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Open Education Week: A focus on Latin America

Carolina Botero, March 10th, 2014

On Thursday, March 14 Fundación Karisma, in collaboration with UNESCO and Creative Commons will launch the report “Public Expenditure On Education in Latin America: Can It Serve the Paris Open Educational Resources Declaration’s Purposes?”

“Human rights are not left at the door when we enter the online world.” This is the premise on which we embark on a new research project related to one of the fundamental rights under threat in a networked society: access to knowledge.

In Latin America, paper textbooks coexist with digital technologies, but for the most part these digital resources are not yet an essential part of education systems. Despite efforts to foster the pedagogical use of information technology, in Latin America there is currently more emphasis on connectivity issues. Without adequately addressing the challenges to connectivity, the educational ecosystem is wasting real opportunities to boost the adoption and implementation of appropriate technologies.

Open education promotes knowledge as a public good based on the following elements: redistribution (sharing with others), remixing (combining resources to create new content), free reuse of whole or partial educational materials with proper attribution, the ability to revise resources in order to make modifications, enhancements, and adaptations according to context, and peer reviewing to ensure resource quality.

As described in the report, the increasing availability of Open Educational Resources open up a range of possibilities for the countries of the region that are still depending on a high level of negotiations between state educational systems and the publishing industry. But while many governments do not have the technological capabilities to facilitate the realization of human rights, the recommendations of important instruments such as the Paris Open Educational Resources (OER) Declaration can be a useful tool to prompt political and social change within the educational systems in Latin America. According to the Paris OER Declaration, Open Educational Resources include any teaching, learning and research materials which are in the public domain or released under an intellectual property license that allows for free use, adaptation and distribution.

The report was commissioned by the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science in Latin America and the Caribbean. It will be released on Thursday and published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license. The report seeks to identify and analyze public policy and the investment and expenditure that the governments of Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Uruguay have committed for the development and procurement of textbooks, books and digital content for primary and secondary education (K-12).

Because the purpose of Open Education Week is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide, we invite you to be part of the webinar. The event will be a dialogue on open education issues in the region with the participation of Carolina Rossini, OER expert from Brazil, Juan Carlos Bernal from the Ministry of National Education of Colombia, and Patricia Diaz and Virgina Rodes, who are members of the Uruguayan OER community. In addition to these speakers, a Creative Commons and UNESCO representatives will join the talk, as well as the group of researchers from Fundación Karisma who developed the report.

Webinar details:

This post originally appeared via Fundación Karisma, a civil society organization based in Bogotá, Colombia. The organization supports and promotes access to information and communication technologies in Colombian and Latin American society.

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Conclusions from the European Commission PSI consultation

Timothy Vollmer, December 20th, 2013

Last month, Creative Commons and several other groups responded to the European Commission’s consultation on licensing, datasets and charging for the re-use of public sector information (PSI). See our response here. There were 355 submissions to the questionnaire (spreadsheet download), apparently from all EU Member States except Cyprus. The Commission hosted a hearing (PDF of meeting minutes) on the issue on 25 November.

This week the Commission released a final summary report (PDF) to the consultation. There were several interesting data points from the report concerning licensing. First, the questionnaire respondents preferred a “light-weight approach, limited to a mere disclaimer or consisting of allowing the reuse of data without any particular restrictions…” (pg5). In our submission, we said that there should be no conditions attached to the re-use of public sector information, with the best case scenario being for public sector information to be in the public domain, exempt from copyright protection altogether by amending national copyright laws.

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Second, when asked about licensing conditions that would comply with the PSI Directive’s requirement of ‘not unnecessarily restricting possibilities for re-use’, the most respondents indicated support for the requirement to acknowledge the source of data. In our submission we said we believed every condition would be deemed restrictive, since ideally PSI would be removed from the purview of copyright protection through law. At the same time, we realize that if the Commission were to permit public sector bodies to incorporate a limited set of conditions through licensing, then they should be expected to use standard public licenses aligned with the Open Definition. The preference should be for “attribution only” licenses, like CC BY.

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The report noted that a majority (62%) of respondents believed that greater interoperability would be best achieved through the use of standard licences. And 71% of respondents said that the adoption of Creative Commons licenses would be the best option to promote interoperability. The report states, “this may be interpreted as both a high awareness of the availability of standard licences and a genuine understanding of their role in ensuring licencing interoperability across jurisdictions” (pg7).

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The report also mentions the fact that several respondents chose to provide feedback on which Creative Commons licenses would be deemed suitable for PSI re-use. It noted that the most prevalent licenses mentioned were CC0 and CC BY, while a few respondents suggested BY-SA. Others provided a more general answer, such as “the most open CC license could be used…But [the] BEST OPTION is no use of any of license: public domain” (pg9).

The report concludes (pg16):

There is also a widespread acceptance of the need to offer interoperable solutions, both on the technical and licencing levels. And even if opinions differ as to the exact shape of re-use conditions, the answers show that a general trend towards a more open and interoperable licencing system in Europe, largely based on available standard licences is gaining ground.

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Free and unrestricted Public Sector Information: Study finds benefits outweigh costs

Timothy Vollmer, November 28th, 2011

Governments around the world are increasingly relying on open licenses to release public sector information (PSI). A September 2011 report titled Costs and Benefits of Data Provision, prepared by John Houghton for the Australian National Data Service, examines the immediate and wider economic costs and benefits to making PSI available.

The key takeaway from the study: “the direct and measurable benefits of making PSI available free and unrestrictedly typically outweigh the costs. When one adds the longer-term benefits that we cannot fully measure, cannot even foresee, the case for open access appears to be strong.”

The report offers an interesting and instructive analysis about the overarching cost-saving potential of making PSI available online for free and under open licenses (we assume the figures to represent Australian dollars):

[W]e find that the net cost to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) of making publications and statistics freely available online and adopting Creative Commons licensing was likely to have been around $3.5 million per annum at 2005-06 prices and levels of activity, but the immediate cost savings for users were likely to have been around $5 million per annum. The wider impacts in terms of additional use and uses bring substantial additional returns, with our estimates suggesting overall costs associated with free online access to ABS publications and data online and unrestrictive standard licensing of around $4.6 million per annum and measurable annualised benefits of perhaps $25 million (i.e. more than five times the costs).

The Houghton study suggests that open licensing is a key component to reducing friction in the downstream use of PSI:

It is not simply about access prices, but also about the transaction costs involved. Standardised and unrestrictive licensing, such as Creative Commons, and data standards are crucial in enabling access that is truly open (i.e. free, immediate and unrestricted) … The efficient economic solution for the dissemination of PSI is likely to be free libre and free gratis (i.e. making it freely available online and using unrestrictive licensing such as Creative Commons).

In a separate internal document noted in the report, the Australian Bureau of Statistics described the impact of adopting CC licensing. It says that CC licensing “meets public expectations with regard to open government, facilitates data sharing (including across government), allows for more timely reuse of statistics, facilitates innovation, [and] makes sense to a growing percentage of people who recognise and understand CC licence symbols and conditions.”

The study urges us to try to understand and foster the unpredictable yet potentially powerful innovation that can be unleashed when PSI is made freely available online and released using unrestrictive licenses:

In the longer term, there may also be unforeseen uses and re-uses that simply cannot be accounted for, and again this may mean that the costs and benefits experienced in the early years of implementation tend to understate the longer-term advantages. Use and re-use can also have wider impacts, in terms of innovation and the development and introduction of new products, services and processes that, in turn, generate new economic economic activity, new business opportunities, better informed and potentially better government and business decisions.

The full report is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia License.

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In “The New Sharing Economy” CC is the norm

Jane Park, October 7th, 2010

At the beginning of summer, many of you told us how much you share in a survey for Shareable Magazine. The results of that survey have been translated into a study of “The New Sharing Economy” by Shareable and Latitude Research. Visually, the study features nifty diagrams depicting what we share the most and how sharing has evolved over time. Substantively, “The New Sharing Economy” reveals some encouraging trends, such as that sharing in the virtual world makes people more comfortable with the idea of sharing in the physical world (in fact everyone in the study who shared online also shared offline), and that most of these people believe they will partake in even greater corporeal sharing in the next five years.

But the most encouraging trend the study revealed was that Creative Commons is playing a huge infrastructural role in this new sharing economy—that CC is, in fact, daily saving the world from failed sharing:

“Of those who share information and media online, approximately 2 in 3
participants use other people’s creations licensed under Creative Commons.”

The benefits of Creative Commons are often difficult to see, as a functioning system is only ever noticed when it fails. But as sharing only increases over time, both on- and offline, you can be sure that CC superheroes are at work behind the scenes slashing through the red tape, identifying and fixing the bugs, opening closed systems, implementing better policies, educating the public, and generally making sure things are running smoothly so that the web can continue to grow. Because the majority of study participants also connected sharing with being “better for the environment,” “saving money,” and being “good for society”—all stuff which, it turns out, CC is quietly helping us to do.

The study is available under CC BY-NC-ND. To learn more, check out Shareable’s post, and please consider joining us in the fight for openness and innovation.

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Hal Plotkin Releases Free to Learn: An Open Educational Resources Policy Development Guidebook for Community College Governance Officials

Timothy Vollmer, October 1st, 2010

Yesterday Hal Plotkin announced the release of Free to Learn: An Open Educational Resources Policy Development Guidebook for Community College Governance Officials. The guide explains how the flexibility and diversity of Open Educational Resources (OER) can improve teaching and learning in higher education, all while retaining quality and enabling resource sharing and collaboration. Free to Learn features case studies and highlights several interviews with leaders of the OER community. The document suggests that community colleges are uniquely positioned to both take advantage of OER opportunities and to become pioneers in teaching through the creative and cost-effective use of OER.

“The tremendous promise of Open Educational Resources for advancing the mission of higher education is clear,” said Hal Plotkin, author of Free to Learn. “Higher education governance officials need only summon the will and enact governing board policies that institutionalize support for OER to move these activities from the periphery of higher education to its core, where the results would be truly transformative. We hope that this guide provides a starting point that builds understanding of OER and its incredible potential for transforming teaching and learning.”

Plotkin currently serves as Senior Policy Advisor to Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter at the U.S. Department of Education, and is a longtime supporter of community colleges and Creative Commons. He is the former president of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District Governing Board of Trustees and penned one of the first articles about Creative Commons for SF Gate in 2002.

Catherine Casserly, Vice President for Innovation and Open Networks and Senior Partner at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (and a featured interviewee in Free to Learn) said, “Kudos to Hal for his visionary leadership in recognizing the enormous potential of OER for improving learning opportunities for community college students, and his tireless efforts to spread the word. His unique perspective as a former community college trustee provides the background to speak directly to higher education policy makers.”

Free to Learn is released under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, and available at http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Free_to_Learn_Guide. The document will be distributed at the October 5 White House Summit on Community Colleges in Washington, DC. That event “is an opportunity to bring together community colleges, business, philanthropy, federal and state policy leaders, and students to discuss how community colleges can help meet the job training and education needs of the nation’s evolving workforce, as well as the critical role these institutions play in achieving the President’s goal to lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.”

Free to Learn was supported by a grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Congratulations to Hal on publishing this important, timely document.

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Reuse of material in the context of education and research

Jane Park, July 6th, 2009

Last December, when ccLearn issued its report to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Creative Commons Netherlands published its own entitled, “Reuse of material in the context of education and research.” However, the report was only available in Dutch until recently. Now, thanks to Paul Keller (Creative Commons Nederland) and Wilma Mossink (SURF), the English version of the report is online. It recommends the most open Creative Commons license, Attribution Only, for reuse of material in the context of education and research. From the original announcement,

“The rise of the Internet and other new ICT tools have led to drastic changes in the options for distribution and reuse. These changes demand a reorientation in the rules for sharing educational and research materials.

Since sharing educational and research materials is high on the agenda of Dutch higher education and research institutions, SURFdirect and Creative Commons examined the different Open Content licences that are available and that will make clear to reusers what they are permitted to do with material held in repositories.

SURFdirect has indicated that the choice of licence must not create barriers to the future use of educational and research material, that it can be applied at both research universities and universities of applied sciences [hogescholen], and that this can in fact be done in 80% of cases, this report recommends using the most liberal Creative Commons licence for textual output…

Another important recommendation in this report is that SURF should set up an effective awareness-raising campaign in order to introduce and explain Creative Commons licences to those ‘in the field’.”

The report itself is licensed CC BY, and you can download the report as an openly editable document.

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The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age

Jane Park, June 26th, 2009

HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) announced a new report called, “The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age,” now available at MIT Press. The report is in response to our changing times, and addresses what traditional educational institutions must know to keep up. From the announcement,

“Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg in an abridged version of their book-in-progress, The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age, argue that traditional institutions must adapt or risk a growing mismatch between how they teach and how this new generation learns. Forms and models of learning have evolved quickly and in fundamentally new directions. Yet how we teach, where we teach, who teaches, and who administers and serves have changed only around the edges. This report was made possible by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in connection with its grant making initiative on Digital Media and Learning.”

A central finding was that “Universities must recognize this new way of learning and adapt or risk becoming obsolete. The university model of teaching and learning relies on a hierarchy of expertise, disciplinary divides, restricted admission to those considered worthy, and a focused, solitary area of expertise. However, with participatory learning and digital media, these conventional modes of authority break down.”

Not coincidentally, one of the ten principles for redesigning learning institutions was open source education: “Traditional learning environments convey knowledge via overwhelmingly copyright-protected publications. Networked learning, contrastingly, is an “open source” culture that seeks to share openly and freely in both creating and distributing knowledge and products.”

The report is available in PDF via CC BY-NC-ND.

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“What Status for Open?” A ccLearn Publication

Jane Park, December 18th, 2008

ccLearn is pleased to announce the publication of a research report entitled, “What Status for Open? An Examination of the Licensing Policies of Open Educational Organizations and Projects.” We encourage you to read the whole report, which you can find in several formats, along with an FAQ, on the ccLearn website.

The report asks, “What makes an educational resource “open”? Is it enough that resources are available on the World Wide Web free of charge, or does openness require something more?” These questions have become more urgent as the open education movement has gained momentum and as potential users of open educational resources (OERs) increasingly face uncertainty about whether permission is required when they translate, reuse, adapt, or simply republish the resources they find.

With the support of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, ccLearn surveyed the copyright licensing policies of several hundred educational projects or organizations on the Internet to assess whether these legal conditions limit the usefulness of self-designated open resources from the user’s perspective.

The study reveals three principal findings:

  • The copyright licenses or terms of use associated with some OERs are difficult to find or to understand;
  • The majority of OER projects or organizations have adopted a standardized license created by an independent license provider, and of these, the large majority have adopted one or more of the six Creative Commons copyright licenses (“CC licenses”) to define the terms of openness. But, a sizable minority of OER providers have chosen to craft their own license – often borrowing terms from one of the standardized licenses. Thus, as a group, OER providers have adopted a diverse, and often customized, set of license conditions that in some cases require significant work by users to understand;

and

  • The usefulness of OERs as a group is limited by incompatible license conditions that functionally prohibit combination or adaptation of OERs provided by different sources.

This report concludes with a recommendation that creators of open educational resources consider using CC licenses to provide users with readily found, standardized terms of use. It recommends further that OER creators consider adopting the most open of CC licenses, the Attribution-only License (CC BY), to nourish the creativity of educators and learners alike by allowing the adaptation, combination, and republication of OERs from multiple sources.

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NSF Task Force on Cyberlearning

Jane Park, August 19th, 2008

The National Science Foundation Task Force issued a report late in June on cyberlearning, more specifically on “Fostering Learning in the Networked World: The Cyberlearning Opportunity and Challenge.” It is, in their words, “A 21st Century Agenda for the National Science Foundation” concerning ICT for learning. The report outlines five recommendations for “growth and opportunities for action,” one of which concerns the promotion of open educational resources (OER). According to recommendation #4:

“Materials funded by NSF should be made readily available on the web with permission for unrestricted reuse and recombination. New grant proposals should make their plans clear for both the availability and the sustainability of materials produced by their funded project.”

In the future, ccLearn hopes to see these goals develop into concrete initiatives. The National Science Foundation has an annual federal budget of $6.06 billion and currently funds 20% of all federally supported research by higher education institutions in the United States.

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