I feel like I write one thing…
and David hears another….
I do hope that OER will be able to generate some cost savings, and I see the best opportunities for this in open access journals and open text books. These would seem to offer savings opportunities, though, not because of their relationship to formal education, but because of their relationship to a media industry that is struggling to make its peace with the digital environment, and not doing a good job. OpenCourseWare is different (at least in the higher ed realm) in that there is no significant media industry out there making money on the sales of course content alone.
Steve wrote persuasively that MIT OCW does not translate into cost savings, and that we probably shouldn’t look for cost savings in the OER context generally.
In addition to the direct benefits of open licenses, they set (or continue) a community ethos that education is about sharing, and most of the universities that have come into the OCW movement have come in out of a commitment to the mission of disseminating knowledge. On a tactical level, the licenses are an important part of the “sell” to faculty considering participation. It’s an expression of the gift economy that educators have long participated in.
So, open licenses help to grease the wheels and do add some benefits (in some cases quite significant ones), and I don’t see huge cost savings in eliminating them. David is covering territory I’ve written about for a while (reference vs. remix uses of OCW). Finger in the wind, I’d say open licenses contribute to about a quarter to a third of end user benefit (if you include translations and aggregations such as Videolectures.net in addition to individual uses of the licenses).
I can kind of cope with it mentally when people not really involved in the space fail to differentiate between the benefits of (1) materials published on the public web and (2) open educational resources. But this conversation with Steve is a repeat of several conversations I’ve had lately. In many cases, people in-field can’t articulate a difference at all, which is disappointing but not depressing. In other cases, more articulate people clearly know the difference and seem to have rejected the necessity of open licenses.
I don’t know how much more clearly I can state:
- I believe open texts and open journals have the potential to save money because they supplant an entrenched and failing industry; I don’t see the cost savings in OCW, and it does a disservice to both adopters of the practice and the movement as a whole to sell OCW on those merits.
- I believe open licenses are an important part of OER both because they set a community standard of openness and because they allow for the materials to be modified and redistributed in ways that magnify the benefits of sharing the materials (in the case of MIT OCW, I’d say 1/3 to 1/4 of all benefits).
- Based on the data I’ve seen, I believe that the bulk of the benefits of open licenses come from macro-level activities such as translation and redistribution that permit reference-based non-remix micro uses rather than the micro level rip-mix-burn by individual educators, although we do see some of this occurring.
I really feel like we are swinging from hyperbolic statement (If open education practitioners cannot move from large-scale sharing to large-scale adopting, the field is dead) to hyperbolic statement (if linking is adopting, every penny spent openly licensing has been wasted) with little connection to data.
It’s quite possible that open licenses are very valuable even if only a small minority of users take advantage of them. These may either be users that can have widespread impact, such as translators and redistributors, or they may be young innovators who will change future practice down the road. But let’s move from what we observe to an understanding of how the field is generating such remarkable impact, rather than starting from a conceptual notion (individual faculty saving money through rip-mix-burn) and when it doesn’t appear in practice claiming the sky is falling.
By the way, all the benefits listed in Table 4B of my previous post are benefits of open licenses, as they relate to faculty incorporating materials into their own courses.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!