This morning marks the start of the OpenFiction project, and also brings me full circle in some respects with writing, teaching and instructional materials. The OpenFiction Courseware site contains materials I developed just after I earned my MFA in creative writing at Emerson College. The materials were created for teaching a distance learning course through the Division of Continuing Education at Emerson, where I was also Assocoiate Director. We decided to develop distance learning classes as an experiment, because we wanted to have the capability should we decide to move in that direction. It was a very proprietary model at the time.
As an administrator, I struggled with the complexity of the intellectual property issues involved, mainly because the Division could not afford to pay people to create distance learning materials, and we finally settled on a model in which instructors would create the materials on their own time, and the instructor would license the use of the material to the Division on a per course basis. This essentially had the instructor developing the material on spec, but allowed the Division to only incur costs if and when the course ran. The introductory fiction class that became the OpenFiction courseware was the result of this effort, and the class ran five times at Emerson, albeit with relatively low enrollments. The model also presented a challange to, and provoked a reexamination of, the school’s intellectual property policy, which became a long and somewhat contentious exercise.
In the midst of this, MIT announced the launch of the OpenCourseWare project, which was to make all of MIT’s teaching materials openly available on the web. I recognized immediately that it was the kind of project I wanted to do. It would take another year and a chance encounter with one of the people involved in MIT OCW, but by January 2003, I had joined the project. It was an all-consuming effort to launch that project, and during the past few years, my courseware and my own writing have been shelved. As the effort behind MIT OCW has begun to level off, I’ve been able to return to the courseware and reformat it for open use, and return to my own writing.
This blog, and the courseware site, then are two things: one, a way for me to add stucture to my thinking about the craft of writing, to re-enter that world and return to a novel I have in progress; and two, an experiment in making the course materials openly available to see what use (if any) they may be to others and what connections they may foster. So I welcome comments here on the craft of fiction, fiction instruction in general, the course materials in particular, and the concept of openly sharing educational materials.