MIT OCW

OpenCourseWare economics in the New York Times

Mike Linksvayer, March 31st, 2010

In As Colleges Make Courses Available Free Online, Others Cash In the New York Times writes about how universities are funding OpenCourseWare programs as well as how businesses have sprung up around CC licensed Open Educational Resources (OER) from such programs. Regarding the latter, our CEO is quoted:

On a philosophical level, the idea of making money from something available free might seem questionable. But Joi Ito, chief executive of Creative Commons, which issues the licenses defining user rights to most OpenCourseWare materials, supports the mixing of free and for-profit: “I think there’s a great deal of commercial infrastructure that needs to be created in order for this to be successful,” Mr. Ito said: “It can’t all just be free.”

As readers steeped in knowledge of free culture/open content (and before it free and open source software) will recognize, this means three things.

First, sharing does not preclude making money. To the contrary, artists have long been making CC licensing part of their business strategies, and recently some OER creators and companies are following suit. Examples include WikiPremed, Flat World Knowledge, and Bloomsbury Academic. See Eric Frank explain how Flat World Knowledge gives away CC licensed open textbooks and profits from print materials and services rendered around the content in a video just uploaded from CC Salon NYC.

Second, there needs to be an ecosystem built around open materials, and businesses are an important part of that ecosystem. In the OER space the article mentions Academic Earth. Consider the many businesses providing services around CC licensed materials more broadly (e.g., Flickr, and Fotopedia, which leverages CC licensed works from both Flickr and Wikipedia) and the legion of businesses build around free software (e.g., Red Hat). Consider how huge education is. The opportunity and need for businesses that provide distribution, curation, and a plethora of other services around OER are huge.

Third, free can refer to price and freedom. Businesses, universities, and others can charge a price for access or services around OER. The ecosystem works due to the freedoms that have been granted to use and build upon OER.

The article also mentions the values of OER, one of which is to “[create] an incentive for universities to improve themselves.” It quotes Cathy Casserly, who recently joined the Creative Commons board of directors:

“I think that by putting some of the spectacular professors, and putting their approaches and pedagogical instructional strategies that they use with their students in front of the world, it sets a new benchmark for all of us to learn from,” she said. “And I think that’s actually one of the incredible powers of this open educational resource.”

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Back to School: Open Courseware as a transition to college

Jane Park, September 2nd, 2009

As students around the world return to school, ccLearn blogs about the evolving education landscape, ongoing projects to improve educational resources, education technology, and the future of education. Browse the “Back to School” tag for more posts in this series.

One aspect of open courseware* is its draw for potential students who are deciding where to spend their parents’ or their own hard-earned dollars in obtaining a higher education. The fact is unsurprising, as we saw in 2007, with MIT OCW reporting that “One in four current MIT students who knew of OCW prior to choosing MIT [indicated] the site was a significant influence on their school choice.”

However, beyond free advertising for its school, certain open courseware programs have begun to evolve past the open licensing status of their courses. As the global learning commons of OCW is growing, so are the local learning contexts of open courseware, as more colleges realize the benefit of working with high schools in their areas to prepare, and perhaps to propel, their youth into higher education.

Last month, the University of Massachusetts Boston was awarded a $60,000 grant by the Boston Foundation, with the specific aim of better preparing Boston public high school students for college level courses. The grant will fund workshops for teachers, training them on how to use open courseware to educate their students at gradually accelerated levels. Similar to MIT OCW’s Highlights for High School initiative, these workshops promote high school teacher and student use of open educational resources.

However, I imagine it also going one step further. In providing training for teachers on the use of open educational resources (OER), teachers will not be simply accessing OCW resources on the web. They will learn how to use OER according to its license status, and realize that the commons of open educational resources is vast and global, open to be adapted, derived, and remixed with other OER on the Internet. The Boston grant would enable teachers to see open courseware as part of a larger world of open materials and communities, rather than as simply an institution.

We hope that many other universities and colleges offering OCW will follow this same trend, localizing their university’s offerings at the same time that they are globalizing them via CC licenses. Especially, initiatives like Academic Earth, a site that pools a number of OCW in high definition video, could really run with this idea of contextualization for teachers and students, educating them on the new communities that are opened to them via something as simple as the licensing status of a resource.

*Traditionally, open courseware are university or college courses that are freely accessible online, usually via an open license (the most commonly used license for OCW is CC BY-NC-SA), consisting of lectures and other multimedia, core content, supplemental materials, or tools to aid learning. Nowadays, open courseware sans an open license that allows derivatives, though free, are not considered open, as the ability to adapt the work to global and local contexts via translations and cultural references has become integral to the spirit of OCW.


A summary in Spanish:

De regreso al colegio: Open Courseware como una transición a la educación superior. http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/17411

En esta entrada Park indica como en este momento los Open Courseware (repositorios de cursos virtuales que se publican para acceso abierto en Internet, como el famoso MIT OCW http://ocw.mit.edu/) han provocado un interesante efecto de publicidad para las universidades americanas que hoy reconocen como cada vez más de los nuevos estudiantes consideran que conocer el material docente de la universidad en la que esperan estudiar ha influido en su toma de decisión y cómo este efecto ha hecho que las universidades americanas estén creando un puente entre la educación superior y media a través de los cursos en estos repositorios abiertos.

Park señala que los cursos se han convertido en material para los docentes de educación media que les permiten más y mejores recursos para preparar los estudiantes para su experiencia universitaria. Sin embargo, Park hace un llamado a la necesidad de llamar la atención y preparar a los docentes para ir más allá de la simple reutilización pasiva de materiales de los cursos y pasen a ser actores de la recreación de estos materiales localizándolos y ajustándolos a sus circunstancias particulares.

Park espera que donaciones como la de la Fundación Boston a la Universidad de Massachussets, que tiene como finalidad preparar a los graduados de la escuela para enfrentar los cursos de educación superior, sirvan de promotor para contextualizar a los docentes y estudiantes en las nuevas comunidades abiertas a ellos a través de herramientas tan sencillas como la licencia que se asocia con un recurso, de modo que puedan ver estos cursos como iniciativas de comunidades abiertas globales más allá de la institución que los hospeda.

La ruta que presenta Park puede servir de inspiración para nuestros países y sus iniciativas nacionales como inspiración para los actores del sector.

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