Musings of the Program Chair- reflecting on OE Global

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Dr Cox opens Open Educationl Global Conference 2017 at the Cape Town International Conference Centre.

Glenda Cox has been working in Open Education since 2010. She works in the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching at UCT in the Staff Development cluster. She completed her PhD in Education in 2016 and is a very (very) proud Alumni of the GO-GN Network. She is a also a sub project leader in the Research for OER for Development (ROER4D) project funded by the IDRC. In this blog post she reflects on her recent role as Program Chair for the Open Education Global Conference held in Cape Town in March.

What is the role of a conference program chair? Some obvious activities include tasks such as clustering together presentations into themes so that delegates can attend sessions that they are interested in and trying very hard to make delegates happy in providing a variety of sessions, including balancing formats such as labs and workshops, and traditional presentations.

In reality the role of the program chair is more than this tricky juggling of diverse presentations! It is not only about intellectual theming but involves connecting people. In my case, I have been fortunate enough to be part of GO-GN and ROER4D, and I have also attended an OpenEd conference (Washington DC 2014) and several previous Open Education Global conferences. Through these experiences I have managed to meet incredible researchers in Open Education from all over the world. My “day job” as a staff developer is to try and empower people, facilitate collaboration connect networks or individuals and in applying this to being a program chair, my intention was for delegates to begin conversations or be exposed to research that was new to them. One of the first sessions included a session on large OER research projects: ROER4D, GOGN, John Hilton’s current OER research in the US and Shironica Karunanayaka’s study of a proposed Impact ( of OER ) evaluation index developed in Sri Lanka. When I popped into this session, the energy was palpable and connections were being made- this made me a happy program chair! Sadly I wasn’t able to attend as many sessions as I would have liked to due to other responsibilities, but I could feel the conference buzz as the sessions unfolded..

We also designed the program to enable PhD students, researchers new to OER, and more experienced researchers meet and hear about their work. New researchers could meet the experts. A great example of this happening was in the session by Jasmine Roberts where she reflected about her experience of creating an Open Textbook. She talked about materials on the internet in the Public domain that can be used in building materials. Our Creative Commons expert, Cable Green was in the audience and was able to clearly explain the confusion around materials on the internet as being in the public domain, free to use, whereas actually materials are under full copyright unless otherwise specified. I hope that delegates left Cape Town with some of those “ah ha’ moments.

I hope delegates at the conference got the feeling they were listening to new stories as well as more familiar or well-trodden ones.. As the first Open Education Conference to be held in an African country, this conference was a truly global affair, and as an OER advocate this experience was rewarding as research from so many countries was represented.

There are many challenges and questions to take forward. Mark Horner from Siyavula in a keynote panel suggested we need more marketing of OER and Open Education – a call that resonated with many And we need more Open Education superstars. And responses from the final panel celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration included some interesting comments and challenges came from the audience. Gino Fransman asked: how do we reach communities? And Joeran Muuss-Merholtz asked: where are the revolutionaries?

On that note I look forward to OER 17- the Politics of Open, and I hope that some of these debates will resurface. I hope discussions will continue from the brief meetings I managed to have at OE Global, as being program chair does keep one busy. I know I will also be meeting many new people of OER17.

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