When I started college, I was six weeks shy of turning 18 years old. It wouldn’t have made that big of a difference except for the fact that all athletes were required to sign certain waivers and medical forms before training with the University-sponsored team. Thanks to those few weeks that had yet to pass, I had to fax all of the forms to my parents because I was still considered a minor. What, besides my age, would change in those subsequent weeks that would make me so much more capable of signing my own forms and being my own person? Honestly, not much. Who I was as a person, adult or minor, was shaped by the years and experiences leading up to my 18th birthday. The values my parents instilled in me throughout my lifetime and the influence of my family, friends, teachers, coaches, etc. helped mold me into a (somewhat) responsible “adult” when that day came.
Last week some of my peers referred to the ideas that we have as our babies. When they first come to us we have so many hopes and dreams for them. It takes a lot of courage to send them out into the world so they can be nurtured, shaped, and molded by the influence of others. For as much as we try to protect them or want to keep them to ourselves, we know that is ultimately not in their best interest or ours. And hopefully, like children, they develop in a way that takes the best parts from their parents, never forgetting their roots, while incorporating the other good things they learn along the way.
As open education hits its 18 year mark, it’s interesting to see where it started and what it has become in those passing years. From the start of open content licenses, differentiated only by the letters A and B, to the multiple Creative Commons licenses that exist today, the idea that was once somebody’s baby is becoming a fully functional, well-developed adult (at least as much as any of us really ever become that).
But through all the changes that have occurred, and will continue to develop over the coming years, let us not forget the roots of open education. Like Charles Vest said in his 2001 announcement of MIT Open Course Ware, the emphasis should be on one thing – the enhancement of learning. No matter how far from home it may travel or how many paths it takes along the way, open education can always find itself again in this principle. Open content, open educational resources, open textbooks, OER degrees…they are about transforming teaching and learning.