education (Gil-Jaurena, 2013). The overall topic was chosen, first, because ‘open’ is part of the journal title and, thus, a main focus of the publication. The ICDE journal provides an open forum for global collaboration and discussion of issues in the practice of distance and e-learning, focusing on research and innovation on open education and learning. It provides immediate open access to content on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge (Gil-Jaurena, 2013). Besides this intrinsic motivation, openness in higher education was a key concern when the call for papers was launched in 2012 : open access, open educational resources, massive open online courses, etc. were, and still are, ’hot topics’. The purpose of the Open Praxis relaunching issue was to contribute to the reflection and analysis on the concept of openness and its growth and use in higher education. The call for papers included the following questions :

- What is the meaning of ’open’ in education? Which aspects of education does openness refer to ?

- How does openness lead to major changes in higher education ?

- Which are the main challenges regarding openness in higher education ?

- Which successful and relevant experiences of use can we identify ?

6A total of eleven papers were published in that issue, covering different aspects regarding openness in higher education from different perspectives : historical, theoretical, conceptual, contextual and political views, among others. The paper selected for this Distances et Médiations des Savoirs (DMS) special issue is the one that covers the historical perspective and was the first paper published in Open Praxis volume 5 issue 1 in January 2013 (Peter & Deimann, 2013). The authors addressed the previous questions and, particularly, the need to not take openness for granted and to reflect on the concept itself and its meaning in higher education. Their critical and comprehensive approach to the topic provides an historical perspective to build the debate upon historical roots and experiences of the concept of openness. The authors claim for a deeper analysis of both technological and social-cultural aspects as drivers of the growth of openness.

7Currently, e-learning has become mainstream –either in fully distance and online universities or in blended learning mode in campus-based universities– and open education has evolved in the conceptual (Collier & Ross, 2017; Cronin & MacLaren, 2018), practical (Hilton III, Murphy, & Ritter, 2014; Agbu, Mulder, de Vries, Tenebe, & Caine, 2016) and political arenas worldwide (Bossu & Stagg, 2018; Makoe, 2018). As an example, UNESCO (2012) or European Comission (EC, 2013; Inamorato dos Santos, Punie & Castaño-Muñoz, 2016) recommendations and some papers published in Open Praxis in recent times, listed before.

8In this particular moment when technology and digital means facilitate new delivery channels for education, the historical perspective, shown in the selected paper by Peter and Deimann, is also present in the debate. Scholars from traditional open and distance education universities, such as Tait (2018a) and Weller (2018) –both from the Open University UK and closely related to ICDE–, or Weller, Jordan, DeVries and Rolfe (2018) and Glikman (2014) are good examples of the importance of looking back on to the past to rescue lessons learned and look forward into the future of open and digital education, with a focus on the original role of open and distance education, i.e, the democratisation of education. Peter and Deimann (2013) invited readers to frame ’open’ in education in a broad historical perspective and timeline, that, in a moment where MOOCs were capitalising ’openness’ as if the democratisation of the access to education was a new phenomenon, the authors claimed for the role that previous educational systems and experiences, such as traditional open and distance education universities (Schuwer et al., 2015; Tait, 2018b), have played along history.

9More than five years after the publication of the paper by Peter and Deimann (2013), we can confirm the appropriateness of addressing ‘openness’ as a topic to reflect upon. Their paper, along with other articles published in Open Praxis in the same issue and afterwards, contributes to dealing with pedagogical, social, ethical, cultural, political, historical and technological aspects of open practices in higher education. As they conclude, "history can help us examine not only ’open’ practices, but also the enablers and drivers for ’open’ social consciousness. Such research will help further theorise and examine the implications of the rapidly developing current forms of open education" (Peter & Deimann, 2013, p. 12).

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Agbu, J., Mulder, F., de Vries, F., Tenebe, V., & Caine, A. (2016). The Best of Two Open Worlds at the National Open University of Nigeria. Open Praxis, 8(2), 111-121.

Ahn, J. ; Pellicone, A. & Butler, B.S. (2014). Open badges for education : what are the implications at the intersection of open systems and badging ? Research in Learning Technology, 22, 23563.

Aires, L. (2015). Elearning, educação online e educação aberta : contributos para uma reflexão teórica. RIED. Revista Iberoamericana de Educación a Distancia, 19(1), 253-269.

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Aparicio, M. ; Bacao, F. & Oliveira, T. (2016). An e-Learning Theoretical Framework. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 19(1), 292-307

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Bossu, C., & Stagg, A. (2018). The potential role of Open Educational Practice policy in transforming Australian higher education. Open Praxis, 10(2), 145-157.

Chang, R. I. ; Hung, Y. H. & Lin, C. F. (2015). Survey of learning experiences and influence of learning style preferences on user intentions regarding MOOCs. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(3), 528-541.

Collier, A., & Ross, J. (2017). For whom, and for what ? Not-yetness and thinking beyond open content. Open Praxis, 9(1), 7-16.

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Knox, J. (2014). Digital culture clash : “massive” education in the E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC. Distance Education, 35(2), 164-177.

Lockridge, R., Levine, A & Funes, M. (2014). A DS106 Thing Happened on the Way to the 3M Tech Forum. In Proceedings of OER14 : building communities of open practice. Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Makoe, M. (2018). Using Future Research Methods in Analysing Policies Relating to Open Distance Education in Africa. Open Praxis, 10(1), 5-15.

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Pete, J., Mulder, F., & Oliveira Neto, J. (2017). Differentiation in Access to, and the Use and Sharing of (Open) Educational Resources among Students and Lecturers at Kenyan Universities. Open Praxis, 9(2), 173-194.

Schuwer, R., Gil-Jaurena, I., Aydin, C., Costello, E., Dalsgaard, C., Brown, M., Jansen, D., & Teixeira, A. (2015). Opportunities and Threats of the MOOC Movement for Higher Education : The European Perspective. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, 16(6).

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Van Acker, F. ; Vermeulen, M. ; Kreijns, K. ; Lutgerink, J. & van Buuren, H. (2014). The role of knowledge sharing self-efficacy in sharing Open Educational Resources. Computers in Human Behavior, 39, 136–144.

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Weller, M., Jordan, K., DeVries, I., & Rolfe, V. (2018). Mapping the open education landscape : citation network analysis of historical open and distance education research. Open Praxis, 10(2), 109-126.

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Electronic reference

Inés Gil Jaurena, « Looking back to look forward: open education in historical perspective », Distances et médiations des savoirs [Online], 23 | 2018, Online since , connection on 17 June 2019. URL :

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About the author

Inés Gil Jaurena

Facultad de Educación, UNED

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