Open Education as Bildung


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Despite the recent increases of interest in Open Education (notably in the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC; Fini, 2009) it has been continuously asserted that Open Education lacks a theoretical foundation such as the Herbartian steps of education in traditional educational approaches (Vandenberg, 1975). Similar accusations have been made with respect to distance education, which some have identified as being slow to engage with critical debates in theory and research (Evans & Nation, 1992). And further: “practitioners, re-searchers and theorists in open and distance education need to be aware of the broad range of theories avail-able to them in educational theory and social theory more generally” (p. 10). In a similar vein, Danaher, Wyer and Bartlett (1998) claim that “ researchers in open and distance learning have tended to focus on too narrow a range of theoretical resources in addressing the much broader range of problems and contexts that characterise this area of contemporary research” (p. 9). Given the considerable rise of Open Education over the last years, these critical appraisals urge us to expand theoretical approaches to refine our understanding of evolving pedagogical and technological relations (cf. Bell, 2011).

In this paper, we contribute to debates surrounding open education and open educational resources by intro-ducing the concept of Bildung (self-cultivation; self-realization) as a powerful reflective tool. We will elabo-rate on the potentials of Bildung by reviewing Wilhelm von Humboldt’s classical conception. Humboldt em-phasizes unrestrained interplay between the individual and the world, an exchange through which the indi-vidual relates to the world in the most comprehensive, lively and freest way possible. Bildung thus conceived is not an adaptation to an external order but rather a cultivation of the inner life: a reflective, creative form of self-realization or self-cultivation.

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Open Education as Bildung

  1. 1. Open Education as Bildung Robert Farrow | The Open University Markus Deimann | FernUniversität in Hagen
  2. 2. The Open University's Institute of Educational Technology Argument • The open education movement is in need of a stronger theoretical foundation • This could be provided by the German concept of Bildung • Open education in turn provides new opportunities for Bildung
  3. 3. The Open University's Institute of Educational Technology Open Education Movement • Belief that education is undergoing fundamental changes as a result of innovation in digital technologies • Improving access to education and widening participation by closing the ‘digital divide’ (Smith and Casserly, 2006) • Encouraging collaboration across disciplinary boundaries and between academics, educators, technologists and support staff within and beyond educational institutions • Arguing that we need new pedagogies and systems for intellectual property which are adequate for contemporary education
  4. 4. The Open University's Institute of Educational Technology Open Education Movement • A normative commitment to the idea that knowledge should be free, both to access and develop. Reducing cost of education at point of delivery Providing courses which are free to participate in (e.g. MITx) Rethinking educational materials as open-access, OER Supported by a range of Creative Commons licences Research projects and policy initiatives taking place around the globe
  5. 5. Open Educational Resources (OER) • “OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.” (Atkins et al, 2007:4) • Potential to catalyse a range of educational practices • No established definition of OER (Geser, 2007) • No solid theoretical foundation The Open University's Institute of Educational Technology
  6. 6. “Open Educational Practices (OEP) are the set of activities and support around the creation, use and repurposing of Open Educational Resources. It also includes the contextual settings within which these practices occur.” Conole (2011)
  7. 7. Open Educational Practices • ‘Openness’ in education necessarily shifts the focus from content (OER) to practices (OEP) that are necessary for the use of that content (Mackey & Jacobson, 2011; Weller, 2011). • Degrees of openness • Assumption: learning is becoming more open, more complex • OER as radical object • OEP as radical practice The Open University's Institute of Educational Technology McAndrew & Farrow (2012)
  8. 8. Rationale of paper • Accusations that openness lacks theoretical foundation (Nyberg, 1975; Peters, 2008) • Deficiency of extant empirical research into new competencies • Growth in openness: MOOC, MITx, P2Pu, etc. but long-term credibility? (Garrison, 2000; Bell, 2011) • Traditional learning theories based on closed environments: need for new pedagogies based on open paradigm The Open University's Institute of Educational Technology
  9. 9. Bildung (Historical) • Origins in c.18th German Humanism: Schiller, Herder, Goethe, Humboldt • Complex concept comprising educational, cultural and political perspectives, emphasizing rationality, autonomy, self-activity and a culture of participation. • A reflective, creative form of self-realization or self-cultivation achieved with and through relations with others • Unrestrained interplay between the individual and the world • Education has a function; Bildung is a value in itself The Open University's Institute of Educational Technology
  10. 10. Bildung (Modern) • Bildung had a considerable impact on German educational thought and has entered educational and political terminology • Widely seen by the 1970s as ideologically compromised and without empirical value; relaunched by Klafki (1985) • Currently undergoing a renaissance in Germany (Prange, 2004) • Bildung has many connotations: discourse around Bildung is always mediated, necessarily unresolved, dialectical and open. • Hegelian-Marxist tradition: criticism of market capitalist model of knowledge production: increase profits by treating learners as consumers rather than active, reflective agents (Adorno, 1973; Leissman, 2006) The Open University's Institute of Educational Technology
  11. 11. Bildung as the “ability to go beyond the present state of affairs and to transform the structures and prevailing rules of this form of life” (Peukert, 2003) The Open University's Institute of Educational Technology
  12. 12. Bildung & Open Education • Bildung as a point of orientation and regulation. • Sheds light on the commodification of knowledge • Investigate & support informal learning contexts • Internet as a new space of Bildung and culture (nb MOOC) • New possibilities for articulation through participatory culture: social media, identity, mobile, augmented reality • Edupunk: self-cultivation; self-realisation The Open University's Institute of Educational Technology
  13. 13. Summary • Bildung can help us to make sense of new pedagocial situations • Bildung is more reflexive, more critical and more open than didactic models of education or traditional theories of distance learning • OER has the potential to support Bildung through access to a rich base of learning materials from different contexts • Bildung’s values are germane to those of open education • Resources for critique of commercialisation of education and engaging in discourse about educational culture The Open University's Institute of Educational Technology
  14. 14. References • Adorno, T. W. (1966). Negative Dialektik. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag • Atkins, Daniel E., John Seely Brown & Allen L. Hammond (2007). A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities. Menlo Park, CA: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. • Bell, F. (2011). Connectivism: Its place in theory-informed research and innovation in technology-enabled learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 98–108. • Conole, G. (2011) Defining Open Educational Practices [online]. Available from (Accessed 17th October 2011) • Garrison, R. (2000). Theoretical Challenges for Distance Education in the 21st Century: A Shift from Structural to Transactional Issues. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning; Vol 1, No 1 (2000). • Geser, G. (2007). Open educational practices and resources: OLCOS Roadmap 2012. Salzburg: Salzburg Research. • Klafki, W. (1985). Neue Studien zur Bildungstheorie und Didaktik: Zeitgemäße Allgemeinbildung und kritisch-konstruktive Didaktik. Weinheim: Beltz. • Liessmann, K. (2006). Theorie der Unbildung: Die Irrtümer der Wissensgesellschaft. Wien: Zsolnay.
  15. 15. References • Mackey, T. and Jacobson, T. “Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy.” College and Research Libraries 72, no. 1 (2011): 62-78. • McAndrew, P. & Farrow, R. (forthcoming 2012). “Open Education Research: From the Practical to the Theoretical”. UNESCO for OER Knowledge Cloud book project. • MITx – MIT’s New Learning Initiative. Available from Accessed 11th April 2012. • Nyberg, D. (1975). The philosophy of open education. London: Routledge. • Peters, M. (2008). The history and emergent paradigm of open education. Open education and education for openness. Sense Publishers. • Peukert, H. (2003). Beyond the present state of affairs: Bildung and the search for orientation in rapidly transforming societies. In L. Løvlie, K. Mortensen, & S. Nordenbo (Hrsg.), Educating humanity. Bildung in postmodernity (S. 105–120). Oxford: Blackwell.Smith, M.S., and Casserly, C.M. (2006). The Promise of Open Educational Resources. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning; Sep-Oct 2006; 38(5); p. 8. accessed March 12, 2012 • Prange, K. (2004). Bildung: a paradigm regained? European Educational Research Journal, 3(2), 501-509. • Weller, M. (2011). A pedagogy of abundance. Spanish Journal of Pedagogy, 249, 223–236. Available from Accessed 11th April 2012. The Open University's Institute of Educational Technology
  16. 16. Institute of Educational Technology The Open University Walton Hall Milton Keynes MK7 6AA