OpenFiction [Blog]

This I did not know: Udacity available under open license

Posted in intellectual property, MOOC, open education, Open Educational Resources by scarsonmsm on April 5, 2013

From the Udacity Legal page:

Udacity hereby grants you a license in and to the Educational Content under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ and successor locations for such license) (the “CC License”), provided that, in each case, the Educational Content is specifically marked as being subject to the CC License. As used herein, “Educational Content” means the educational materials made available to you through the Online Courses, including such on-line lectures, speeches, video lessons, quizzes, presentation materials, homework assignments, programming assignments, code samples, and other educational materials and tools, but, in any event, specifically excluding any Secure Testing Materials. Such Educational Content will be considered the “Work” under the terms of the CC License. “Secure Testing Materials” refers to any exams or other testing materials that are used for certification purposes.

Not sure how I missed that.  The ND is limiting and raises many questions, but hey, it’s a step in the right direction.

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A hima for educational and cultural materials?

Posted in intellectual property, open access, open education, Open Educational Resources by scarsonmsm on March 28, 2013

I am always interested in ways that the concept of sharing common resources (like open educational resources) does (and does not) translate across cultures.  Especially with the recent work we’ve done in supporting the Open Book Project, I was intrigued to come across this piece on the tradition of a physical commons in Arabic cultures:

There was an ancient Middle Eastern tradition of setting aside certain lands, called hima (“protected place” in Arabic), for the enjoyment of local chieftains. Muhammad “transformed the hima from a private enclave into a public asset in which all community members had a share and a stake, in accordance with their duty as stewards (khalifa) of God’s natural world,” according to Tom Verde, a scholar of Islamic studies and Christian-Muslim relations.

In the seventh century, Muhammad declared the region of Al-Madinah, now the holy city of Medina, “to be a sanctuary; its trees shall not be cut and its game shall not be hunted.” Many of the hima lasted well into the 20th century, when the tradition fell victim to modern beliefs about land ownership.

This echos for me the important role that Arabic cultures played in preserving knowledge throughout the dark ages.  I like the idea of a cultural and educational hima in which we all have “a share and a stake”—both access to and responsibility for a vibrant common resource that benefits all.

Good news for open sharing, but also a challenge

The announcement by Blackboard that they will now be supporting open sharing on the Blackboard platform is definitely good news, but I also think it really forces the issue of developing an open education strategy at schools using Blackboard. Unfortunately, sharing educational content is much more complicated than simply clicking the new “Share” button. If individual faculty begin to advocate for the open sharing of their materials, the schools are going to have to think about a number of related issues:

  • Who will be responsible for vetting the intellectual property of the content being shared? Are we just going to let the faculty deal with it?
  • How do we want our university to be represented through open content? Is this just going to end up as a grab bag collection of the materials from faculty willing to share, or are we going to publish open materials more strategically to accomplish a larger end?
  • How will this open publication intersect with other efforts to harness digital technologies to enhance the campus experience or build distance learning programs? How can it help? How can it hurt?
  • How will we as a school communicate to internal and external constituencies about our open sharing approach?

Not an exhaustive list, by any means, but some of the questions raised. Fortunately, the OCW Consortium has lots of resources to help schools develop their answers.

How it all began (the personal edition)

Posted in intellectual property, MIT OpenCourseWare, OpenCourseWare, Personal by scarsonmsm on June 25, 2011

At the recent OCWC conference in Boston, I had the pleasure of introducing the keynote, Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media. During the introduction (in addition to inflating my educational resume) I mentioned that I wouldn’t have ended up at MIT OpenCourseWare if not for an O’Reilly book.

I shared how in the year 2000, I decided either this whole Internet thing was going to pass me by or I was going to have to do something about it, so I picked up an O’Reilly HTML book, and like millions of others at the time, taught myself to code web pages. This led to my creating a distance learning course, which led to much frustration over my school’s intellectual property policy, which led to an appreciation of MIT’s approach, and ultimately to a job at OCW.

After the conference, I had a thank you gift to mail to Tim, and just before sending it I discovered the old dog-eared and coffee stained HTML book on the back of a shelf in my office. I included it with return postage, and Tim was kind enough to sign it and return it:

HTML book with Tim O'Reilly's signature on the cover

How it all began

I cringe as I write this

As I really have a lot on my plate, but I’m not sure which statement David would disagree with:

• Educational resources are, on balance, beneficial to those who have access to them.
• Being “open” doesn’t diminish the value of “educational resources.”
• Obtaining permission to publish under full copyright is as expensive as publishing under an open license.
• The capacity open licenses provide for translation of OER into other languages, which has extended access to millions, is itself sufficient benefit to justify their use.

I feel like we are going in circles again. Notice how that link points to a previous link as well…

For those of you in Boston…

…interested in knowing more about open education:

“Open” is transforming how we think about education in the 21st century. Perhaps you’ve heard of “open eduction” and have wondered what it’s all about. What is it? Why is it important? What does it mean for you, your institution, your institution and the world? This course will help you understand the background, history and implications of open education.

Open Education Practice and Potential is designed to introduce open education to a wide range of students from graduate students, to professionals and to teachers/faculty in K-12 and higher education.

EDUC E-107 Open Education Practice and Potential
Harvard University Extension, Spring term (4 credits)
http://www.extension.harvard.edu/2010-11/courses/educ.jsp#e-107
M.S. Vijay Kumar, EdD
Senior Associate Dean and Director, Office of Educational Innovation and Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Brandon Muramatsu, MS
Senior IT Consultant, Office of Educational Innovation and Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Class times: Thursdays beginning Jan. 27, 5:30-7:30 pm.
Course tuition: noncredit and undergraduate credit $975, graduate credit $1,900.

Open education builds upon the best traditions of educational innovation and the open source movement. It is a field that foresees remarkable transformations in institutions and teaching and learning at all levels. This course explores innovations in open education from a variety of perspectives. It examines the various dimensions of open education from traditional to contemporary. It explores the micro impacts—impacts at the course, curriculum, and program levels—as well as the macro impacts, those at the university and national educational policy levels. Finally, the course examines the remarkable transformative potential of open education on individuals and institutions.

The course is interactive and seminar-style, it will that encourage active discussion and participation by all course participants. The course will be based on presentations and readings. Additionally the course will have a number of leaders in open education as guest speakers. Guest speakers will come from K-12, higher education, policy-making and the corporate sector, and they have been selected to provide a breadth of exposure to open education

Open Education Practice and Potential will be graded on a number of individual and group projects throughout the term. The class culminates in a final project in which students develop an action plan for themselves or for their organizations describing how they will explore and implement open education principles.

I feel like I write one thing…

and David hears another….

Steve (10/29):

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.

David (11/24):

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.

Again….


Steve (11/22)
:

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).

David (11/24):

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!

More open discussion

David Wiley responds to my previous post regarding cost savings through reuse of OCW materials. There are probably longer-winded answers, but…

1) The costs he describes as costs of openly licensing are actually the costs of licensing under any terms, including full copyright, and it wouldn’t cost any less to do full (C).

2) There are plenty of examples of how the CC licenses generate benefit, the largest (as I said in the post) was the translations that have made the OCW content available to huge non-English-speaking audiences. Lots of more granular examples exist, but are they the bulk of the use? No.

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 guess I’m also losing the point of the conversation here. I thought we were discussing whether cost savings were a compelling argument for doing OCW, but now we seem to be discussing whether there is an economic case for open licenses. There’s plenty to discuss in either case.

Haunted by the ghosts

A couple of difficulties is talking about OER:

One: “Open educational resources” represents a broad and diverse field of practices that function in a range of ways, and to speak of them as a unified whole (unintentionally or intentionally) or expect them all to function in the same way is to confuse apples with oranges.

Two: Since OER is a relatively new field, and grew out of a number of precedents including open source software, open content and learning objects, one of the consistent issues I see arise is that people tend to projects their agendas from other realms onto the relatively blank slate of OER, rather than looking at what is actually going on.

I see both of these issues at work in David’s latest installment on OER adoption. Being unable to travel either to OpenEd or the Asia OCW Conference this year, I find myself with time to unpack how the issues above are at work in his response.

Disposing of the first issue above, throughout the post, David treats OER as a unified whole that must have a unified goal–in this case saving money. 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. Outside of The Learning Company’s videos of lectures and a few other niche products, OCW hasn’t been trying to supplant some other for-profit producer that’s been raising prices on paying customers to offset losses due to digital copying as journal and textbook publishers have. That’s what has enabled OCW to spread as widely as it has and what makes it an effective wedge to begin discussions of open sharing on campuses. The success of OCW at MIT no doubt made the discussion of an MIT open access publishing policy easier to have. To lump OCW together with other OER and say the point of the thing is cost savings is a mistake.

On the second issue above, a common rhetorical device I often see in discussions of OCW, and one David uses here, is:

1) The value of OCW is (insert agenda here).
2) There is no evidence of (agenda).
3) Therefore OCW is unsuccessful.

David employs this in asking:

How many displacing adoptions are happening inside MIT thanks to the existence of MIT OCW? Since their OCW is the largest of them all, they could potentially be saving their students more money than anyone else. I’d love to see some data on this out of MIT OCW.

Is there evidence that MIT is saving MIT students money with OCW?  Not a lot. Does this lack of evidence mean that OCW doesn’t benefit MIT students? No, and we’ve actually documented considerable benefits for MIT students generated by the site. 93% of undergraduates and 82% of graduates use the site; 70% of MIT students use the site materials to compliment those they receive in class, 46% use it as a course planning tool, and 39% use it for personal learning; 58% of students rate the site’s impact on student experience as “extremely positive” or positive” and only 4% indicate no positive impact. Lots of benefit, just not the particular benefit of cost savings, which is David’s interest.

From a broader perspective, there’s no doubt that OCW and other OER are producing tangible benefit on a relatively large scale. Millions of people are accessing the materials and hundreds of universities are sharing open educational resources. I suppose its possible that these millions are people we don’t really want to serve and that all these universities have been duped and deluded into believing there is some benefit for them in sharing their materials as they are when there really isn’t. Or it’s possible that lots and lots of people are being helped by the open sharing of educational materials and that there really are tangible benefits for universities even if they turn out to be not the ones that we were expecting.

I learned this early on in my experience with OCW. If your asked 2003-vintage me what the benefits of the project would be, I’d have said, “Oh, definitely, with faculty reusing the content. This is stuff someone is going to have to take and modify and teach in a classroom. It’s not stuff you just dive into without guidance.” When the early returns from our surveys indicated half the people visiting our site had no connection to a university, either as a faculty member or student, I decided it was a better idea to look at what the data was saying rather than guess how I thought the resource would be useful. After all, you can beg a chicken all day for milk and she’s only ever going to give you eggs, but eggs are pretty good too.

Is OCW useful to formal higher education? I’d say the data indicates it is. After all, if 50% of our visitors are not associated with a university, that means that about 50% are. That’s a lot of people, 400-500K a month to the MIT OpenCourseWare site alone, and from virtually every higher ed institution out there. We’ve gotten 2,600 visits this year from BYU, not all of which I assume are coming from David. Have we documented a raft of cost-saving opportunities for faculty and students at other universities? Again, not a lot. One third of students at other schools are using OCW to complement materials from their enrolled classes, and 12% of those indicate the site has saved them money in doing so. That’s a relatively small portion of the overall use. Does this mean there are no benefits?

If I had to put a stake in the ground on how OCW generates benefit for others, right now I’d say primarily as a reference tool that is used for a range of academic activities, including independent (not distance) learning, curricular planning and development, supplements to classroom learning, academic planning, and professional development and problem-solving. Interestingly, many of these benefit from accessing the materials in situ, embedded in the OCW site and MIT curricular structure, rather than disaggregated and localized. Thus, linking is a better strategy to support many of these activities.

David discusses at length the evils of linking, making absolute (and intentionally provocative) statements that in his mind follow from reliance on it at the expense of remix/reuse:

If linking is going to constitute the primary method of adopting OER, every penny spent on the process of openly licensing material for OCW or OER publication has been wasted.

and

When you define “adoption” as linking, there is literally no need to concern yourself with licensing or openness. When you define adoption as linking, you undermine everything that separates OER from the other resources on the web.

Here again, only true if you believe adoption and localization by individual faculty members is the primary reason for the open licenses. If you take a view that reference uses are a large part of the benefit, and you look at the area where the open licenses have been employed to greatest effect, it becomes clear that the licenses are quite important. Since we launched the site, more than 800 translations of our courses have been made into a range of languages. My best estimate is that back-of-the-envelope these represent about $10 million in funds and effort contributed by other organizations, and all made possible by the open licenses. They’ve attracted a huge amount of traffic–at least 30 million visits–and I would guess that most of the use on the other side of the language divide has been largely reference rather than remix as well. Licenses are a vital part of providing additional access to the content.

How does OCW benefit MIT if not through cost? Right now I’d say largely though transparency. MIT as an institution has better visibility into what it teaches and how; faculty teaching advanced courses understand more about what their students learn in foundational courses. Faculty also likely improve their materials in preparing them for open publication; they definitely make new connections based on the open publication; they increase their own professional standing and that of their departments. Students at MIT make much better academic decisions and understand how their chosen field relates to other disciplines (crucial in addressing cross disciplinary challenges like energy, cancer and environmental preservation); before they come to MIT, they have a better idea of what the academic experience at MIT will be like through visiting the site. Does any of this make MIT any cheaper? Maybe at the margins. Does it make MIT better? No doubt.

Dealing with copyright in OCW

Posted in intellectual property, open education, Open Educational Resources, OpenCourseWare by scarsonmsm on September 22, 2010

Another really nice piece by Ethan Watrall in the Chronicle that provides advice to individual educators looking to share their educational materials openly. This one deals with copyright issues in OCW, specifically how to manage third-party content. Generally he discusses three options:

  • Use authentication judiciously
  • Use only openly licensed materials, and
  • Use your nerve, and just put it out there

I’ve seen all three of the above used with success. To them, I’d add a couple of other strategies:

  • Just ask: In a digital age, it’s not that hard to locate owners of content, and a surprising number will allow you to publish their materials under an open license
  • Paraphrase: Content is not code, something I can never say too much–you can copyright the expression of an idea, but not the idea itself, so short of creative writing, most text content can be effectively rephrased. Likewise, data cannot be copyrighted, only its presentation. Data from charts and graphs can be used to create new, openly licensed charts and graphs.
  • Poke around: Many journal articles that appear in traditional journals are also posted openly in preprint from. You may find open what at first appears closed.

But nonetheless, I appreciate Ethan’s ongoing efforts to encourage and empower individual educators to share their materials. ‘Course, I am not a lawyer, so this is not to be considered definitive legal advice.