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The Impact of Open Textbooks at OpenStax College

Cable Green, July 8th, 2013

OpenStax College, an initiative of Connexions, the open educational resources (OER) authoring project at Rice University, is creating high-quality, peer-reviewed open textbooks. All of OpenStax College’s books, including the art and illustrations, are available under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY), allowing anyone to reuse, revise, remix and redistribute the books.

The first two OpenStax College books were published in June of 2012, and since then Introduction to Sociology and College Physics have been downloaded over 110,000 times, used by more than 1.5 million unique online learners, and adopted at over 200 schools. These adoptions represent real savings for over 30,000 students in classes around the world. OpenStax College estimates that it has saved these students more than $3 million (USD) so far.

OpenStax isn’t stopping there. Biology and its corresponding book for non-majors, Concepts of Biology, and Anatomy & Physiology have now been released and are ready for use in classes in the fourth quarter of 2013.

OpenStax College recently received grants to complete six more books from several major foundations, including the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Kanzanjian Foundation and Lowenstein Foundation. The next phase will feature Introduction to Statistics, Pre-Calculus, Principles of Economics, U.S. History, Psychology, and Chemistry. These books are entering production now and are scheduled to be released by the end of 2014.

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OpenChem, Open Curriculum, and the Value of Openness

Cable Green, June 27th, 2013

I recently spoke with Larry Cooperman, director of OpenCourseWare at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Larry also serves on the boards of the OpenCourseWare Consortium and the African Virtual University. I asked Larry about UC Irvine’s new OpenChem project.

Why, in the middle of such excitement over MOOCs, would the Department of Chemistry and the OpenCourseWare project at the UCI unveil their CC BY-SA–licensed OpenChem project, a set of video lectures equivalent to four years of classes? Because they’ve designed OpenChem to focus on building out an extensive path to learning chemistry via an open curriculum rather than offering highly designed intensive course experiences like Coursera and EdX.

OpenChem is designed to be reused, revised, and remixed — by institutions, departments and instructors. This differs in the most fundamental way from the fixed-path, single-instructor model of most MOOCs. OpenCourseWare and MOOCs aspire to provide access to high quality, higher education learning to those unable, for a variety of reasons, to attend either an “elite” institution or any college or university at all.

For some time, Larry has been arguing that we are falling short of this vision. 80% of Coursera users are college graduates and most of the rest are advanced high school and current university students. There is no doubt that others, for lack of access to a basic internet connection, much less the bandwidth required for high-resolution video streaming, won’t share in these benefits. But there is a second reason, even more troubling than the bandwidth problem, which should concern us. The design of university-level courses, when they come from “elite” institutions, is for that audience — namely, “elite” students. Courses aren’t designed for students whose secondary institutions have left them with gaps in their education.

And that gets me back to the design of OpenChem — or openly licensed curriculum in general. If there is one thing that we can do to use open education to improve higher education, it is to allow existing colleges and universities that serve these students to improve their educational offerings through adoption and adaptation. That means that those who best know a specific cohort of students must be free to choose from easily integrated, openly licensed materials that match their curricular needs and objectives. The very first use of OpenChem occurred locally at Saddleback College, when an instructor used ten minutes of a UCI video lecture that offered an explanation of a very specific topic to use in his flipped classroom. And that’s really the point. An instructor may find ten minutes useful. A department may adopt a course that had not previously been offered. An institution may adapt an entire curriculum. Further, if the content is not exactly what an instructor wants, the open license allows her to change it to meet local needs.

MOOCs could also enable these opportunities, though they will need to make it simple for their course authors and their contributing colleges and universities to add a Creative Commons license to their course content. CC stands ready to help them do so.

Of course, chemistry is a lab science. Allowing students to virtually sit in UCI lecture halls for four years via OpenChem could never substitute for a local institution offering a complete education. By creating a full pathway from a course designed for those without adequate high school chemistry preparation to graduate electives, UCI is making its chemistry education visible. But the goal of OpenChem isn’t substitution — it is to enable both educators and students to collaborate with others. Just as UCI hopes to support science education, they also hope others will adapt and improve OpenChem courses, translate them into other languages, and distribute them far and wide.

Kenneth Janda, Dean of the School of Physical Sciences and Professor of Chemistry at UCI, invites institutions to use “a whole lecture or a series of lectures, free of charge, and without asking permission to advance your educational mission.” That’s a fairly good itemization of the key benefits of openly licensed resources versus public but read-only copyrighted resources; it is the difference between open and free.

UCI also anticipates important learner benefits that are derived from having an open curriculum, including the ability to go forwards and backwards at will. For instance, looking ahead, an advanced high school student can go past the level of AP Chemistry. An entering college freshman could study Preparation for General Chemistry to ensure their readiness. Or an enrolled student can view the typical coursework and decide whether to become a chemistry major. Just as important, a student having trouble with a class can review the prior knowledge — the building blocks that are required to succeed in their current class.

This last point is perhaps the most crucial. Openness in education is about visibility. UCI uses an entire open curriculum to let learners and instructors alike see how it all hangs together. UCI has a lot of work left to do to optimize OpenChem for learning, but is excited to point its university and other institutions in a new direction that brings us all a little closer to the goal of universal access to higher education.

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Now Hiring: LRMI Project Manager

Cable Green, May 5th, 2013

Creative Commons is looking for a LRMI Project Manager. This person will play a key role in leading the LRMI project.

From the job description:

We are looking for a Project Manager to lead the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI), a project co-led by Creative Commons and the Association of Educational Publishers to build a common metadata vocabulary for educational resources.

The LRMI Project Manager will provide general oversight of the internal project staff and subcontractors, and ensure LRMI work plans are clearly articulated and timelines adhered to.

This position:

  • project manages all CC LRMI grants and deliverables;
  • serves as the primary contact for all LRMI subcontractors and external stakeholders;
  • leads the LRMI technical working group listserv and meetings;
  • liaises with open communities, OER repositories / referatories, institutions, standards bodies, and vendors that are integrating LRMI and/or increasing the value of CC’s legal and technology tools;
  • is the key player in CC’s outreach to open education organizations and broadening awareness about LRMI and CC among states and school districts;
  • represents LRMI and CC at private meetings and selected conferences and events;
  • reports progress on the project to CC, the open community and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and
  • serves as an education expert on technology aspects of CC internally and externally.

If this sounds exciting to you, we’d love to hear from you. Check out the full job listing for more information.

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LRMI Accepted into Schema.org

Cable Green, May 5th, 2013

The Learning Resource Metadata Initiative (LRMI) specification (14 properties) has been accepted and published as a part of Schema.org, the collaboration between major search engines Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex (press release). This marks the culmination of a year’s worth of open collaboration with the LRMI Technical Working Group and the wider education publishing community. To view the LRMI properties within the context of the full Schema.org hierarchy, visit schema.org/CreativeWork. See this post by Phil Barker for additional detail.

The LRMI, a simple tagging schema that draws from and maps easily to existing metadata frameworks (e.g., IEEE, LOM and Dublin Core), is intended to be an easy way for open and proprietary content publishers to standardize the way they describe the education specific characteristics of their resources.

This is wonderful news as the LRMI specification will be a piece of the future of education, especially as it pertains to Open Educational Resources (OER). Some of the features of LRMI will allow next generation learning systems based on personalized guided learning. To get a better idea of what kinds of things are possible with LRMI, watch this OSCON keynote by Danny Hillis describing the concept of a Learning Map.

Creative Commons is currently working with 10 different OER platforms and repositories to implement LRMI support and we hope to announce the first few complete implementations in the coming months.

To join the ongoing discussions around LRMI support and implementation, please join the public mailing list.

And… Creative Commons is hiring a new LRMI Project Manager. Please send us the best and brightest to lead this important project!

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Open Course Library releases 39 more high-enrollment courses

Jane Park, April 30th, 2013

OCLHowto1
OCL How-to Guide / SBCTC / CC BY

A year and a half ago, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) released the first 42 of Washington state’s 81 high-enrollment courses under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY). Now they have released the remaining 39 under the same terms, which means that anyone, anywhere, including the state’s 34 public community and technical colleges and four-year colleges and universities, can use, customize, and distribute the course materials.

The Open Course Library project is funded by the Washington State Legislature and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It adheres to SBCTC’s open policy, which requires that all materials created through system grants be openly licensed for the public to freely use, adapt, and distribute under CC BY.

For further background on the project, read our 2010 feature about the project when it was just beginning. All 81 courses are available at the recently redesigned Open Course Library website where each individual course is marked with the CC BY license to enable discovery through Google and other search services on the web.

Update

The SBCTC held a press call today bringing to light a new Cost Analysis report on savings for students where Open Course Library courses have been used in lieu of traditional course materials. For more info, please see:

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Third Round of TAACCCT Grants Announced by US Department of Labor

Paul Stacey, April 25th, 2013

TAACCCTRd3

On April 19, 2013 US Acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris announced the third annual round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program (TAACCCT) grant program. The press release states that the current round of grants available is $474.5 million bringing the total 2011-13 program investment to nearly $1.5 billion. A fourth round is planned for 2014. Information on all the rounds is available here.

Funding is targeted at expanding innovative partnerships between community colleges and employers. All education and career training program strategies developed through grant funds have employer engagement and use labor market information to focus training on local economic needs. This years Solicitation for Grant Applications (SGA) says the TAACCCT programs aim is to help “adults acquire the skills, degrees, and credentials needed for high-wage, high-skill employment while ensuring needs of employers for skilled workers are met”.

In addition to partnerships TAACCCT stimulates innovation by requiring applicants to build five core elements into their initiatives:
1. Evidence-Based Design
2. Stacked and Latticed Credentials
3. Transferability and Articulation of Credit
4. Advanced Online and Technology Enabled Learning
5. Strategic Alignment

This years SGA even encourages the use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Another innovation, which DOL has maintained in all three rounds of the TAACCCT program, is the requirement for TAACCCT grantees to make all grant funded curricula and training materials Open Educational Resources (OER) by licensing them with a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license (CC BY).

This year’s SGA states:

  • “The purpose of the CC BY licensing requirement is to ensure that materials developed with funds provided by these grants result in Work that can be freely reused and improved by others.”
  • “To ensure that the Federal investment of these funds has as broad an impact as possible and to encourage innovation in the development of new learning materials, as a condition of the receipt of a TAACCCT grant, the grantee will be required to license to the public all work (except for computer software source code, discussed below) created with the support of the grant under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CCBY) license. Work that must be licensed under the CCBY includes both new content created with the grant funds and modifications made to pre-existing, grantee-owned content using grant funds.”
  • “This license allows subsequent users to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt the copyrighted Work and requires such users to attribute the Work in the manner specified by the grantee. Notice of the license shall be affixed to the Work. For general information on CCBY, please visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

TAACCCT academic resources developed by the first round of grantees for industry sectors such as health, manufacturing, energy, transportation, and information technology, will become available for reuse in 2014 followed by additional resources from subsequent rounds. What a boon to education and the economy.

Congratulations to the Department of Labor and the Department of Education for their leadership and foresight in requiring publicly funded educational resources be openly licensed in a way that allows them to be reused and continuously improved. This innovation will benefit students, educators, and industry.

Creative Commons remains committed to supporting TAACCCT grantees in deploying and leveraging the CC BY requirement. See OPEN4us.org for a current list of TAACCCT grantee services Creative Commons offers in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative, Center for Applied Special Technology, and the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges.

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California Unveils Bill to Provide Openly Licensed, Online College Courses for Credit

Cable Green, March 13th, 2013

Today California (CA) Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (author of the CA open textbook legislation) announced that SB 520 (fact sheet) will be amended to provide open, online college courses for credit. In short, the bill will allow CA students, enrolled in CA public colleges and universities, to take online courses from a pool of 50 high enrollment, introductory courses, offered by 3rd parties, in which CA students cannot currently gain access from their public CA university or community college. Students must already be enrolled in the CA college or university in which they want to receive credit. The 50 courses and plans for their assessment will be reviewed and approved (or not) by a faculty committee prior to being admitted into this new online course marketplace.

See these articles for details about the initiative:

Why is this important?

  1. 400,000+ California students cannot get a space (in-class or online) in the general education courses they need to progress in their academic career. That’s a major problem. This is one part of the solution.
  2. Creative Commons (CC) has been actively working with all of the major Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) providers, encouraging them to adopt CC licenses on their courses. These conversations continue, but they have been slowed by the MOOCs’ need to explore revenue models. MOOCs licensing content to education institutions has been floated as one possible revenue model, which has slowed MOOCs’ willingness to make it easy for contributing colleges and universities to CC license their courses.
  3. CC has learned that this new CA online marketplace will require open licenses on all courses and textbooks as a condition for participation. That is, if Udacity, Coursera, edX, StraighterLine, Future Learn, or anyone else wants its courses to be considered for use in this initiative, the courses and textbooks will first need to be openly licensed. CC is pleased that Senator Steinberg plans to leverage California’s existing open textbook investment (all textbooks will be licensed under CC BY).

CC has recommended the marketplace only allow courses and textbooks openly licensed with any of the CC licenses that allow derivatives (or CC0) or similar open copyright licenses. Specifically, CC recommended that these licenses be allowed:

  • BY
  • BY SA
  • BY NC
  • BY NC-SA

Conversely, CC recommended not allowing courses into the marketplace if they are licensed:

  • all rights reserved
  • BY ND
  • BY NC-ND
  • with any other restrictive licenses that do not comply with the Hewlett OER Definition

The text discussing “open” in SB 520 reads:

(b) For purposes of this article, the following terms have the following meanings:(1) “Online courses of study” means any of the following: (A) Online teaching, learning, and research resources, including, but not necessarily limited to, books, course materials, video materials, interactive lessons, tests, or software, the copyrights of which have expired, or have been released with an intellectual property license that permits their free use or repurposing by others without the permission of the original authors or creators of the learning materials or resources.

Like the CA open textbook bills, this project is being staffed by Dean Florez (former CA Senate President pro Tem) and the staff at the 20MM Foundation. They have done amazing open policy work in CA and should be congratulated! CC worked closely with 20MM on the open textbooks project and will again on this initiative.

Bottom line

  1. This could be the market demand for openly licensed courses and textbooks that will provide incentives for MOOCs to adopt open licenses.
  2. If this model is successful in California, it could be adopted in other states, provinces and nations. What if all governments made the following promise to their citizens?

“No college student in [X] will be denied the right to move through their education because they couldn’t get a seat in the course they needed.” – Steinberg, “California Bill Seeks Campus Credit for Online Study” (New York Times)

And as governments innovate and create new education marketplaces for their citizens, to ensure affordable access and academic progress, what if they (like Steinberg) required those education spaces to use openly licensed courses and textbooks?

Senator Steinberg continues to leverage 21st-century technologies, open licensing, and the collective strength of the academy and innovative entrepreneurs to ensure that students can access a high quality, affordable education. That’s leadership. Well done, Senator.

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Join us: Open Education Week (11-15 March)

Cable Green, March 6th, 2013

562x252-oew-web-banner

It is time to celebrate and spread the dream that everyone in the world can access a high quality, affordable education if we collectively share our educational resources and spend our public resources wisely!

The second annual Open Education Week will take place March 11-15, 2013 (see schedule). Open Education Week is a five-day celebration of the global Open Education movement, featuring online and local events around the world, video showcases of open education projects, and lots of information. The week is designed to raise awareness of both the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide.

Open Education refers to the growing set of practices that promote the sharing high quality, openly licensed educational resources (OER) and support for learners to access education anywhere, anytime. Open Education incorporates educational networks, open teaching and learning materials, open textbooks, open data, open scholarship, and open-source educational tools.

As part of Open Education Week, Creative Commons and its affiliates are hosting and participating in local events and webinars on OER, Version 4.0 of the CC licenses, the Open Policy Network, School of Open, and more. In addition, the School of Open will officially launch its first set of courses next week, including courses on copyright and Creative Commons for educators. Courses will be free to take and free to reuse and remix under P2PU’s default CC BY-SA licensing policy.

And a special thanks to our friends at the OpenCourseWare Consortium for organizing the 2nd annual Open Education Week.

See you all next week!

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US Department of State Unveils Open Book Project

Cable Green, January 28th, 2013

Department of State


Department of State Seal / Public Domain

Earlier today, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled the Open Book Project (remarks, project page, press notice), an initiative to expand access to free, high-quality educational materials in Arabic, with a particular focus on science and technology. These resources will be released under open licenses that allow their free use, sharing, and adaptation to local context.

The initiative will:

  • Support the creation of Arabic-language Open Educational Resources (OER) and the translation of existing OER into Arabic.
  • Disseminate the resources free of charge through project partners and their platforms.
  • Offer training and support to governments, educators, and students to put existing OER to use and develop their own.
  • Raise awareness of the potential of OER and promote uptake of online learning materials.

Creative Commons is proud to be a part of the Open Book Project, partnering with the Department of State; the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization; and our open colleagues around the world. CC licenses are core to OER, providing the world’s teachers and students the rights needed to legally reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute educational resources. When education content is CC licensed, it may be legally translated into (or from) Arabic and any other language. Using CC licenses provides an unprecedented opportunity to ensure OER are able to bridge cultures and fill educational gaps that exist on a global, regional, and local level.

In Clinton’s words, “Talent is universal, but opportunity is not. It’s incumbent upon all of us to keep opening doors of opportunity, because walking through it may be a young man or young woman who becomes a medical researcher and discovers a cure for a terrible disease, becomes an entrepreneur, or becomes a professor who then creates the next generation of those who contribute.”

When digital learning resources can be openly licensed and shared for the marginal cost of $0, many educators believe we collectively have an ethical and moral obligation to do so. Congratulations to all of the partners who will work together to help more people access high quality, affordable educational resources.

Update (Jan 29): The full text of Secretary Clinton’s speech is now available.

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U.S. News and World Report Examines the Growth of Open Education

Elliot Harmon, January 18th, 2013

Open as in Books?

Open as in Books? / Alan Levine / CC BY-SA

This week, U.S. News and World Report ran an excellent story about the rise of openly-licensed educational materials. Simon Owens’ article touches on many of the open education landmarks we’ve been celebrating over the past year, including the Department of Labor’s TAA-CCCT grant program and open textbook legislation in British Columbia and California. Owens interviewed CC director of global learning Cable Green as well as David Wiley, the Twenty Million Minds Foundation‘s Dean Florez, and several other experts in the space.

From the article:

Upon its launch a decade ago, Creative Commons was embraced by the artist and literary community, and its iconic logo began appearing on the sidebars of thousands of blogs, web pages, and Flickr photos. By 2005, the nonprofit estimated there were 20 million works that utilized the license, and by 2009 that number had climbed to 350 million. But while the organization has always embraced its grassroots enthusiasm, it continually sought recognition and adoption from larger, more traditional institutions.

The philosophy behind this goal is simple. “The public should have access to what it paid for,” says [Cable Green]. “Free access and legal access to what it bought. The tagline is ‘buy one get one.’ If you buy something, you should get access to it.” And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Creative Commons activists have identified education materials as a prime target for their view. Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York announced that student loan debt had surpassed auto loans and credit debt, coming in at an estimated $1 trillion. And a not-insignificant contribution to this burden has been the rising cost of textbooks.

[…]

David Wiley, an associate professor of instructional psychology and technology at Brigham University in Utah, has been immersed in the OER community predating the creation of the Creative Commons license. He was inspired by a group of technologists who met in 1998 to rebrand the free software movement as “open source,” and he later worked to develop an “open content” license that would allow content creators to share and distribute their content easily. “The only difference was that all of us who were initially involved weren’t lawyers,” he recalls. “We were just making stuff up. It was scary, because there were hundreds of thousands of people who were using these licenses, and if any of them actually went to court, who knows what would have happened?” Imagine his relief then when the Creative Commons license was formed. “I put a big notice on our website saying, ‘please everyone, run away from our licenses as fast as you can. Here are real lawyers that have done something similar but way better.’”

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