Paul Stacey

Starting Anew in the Landscape of Open

I’m thrilled to be starting a new job as Executive Director of the Open Education Consortium.  It is a tremendous honour to be chosen to lead a global network of educational institutions, individuals and organizations that support an approach to education based on openness, including collaboration, innovation and collective development and use of open educational materials.

For the final interview I was asked to:

  1. Map out how I see the current landscape of ‘Open’ and mention the most prominent challenges and opportunities.
  2. Define where the Open Education Consortium should be positioned within this landscape and propose a roadmap for getting there.

As a means of getting to know my views and an early indication of the direction I’d like to take the Open Education Consortium in I thought I’d share my answers here in two separate posts. This first post maps out how I see the current landscape of Open. In the next post I describe where I think the Open Education Consortium is positioned in this landscape and how I envision it getting there.

Current Landscape of Open

Before taking on this new role with the Open Education Consortium I spent five years working at Creative Commons supporting open initiatives all around the world. Through that work I developed a unique big picture view of the landscape of open.

For the Open Education Consortium I decided to depict my map of the current landscape of open as a big one page visual. Here it is, Paul’s <a title="LandscapeOfOpenStacey" LandscapeOfOpenStacey

As you can see I’ve adopted the landscape metaphor with a tree of open including roots below and branches bearing fruit above.

Lets focus on the lower left part of the visual first.


Cutting across the visual from left to right is a brown line representing earth. Above the brown line are established and growing components of the open landscape. Below the brown line are new germinating aspects of the open landscape. With this simple delineation I give a sense of what is already in place in the landscape and new emerging aspects of the landscape I think likely to grow.

Above the line I show an open tree from which are hanging major established and growing components of the open landscape.


Starting at the bottom left of the tree and going clockwise we have:

  • Open Source Software and Open Source Hardware
  • Open Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums
  • Open Science
  • Open Access
  • Open Data
  • Open Government
  • Open Policy, and finally
  • Open Educational Resources

As you can see the current open landscape is large and growing. I expect these kinds of open are well known so won’t expand on each with detailed explanations. Searching any of those terms will generate masses of follow-on information for those wanting to explore.

If you are in education you might be wondering what all these broader components of the open landscape have to do with education. I believe all these components of the open landscape are inter-related. They are all concurrently happening and successful for very similar reasons. They operate on similar principles and generate similar value. They all have potential for educational use.

I believe the combinatorial benefits of adopting multiple means of open are synergistic and generate a value greater than the sum of the individual parts. If your primary open efforts are around Open Educational Resources it is strategically beneficial to broaden your efforts to include open policy, open access, open GLAM, and other means of openness. Together they generate a greater value than they do apart and finding ways to connect and collaborate what you are doing with what they are doing can amplify impact and benefits.

Below the line, I show several aspects of the open landscape, colour coded to relate to growing components above the line on the tree, that are taking root now and have potential to germinate into something substantial.


While the growing components on the tree above the line are well known these germinating parts below the line likely need some explanation. So here goes.

  • Open technologies – There are a growing number of  software and hardware technologies that are open source and support open aspects of education. Equally important to me are the emerging technology tools aiming to enable citizen participation, help groups collaborate, and support processes for engaging people in collaborative decision making. Collectively these represent an emerging technology infrastructure for open. Going forward, I expect to see an open architecture of technologies integrating different tools and applications together to support the whole overarching open process.
  • Open education data – Open data is an established, growing and increasingly important part of the open landscape. Governments in particular, at the national and municipal level, are generating significant new and improved services to citizens through open data and stimulating entrepreneurial activity by making open data available for business use. However, education data remains largely locked down and closed. I see big opportunities for improved education services and teaching and learning itself through open education data. Key for me will be student control of their own data, privacy, security, and direct tangible benefits to those who choose to make their education data open.
  • Open institutions – Over the years we’ve seen Open Educational Resources start as small learning objects within a course, expand to include textbooks, expand again to encompass entire courses, and expand again, as we are seeing now, to include entire degrees (Z degrees). Going forward I anticipate a growing number of institutions will adopt openness as an underlying component of all their credential offerings transforming themselves into open institutions.
  • Open enterprises – Over an 18 month period I co-wrote, with my Creative Commons colleague Sarah Pearson, a Kickstarter funded book called Made With Creative Commons. This book examines the ways organizations are currently participating in open landscape activities while still generating  revenue and sustaining operations. Open enterprises embrace openness as a key strategy and look to use it as a means of generating social and economic good. In the education sector open enterprises are largely in the germination stage. Some have poked their heads up above the earth but many more are still working out how to be an open enterprise and how to ethically engage with and participate in the open community. I think this will work itself out in the next few years leading to even greater growth above the line.

To the right of the open tree I’ve highlighted and expanded on aspects I believe most relevant for the Open Education Consortium. For open government I simply list a few different government related organizations currently active advancing the open landscape particularly as it relates to Open Educational Resources – UNESCO, the Commonwealth of Learning, and the Open Government Partnership. There are many more that could be added. The Open Education Consortium has an advocacy and advising role to play on behalf of its members with government.

Open government often results in open policy at the national, regional, and institutional level. The Open Education Consortium brings to the table existing open policy examples, templates, and tools fostering adthat can be adapted for use in any particular country or initiative.

Given the Open Education Consortium members are primarily involved with Open Educational Resources (OER) I have built out that aspect of my open landscape the most.


Above the brown line I show the large and growing aspects of Open Educational Resources including open courseware, open textbooks, open courses / MOOCs, open degrees (Z degrees), and open research. Each of these can be thought of as a young plant sown from seeds off the large open tree. If I was to summarize I’d say there is a lot of of really great stuff happening across the Open Educational Resources landscape. When I think back to my beginnings in this space in 2003 the transformation and growth is amazing.

But there are still a lot of things germinating below the line.


I could say a ton about all these aspects above and below the line but I won’t. If you want to hear more about my views and what I’m seeing related to each of these components contact me. We can have that conversation.


From a big picture open landscape perspective, and especially looking at the members of the Open Education Consortium, a key observation is that Open Educational Resources work is being done in both the global north and the global south. OER are not some new form of colonialism, rather they are a new form of community empowerment – affordable, participatory, and powerful.

Growing above the line are OER at the university and college level. Germinating below the line are OER initiatives at the K-12 level and for vocational trades related areas. As the use and benefits of OER expand to these broader academic contexts the membership and advocacy role of OEC can expand too.


Over the years the range of people participating in OER has broadened. Todays open landscape has a growing number of participants including:

  • Faculty
  • Government
  • Librarians
  • Administrators
  • Students

Below the line still germinating are:

  • communities
  • bookstores, and
  • citizens

But these are fast coming. At the end of January 2018 I’ll be speaking to Campus Stores Canada about open business models at their annual conference. The Open Education Consortium needs to be a place for all of these participants.


The final part of the Open landscape I have on my visual are the sun and rain growth enablers for the whole OER space. These are:

  • Funding
  • Open advocacy
  • Open conferences
  • Open events
  • Open awards

OEC is playing a key role in all of these. Nominations for OEC’s Open Education Awards for Excellence are open now. Awards will be given out at their OEGlobal Conference in Delft Netherlands in April.

Somewhat surprisingly there isn’t a lot of collaboration between different open organizations so I’ve put open partnerships below the line as something germinating but something I think OEC could play a lead role in generating. Formal means of becoming an open leader or ambassador are just now being developed so I’ve placed them below the line as germinating too.

Well there you have it, Paul Stacey’s one page visual of the current Open Landscape. I hope you find it useful as a framework for seeing the big picture.

The very top part of my one page visual depicts my answer to  where the Open Education Consortium should be positioned within this landscape and proposes a roadmap for getting there. In my next post I’ll explain and expand on what I show there proposing a rather unique view of OEC’s position and potential role.


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Rather than predictions for a coming year I like to create inspirations. At the start of 2011 I imagined a new kind of university, a University of Open, that served as an inspiration for me throughout the year.

Thought I’d start 2012 off in a similar fashion and imagine another new kind of university, a university defined by the public and students – a PublicU2.

In Canada most universities and colleges are “public institutions”. But are they really very public? Certainly they receive significant public funding in the form of government grants. However, are they open and transparent? Do they seek public input? Are they under any kind of public control?

I’ve been reading the book Public Parts by Jeff Jarvis and its provided a helpful frame of reference for reimagining a public university.

Public Parts explores how sharing in the digital age improves the way we work and live. Jarvis talks about how companies are becoming increasingly public.

“The truly public company will operate in the open because publicness affords businesses a new way to work, to collaborate with customers, to reset relationships, to build trust, and to find new efficiencies – producing better products, making fewer mistakes, spending less on marketing, building better brands together. Today the more a company opens its process to customers, the more the people formerly known as consumers can move up the design, sales, and service chains to say what they want in a product before it is made.”

In our digital age shouldn’t public universities become more truly public by opening up and providing students with a say in what they want as education before it is made?

I know from working with faculty and staff of institutions that they always say they are doing what they do for students. I have a strong empathy with that position – doing what we do for students is education’s moral high ground. But are institutions really the agents of student will? Hasn’t this turned out to mean that they see themselves as being in a better position to make decisions about education than students are? Have our public institutions been vested with power and authority to think and act on student’s behalf without public input? Has institutional autonomy and the constant competition for student enrollments resulted in institutions that act in their own self interest rather than the public interest?

I’ve started imagining what a university would be like if it pursued a more public engagement process centered around the student. What if a university sought student input into not only what education to provide but how to provide it. What would a PublicU2 look like?

Some of you may be saying this is sheer folly. It’s like asking people who know nothing about cars for their input on what kind of car they would like. But even if you know nothing about how cars work your input on what kind of car you’d like could be still substantial. Currently all you can do is pick from manufacturer pre-defined options – luxury or budget? sporty or family sedan? standard or automatic? … What if you could tell a car manufacturer what you want in a car and see that input used in design and production. Welcome to

Local Motors uses a co-creation model for collaborative car design. For Local Motors first car (an off-road muscle car) the public submitted over 40,000 designs. The winning designer received $20,000 in prize money and worked with company staff and the community to bring the car to reality. Local Motor designs are openly licensed for sharing using Creative Commons. Local Motors publishes complete and detailed specifications and invites community members to design component parts.

Imagine PublicU2 being truly open and public in a similar way. Lets say a degree to support the high technology sector is needed. Why not open up the design process and invite students and the public to submit designs for the degree? You don’t have to hand over the entire decision making process to voting or popularity you just have to give weight to the input of the community of students and the public and defer to their judgement whenever possible. And what if you launched that degree as beta? What if you committed to continuously improve that degree based on enrolled and prospective student input? What if graduates were invited to continue to enhance the design of that degree and the actual courses themselves even after graduation and could subscribe to subsequent releases of improved courses as an alumni benefit?

Still not sure. Here’s some more examples. Vancouver is home to the awesome shoe store Fluevog. One of the most visited pages of their web site is Open Source Footwear. Here you can submit your own design for a shoe you wish Fluevog made. If your design is selected Fluevog covers all the costs & development process (it takes about a year to produce a shoe) and puts your shoe onto the market. The shoe is named after you and you get a free pair.

Or how about MESH01 a co-creation platform that links designers and brands worldwide. Together, you create and launch innovative products for the SportStyle industry.

Or how about Thingiverse a place to share digital designs that can be made into real, physical objects.

Got a great product idea for Safeway, Toys R Us, Ace Hardware? Why not submit it through Quirky? Check out the Space Bar Desk Organizer!

Initiatives like these don’t see customers as just customers but as co-creators. When will institutions see students and the public as not just customers but co-creators?

All to often programs and courses are developed by institutions in a hopeful “build it and they will come” mentality. Institutions interested in a PublicU2 kind of approach might want to consider something like Kickstarter. Kickstarter is the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. Every week, tens of thousands of people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields.

Why not a Kickstarter approach to PublicU2 programs, courses and services? Rather than pledging dollars, a PublicU2 could post programs and courses under consideration for development and invite students and the public to express interest in enrollment. When sufficient numbers indicate interest development proceeds and the program/course is offered.

Co-creation doesn’t have to be constrained to just design activities for products. ChallengePost lets individuals and organizations challenge the public to solve problems and innovate. ChallengePost has featured challenges related to Health, Education, Science & Technology, Energy & Environment, the Economy, and Public Safety.

Maybe you’re interested in the following challenges? The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering is challenging biomedical engineering student teams to design innovative solutions to unmet health and clinical problems. The U.S. Department of Education (Department) is sponsoring a College Net Price Calculator Student Video Challenge which challenges high school and college students to help get information to their peers about how much it costs to go to college.

When will institutions adopt similar practices to solve their problems and innovate?

Ross Paul’s fabulous book Leadership Under Fire describes PublicU1 leaders. Using case studies of 11 Canadian past or present university presidents as well as his own experience Paul provides a masterful analysis of the attributes of the current public university leader and the major issues they face. Like Ross I imagine new leaders of PublicU2’s who mobilize their campuses to fully use new technologies, adopt more open systems, and embrace the cultural changes of a digital society. Who will be the leaders of PublicU2’s?

Imagine a PublicU2 leader that publicly committed to sharing its data, posting in real time data on capacity, applicants, enrollments, graduates and other key analytics. Imagine a PublicU2 leader willing to publicly describe challenges and invite others to use its data, along with data from other PublicU2 institutions, to solve those challenges whether they be around access, affordability, quality, or service.

What if government based its allocation of public funds to institutions not on student enrollments but on the extent to which an institution is public? What if public funding was based on the extent to which institutions have public engagement, collaborate and generate public goods.

I imagine a PublicU2 where students and the public are given a central design role. When Ontario announced plans to create an Ontario Online Institute by far the best submission to the government on what that Institute should be came from students – The Ontario Online Institute: Students’ Vision for Opening Ontario’s Classrooms. Student PIRG reports such as How Open Textbooks are the Path to Textbook Affordability are further examples of students influencing institutions. Imagine a PublicU2 that treats student and public input not as tokenism but as central to their mission demonstrating respect, trust and a willingness to transform.

At PublicU2 students are their own learning designers. PublicU2 uses what we know about learning discarding transmission models of pedagogy and replacing them with social ones. At PublicU2 students play the role of teacher to other students, as it has been shown that the best way to learn is to teach. At PublicU2 teaching and learning are publicly visible and transparent emphasizing the formation of social networks within and beyond the institution. The emphasis is less on the content and more on the activities and the human interactions that take place around the content. PublicU2 emphasizes formation of virtual study groups, use of wikis to support discussions between current and past students, and engagement of the public in supporting PublicU2 teaching and learning.

At PublicU2 learning generates public knowledge. I’ve long been a fan of Jon Beasely-Murray’s University of British Columbia’s class SPAN312 (“Murder, Madness, and Mayhem: Latin American Literature in Translation”) and the way they collectively contribute to improving Wikipedia’s Latin American literature articles. Here is a wonderful example of public learning generating public knowledge.

So PublicU2’s are my inspiration for 2012. I’m looking for public universities where all learning is a public process resulting in public knowledge benefiting everyone. I’m looking for public universities who collaborate in the open and engage the public in identifying and solving problems.

I’m looking for PublicU2’s.

Got an example? Let me know.

Inspire me.