Image by amandaortman (Pixabay)

It has been a whirlwind, a unique learning experience, and a privilege to work these past 14 months with my OER19 co-chair Laura Czerniewicz, with ALT‘s star team of Maren Deepwell, Martin Hawksey and Jane Marsh, with a fabulous conference committee and Galway planning team and with a global network of open educators, researchers, and critical advocates who make the OER Conference what it is.

This will be the 10th annual OER Conference and the first time the conference is being held outside the UK. Here in Ireland, and in Galway in particular, we are delighted to be hosting the conference. The National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, where I work, is the national sponsor for the event; the National Institute for Digital Learning at Dublin City University is a strategic sponsor; and the Irish Learning Technology Association is a supporting partner.

In addition, as part of a growing engagement with open scholarship in Ireland, the OER19 Conference will be just one event during the first-ever #OpenSciGalway Open Science Week at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Other events include an Open Science in Health Research workshop, a Wikipedia edit-a-thon for Women in Science, and an OER Policy Lab.

As OER19 quickly approaches (at last!), Laura and I wrote a blog post to capture our thoughts and hopes for the conference. That post, OER19: Moving beyond is on the OER19 website, and also shared here:

OER19: Moving beyond

by Catherine Cronin & Laura Czerniewicz

The days are ticking by and it is nearly time for OER19! We are immensely excited as we prepare to welcome you to the 10th annual OER Conference — whether you are traveling to Galway or participating virtually.

The theme for OER19 is ‘Recentering Open: Critical and Global Perspectives’. It has been our hope that this theme will invite not only critical and global perspectives, but also multiple interpretations — of open iself, of the concept of recentering, of the meaning of critical, and indeed of the point-of-view of many of the questions ‘we’ ask about open.

The theme has touched a nerve. The role and nature of open education in response to and in relation to dominant marketised discourses have never been more relevant as higher education everywhere confronts its own identity and destiny. It is clear that the time of innocence and easy optimism is over for the open community. Participants have embraced the opportunity for critical engagement.

The theme is not simply theoretical. It has been a guide for us during the past year of planning the OER19 conference. The community has been walking the talk.

  • Each of our five OER19 keynote speakers — from Australia, Ireland, Kenya, South Africa and Venezuela — embodies, speaks from, and will challenge us to consider different global standpoints and perspectives on openness. We thank Kate Bowles, Su-ming Khoo, Judith Pete, Taskeen Adam, and Caroline Kuhn for accepting our invitations to share their work and their thinking.
  • The modes of engagement in and around the conference have pushed boundaries with respect to open practices through blogs, shared writing spaces, and other forms of collaboration. Many of these are featured in guest blog posts on the OER19 website, e.g. a challenge to #DecolonizeOpen, an invitation to participate in the #femedtech open space, an opportunity to engage with organisations who have been supporting refugees and asylum seekers through open education, and a summary of OER19 portals to participation. Still more session presenters/facilitators have invited participation in other ways, e.g. contributing to a Special Issue of JIME and even voting on the content of an OER19 presentation.
  • For many different reasons, it is often not possible to travel to conferences. The OER Conference has continually set a benchmark for virtual conference participation. Through multiple modes (live streams, recordings, social media, Virtually Connecting), virtual participants and presenters are welcome.
  • An online donation system was created so that all registering to attend OER19  could also contribute towards enabling those without ready access to funds to attend the conference. All 9 applications for the scholarship fund were successful — including 7 students and 5 participants from outside the UK.
  • As with all OER Conferences, committee meetings and meeting notes were and continue to be open to all.
  • Throughout, the conference organisers, ALT, have thoroughly embraced and enabled equity and inclusivity.

Our hope for OER19 is that it will be a space for deeply critical thinking and conversations about open education, equity, and social justice. We feel a sense of urgency about recentering our collective conversations and practices on the experiences and knowledge of people who have been left out of the dominant narratives of education, even open education, often in multiple and overlapping ways. We acknowledge now as a time to move beyond hero narratives, beyond our own limited perspectives, and beyond narratives that no longer serve us in higher education, nor indeed as humans, adequately.

Thank you for making OER19 with us.

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