These last days have forced us to think quickly, to move our activities online, to work in isolation or/and in packed households, in order to keep our communities moving on and thriving, so despite the current emergency, on the bright side I’ve seen lots of educators and researchers from all over the world getting together via social media, to create guidelines to help others to teach online or to conduct collaborative research online, and to share teaching resources and data, all in a very open spirit, sharing, collaborating and supporting each other.

The Open Education community has been working incredibly hard to produce training materials to help teachers to use OER and also, to opening up their resources, and the GLAM community, is making accessible the museums collections so people can virtually visiting museums, those we always wanted to visit, have finally opened their doors.

I have also seen other communities getting together to contribute with their expertise, the open data community has been supporting initiatives to map the spread of the virus, or communities that need support, helping governments gathering data to make informed decisions. The Open Science Community has been working not only to stop the spread of the virus, but also putting their research data openly available for others to reuse it, and the Open Access Community has been working in liberating papers to help researchers and the public to access reliable information.

However, I have seen a very dark side on the deployments of technologies during the last days, as lots of companies are offering their services and products for “free”, however, when you read their terms and conditions they are charging the users in two ways, one is requesting unrestricted and perpetual access and ownership of the content people produce or post in their platforms, which means that any kind of content you produce while using such technology is not yours but it belongs to such company, and that includes images, learning guides, videos, music recordings or any other kind material you produce, meaning that they commercialise such products without your consent and also, without paying you.

The second one, is the unrestricted access to collect and store users data, sometimes in an aggressive way, requesting access to every single app a user has, including access to their pictures, email, calendar, contacts and location and others which can be fitness apps that contain health data or shopping / travel apps that contain personal information and consumer patterns. Exchanging data for services is problematic, but is even more problematic when this data is students and staff data, as teachers and students can’t opt out when using these services, because schools and universities have decided to used them to provide teaching both in synchronous and asynchronous ways.

Data is the most valuable asset a person has nowadays, as privacy cannot be a privilege of those who can afford not to be monitored and surveilled, so accepting using a free service in exchange of data from people who cannot challenge how and by whom this data will be used in the future, putting vulnerable students at risk of being discriminated from accessing services such as insurance and credits and other services, as people’s demographic data is used to train decision-making algorithms, so students’ data from deprived and vulnerable backgrounds, including their learning performance records gathered from the teaching platforms, their socioeconomic data retrieved from allowing the system accessing their social media and the images retrieved from their phones can used to train discriminatory algorithms including facial recognition ones.

So, understanding that every move to made on the last days has been done in a hurry and that our communities are grateful for the efforts being made to ensure the continuity of the learning programmes, is necessary to reflect on how a contingency plan needs to be designed and put in place, and this needs to include an assessment of the tools that can be used to deploy face to face learning and teaching materials, considering the real – non monetary cost of free tools and evaluating how to adopt and implement open source software that don’t appropriate the content produced by the educators or datafy students and teachers, to use and produce open educational resources and open data as teaching and learning materials, and to adopt open science and open education practices to foster collaborative learning.


Shared by: Javiera Atenas - Open Education Working Group