OER

Mozilla releases Learning, Freedom & the Web (e)book

Timothy Vollmer, December 23rd, 2011

Anya Kamenetz and Mozilla have released a great book called Learning, Freedom & the Web. It details many of the activities and ideas generated at Mozilla’s eponymous festival held last year, “a 500 person meta-hackfest that took place in a Barcelona city square,” says Ben Moskowitz from Mozilla. The book features participant interviews, project highlights, photographs and blog posts from the festival, as well as related content from across the Web reflecting on ideas around learning, freedom and the Web. One CC-related project conceptualized at the Festival is OpenAttribute, a browser plugin that makes it simple for anyone to copy and paste the correct attribution for any CC licensed work. Learning, Freedom & the Web is available as PDF download, HTML5 web version, or printed book. The book is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) license.

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Kazakhstan and Rwanda: Two more CC Affiliates for 2011

Jessica Coates, December 23rd, 2011

Early morning in Almaty by Irene2005 / CC BY (resized) Volcano by johncooke / CC BY (resized)

As CC headquarters starts to wind down for the end of the year, it gives me great pleasure to announce two new CC Affiliates from Kazakhstan and Rwanda.

Led by Rauan Kenzhekhanuly and including Almas Nurbakytov, Nartay Ashim and Balashov Talgat, the Kazakhstan team is supported by Wikibilim, a non-profit organisation which is devoted to expanding the availability of free knowledge in the Kazakh language, focusing on forums such as the Kazakh Wikipedia. Wikibilim is supported by the Government of Kazakhstan and personally by the Prime-Minister Mr. Karim Masimov. The members of Wikibilim have a great deal of experience in the open community, and are working actively to promote open knowledge and free culture values in Kazakhstan, with a particular focus on increasing the quantity of Kazakh-language material available under open licences. Those who attended the recent Global Summit in Warsaw may have met Rauan and Almas, who were enthusiastic participants on behalf of their team.

The Rwanda team, led by Jacques Murinda and including Fred Byabagabo and Prosper Birama, is working in conjunction with the Open Learning Exchange (OLE), an NGO supported by the Rwandan Ministry of Education, which aims to provide universal access to basic education by 2015. The Rwandan team has been active in the CC Africa community for some time and is particularly focused on promoting open educational resources (OER) and open courseware (OCW) initiatives in the region.

We welcome both these teams to our affiliate network, and look forward to working with them as they develop the CC community in their regions.

This brings the total number of official CC affiliates at the end of 2011 to 72, the highest level since the project launched in 2002. A good start for our tenth birthday celebrations next year — see you all there!

Note – This article had previously incorrectly identified Wikibilim as the official representative of Wikimedia in Kazakhstan.

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Creative Commons at an International Seminar and Expert Meeting in Moscow

Jonas Öberg, December 16th, 2011


Picture of Светлана Князева, Дендев Бадарч and Юрий Хохлов during the opening of the seminar / Михаил Федин / CC BY-SA

Creative Commons’ Russian affiliate Institute of the Information Society (IIS), in collaboration with the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies, organized an international seminar and expert meeting on the 6th of December in Moscow. As the CC Regional Project Manager for Europe, I participated in the event together with representatives from Creative Commons in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

The seminar was attended by industry participants, organizations and representatives from Russian governments and federal agencies, including the Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications, Ministry of Education and Science, Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications, Federal Antimonopoly Service, State Duma of the Russian Federation, Research Center of Private Law at the President of the RF and the Chamber of Commerce.

IIS legal experts have prepared an analytical report, Use of Creative Commons Licenses in the Russian Federation (pdf), which was presented at the seminar. It contains conclusions and recommendations for future activities aimed at introducing Creative Commons in Russia, including discussion of potential legislative changes aimed at enabling the licence locally. It also contains an annex with information and results from the CC Global Summit 2011 in Warsaw in September 2011.

Other sessions at the seminar included presentations by representatives of each of the CC jurisdiction teams present, as well as critiques of the CC licences by local academics and the local Wikimedia chapter, with much of the discussion focusing on 4.0. The day finished with a special UNESCO-hosted session on OER.

For Creative Commons, the seminar was an excellent starting point for our future work in Russia, and the participation of Creative Commons affiliates from the CIS countries shows that there is a clear interest in working together in the regions. As part of its work, IIS will now start providing input to the recently launched Version 4.0 process, as well as continuing its work to raise awareness of Creative Commons with Russian authorities.

It’s very exciting to see this region grow; I’m very happy to see that there’s now a discussion around the upcoming Version 4.0, its relevance for Russia and the possibility for Russia to participate in the shaping of this important license suite for sharing culture globally!

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LRMI Specification version 0.5 released

Greg Grossmeier, November 21st, 2011

LRMI Logo

The Learning Resources Metadata Initiative (LRMI) Technical Working Group just released the latest draft of their specification. This version is another step on the road to the final public release and submission to Schema.org, the multiple search engine group that is maintaining a standard metadata specification for online content. LRMI intends to extend Schema.org’s documentation to include metadata that is important to the educational community; everyone from commercial publishers and OER producers to learners of all varieties (and of course, educators).

Please explore the 0.5 version of the specification and provide any feedback via the LRMI mailing list by December 9th.

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Open Course Library Launches 1st 42 Courses

Cable Green, November 2nd, 2011

On Monday, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) released the first 42 of the state’s high-enrollment 81 Open Course Library courses. The remaining 39 courses will be finished by 2013. Funded by the Washington State Legislature and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Open Course Library joins the global open educational resources (OER) movement, and 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.

All courses are available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 unported license (CC-BY).

The first 42 courses are available in multiple technical formats including:

Michael Kenyon’s students at Green River Community College used to pay nearly $200 for a new pre-calculus textbook. Now they pay only $20 for a book – or use it online for free. Kenyon’s pre-calculus textbook (CC BY SA) was written by community college faculty David Lippman and Melonie Rasmussen, who teach at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. “We looked at a lot of textbooks,” Kenyon said. “There are some people who think this is the best book out there.”

“The courses were created with the needs of Washington’s college students in mind,” said Tom Caswell, SBCTC Open Education Policy Associate. “And with the idea we would share the courses with the world.”

Each course was developed and peer reviewed by a team of instructors, instructional designers and librarians. Use of the course materials is optional, but many faculty and departments are already moving to adopt them.

According to an informal study by the Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), the Open Course Library could save students as much as $41.6 million on textbooks annually if adopted at all of Washington’s community and technical colleges. The study also estimates that the 42 faculty course developers will save students $1.26 million by using the materials during the 2011-2012 school year, which alone exceeds the $1.18 million cost of creating the 42 courses. “These savings will not only help Washington’s students afford college, but clearly provide a tremendous return on the original investment,” said Nicole Allen, Textbook Advocate for the Student PIRGs.

Justin Hamilton, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, said the Washington state effort was groundbreaking for the nation. “Lowering college costs increases a student’s ability to take more courses, finish their degree on time, and enter the workforce prepared for success in a global economy. That’s not just good for them, it’s good for the country.”

“It really is the beginning of the end of closed, expensive, proprietary commercial textbooks that are completely disconnected from today’s reality,” said Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) of Washington State’s 36th District, a champion of the Open Course Library and OER. “This is a significant state investment in this era of massive budget cuts. We had little choice but to seize the opportunity of this crisis to challenge the status quo of the old-style cost models in both K-12 and higher education.”

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UNESCO and COL release open education policy document for higher education

Timothy Vollmer, November 1st, 2011

Today UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning jointly released the policy document Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education. The purpose of the guidelines is “to encourage decision makers in governments and institutions to invest in the systematic production, adaptation, and use of OER and to bring them in to the mainstream of higher education in order to improve the quality of curricula and teaching and to reduce costs.”

UNESCO and COL note, “Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain and released with an open license (such as Creative Commons). They allow communities of practitioners and stakeholders to copy, adapt and share their resources legally and freely, in order to support high-quality and locally relevant teaching and learning.”

The guidelines indicate how the potential of OER can be harnessed to support quality teaching and learning by higher education stakeholders, including governments, higher education institutions, teaching staff, students, and quality assurance, accreditation, and academic recognition authorities.

The Guidelines for OER in Higher Education inform the process leading up to the 2012 World OER Congress. That event is being organized by UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning, with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The Congress will 1) work to promote the UNESCO/COL OER Policy Guidelines; 2) share the world’s best practices in OER policies, initiatives, and experts; and 3) release the 2012 Paris OER Declaration calling on Governments to support the development and use of OERs.

The UNESCO/COL policy document is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.

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Open for Comment – Public Draft of the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative Specification

Greg Grossmeier, October 21st, 2011

LRMI Logo

As you may remember, the LRMI Technical Working Group, with the input of the wider community, has been working to create a set of metadata terms to describe learning resources. This set of terms is being developed with the goal of gaining acceptance into the Schema.org specification.

Today I am pleased to share with you the current draft version of the LRMI specification. We are sharing this now so that the wider community has a chance to review and make comments. We know, as well as anyone, that sharing early drafts of the work product is a great way of improving the end result.

Please review the current draft LRMI spec and post any technical comments you might have to the public LRMI mailing list by November 11. If you have other non-technical comments/concerns, please feel free to use the LRMI.net discussion board.

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WikiSym 2011 is open for registration and student volunteers!

Jane Park, September 9th, 2011

Earlier this year, we announced that Creative Commons is an official sponsor of the 7th annual WikiSym, the International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration. WikiSym is taking place right near Creative Commons headquarters in Mountain View, CA on October 3-5 at Microsoft Research Campus in Silicon Valley.

WikiSym is the premier conference on open collaboration and related technologies for researchers, industry, entrepreneurs and practitioners worldwide. It is supported by relevant organizations and companies such as Microsoft, Wikimedia Foundation, Creative Commons, the National Science Foundation, and CosmoCode. As an Associate Partner and like-minded organization concerned about the instrumental role of open content and open licenses in today’s society, Creative Commons supports WikiSym to further disseminate the goals of this forum among their audience around the world.

Key topics in WikiSym include open collaboration and related technologies, open content, open licenses and their connections and implications for different areas of interest (education, e-democracy, data transparency and industry). A CC Salon on Open Educational Resources organized in San Francisco in June already served as a preview of some interesting discussions in this field that will be developed at the conference.

The conference program is packed with presentations, workshops, panels, demos and keynotes. Alongside is the Open Space, an unconference track in which attendees can self-organize their own agenda with discussions, presentations and informal gatherings.

This year, WikiSym is proud to host 3 outstanding keynotes by world-renowned figures in their fields.

  • Cathy Casserly (CEO @ Creative Commons) will talk about the forthcoming challenges for open content and open licenses, with special emphasis in their implications for the critical field of educational content.
  • Jeff Heer (Assistant Professor @ Stanford) will present a tour around the most compelling and innovative advances in information visualization (InfoViz), a field that is evolving rapidly, along with the emergence of open data sources, public transparency and data analysis.
  • Bernardo Huberman (Senior HP Fellow and Director of the Social Computing Lab @ Hewlett-Packard Laboratories) will emphasize the implication of the latest advances in the study of virtual communities, distributed systems and dynamics of information in large networks to understand the way open collaboration will likely evolve in the future.

WikiSym 2011 registration is still open. Don’t miss this unparalleled opportunity to tap into the latest trends and ground-breaking advances in open collaboration–the force that is reshaping the way we work, live and interact with each other everyday.

For updates, follow the WikiSym blog and Twitter feed. We look forward to seeing you this October in Mountain View!

Volunteer at WikiSym 2011!

You can also volunteer to help run WikiSym if you are a student (undergrad, grad, PhD). Volunteers will receive free access to the conference (including meals, reception and dinner) for the entire 3 days. Apply to be a volunteer by September 24!

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$20,000 Open Textbook Challenge from the Saylor Foundation

Jane Park, September 6th, 2011

The Saylor Foundation has been known for organizing comprehensive curriculum for popular subject areas, and licensing the resources when they can under the CC Attribution license. Now with the launch of its Open Textbook Challenge, the Saylor Foundation aims to expand the amount of high-quality CC BY-licensed course materials by offering a $20,000 award for open textbooks! If a textbook is submitted and accepted for use with Saylor.org‘s course materials, then the copyright owners receive $20,000 while the referrer receives $250. Then the textbook is re-licensed (if not already) for free and open use under CC BY. For more information, visit http://www.saylor.org/OTC. The deadline is November 1, 2011.

To submit a textbook with Creative Commons as the referrer, go to http://www.saylor.org/otc-form/?refcode=6.

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CC Talks With: Sir John Daniel of the Commonwealth of Learning: Open Education and Policy

Timothy Vollmer, July 27th, 2011

Sir John Daniel has been working in open education from its earliest days. “Openness is in my genes,” he says. Sir John is President and CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning, or COL. COL is an intergovernmental organization comprised of 54 member states. The overarching focus area for COL is “learning for development.” It aims to help its member nations—especially developing countries—use technology and develop new approaches to expand and approve learning at all levels. Sir John’s first interaction at COL happened over 20 years ago, when he chaired its planning committee. At that time, he was president of Canada’s Laurentian University. He went from there to lead the Open University in the UK, and then served as head of Education at UNESCO. Sir John’s colleague, Dr. Venkataraman Balaji, is Director of Technology and Knowledge Management, and led the efforts in crafting COL’s recent Open Educational Resources policy.

What were the primary motivations in developing an OER policy at COL? What hurdles (legal, social, cultural) did you have to overcome, both within the organization and among the member states?

We’re in the open business, so it made sense to communicate a formal open policy prominently on our website. It really wasn’t a problem, and there were few hurdles inside COL. We drafted the policy, it went through a few iterations within our staff, and then we adopted it. That said, we should be clear that we didn’t take this policy to the member states for review. We’re a small organization, and we do not have a general assembly of our membership. So, we didn’t have to wade through the politics of getting all the states to sign on. However, we didn’t develop the OER policy just pat ourselves on our back. We want to show the world that supporting open education is how we all should behave these days.

The work of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) is very important, but to the outside observer it is sometimes not apparent what IGOs do. What does COL do to “encourage and support governments and institutions to establish supportive policy frameworks to introduce practices relating to OER”?

If I may be so bold, I think your question reflects an American bias. The United States and other large, powerful countries tend to operate bilaterally. Smaller countries prefer the facilitative, collaborative approach of working via intergovernmental organizations. UNESCO is the extreme example, where 193 countries operate democratically, and everyone’s voice is at least in principle equal. When I worked at UNESCO, I was surprised how seriously the member states took the recommendations that were developed. They trust that sort of process more than directives that come at them bilaterally.

In general, the IGO process aims to get countries to work together to do things they cannot do separately. One example is a virtual university for small states within the Commonwealth. Since two-thirds of the 54 member states are nations with populations of 2 million or less, they have fewer resources to spend on content creation. You can imagine when the dot com boom came along the small states were worried how they could come to terms with all the potential benefits (and address the challenges) of this rapidly changing digital, networked world. So their ministers of education looked at the challenge and said, “if we can’t crack it individually, why not crack it collectively?” COL helped them start a ‘virtual university’, which is not a new institution but a collaborative network where countries and institutions can work together to produce course materials as OER that they can all adapt and use. This virtual university has developed curriculum in various areas, such as a diploma in sustainable agriculture for small states. You can imagine that agricultural practices in a place like the atolls of the Maldives are very different than agriculture in the volcanic islands of Dominica. However, developing a vanilla version of the curriculum and then allowing each region to tailor the resources to the specifics of their own agricultural ecosystem has proved much more efficient than each state starting from scratch. A condition of participating in the virtual university is that anything you create must be released as OER.

COL has chosen the CC BY-SA license for its own materials. Can you describe how the organization decided upon this license for its resources?

Well, our policy simply says COL will release its own materials under the most feasible open license, which includes the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license. We understand why MIT OCW adopted a noncommercial license for its materials—they were the first to do it and didn’t know what was going to happen. But now, we encourage people to not use noncommercial if they can avoid it, and we follow our own recommendation. It wasn’t until Dr. Balaji arrived that we were able to sort through the legal and technical challenges that COL, as an intergovernmental organization, faced in adopting an open license.

Many of the COL member states are located in the global south. How does an OER policy affect global south states differently than the global north?

I’m exaggerating quite a bit here, but we’ve observed that in the north people are more focused on producing OER and that in the south people are more focused on how they can use OER. Just a few months ago I was at the Open Courseware Conference in Boston. Perhaps three-fourths of the presentations there focused on producing OER, while only a small number were about re-purposing and reusing OER content. This has to change for the OER movement to take off.

In the south, there’s a cautious attitude of “there’s lots of stuff available, why not use it?” We’ve been encouraging the north to take a more universal approach and think multidirectionally. This is why we’re delighted that a school like the University of Michigan is using OER from Malawi and Ghana in its medical programs. Why should the University of Michigan create OERs about tropical diseases when there are folks that live in the tropics that can do it better? So, we encourage people to see OER production and use as a multi-directional flow.

Can you discuss the goals and outcomes of the Taking OER beyond the OER community project, organized by COL and UNESCO. What’s next?

This project has a long history, and really goes back all the way to the origin of the term Open Educational Resources. But more recently, in 2009 UNESCO hosted a world conference on higher education. That event didn’t ruffle feathers in the north so much, but influenced thinking in the south. It reiterated the importance of open distance learning, ICTs, and particularly emphasized the global sharing of OER to expand quality higher education. COL picked up the work with UNESCO. We realized that unless there is a much wider appreciation of what OER is, it’s not going anywhere. And as the name of the project implies, our goal was to advocate to those outside of the already-established open education community. We held six face-to-face workshops in Africa and Asia. These were mainly aimed at university presidents, quality assurance groups, and those interested in open distance learning.

Last December we held a policy forum at UNESCO in Paris to pull these threads together. We decided there that it would be helpful to develop a set of OER guidelines targeted at key stakeholder groups. These included governments, higher education institutions, teacher and student groups, quality assurance agencies, and qualification bodies. We’ve been iterating on these guidelines since then, and they are now being distributed for wide consultation. In October of this year there will be another policy forum where the OER guidelines for higher education will be put into final form. We hope to unveil these recommendations at the UNESCO general conference in November alongside an OER platform UNESCO will also be launching at that time.

Over the winter, we wish to conduct a rather extensive survey of governments around the world to find out where they are on policies related to OER, open access, open formats, and other related topics. Surveying governments is not an easy task, especially when they don’t always understand the questions you are asking. But, if all goes well, those survey results will be pulled together, to the end of working toward an update to the Cape Town Open Education Declaration. There’s a desire for COL and UNESCO to mark the 10th anniversary of the launch of the term “Open Educational Resources” with a conference in June 2012 at which countries can sign an updated declaration.

What do you predict will be the impact of the COL OER policy, and what would you like to see come out of this? What can you recommend to other IGOs that are beginning to think about developing an open education policy?

My advice is to just do it and don’t get too fussed about the license at the beginning. We hope that our small organization, which seems to have an influence larger than its size, will be the grain of sand in the oyster for other IGOs. UNESCO is working to get on the right page; given their name it would seem peculiar if they are not more in the ‘open’ business. But I understand the problem with large organizations. When you look at UNESCO, you’ve got general assemblies with lots of people that don’t like things unless they’re invented there. For example, everyone in the world wants for there to be standardization in electrical sockets, as long as the standard that is adopted is the one they use. Those organizations interested in adopting an open policy should start small, and work their way through the problems as they go. If you try to make your entire back catalog available, you’ll be lost. Those big intergovernmental organizations should say, “from now on, we’re going to be as open as we can be.” An important thing is to adopt the philosophy of openness.

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