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Robert Farrow
25 October 2011

Brian Lamb &  Jeff Miller

"Sustainability education offers opportunities to extend the reach of open education and deepen its engagement with the academy.

When one uses "sustainability" in the context of open education, the word usually relates to whether or not an initiative has solid funding or a viable business model. Yet the growing movement of sustainability education offers a range of promising opportunities to extend the reach of open education and perhaps deepen its engagement with the academy.


This presentation will consider the thematic and practical parallels between the two movements. The many definitions of "sustainability" itself must be considered. Concepts such as "the commons", "non-rivalrous resources", "reuse", "inputs and outputs" will be explored from both perspectives. More concrete questions such as carbon footprints and human work will also be considered.

These broader issues will be focused in part through a case study examination of The University of British Columbia, which has worked to coordinate open and sustainability education initiatives. This case will illustrate how sustainability education can serve as a strategic driver for openness across the institution, as well as promote a more permeable university that engages the wider community. Several projects will be discussed, not the least an open-source, small-pieces-loosely-joined, bottom-up, radical-reuse open content management framework that has enjoyed massive growth over the past year."

Issues to consider with respect to sustainability:

  • Sustainability is about continued existence
  • It's easier to identify unsustainable practices than sustainable practices
  • "Enjoying the good life and working together" - being virtuous?
In an OER context, sustainability has a specific meaning:  often to do with getting hold of more money!
The University of British Columbia aspires to be the most sustainable university in the world... but it's difficult to provide evidence of this. It's common to overstate the extent to which quality OERs in the right areas are available.  There's little in the way of OERs on sustainability.
The real leadership in sustainability in education often comes from students, as in organizing conferences, etc.
"The Ingenuity Gap" (David Orr) is the difference (shortfall) between supply and demand.  (Orr's work in general was recommended.)
The cost of serious publication has increased dramatically above the rate of inflation during a period of consolidation of ownership into a small number of corporate publishers.
Why is academic publishing so exploitative?  The intellectual property is provided and peer-reviewed for free and publication is subsidized by the taxpayer. How sustainable is that?
The environments we have and the decisions we make will dictate the way we educate in the future.

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