Accepted Paper:

The ambivalence of openness: Online education as an expression of converging and conflicting reform programs in the university  


Edward Hamilton (Capilano University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines open educational resources, open source learning systems and MOOCs as expressions of converging and conflicting reform programs in higher education.

Paper long abstract:

Confrontations between markets and commons can be seen to drive the development of online education since the 1970s. Indeed, insofar as online education has emerged in tandem with challenges to the idea of knowledge as a public good around which education systems - particularly post-secondary systems - have been organized since the nineteenth century, it has also served as a concretisation of debates over the nature, function and role of higher education and its institutions. But while some (e.g., Noble, 2002) have seen technology as a straightforward agent of economic rationalization, the history of online education suggests that it is ambivalent in relation to the convergence of markets and commons in higher education.

This paper illustrates this point by drawing on Feenberg's critical theory of technology to examine three recent developments in online education - the rise of open access educational resources and scholarship, the development of open source learning systems, and the emergence of massive open online courses (MOOCs). I argue that these developments are expressions of ongoing conflicts over both the status of knowledge and the future of the university. These conflicts do not neatly fall into a logic of "markets versus commons," but show how both markets and commons provide resources that can be turned to account in relation to different programs of technological change in the university and thus to varied trajectories of university reform.

Panel T018
Markets versus commons? What relationships? What roles for STS?