Why Open matters

I have been involved in Open Educational Resources since 2001 when the company I worked for signed an agreement with MIT to translate some one hundred courses from of their OpenCourseWare into spanish and portuguese. Altough it was exciting to work with such an institution and such talented people, I recognize that, at that time, I didn’t understand why would they share their most valuable asset, knowledge, for which people paid a lot of money. Then, a couple years later I met with some one (I don’t remember his name, otherwise I would give him attribution) that gave me the clue and opened my eyes: “Knowledge is the only asset that grows when shared”. His point was that if I was hungry, he had an apple and gave me half of it, the two of us would still have one apple. On the other hand, if he tought me something, our knowledge on the subject would have doubled. That conversation really made me think about the amazing oportunities that sharing knowledge offered.

A few years later, the MIT created the OpenCourseWare Consortium (today the Open Education Consortium) to share best paractices with other higher education institutions around the world. We thought that we should join inmediately and have our member institutions from Spain, Portugal and Latinamerica (over 1.200 universities at the time) join as well. In the next couple years we managed to enroll about 80 institutions to the consortium. It really wasn’t any hard. Joining a consortium of universities led by the MIT was very appealing and “glamorous”. The lesson I learned then was that building their own OpenCourseWare sites was a great marketing tool for universities. Some of the really had their (well over) fifteen minutes of fame.

Then, 2012 and the MOOC revolution arrived. Again we thought that we should do someting about it. Our competitive advantage was the spanish (and portuguese to a lesser extent) language. Our universities had an opportunity that institutions from other european countries such as Germany, Netherlands or Sweden to name some didn’t have. German, Dutch, or Swedish don’t have the critical mass of speakers needed for courses to become as massive as spanish or portuguese do. At the time, both Spain and the bank that sponsored the company I worked for were almost bankrupt. We were lucky to meet with Telefónica Learning Services (today Telefónica Educación Digital), realized that we both had the same ideas on the issue and agreed to join efforts. By the end of the year we launched Miríada X, the MOOC platform for spanish and portuguese speaking universities, professors and students. In a few months we managed to run a few hundred courses that gathered millions of students. Then we realized how eager to learn and how grateful for the inititive many people from all over spain, portugal and many latinamerican countries were. Also we started to have huge amounts of data and an embryo of “learning analytics”.

Today, blockchain, yet another revolution is set to shake (once again) higher education. The possiblity of creating unhackable ledgers to keep track of the creation, usereuse, adaptationenhancement, learning outcomes, competencies and certificates will be very interesting to witness in the next years. Is academics’ hayday arriving?

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