OpenFiction [Blog]

The value of open sharing

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on September 21, 2005

I found myself trying to articulate the mission of the OpenFiction Project today, while drafting a call for submissions for the anthology. So far, I’ve come up with:

The mission of the OpenFiction Project is to provide educators and learners worldwide free web access to high-quality resources for teaching and learning fiction; and to further the cause of openly sharing educational materials by demonstrating low-cost open sharing methods and fostering discussion of the value of open educational resources.

Having thus articulated a mission, I now reflexively evaluate my progress toward fulfilling it:

“Provid[ing] free web access to high-quality resources”: I’m not going to be the judge of the “high-quality” issue–I’ll let site traffic be a proxy for that.

“Demonstrating low-cost open sharing methods”: For the record, the total cost of the project so far, at least in dollars spent: $24.00. It was $10.00 to set up the site, and it’s $7.00 a month to host it ($5.00 for basic hosting and $2.00 for the wiki). In terms of hours spent–and here I mean hours beyond the time it took to create the materials for teaching–I’d say somewhere in the neighborhood of about 30 since mid-May. So the site clearly demonstrates open sharing can be accomplished cheaply.

I guess the biggest open question is “What’s the value of doing this?” Has it been worth the $24.00? Many instructors post their materials in institutionally supported web spaces, and many of these spaces are not password protected–so in that sense “open.” What’s the difference between that and tOFP or another opencourseware? The easy answer is that there is no explicit commitment to openness on the part of the instructors who just leave their web spaces open–there is no license explicitly permitting open use and there is no assurance that the third-party materials included are legally safe to use. I can imagine a not-to-distant future in which a single lawsuit by a journal publisher over a PDF of a copyrighted article in a faculty web folder causes institutions across the country to begin policing access to servers more rigidly. At that point, only intentionally open resources will remain open.

But there is a level of commitment to openness beyond this that I am interested in exploring. I’m interested in finding an opportunity to use tOFP as it is currently constituted as a platform for teaching a course that crosses the boundaries of private and open instruction. How does a commitment to openness on the part of the instructors and students in a class affect the educational experience? If, for instance, instead of having students in a class create an online but restricted craftbook, what happens if they are asked to contribute to an open craftbook? How does student production–that is, learning a craft such as fiction writing–change in a producer culture environment in which their work becomes instantly and widely available? How does the apprenticeship model that fiction instruction relies on change in an open environment?

I’m really fascinated in the interplay between learning for certification versus learning for personal enrichment and development. Learning for certification is the revenue-generating model, but how can it be employed to further other modes of learning, and how can these other modes of learning enrich and inform certified learning?

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