William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Thanks and congratulations to Catherine Casserly!

Melissa Reeder, January 30th, 2009

Catherine Casserly, Director of Open Educational Resources Initiative at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and long-time supporter of CC, has taken a new position at The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. As stated in the press release:

As the first full-time Senior Partner appointed by Carnegie President Anthony S. Bryk, Casserly will be responsible for new program initiatives and will manage the strategic direction of Carnegie’s work in Open Educational Resources. In leading efforts to build a new field of Design, Educational Engineering and Development, Carnegie provides an ideal combination of timing and place to extend the knowledge and evidence base regarding the effectiveness of innovation and Open Educational Resources for learning.

Catherine Casserly and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation have been instrumental in the growth of Creative Commons and in establishing ccLearn. It’s important for the commons community to recognize the work Casserly has done over the years, as she has been and will continue to be a key player in the open movement. Congratulations to Catherine and Carnegie from all of us here at CC!

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Thank you!

Joi Ito, January 7th, 2009


Joi Ito / Photo by Mizuka / CC BY

One week ago I asked for support in helping us reach our $500,000 goal. At that time, we had $12,000 left to raise with only 2 1/2 days left in the campaign, and we were all wondering how we were going to make it. Today, I’m proud to say that our community went above and beyond — raising CC a grand total of $525,383.73.

I want to send a special thank you to all of the individuals and companies that are long time supporters of CC. We’ve had hundreds of people continue to support CC over the years and I wish I could thank each and everyone of you publicly for your continued support. However, I don’t want to take up the entire CC main page, so please know how appreciated your commitment to CC is. To Digital Garage, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Tucows, Consumer Electronics Association, and wikiHow, thank you for your continued commitment to CC – I look forward to working with each of your companies in bringing more global awareness about CC, and I feel confident that together we will continue to enrich the digital commons we’re all investing in.

And to all the new individuals and new corporate supporters (Attributor, DotAsia, Ebay, Nevo Technologies, Safe Creative) – thank you for choosing to support CC this year. CC is only as strong as the community that supports it and we’re thrilled to see this community thriving. Think of all we can do over the next year by coming together and supporting each other.

I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the following companies and foundations who are committed to sustaining CC and the open movement. To the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Mozilla, IETSI, Red Hat, Google, and the Omidyar Network – thank you.

Thank you all from the bottom of my (and the rest of the CC staff’s) heart — we know how difficult it is right now and are deeply honored that you would choose to support CC this year. This doesn’t just help us continue our work but also reaffirms the growing strength of our community and the belief in a more fair and accessible digital world.

The CC staff, the board of directors, and I all look forward to what will surely be an exciting 2009.

- Joi

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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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International OER Community Update

Jane Park, October 1st, 2008

The Open Educational Resources (OER) movement is a global movement. Education is an issue that crosses borders and spans continents; open education—the creation and distribution of OER—empowers people in a global dialogue. However, the mere promotion of OER is not sufficient for the success of this international effort, as many issues and barriers to open education are country- and culture-specific. In this sense, the international OER community has some significant differences to bridge, and we must somehow synthesize the diverse range of projects and perspectives into clear and tangible objectives.

The UNESCO OER Community exemplifies progress made on this front, with currently 700+ members from 105 countries. Although North America and Western Europe account for about half of the participants, the community is still represented by 72 developing countries. One of the most compelling components of the community is its case studies project, “stories – of how institutions and individuals have developed or used OER,” based in various countries. These case studies—including those from Canada, Rwanda, Italy, South Africa, New Zealand, the Netherlands and more—explore OER against the background of their heterogeneous contexts. What works? What doesn’t work? What did the organization or persons involved do or must they now do in order to overcome obstacles—either due to institutional bureaucracy, lack of resources, or otherwise? These stories are windows of insight into different ways of progressing globally.

In addition to case studies, the international community is developing an OER toolkit, templates for ease of sharing more stories (from community members, academics creating and using OER, and learners using OER), and discussion surrounding such issues as access to technology, copyright, best practices, learning psychology of OER, and more. The OER toolkit will prove especially useful in addressing the issues raised by case studies, as it targets any persons interested in becoming involved with OER, either as creators or users, and those wishing to integrate OER into their institutions or organizations.

eLearning Papers, a journal that “promotes the use of ICT for lifelong learning in Europe,” recently examined similar issues surrounding OER and the international community in its September installment, “Open Educational Resources.” From the editorial,

This issue of eLearning Papers is dedicated to the thriving work around Open Educational Resources (OER) by committed individuals, institutions and user communities. Five selected papers by the guest editors investigate the organisational, social, cultural, pedagogical and technical aspects of implementing OER…

We have two papers that investigate how higher education institutions work OER into their policies and practices. “Open Educational Resources for Management Education: Lessons from experience” elaborates on a French faculty which created a digital distribution place to share and disseminate university courses. The initial resistance of the faculty members evaporated as they started receiving positive feedback on their courses, as well as international interest in their French content. On the other hand, “Reflections on sustaining Open Educational Resources: an institutional case study” shows how first gaining high level policy support within the institution for the initiative of OER was turned into a sustainable institutional practice.

The journal is licensed CC BY-NC-ND, while the UNESCO OER Community site is open for re-use and adaptation under CC BY-SA. It is also hosted on a wiki which means anyone is free to contribute to the OER case studies and OER toolkit. The UNESCO OER Community has been funded by one of our avid supporters, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, since its inception in 2005.

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Back to School: Open Textbooks Gaining in Popularity

Jane Park, September 16th, 2008

There’s been a whole lot of press on open textbooks lately, in addition to my own posts on the Flexbook and the Student PIRGs’ recent report encouraging open source textbooks as the right model for digital textbooks (versus the limited e-books that commercial publishers currently offer). The difference in open source and commercial e-books is wide and deep. Open textbooks are freely editable, downloadable and repurposable by others, keeping with the notion that the search for truth in any academic field is continually being revised, especially in the science and technology fields. The perpetual beta status of knowledge is not just an oxymoron; the old fashioned textbook is simply outdated in this age of lightning fast communications. Furthermore, students and many professors are just not having it anymore.

The New York Times article, “Don’t Buy That Textbook, Download It Free,” features an interview with Cal Tech professor, R. Preston McAfee, who offers his “Introduction to Economic Analysis” online for free. Another article by the LA Times reports best-selling co-author Steven D. Levitt of Freakonomics calling McAfee brilliant. If brilliant minds putting out open textbooks and students buying in (for free and for low-cost print versions on places like Lulu.com and Flatworld Knowledge) are not an indication of a revolution in textbook making, I don’t know what is.

The numbers don’t lie either. Quotes the NY Times on McAfee:

If I had finished my own book, I would have finished a couple years ago,” [McAfee] said. “It would have taken five years. It would have spent five years in print and sold 2,000 copies.” Instead, he said, he posted it on the Web site and there have been 2.8 million page views of his textbook, “Signals and Systems,” including a translation into Spanish.

Wired also quotes a long-timer in the traditional textbook industry, Eric Frank, who is getting with the changing times: “The nice thing about open content is it gives faculty full control, creative control over the content of the book, full control over timing, and it give students a lot more control over how they want to consume it and how much they want to pay”…“On the surface they’re (traditional publishers) doing OK, but underneath the surface there are lots of problems.”

A long-existing and solid promoter of the open textbook is Connexions, an online platform “for collaboratively developing, freely sharing, and rapidly publishing scholarly content on the Web.” Connexions, created by Rice University’s Richard Baraniuk, initiated a new way of thinking about textbooks: 

“Most textbooks are a mass of information in linear format: one topic follows after another. However, our brains are not linear – we learn by making connections between new concepts and things we already know. Connexions mimics this by breaking down content into smaller chunks, called modules, that can be linked together and arranged in different ways. This lets students see the relationships both within and between topics and helps demonstrate that knowledge is naturally interconnected, not isolated into separate classes or books.”

According to the NY Times, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, a staunch supporter of the open educational resources (OER) movement, has granted $6 million to Connexions alone. Connexions licenses all of its content CC BY, the license that allows the greatest sharing capabilities and creativity for education, while still retaining authorship and thereby greater quality in collaborative output.

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