UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Guest Post: Professional Development Using Open Content

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 4 Apr 2012

As described recently, a series of guest blog posts on open practices are being published this week on the UK Web Focus blog which build on ideas published in latest issue of JISC Inform. Having explored what openness may mean in the context of researcheducation and libraries, in today’s guest post my colleague Marieke Guy explores “Professional Development Using Open Content“.

As a home worker Marieke takes a pro-active approach to her professional development as can be seen from her posts on her Ramblings of a Remote worker blog. In this post Marieke describes her participation in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).

Professional Development

For me professional development has always been about being proactive. Patience is not one of my virtues. I’m not the sort of person who would sit and wait for my team leader to send me on a course, though I’m always open to suggestions.

Professional development according to Wikipedia refers to “skills and knowledge attained for both personal development and career advancement“. The way I see it, there are areas that I need to know more about to make me better at my job, and then there are areas that I want to know more about to give my job context and meaning. The goal is to balance the two and also to fit them alongside my day job.

I work from home (see my Ramblings of a Remote worker blog) and already travel a reasonable amount so any activities I can do from the comfort of my own swivel chair suit me fine. Over the last few years online professional development has really taken off, in a similar way to online learning. Although many courses cost there is now a plethora of open content out there that can be used in any way you chose.



Massive Open Online Course crib sheet. This crib sheet was created for a workshop being presented at ISTE 2011 on using a MOOC model for professional development by Jeannette Shaffer

One recent addition is the Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs. The courses are free, open to all and comprise of open content. They tend to be hosted by Higher Education institutes and often students from that particular institution are encouraged to register. Often there is no credit for the course (though some use the Mozilla open badge system or similar approaches) and no feedback for participants from the course leaders. The approach taken is a fluid one where participants are encouraged to blog about what they learn and interact with other participants by commenting on their posts.

As described in “7 things you should know about MOOCs” (PDF format):

For the independent, lifelong learner, the MOOC presents a new opportunity to be part of a learning community, often led by key voices in education. It proves that learning happens beyond traditional school-age years and in a specific kind of room … Certainly as MOOCs develop, the scale on which these courses can be taught and the diversity of students they serve will offer institutions new territory to explore in opening their content to a wider audience and extending their reach into the community.

The Massive Open Online Course crib sheet which is illustrated was created by Jeannette Shaffer and is available from Flickr.

Openness in Education

My first MOOC learning endeavour has been the Introduction to Openness in Education course (see the #ioe12 tweets) co-ordinated by David Wiley, associate professor of instructional psychology and technology at Brigham Young University, US. This was an open course about openness in education – a little postmodern?! I came across the course via a colleague’s Twitter feed and after registering discovered that a couple of other colleagues were also giving MOOCs a go. We ended up meeting for coffee (See my post on #ioe12 Coffee Breaks with a Little Open Licensing Thrown In) to discuss how things had gone so far. Always good to have some support.

I’ve found the course a challenge, mainly due to time constraints, but also because the concept of ‘open’ is complex one. What does being ‘open’ truly mean? Some of the more orthodox advocates of the open movement could offer up a checklist of criteria to help us decide if a license, piece of software, resource, data set, policy, … (add whatever takes your fancy) is strictly open. For them openness is an ideology and a goal. However much of what is out there falls into the spaces in-between and often for good reason.

I’d agree that the movement towards openness is a good thing, though I am still unsure on how I feel about many aspects of it. Openness is not always possible or desirable and it brings with it responsibilities. My current work activities take me into the area of Research Data Management where FOI has a big impact. Requests for data sets (such as the recent Philip Morris smoking research request) are becoming more frequent and are not always for just reasons. A colleague of mine recently pointed me in the direction of a paper written back in 2000 by Martin Strathern entitled The Tyranny of Transparency. To summarise: transparency measures often have paradoxical outcomes like eroding trust and turning knowledge into information rather than information into knowledge. Openness, like free speech, is a double edged sword and we’d do well to ensure that we use the tool appropriately.


All my posts relating to my experiences of MOOCs and learning from open content are available from my blog. There’s no doubt that use of online courses and open content will significantly contribute to my professional development in the future. Learning in this way gives me the flexibility that my job and lifestyle require, however I know that I need to be disciplined and keep motivated if I want to make the most of these opportunities. As Oscar Wilde, a man who held a fairly cynical view of formal education, once said: “Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught“. Maybe a pro-active approach using MOOCs would have been more up his street!

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

2 Responses to “Guest Post: Professional Development Using Open Content”

  1. […] Guest Post: Professional Development Using Open Content […]

  2. […] Guest Post: Professional Development Using Open Content  […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: