The CNIE conference this year took place in beautiful Banff, BC. It was an intimate conference, with colleagues from across Canada sharing practice, research and ideas. Lori Wallace a long-time member and this year’s leadership recipient summed it up nicely when she said “this is a space where we don’t strut our stuff – this is where we share our mistakes, to help colleagues avoid the same ones”. It is a collaborative, welcoming group where many were lamenting institutional changes resulting from budget short-falls and cuts to programs and funding. There seemed to be a feeling that there was an increased focus on the traditional campus, with e-learning viewed as a possible revenue stream, without the nuanced understanding about quality, engagement, and student need for access and flexible learning approaches. It is a somewhat troubling refrain. At the same time, we were encouraged to think about the value of our work in open and distance, through presentations and research from a variety of contributors at the conference. For example, Kari Rasmussen (@K_Waddingham) and @JalovcicDjenana (Presentation) talked about the transformational power of providing accessible learning opportunities. I was reminded that though working at a distance can at times be challenging for learners, it also provides the flexibility and access that can change people’s lives and we need to ensure our designs can respond to individual needs.
In considering our current approaches to openness, access and innovative learning, Dr. Tannis Morgan started looking to our our past. She traced issues and discourses around inequality, disruption and rapid technological change back to the literature in the 60s/70s, and gained insight into what openness can continue to offer HE today. In her keynote presentation she challenged us to consider the question “Open for What?” and highlighted that being open can provide opportunities for collaboration and sharing of resources, greater connections to community, and increased learner access. It was a fitting question and closing for the conference–how do we leverage the principles of openness to build innovative learning pathways and designs (patterns and ideas we can trace back to the 60s) that can be transformational for learners? Looking forward to digging through some of the ideas presented at the conference, including those from the past, to incorporate into current practice.