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Reflections on #OEGlobal 2017

Reflections on #OEGlobal 2017 from James Glapa-Grossklag, outgoing OEC Board President

Colleagues from around the world have posted generous reflections on the 2017 Open Education Global (#OEGlobal) conference, held this year in beautiful Cape Town. Many of those posts offer summations of key themes, so I will do something a bit different–pose a challenge to the community and offer personal words of gratitude.


On the occasion of the many anniversaries that we celebrated in Cape Town, I was noted in my opening remarks that visions of the future need to be a bit ridiculous, a little crazy. The shared vision of the open education community — education for everyone, everywhere — sounds a little less crazy today than it did 15, 10, or even 5 years ago. Yet, this is what we’ve accomplished together–moving the idea of education for everyone, everywhere, from a rebellion, an insurgency, to a movement and even to the mainstream. What crazy idea will we come up with in the next 5 years?

A couple of challenges to being crazy in an effective manner were posed throughout the conference and I want to call your attention to them here.

One challenge for our community was voiced in a couple of different ways. The question was posed “where are the revolutionaries today?” How can we engage them, how can we ensure that we are expanding not only access, but also promoting equity and democracy?

Another challenge is to engage with other open movements–Open Science, Open Data, and more were under-represented at the conference. If we are to amplify and sustain our values, we need to form consistent and deep alliances.


This year was my final year as president of the board, so I took advantage of the stage to recognize people who helped to move our idea from crazy to the mainstream in my particular world, community colleges in the US. I will do so again here.

Our comrade Hal Plotkin was crazy enough to think that open education should become a normal part of public education and a normal part of government funding for education.

My friends Cable Green and Una Daly were crazy enough to think that OER in community colleges could become a movement, and hundreds of members later, CCCOER is still going strong.

Former OEC board president Steve Carson and OEC Executive Director Mary Lou Forward were crazy enough to think that open education should not be the exclusive domain of elite institutions and that there might be a place for community colleges.

At the conference, my colleagues Quill West, Preston Davis, and Richard Sebastian represented colleges that are crazy enough to make to think that students should be able to complete their entire degrees with OER.

My thanks to everyone and my congratulations on helping crazy and ridiculous ideas become normal.


Finally, thank you to members for electing me to two terms on the board, and to fellow board members for entrusting me with leadership roles. I was fortunate to serve two years as President of the OEC board, and before that as Vice President for one year and Treasurer for one year. Prior to that, in my role as President of the Community College Consortium for OER, and as a way of integrating the community college movement into the global movement, I was invited to participate in board activities for two years.

From this service, I leave heartened by and envious of so many people who have made open education the focus of their professional lives. Many board colleagues have become friends, and many have been mentors. Thank you. Above all, I remain in awe of the dedication, intelligence, and integrity of the OEC staff: Mary Lou, Igor, Marcela, Una, Jure, Nori, and Susan. You help us to make the crazy ideas become reality. Thank you!