The “open” space is expanding.
2011 has been a watershed year with open gaining traction and acceptance.
Governments in Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the U.S. have all adopted Creative Commons licenses to communicate broad reuse rights to the content, data, and educational materials they create. By doing so these national governments are seeking to:
- promote creative and innovative activities, which will deliver social and economic benefits
- make government more transparent and open in its activities, ensuring that the public are better informed about the work of the government and the public sector
- enable more civic and democratic engagement through social enterprise and voluntary and community activities
This move to more open government is not just happening at the national level. Here in British Columbia the provincial government has established a Ministry of Labour, Citizen’s Services and Open Government and became the first provincial government in Canada to launch an open data portal.
Its even happening at the city or municipal level. The city of Sao Paulo in Brazil has decreed that all educational resources paid for by the city need to be Open Educational Resources (OER) licensed using Creative Commons license.
Its not just happening at the national, provincial, and municipal levels its happening at the organizational and institutional levels. The National Autonomous University of Mexico, better known as UNAM, has said it will make virtually all of its publications, databases, and course materials freely available on the Internet over the next few years. This is to include all magazines and periodicals published by UNAM, research published by UNAM employees, and online access to theses, dissertations and its approximately 300 undergraduate and graduate courses. The UNAM Online initiative seeks to achieve open access, public and free to all products, collections and digital developments of the university. This move is seen as part of the university’s mission. A way to give back to society what it is doing with its financial support. A way of being open, accountable and transparent.
Its not just publications, research, theses and other content that is going open, 2011 was the year that open pedagogies including Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) were adopted by mainstream big name institutions. A Massively Open Online Course is typically taught by faculty at an established institution to tuition paying regular students but is also open to enrollment by anyone interested for free. Only the tuition paying students receive accreditation. MOOC’s have been around for a while (see here and here) but this year saw the following fascinating examples.
Digital Storytelling DS106 – Jim Groom’s University of Mary Washington DS106 is an open, online course free to anyone who wants to take it. You can join in whenever you like and leave whenever you need. Participants develop skills in using technology as a tool for creative self-expression, building a digital identity, and critically examining the landscape of communication technologies. The 2011 version of this course invented a free form live streaming course radio station as a new form of teaching and learning. This course starts up again in January 2012 in case you’d like to sign up.
In the fall of 2011 Stanford Engineering professors offered three of the school’s most popular computer science courses for free online as MOOC’s, Machine Learning, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence and Introduction to Databases. The Introduction to Artificial Intelligence course generated over 100,000 enrollments and had to be capped. Students taking the course for free watch video lecture recordings, read course materials, complete assignments and take quizzes and an exam. What online students don’t receive, however, is one-on-one interaction with professors, the full content of lectures – or a Stanford degree.
In late December MIT announced MITx which aims to let thousands of online learners take laboratory-intensive courses, while assessing their ability to work through complex problems, complete projects, and write assignments (see FAQ). As with other MOOC style offerings students won’t have interaction with faculty or earn credit toward an MIT degree. However, for a small fee (yet to be defined) students can take an assessment which if successfully completed will provide them with a certificate from MITx. Whether this turns out to be anything more than the form letters Stanford’s faculty provide non-enrolled students who complete the course remains to be seen. But, imagine this scenario. A student signs up for a free MITx course, completes the assignments, pays the assessment fee and receives a certificate indicating successful completion. That student then decides to apply to and enroll in MIT proper. Would that certificate be accepted by MIT as transfer credit or would they force the student to retake the entire course?
Museums and libraries are going open. Check out the Commons on Flickr to see how libraries and museums are openly sharing what have been hidden treasures in the world’s public photography archives, and how they are openly sourcing public input and knowledge into making these collections even richer. The Commons on Flickr openly shares photos where “no known copyright restrictions” exist, such as:
- The copyright is in the public domain because it has expired;
- The copyright was injected into the public domain for other reasons, such as failure to adhere to required formalities or conditions;
- The institution owns the copyright but is not interested in exercising control; or
- The institution has legal rights sufficient to authorize others to use the work without restrictions.
I think of these collections as partially open. The rights statements of participating libraries and museums are full of statements like; “It is your responsibility to determine what permission(s) you need in order to use the Content and, if necessary, to obtain such permission.” Not particularly helpful or encouraging of reuse. No where near as clear as Creative Commons licenses. However, I do really like the way they are seeking public input into the cataloging and data associated with these images. See No. 47. Crew member taking a movie of ice berg from the ship, Greenland, 1939 for an example of how Smithsonian images are being shared through the Commons on Flickr and how public input is improving the collection. It’s particularly heartening to see the Smithsonian directly interacting with end users.
In November 2011 Wired announced that all Wired.com staff-produced photos will be released under a Creative Commons (CC BY-NC) license in high-res format on a newly launched public Flickr stream. In making the announcement Wired notes; “Like many other sites across the web, we’ve benefited from CC-licensed photos at Wired.com for years — thank you, sharers! It seems only fitting, and long overdue, to start sharing ourselves.”
Its great to see these examples of open leadership happening at the national, provincial, municipal, institutional, and organizational level and it makes me wonder – Is open going viral? Is open going mainstream?
There is growing government interest in seeing resources produced through tax dollars be publicly accessible. Governments at all levels are using policy and legal frameworks to open up access to publicly held information, promote transparency, and enable wider economic and social gain. These are all factors every government and their electorate are interested in.
I can’t wait for the day when more and more government officials recognize the benefits of open and establish themselves as proponents. Washington State representative Reuven Carlyle gets it in spades. See: $64 million for out-of-date and educationally generic textbooks? Here’s a new approach, and Beginning of the end for $100 college textbooks: Legislature, colleges, Gates Foundation partner for examples of how a politician can make a difference by understanding and leveraging open.
I think of open textbooks as low hanging fruit. One of the most compelling open education initiatives to undertake. Open textbooks have a clear value proposition for students, parents, educators and public funders. CK-12′s flexbooks are totally impressive for the fact that they are Creative Commons licensed and for the simple way you can assemble a book as a .pdf, an e-book, or html and embed it in an LMS. And then there is Saylor’s Open Textbook Challenge which is offering a “bounty” of $20,000 if you submit your textbook to them and it is accepted for use in their course materials. I expect we’ll see open textbooks for high enrollment undergrad courses across the board.
While I’m interested in the full range of ways in which open principles are being used I’m particularly interested in how they apply to education. Governments could establish policy that requires public funds for education to result in education resources openly accessible to the public. Some governments have provided funding for development of educational resources under agreements that have the IP and copyright for those resources resting with the government. Governments could easily convert all these legacy educational resources to Open Educational Resources (OER) by simply using an open license like Creative Commons.
UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) published the UNESCO-COL Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education this year providing a set of guidelines to support governments, teaching staff, higher education institutions/providers, and quality assurance/accreditation and recognition bodies adopt and support OER.
The guidelines for government include:
- Support the use of OER through the revision of policy regulating higher education
- Contribute to raising awareness of key OER issues
- Review national ICT/connectivity strategies for Higher Education
- Consider adapting open licensing frameworks
- Consider adopting open format standards
- Support institutional investments in curriculum design
- Support the sustainable production and sharing of learning materials
- Collaborate to find effective ways to harness OER.
I look forward to seeing these policies adopted around the world, used at the national, provincial, municipal, and institutional level, and applied across all of education.
For public government, public service agencies, and not-for-profits open policy is a perfect fit. For the most compelling and articulate description of its obviousness I highly recommend you listen to Cable Green’s Sloan-C presentation The Obviousness of Open Policy which he gave in November 2011 (advance to time index 10:25 and click on the 4 arrows in the upper right corner to go full screen). In a digital world the potential is there for open to become a widespread win/win de facto policy with benefits for governments and citizens. The most amazing thing of all is that government support for open can happen at the policy and guidelines level without any additional funding. It’s hard to imagine why any entity serving the public interest wouldn’t adopt open policies when open can clearly generate social and economic benefits.
I’m highlighting these government developments around policy and open as I see them as an essential complement to the grass roots way open adoption has happened to date. Individuals, on their own, have embraced open. Photographers have uploaded over 200 million images to Flickr tagged with Creative Commons licenses. Wikipedia’s more than 3.8 million entries are openly licensed using Creative Commons. In June 2011 YouTube added the Creative Commons Attribution license as a licensing option for users and launched a Creative Commons video library containing 10,000 videos under CC BY from organizations such as C-SPAN, PublicResources.org, Voice of America, and Al Jazeera. There are now hundreds of thousands of YouTube videos that users have posted with Creative Commons licenses.
People who tweet and use social networks appreciate openly engaging others in solving problems or providing advice. The New Einsteins Will Be Scientists Who Share explores this potential for science. Even Scientific American is in on the act with their citizen science site. I expect we’ll soon see national organizations responsible for research establish open innovation as an essential aspect of research agendas.
As might be expected there are a growing number of practices and technologies emerging to support this kind of open engagement. Knowledge in the Public Interest is using the concept of a JAM‘s for open engagement. A JAM is a a non-linear moderated discussion of fixed duration that is part creative brainstorming, part active dialogue, and part focus group. In a JAM participants share experiences, knowledge, and ideas, and collaborate in search of actionable responses to complex issues. It’s interesting to note that Knowledge in the Public Interest’s customized version of Moodle and its JAM process are similar to what BCcampus has been doing for years with its customized Moodle SCoPE seminars.
Idea Scale is another interesting example. The recently launched US initiative Digital Promise is using Idea Scale to generate and tackle “grand challenges” to spur breakthrough technologies that can help transform the way teachers teach and students learn. You can see grand challenge ideas submitted so far in Idea Scale here.
In education, Learning Management Systems are largely closed walled off online learning environments that require passwords and logins for entry. It was a welcome surprise then when in October 2011 Blackboard announced a series of new initiatives to provide greater support for open education efforts. Working with Creative Commons, Blackboard now supports publishing of open educational resources (OER) across its platforms. Support for OER enables instructors to publish and share their courses under a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY) so that anyone can easily preview and download the course content. Blackboard also updated its policy around fees so that there are no extra charges associated with sharing courses with outsiders such as other educators, auditors, or prospective students. Blackboard says it wants to help institutions share the content of their courses with larger, online audiences. When a technology vendor like Blackboard starts to support open then you know open is past the idea stage and going mainstream.
Given the growing personal use of open licenses by end users it makes sense for governments to do the same. Open will flourish when bottom-up grassroots efforts toward open take place in an environment supported top-down by policy.
My own work at BCcampus around OER has been an example of that synergy. Government Ministry of Advanced Education support for faculty development of online learning resources has been provided with the caveat that the resources be open and shareable. I’ve written about this initiative extensively elsewhere in this blog (see here, and here, and here) so thought I’d shine the light on a couple of other 2011 developments that add credence to the growing sense of open going viral and the synergy between policy and grassroots adoption.
In the US the Obama administration initiated the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grants Program out of the US Department of Labor. The first round of TAACCCT grants made available and awarded in 2011 totals $500 million but a total of $2 billion over four years has been committed. This example of government commitment to open is the largest I know of and I hope others are inspired to follow suit. TAACCCT provides eligible institutions of higher education with funds to expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs that can be completed in 2 years or less, and that result in skills, degrees, and credentials that prepare program participants for employment in high-wage, high-skill occupations, and are suited for workers who are eligible for training under the TAA for Workers program. TAACCCT funds are capacity building grants strategically targeted to assist workers adversely affected by trade agreements. All TAACCCT initiatives are expected to meet accessibility and interoperability standards and produce OER licensed using Creative Commons (CC-BY).
Wayne Mackintosh and the Open Educational Resource Foundation (OERF) in New Zealand have been doing just an amazing job of bringing to life the OER university (OERu). Here’s how the OERu is described:
The OER university is a virtual collaboration of like-minded institutions committed to creating flexible pathways for OER learners to gain formal academic credit.
The OER university aims to provide free learning to all students worldwide using OER learning materials with pathways to gain credible qualifications from recognised education institutions. It is rooted in the community service and outreach mission to develop a parallel learning universe to augment and add value to traditional delivery systems in post-secondary education. Through the community service mission of participating institutions we will open pathways for OER learners to earn formal academic credit and pay reduced fees for assessment and credit.
The concept of an OERu gained widespread support and made incredible progress over the 2011 year. Institutions from around the world have become OERu founding partners including:
- Athabasca University
- BAOU (Gujarat’s open university)
- Empire State College (SUNY)
- Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology
- Open Polytechnic
- Otago Polytechnic
- Southern New Hampshire University
- Thompson Rivers University
- University of Canterbury
- University of South Africa
- University of Southern Queensland
- University of Wollongong
- OER Foundation (non-teaching)
- BCcampus (non-teaching)
These founding partners represent Canada, USA, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and India. For OERu to have attracted the interest and involvement of this many partners in a one year period is impressive. I’m particularly encouraged with the breadth, depth and reputations of these partners. It’s worth pointing out that the OERu openly invites other institutions to join. I expect many additional institutions from all around the world will join the OERu and follow the early leadership these founding anchor partners have shown.
Over the course of 2011 the OERu:
- conducted an international consultative webinar on the OER university with a focus on OER for assessment and credit for students in February 2011
- hosted a strategic international planning meeting for the OER university February 2011
- established a plan of action for implementing its logic model
- held an international consultative webinar on designing OERu credentials in August 2011
- brought on 15 anchor partners (see above)
- held an OERu Founding Anchor Partners inaugural planning meeting in November 2011
- defined 2012 prototype courses in Dec 2011
- and is currently doing an international consultative webinar for designing Academic Volunteers International (until Dec 16) as well as conducting an OERu assessment and credentialisation practice survey (until Dec 31)
Perhaps the most impressive thing of all with OERu is that all of this has been planned and published openly on Wikieducator with invited and included participation from people all over the world. Got ideas you’d like to contribute to the OERu? Log on to the wiki and add them – input from all is welcome. OERu is not only about opening education its modelling how to do planning and development in an open and inclusive way. For the OERu, open is not just about content – its about all aspects of education, it seeks to engage and benefit all people everywhere, it’s a way of working. Outstanding!
Against this backdrop of growing global momentum and critical mass around open, 2011 has been a pivotal year of open for me personally too. Here’s my own personal 2011 top 10 open highlights:
#1. The University of Open articulates a vision of a new kind of university that strategically chooses to use and contribute to the code of Open Source Software, publish research openly using Open Access principles, teach openly in the public using Open Pedagogies, share data on it’s activities using Open Data, and involve faculty and students in developing and using Open Educational Resources (OER). This vision of an alternative ‘university of open’ serves as an inspiration for me. I’ve been thrilled to find this idea picked up and promoted internationally by Sir John Daniel of the Commonwealth of Learning (Open Courseware, Open Content, Open Practices, Open Learning: Where are the limits? — Tertiary Education: How Open? — Open Universities: what are the dimensions of openness? — Publishing with Public Money for Public Benefit)
#2. Award of grants for the 2010 BCcampus Online Program Development Fund which supports partnerships of BC public post secondary institutions in their development of online learning curricula as OER. This was the eighth consecutive round, the longest running publicly funded OER initiative I know of, bringing the cumulative 2003-2010 investment to $9 million. Kudos to BC’s Ministry of Advanced Education for its early foresight and willingness to back open over all these years.
#3. One of OER’s holy grails is reuse by others. I think there is a dearth of understanding about just what people think this means but this past year several significant events happened around OER developed in B.C. being picked up and expanded by others elsewhere. I find these examples fascinating as they represent real-life examples of what happens as OER mature. The University of British Columbia’s Virtual Soil Science Learning Resources are a great example of an OER initiative that started in BC and has expanded. The additional institutional partners brought on over time contribute to improving existing learning resources, developing new learning resources, and use existing virtual soil science learning resources for courses in their own institutions. I enjoyed helping bring together soil scientists in India with the core UBC team to further expand the work through an international partnership.
When someone says to me OER reuse I think about this – the formation of distributed social networks of faculty and students collectively working on shared curriculum.
Royal Roads University has a wonderful Open Educational Resources site and Mary Burgess, the lead for this initiative sent me an e-mail in November 2011 saying:
“We’ve had some exciting developments on our little OER project of late that I just had to share with you!
Last week, we found out that a consortium of Chinese institutions is using our Instructional Skills Workshop Online (shared from our OER site) – you can see it here.
And today, we found out that 2 of our Moodle customizations are being made part of Moodle core in version 2.3.
Finally, I had an email from a guy at the University of Madrid yesterday who is using another one of our Moodle patches.
“We are over the moon that our work is of use to others!”
I love that last statement. It is exciting to see the work you openly share be of use to others.
#4. Consortium of BCcampus, WICHE, CCCS, North Island College, College of the Rockies and institutions in Montana, Wyoming and Colorado awarded Gates Foundation funded Next Generation Learning Challenges Wave I $750K grant for the North American Network of Science Labs Online. Especially momentous for me was the workshop we did at North Island College in Courtenay BC where over 50 educators, faculty and edtech specialists participated in a demonstration of the Remote Web-based Science Lab and in discipline panel discussions around the biology, chemistry and physics OER courses and labs this project is creating. This project is exciting and yet another example of an OER project that has been unfolding over several years in BC expanding outward and increasing impact through additional partners.
#5. Moodle Moot Canada 2011 keynote “Talking About All Things Open” with Terry Anderson, Stephen Downes, Gavin Hendrick and myself. Terry Andersons’ description of open scholarship was a key idea for me. I also got a blast out of openly engaging all conference attendees in crowdsourcing the Future of E-Learning.
#6. Open4Learning Educational Technology Users Group Workshop in Nelson BC. An awesome program exploring the diverse aspects of open in education from a BC perspective.
#7. OERu. I’ve described this initiative in some detail earlier in this post. It’s been fascinating to see this initiative evolve over 2011 and to be an active participant and facilitator in helping define what it is.
#8. Interview with Timothy Vollmer at Creative Commons resulting in Open Education and Policy
#9. University of Northern British Columbia Opportunity Side of Open talk, workshop on Finding and Using OER, and ABC Copyright Conference Especially enjoyed the conference Talkshop session exploring issues related to recent Access Copyright efforts to increase tariffs which caused many institutions to withdraw from Access Copyright and giving a keynote, the Opportunity Side of Open Part 2 which includes suggestions for actions faculty, students and institutions could pursue if they embrace and adopt open as a key aspect of their work.
I’ve received some inquiries from people as to whether I’ve evolved the University of Open concept. The answer is yes. Some of what I’ve been working on are these suggestions for actions faculty, students, and institutions could pursue if they embrace and adopt open as a key aspect of their work. I’ve been thinking about what people would do, how they’d behave, if they were committed to the University of Open. Here’s a brief synopsis of possible actions:
- Make intellectual projects & processes digitally visible & open to criticism/comment
- Do open research
- Publish in open access journals
- Self archive work for open peer and public review
- Create a new type of education work maximizing social learning, participatory pedagogies, global connections
- Teach open courses
- Develop OER with communities of professional peers & students
- Use open educational resources developed by others
- Assign and author open textbooks
- Use OER to select institutions & courses of study
- Use OER for self-study
- Engage in open study around OER with global peers of students
- Assemble OER and open/free software tools into personal learning environments
- Customize, enhance and develop OER (for credit)
- Actively participate in social learning and form networks and connections
- Track and use open data on learning to plan and manage learning process
- Create open e-portfolios making learning projects, processes, and outcomes digitally visible
- Work in consortia to develop and use OER for academic programs
- Use OER to market & promote programs & courses
#10. BCcampus Opening Education event. It’s really great to see in followup to this event that BC’s Electronic Library Network at their December meeting began planning initiatives around OER, open textbooks and a copyright course for faculty and students in 2012. I think librarians can make a huge impact on open and will play a much more central role in the way it plays out in education over the coming years.
Going in to 2012 I see big opportunities for open to unfold on a larger scale. Summarizing calls for action from the above I hope:
- Governments, municipalities and institutions adopt open policy and licenses
- Legacy resources held by governments, municipalities and institutions are openly licensed
- New grant funds for development of educational resources use open licenses
- Faculty and students at the individual level automatically license their resources openly
- International consortia form around the development and enhancement of open educational resources
For many “open” is not even on their radar screen. For others open is present but fragile. Still others think ‘Open-ness’ is growing, but in ways that are not quite what was anticipated by the more dedicated proponents of OERs. I agree with this last statement and hope I’ve depicted some of the breadth of ways open is growing in this post. I think open is past the tipping point. This year even institutions who were not early adopters began to find ways to be participants. I think there are even more people and organizations on the sidelines looking for a way to enter the field.
As is apparent from this blog Creative Commons licenses are critical enablers of open. 2012 will be Creative Commons’ tenth anniversary. I’ve been imagining ways I’d improve Creative Commons. Everyone in the Open Educational Resource (OER) space has been wanting some way for tracking reuse. I think this could be enabled through the license although I’d frame it differently. I think we should be tracking attribution which is a condition of all Creative Commons licenses. Ideally creators receive attribution notification when others reuse their work – like pingbacks, or trackback in social media. Its motivating for creators to know that their work is having an impact and valued by others. Tracking attribution will generate a means of showing impact akin to research citations. My colleague Scott Leslie has done some work around tracking OER reuse and I’m also intrigued by the Total Impact work Heather Piwowar is involved with.
So in summary I see Creative Commons licenses as having three components:
- Permission – this component exists already. It’s how creators express the permissions they are according to creators in terms of attribution, creating derivative works/or not, allowing commercial use/or not, and requiring share alike/or not.
- Attribution – this component would make explicit how users are to provide attribution to the original creator and send the creator a trackback indicating attribution/reuse.
- Intention – this component would express the creators intention in making the work available through Creative Commons and provide a means for subsequent users to support those intentions.
I’d like to see each of these three functions embedded in the license and available to creators and subsequent users with one click. One of my big interests is in increasing the value proposition for creators.
This blog post provides a body of evidence on the many ways open expanded in 2011. I’d like to close this blog by celebrating one form of open that happens every year at this time – the way Christmas opens the human heart. Merry Christmas all.
Republished with permission from Paul’s blog EdTechFrontier