Open education in closed-loop systems: Enabling closures and open-loops

Michael Gallagher* (Lead Author), James Lamb

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

As with all dynamic organisms, university systems maintain a set of often prohibitive closures that constitute a closed-loop system: opaque academic practices, control of what counts as knowledge, financial and social exclusion, and the perpetuation of privilege. Yet this closed-loop system is also governed by adherence to values around education as a public good, openness and authenticity, and education as a vehicle for inclusion and social mobility. The closures and openings created with such systems are productively yet problematically in tension. Open education as practised in universities is entwined in these tensions. In this paper we differentiate between prohibitive closures and enabling closures. We broadly define enabling closures as closed-loops of activity that allow for openings both at the boundaries of the university, and within. It is through these enabling closures that universities can more systematically adhere to open education as accepted policy and practice. We note, however, the role that closed commercial technologies have on the surfacing of these enabling closures. As such, in this paper we explore how open education sits in tension with closed technological and increasingly commercialised educational infrastructures in higher education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalDistance Education
Early online date22 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Oct 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • digital education
  • open education
  • open access
  • open source
  • higher Education
  • systems theory


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