Another dot in the blogosphere?

Open benefits

Posted on: August 7, 2012

If I had to take a guess, I think that quite a few of my colleagues might think I am crazy for promoting open learning and courses.

That was true a few years ago but I think I seem less crazy with each passing semester. I know this because when I visit them in their academic groups, I hear less resistance to jumping on the iTunes U bandwagon.

One might wonder why faculty are wary even with the rise in open courses offered by:

Why is there some resistance to open courses?

Faculty are told that what they create while working in institute belongs to that organization. They are also told that they can use copyrighted material of others only under the fair use clause and conditions. Administratively and financially, it seems to make sense to lock courses down to specific groups of people for accountability and profit.

What they may not realize is that these ideas are based on industrial, publication, and business models that are being challenged as educational technologies evolve and as expectations change.

An organization might claim some intellectual property rights and copyrights to products and publications. But they cannot do this indefinitely. On one hand, faculty members are collaborating across institutes and networks. On the other, they cannot hold on completely to an individual’s ideas should that person move on. If they did, litigation would probably put most research universities out of business.

Under the fair use clause, using 10% of a resource might make sense if you consider the number of pages in a reference book. But how does one gauge 10% of a figure, framework, or manipulative animation?

Universities make money out of offering lectures and tutorials that are packaged in courses on campus. But disruptive technologies like online, distance, and mobile learning are not only increasing the reach of universities, they are also challenging the notion of a course.

This is where Creative Commons licensing as an extension of copyright benefits education.

You create a resource and share it under one of the CC licences. The licences range from allowing others to use your resource freely with attribution to you and as long as no changes are made to it, to allowing users to change the resources and even profit from it.

There are benefits in open learning that will appeal to those who heed the call to really educate:

  • Sharing is caring (education is a responsibility, not just a business opportunity)
  • Not locking down courses allows for broader reach and inputs
  • Providing unfettered resources promotes lifelong, lifewide learning
  • It increases the reputational capital of the institute (which might then benefit financially)
  • Sharing openly online provides evidence of who provided a resource or idea first
Slideshare button by JuLGzFz, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  JuLGzFz 

Do we need to play the numbers game? Then consider these. About a year ago, I prepared a short course on ICT quality assurance for four visitors from a Vietnamese university and posted it on SlideShare. It now has 900 views. I also shared a resource on writing specific instructional objectives for about 100 student teachers. It will hit 17,000 views soon.

These figures are nowhere near those achieved by SlideShare superstars. But when you consider how small the intended audience was on a closed course and compare it with the extended audience in an open format, I think that the numbers make my point.

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