In my Battle for Open book (and article) I make the claim that openness has been victorious in many respects, and reinforce this by examining the success of open access publishing, OERs, MOOCs and open scholarship. However, to many working in higher education, this would seem a rather overblown claim. They may work in contexts where open scholarship is not only not recognised but actively discouraged, where the mention of OERs would be met with blank expressions and any proposed change to take advantage of the opportunities of open education is actively resisted. Any notion that openness has won seems like the fancy of a privileged few, perhaps operating within an open education bubble.
I have sympathy with this view, so wanted to explore what was meant by my claim. I think we can point to many examples that demonstrate the success of the open approach: the open access mandates; the numbers of learners and media interest in MOOCs; the impact and sustainability of open textbooks; the changing nature of fundamental scholarly practice as a result of open approaches.
To suggest that openness has been successful though is not to claim that it has achieved saturation or 100% uptake. Rather that all of these separate successes point to a larger trend – this is the moment when openness has moved from being a peripheral, specialist interest to a mainstream approach. To use that oft-quoted (and perhaps meaningless) term, it is at a tipping point. From this moment the application of open approaches in all aspects of higher education practice has both legitimacy and a certain inevitably. This is not to say that it will always be adopted, just as the open source approach to software is not always pursued, but it is an increasingly pervasive method. The speed of acceptance will be influenced by a number of factors such as disciplinary cultures, national programmes, policies, funding, the presence of champions and immediate benefits.
The victory of open education then is that it is now a serious contender proposed by more than just its devoted acolytes, as a method for any number of higher education initiatives, be they in research, teaching or public engagement. And this transition is at the heart of this book, since inherent in it are opportunities and challenges, just as a small start-up business must face a whole different set of issues when it grows and becomes a larger multi-national corporation. In this transition there are many potential pitfalls – the whole enterprise can fail, it can be taken over by others, or the fundamental value and identity that characterised that embryonic stage can be lost.