Open can be bad

Open is considered a force for good in many forward-thinking educational communities. I was an enthusiast at one time, but I reluctantly gave up on openness for my own college classes in the summer of 2013, as evident here. The world has not improved since then. In addition to surveillance, we now have an appalling acceptance of unacceptable behavior and uncivil conduct, which in my country has now reached the highest levels of power.

That said, I continue to learn in the open myself, and share what I learn (for those who don’t know me, I teach History at a two-year public college). For many years I conducted the Program for Online Teaching’s open online programs for professors, and I now assist my college’s professional development program’s with blogging and sharing. I use open resources for my classes, usually created by me since there really does seem to be a cost to everything.

One of the first questions in the OpenEdMOOC is what might be bad about open, so I really couldn’t resist.


Open leaves learners vulnerable, particularly those who are ignorant of the operations of  the web. The worldwide web used to be an open place, a Wild West. Commercial entities (and those which were free but became commercial) made the web easier to use, part of the infrastructure of everyday life. Users willingly not only sign Terms of Service to be able to do tasks which have become basic, but post their children’s school habits and location, sign up for loyalty programs that track all their purchases, and have their information shared for them by places like Equifax.

Education is not only far from immune to such practices, but can actively encourage them.  So my angle is about thinking things through. My position at the moment is that there is value in closed education, if only for the purpose of separating certain kinds of learning from the distractions of daily life — the opposite of “applied” education, if you like. I think I’ve expressed this view best in my blog post from July. I’ll be looking to see how those concerns are affected by what I see in this course.

3 thoughts on “Open can be bad

  1. Hi Lisa,

    I read your blog post from July, and I think you’d be interested in reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain. Cain mentions how some learning must be done in a quiet and controlled environment, away from distractions including the internet. That way, the student can concentrate and develop ideas.



    1. Hi Dan – thanks for the recommendation. That’s the one about introverts, yes? It makes me wonder whether extroverts might need the privacy even more…


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