Toward a culture of open sharing
Had lunch today with a friend from another open sharing project. Talking to him reinforces what I believe about opencourseware’s place in the larger world of open sharing. Opencourseware has a number of advantages over many of the other open sharing movements; I previously mentioned how there was no strong monopoly interest opposing open educational resources, whereas open journal publication and open sharing of patentable research compete with strong commercial interests. A few minutes’ discussion about some of these other open sharing initiatives is enough to illustrate the more complex technical and legal issues that arise when you step into these other realms and–especially–as you move away from copyright and into patentable intellectual property.
In any of these movements, however, one clear way forward is to create a larger culture of open sharing. This culture of open sharing means different things for different organizations–for foundations, it means insisting on open sharing of funded research; for academic institutions, it means sharing educational materials openly; for higher ed tech transfer offices, introducing ethical considerations into licensing agreements. I’ve thought for some time that opencourseware projects, because of their appeal to wide audiences within and outside the academic community, and the relative simplicity of the idea itself, are well positioned to lay the groundwork for more difficult discussions of open sharing. Schools where large numbers of faculty and students participate in opencourseware sharing are environments where discussions of ethical licensing standards, open journal publication, and other more complicated open sharing ideas can gain traction. Opencourseware can be, for many institutions, a relatively straightforward way to demonstrate commitment to openness, and take concrete steps that introduce open sharing into the institutional culture.