Do Open Educational Resources Increase Efficiency?

Timothy Vollmer, September 9th, 2010

One of the questions people often ask about Open Educational Resources is “do they really increase efficiency?” Creative Commons has worked with many OER innovators, and their stories indicate that it does. We thought it would be useful to gather pointers to some of these examples. Please read on, and leave a comment with other great examples of how CC-enabled OER can increase efficiency for teachers, students and self-learners. Note of course that increasing efficiency is only one benefit of OER.

Negotiating permissions on the web

As a baseline, CC-licensed OER increase efficiency overall because it helps clarify user rights and responsibilities from the start. Copyright law rewards the authors of original works with a bundle of rights for a fixed period of time. Generally, a work cannot be shared or adapted without the permission of the rights holder (in the U.S., there are limitations and exceptions that temper the exclusive rights of the copyright holder–for example, fair use). Materials that remain under all rights reserved copyright require a potential user to ask permission first. The rights permissions process is usually long, difficult, and expensive. Solving the permissions problem is one reason Creative Commons came to exist in the first place–CC licenses let authors mark their creative works with the freedoms the creator wants it to carry. Creative Commons helps lower the transaction costs associated with using and sharing creativity on the Internet.

Even if educators want to share their teaching materials, if the rights are not clear to the end user, the resources will be used less, or not at all. To enable creative, innovative, and legal downstream use and remix of educational resources, clarity is essential. Creative Commons licenses are specifically designed to be easy to apply and simple for creators and users to understand.

The human-readable deed simplifies the terms of each license into a few universal icons and non-technical language, making it easy for teachers and students to understand right away how they can use the educational resource. The lawyer-readable legal text has been vetted by a global team of legal experts. The machine-readable code enables search and discovery of the educational content via search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and others.

Search and Discovery

The findability of quality educational content online is one of the fundamental challenges for teachers and students today. Properly licensed open educational resources can help users find content that they know they can use, customize, and reshare. Many existing search services integrate licensing information so users can filter for content that is licensed under Creative Commons licenses. CC licensing information is integrated with sites such as Google, Yahoo!, Flickr, Fotopedia, Jamendo, Blip.tv, Vimeo, Open Clip Art Library, and Wikimedia Commons. Other websites host (or point to) open educational resources–DiscoverEd, Connexions, CK-12, Flat World Knowledge, Curriki, OER Commons, and others.

Translations and Accessibility

OER can increase efficiency when materials are published under a license that permits the creation of derivative works (all Creative Commons licenses that do not contain the NoDerivaties (ND) condition allow this). OER can be translated into other languages and transformed into alternate formats–such as for display on mobile devices–more easily than materials published under all rights reserved copyright. MIT OpenCourseWare uses the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license (BY-NC-SA). Nearly 800 MIT OCW courses have been translated into other languages, all without needing to ask permission from the copyright holder.

Bookshare is the world’s largest accessible online library for persons with print disabilities. Bookshare was awarded a grant by the U.S. Department of Education aimed at creating the first accessible versions of open digital textbooks. U.S. Copyright law permits some authorized entities to make accessible copies of books–and permits particular authorized disabled persons to access these vetted versions. This access is incredibly important, but the exception is limited, and does not apply for users outside of the United States. Open textbooks are low hanging fruit if they are released under a license that permits the creation of derivative works, because these can be more easily converted into accessible formats, such as audio and Braille refresh. No extra permissions costs have to be incurred or royalties paid for these adaptations to take place.

Customization and Affordability

OER can increase efficiency for teachers because they can be customized, easily updated, and oftentimes developed less expensively. Chuck Severance, a clinical professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, was able to publish a textbook in 11 days because he remixed an existing book. The remixed book Python for Informatics: Exploring Information, is a remix based on the openly licensed book Think Python: How to Think like a Computer Scientist. Students are able to take advantage of the University Library’s Espresso Book Machine to print on-demand copies for approximately $10. Python for Informatics is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA) license.

Education publisher Flat World Knowledge is a commercial textbook publisher that incorporates Creative Commons licensing into the core of their business model. Flat World Knowledge offers free and customizable online access to their textbooks, all available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (BY-NC-SA) license. If users want a physical copy of the book, he or she can order it from Flat World, usually for under $50. Flat World Knowledge is competitive with traditional publishers from the get-go, hiring quality authors, peer-reviewing texts, and professionally editing content. Flat World Knowledge recently released information that 800 colleges will utilize their open textbooks this year, saving 150,000 students $12 million or more in textbook expenses. Affordability of educational materials, especially textbooks, is an increasing concern for students and their families. According to a widely-cited 2005 GAO report, college textbook prices have increased at twice the rate of inflation over the last 20 years; Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) suggest the increase is closer to 4X over roughly the same time period.

During the summer of 2007, the Virginia Department of Education realized their high school physics textbook wasn’t working – it was out of date and did not include information about state of the art scientific advancements. With various stakeholders from both the private and public sectors, the Secretaries of Technology and Education developed an open physics textbook under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (BY-NC-SA) license. The goals of the textbook development project were to provide all state physics teachers with up-to-date physics texts with emerging content, to create a database where content could be centrally located, to determine how the value of the textbook could be measured, and to decide whether the project was worth replicating for other subject areas. The book was developed and delivered to students within six months, 6 to 10 times faster than the 3 to 5 years officials were told would be necessary to develop a similar book under the traditional model.

Summing up

The Internet and digital technologies have transformed how people learn. Educational resources are no longer static and scarce, but adaptable and widely available, allowing educational institutions, teachers, and learners to actively use, build upon, and share Open Educational Resources. OER enables teachers and students to find the content they know they can use, remix, and reshare–legally. OER helps address problems associated with language and accessibility, and empowers teachers to deliver customized, relevant content to learners, supporting individualized learning and student achievement. Engaging with the global OER community can help save time and money. These are just a few of the ways that Open Educational Resources helps increase efficiency. Please help us out by providing more examples in the comments, or add projects to our Case Studies.

3 Comments »

The Open High School of Utah Releases Open Educational Curriculum Under CC BY

Timothy Vollmer, September 7th, 2010

Today the Open High School of Utah (OHSU) announced the release of ten semesters of openly licensed curriculum materials. The OER are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. The resources are available via OHSU’s OpenCourseWare portal. From the announcement:

Technology rules at Open High where their approach to learning embraces the idea that teaching shouldn’t be as static as the textbooks on which it’s based. Shattering traditional methods, the Open High School of Utah curriculum is built from open educational resources. These resources are the foundation for their content and are aligned with Utah state standards to ensure the highest quality educational experience. The teachers enhance with screencasts, interactive components, and engaging activities to create high quality curricula for their students.

The Open High School of Utah is a public online charter high school. As DeLaina Tonks, OHSU’s Director, told us in an interview a few weeks ago, “The objective behind creating open content is to create free and simple access to knowledge and information through collaboration and innovation. The OHSU mission dovetails nicely with that of open education because we are among the first, if not the first, secondary school to create our own OER curriculum and share it worldwide.”

Congratulations to The Open High School of Utah for being a leader–both in vision and practice–for the Open Education community.

Comments Off

Open Education Events in Barcelona

Jane Park, September 3rd, 2010


CC BY by Steve Jurvetson

Registration is open for two open education events set to take place in early November in Barcelona, Spain. Open Ed 2010 is the seventh annual open education conference that is “the world’s premiere venue for research related to open education” and is focused this year on OER: Impact and Sustainability. Early bird registration for the conference has been extended until September 24th.

The other notable event is the Mozilla Foundation’s Drumbeat Festival 2010: Learning, Freedom and the Web which is launching the same week as Open Ed. The Drumbeat Festival is the culmination of the year’s local Drumbeat events held throughout the year and the various open web and education projects engendered by them. Registration for the festival is now open at the site; alternatively, if you are already attending Open Ed 2010 you can register for Drumbeat for an extra 50 euro. Those interested in participating in both events can send an email to opened@uoc.edu.

Two months may seem like forever in internet time, but open web and education activists aren’t the only ones traveling to Barcelona in November. The Pope will be visiting around that time as well, so event planners are advising that you register and book accommodations as soon as possible.

Comments Off

Creative Commons Iftars

Donatella Della Ratta, September 3rd, 2010

Yesterday, Dubai became the first Arab city to celebrate a Creative Commons Iftar. It will be followed tomorrow by Amman, Damascus on September 5, and Cairo on September 7.

The iftar is the meal that breaks the fast of Muslims during the month of Ramadan. In the Arab world, it is traditionally associated with families sitting all together and enjoying the first meal of the day. CC Iftars, moreover, are social events where people celebrate the breaking of the fast, socialize, and talk about innovation, creativity, and the open web. The meetings are cozy, informal, and community-driven. They can feature lightning talks, engaging presentations, film screenings, or live remixes of CC-licensed works.

CC Iftars have been organized thanks to the great efforts of our Arab world communities, led by volunteer teams in Dubai, Amman, Damascus and Cairo. Each city’s iftar focuses on a different theme. In Dubai, it’s “mash-ups,” Amman’s is “fast-sharing,” Damascus’s is “remix!” and Cairo’s is “share!” Guests include educators, media professionals, artists, technologists, students, and members of the local CC jurisdiction teams. Each program is filled with performances, screenings, inspiring talks, and debates. The local volunteer teams have done a fantastic job pulling together the programs, finding speakers, and designing event t-shirts. In some cases, like in Dubai and Amman, there are themed competitions as well.

A big thank you to Aramex, who has been our incredible regional partner and supports the iftars in each city.

Best of luck to the teams in Dubai, Amman, Damascus, and Cairo. We hope you’ll be able to join them, break the fast, and share ideas!

Comments Off

yolink adds CC license support to its browser plugin

Jane Park, August 30th, 2010

yolink, “a next-generation search technology,” has added CC license support to its updated browser plugin. yolink’s browser plugin allows you to quickly scan your search results by specific key terms, effectively simplifying your more complex or advanced searches. Once you’ve found a relevant article, you can then share it with others via social media sites or a Google doc—all through the browser plugin window. The plugin has added CC license support, which means if you start a document with CC licensed site content the license will be retained and displayed in the doc.

For example, say I run a Google search on “Creative Commons”. Via the yolink browser plugin, I quickly scan the Google results for the Wikipedia article. If I want to start a Google doc with a particular passage, I don’t have to visit the Wikipedia page to manually copy and paste it—I can simply click on the check box next to the text I want and create a Google doc, all within the plugin window. yolink will automatically create a Google doc with the selected text and paste in the CC license info. See:

To check it out for yourself, download the browser plugin at the yolink site.

Comments Off

Open the Door A Little Wider

thinh, August 30th, 2010

When we published Open Doors and Open Minds, we promised a companion piece that discusses in detail some of the legal considerations that university administrators and university general counsels may wish to consider in adopting a public access policy. I’m happy to say that this is now available. This excellent companion piece, providing a thorough overview and careful analysis of legal issues related to public access policies, is written by Simon Frankel and Shannon Nestor, who are lawyers at Covington & Burling, a prominent Washington D.C. law firm. It is available in the Reading Room. I wish to thank them for their contribution of this wonderful resource for public access champions, and we look forward to distributing this widely.

Comments Off

CC Talks With: Lewis Hyde, author of Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership

Mike Linksvayer, August 27th, 2010

Poet and scholar Lewis Hyde has been writing about the commons for over thirty years. His first book, The Gift (1983), is regarded as the modern classic on Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World–the 25th anniversary edition’s subtitle. His new book, Common as Air, directly addresses the cultural commons, and could hardly be more relevant to understanding at a deep level the work of Creative Commons.

I’ve taken this opportunity to ask the author a series of long-winded questions about the commons. Many thanks to Lewis Hyde for his forbearance in answering, and for the great inspiration he has given to many who support Creative Commons, and the commons writ large!


Your first book, The Gift, evinces great concern for the cultural commons, in some cases (e.g., commentary on science) very explicitly in language recognizable to current movements that share such concerns. You were probably writing The Gift at about the same time Richard Stallman was becoming what we’d now recognize as a free software activist. Having been a Berkman fellow for a number of years and writing about free software, Creative Commons, and related movements in Common as Air, you’ve obviously been aware of these movements for some time. When and how did your path first cross with one of these movements?

My book is dedicated to my late father, by profession a physicist with a specialty in optics. As the dedication says, it was he who first told me about “Dollond’s case,” an eighteenth-century patent dispute involving telescope lenses in which Lord Mansfield ruled that ownership of an idea belonged not to the person who kept his invention secret but to the person “who brought it forth for the benefit of mankind.”

The point being: for a long time I’ve been aware of the commons narrative in regard to ideas and for a long time I’ve thought of something as old as patent law as being among the methods we’ve devised for moving potentially private knowledge into the public sphere.

As for the more specific modern innovations in this line, I had a vague awareness for a long time but the fight over copyright term extension in the mid 1990s managed to focus my attention. I wrote an essay–“Created Commons”–arguing against such extension; I was co-signatory to one of the amicus briefs in the Supreme Court case, Eldred v. Ashcroft; and I was present on the day that Lessig argued for Eldred before the Court. I consequently watched with attention and admiration as Creative Commons came to life in the years following.

One sentence in particular in The Gift presages current free software and free culture practice: “A gift community puts certain constraints on its members, yes, but these constraints assure the freedom of the gift” (p 107). This sounds exactly like the copyleft mechanism of the GNU GPL–the requirement that an adaptation be distributed under terms offering the public the same freedoms offered by the source work. In Common as Air you argue that copyleft would be better described as copyduty, reflecting that rights come with responsibilities. Two questions concerning this. First, the GPL is often described as a key innovation in the history of free software–clearly it is, but I wonder if its typical description doesn’t seem a bit taken out of history, not cognizant of antecedents in gift cultures nor of the likelihood the precise mechanism would have been invented in a similar time frame had Stallman never become a free software activist? Second, the copyleft mechanism is known as ShareAlike in the Creative Commons license suite–how do you think this terminology comports with your explanation of copyduty?

It is surely the case that the GPL has antecedents in gift cultures. As I explain in The Gift, one old ethic asks that gifts be “kept in motion”; they ought to be passed along in the same spirit with which they were received. Put another way, in a gift culture one is not supposed to capitalize on the generosity of others or of the community.

That said, such ethics belong to custom rather than law; the wit of the GPL was to give legal footing to the gift ethic of the software community. As for antecedents in that line, I note in Common as Air that I found one other example of a gift norm that got grounded in law: Pete Seeger and his friends secured the copyright on “We Shall Overcome,” then set up a trusteeship to donate the money earned to support “African-American music in the South.” That trusteeship has a “claim and release” structure not unlike the one built into the later GPL.

As for links between the Creative Commons license suite and my sense of copyduty, I’m not sure these need be limited to the “Share Alike” option. Many are the duties that arise from a person’s sense of both self and community. One might, for example, feel a duty to contribute to the public domain with no strings attached, in which case “copyduty” would be best expressed by the CC0 tool. That was Benjamin Franklin preferred mode, by the way. He believed that any claim to own his ideas and inventions could only lead to the kind of disputes that “sour one’s Temper and disturb one’s Quiet.” He never took a patent or registered a copyright.

Each of your three prose books concern keeping various aspects of society “lively”, through the circulation of gifts, transgressive art (Trickster Makes This World, 1997), and the cultural commons. Furthermore, the mechanisms required to maintain liveliness change with the overall environment (e.g., The Gift’s portrayal of usury as vice within a tribe, necessity for commerce with strangers) and can have the effect of changing or destroying a settled order (as primarily told through myth in Trickster). I don’t get a sense from Common as Air of the trajectory of the cultural commons in these dimensions–something to feel loss over (such as perhaps close knit tribal groups and pre-enclosure land commons) but never to be dominant again or something ascendant, and if the latter, something that will be digested by the current cultural order, or something that will replace the current order?

The question calls for a bit of soothsaying or prophecy and that makes me think of a remark of Foucault’s cited at the end of Trickster: “I’m no prophet. My job is making windows where there were once walls.” Are the cultural commons doomed to enclosure, or will they thrive and therefore alter (or replace) the current landscape? Hard to say! What I’ve tried to do in the book is describe, as clearly as I can, the cultural tensions we now live with, believing that clarity is the precondition of action, however action itself eventually plays out.

That said, for a thoughtful survey of how the commons, cultural and otherwise, might thrive inside of, or along with, with current conditions I recommend Peter Barnes’s book, Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons. One of Barnes’s points is that our debates about the future often imagine only two actors: the government and private business. Barnes suggests a third set, common property trusts (as, for example, the kind of land trusts devised by the Nature Conservancy). There is much to say about common property trusts but for now the point is simply that we already have a mix of cultural modes and should continue to have them going forward with, I hope, the commons recognized and strengthened.

You emphasize in Common as Air that maintaining a commons requires regular “beating of bounds”–for pre-enclosure land commons this involved destroying private encroachments such as fences and cultivation, often with a merry-making and somewhat extralegal components. Preserving the cultural commons necessarily takes a different kind of bounds beating–proprietary bits can’t be “destroyed”, nor must they (patents on math, genes, and other discovered as opposed to invented things, which you dub the third enclosure, might be an exception, as they do fence off areas from the commons). I can imagine at least three different cultural commons bounds beating activities: (1) Building up and expanding the bounds of the cultural commons, sometimes (perhaps increasingly) out-competing proprietary culture (Wikipedia and free software running the internet infrastructure being the obvious examples). This is obviously the strategy of Creative Commons, the free software movement, and similar–and a truly wonderful thing in that it relies entirely on construction rather than destruction. (2) Pushing back when the commons is threatened, e.g., fighting diminution of fair use and other exceptions and limitations, something which groups like the EFF do with some success. (3) Pretending to ignore the current order altogether (except when thumbing one’s nose at it), i.e., unauthorized sharing, especially the self-conscious pirate movement. I am a little surprised Common as Air does not address the third, given it is the clearly extralegal and putatively destructive option–at least superficially most like beating the bounds of a land commons. Surprised but not upset–I suspect that unauthorized use competes with building of voluntary commons, serving as a marketing and price discrimination mechanism for proprietary culture. What is your take on each of these three as bounds beating for preserving the cultural commons, and are there others I’m missing?

You offer a good summary of ways to enlarge and protect a cultural commons. I don’t have much to add except to expand on your third category a bit. It isn’t entirely true that Common as Air avoids addressing the piracy / unauthorized use option. After all, there’s a whole chapter called “Benjamin Franklin, Founding Pirate”! When Franklin ran away from his Boston printing apprenticeship, he broke the law and, in a sense, “stole” the craft knowledge that his brother had been passing on. More to the point, when Franklin was stationed in France after the Revolution, he encouraged British artisans to ignore their country’s anti-emigration laws and bring both machinery and know-how to America–clear acts of piracy from the British point of view.

Elsewhere in the book I discuss the fact that, in the eighteenth-century, Scottish “piracy” of books that London booksellers thought they owned outright triggered the legal battles that arose around the first copyright laws. It took about fifty years to sort that out at the end of which it became clear that the Scottish booksellers were not pirates at all; the London booksellers, rather, were monopolists hoping to fence off the public domain. Here as elsewhere the charge of “piracy” was in fact a harbinger of an enlarging commons.

In Trickster (p. 130) you say that among ways of acquiring things (make, buy, receive, steal, find) the last is the odd one out, for only it is accidental. However, for anyone who lives much of their life on the net, “acquisition” of intangible goods through “finding” is natural, intentional, and perhaps even dominant. In both Trickster and Common as Air (p. 202) you tell the story of a baby Krishna–”who when asked by his mother if he has stolen butter from the pantry, answers with a question of his own: ‘How could I steal? Doesn’t everything in the house belong to us?’” It strikes me that so-called digital natives, culture, and the net are akin to the baby Krisha, butter in the pantry, and the Krishna household, respectively–”How could finding and using any culture on the net be stealing? Doesn’t all culture belong to us in common?” It seems that to the extent there is a vibrant voluntary cultural commons to draw from, the tension between “finding” and “stealing” is obviated. Further, I wonder if “finding” is not the means by which “receiving” scales–gift-giving and -receiving via mechanisms like Creative Commons licenses tend to happen asynchronously, globally, and often with no further relationship between the parties–all in contrast with traditional gift cultures. Thoughts on the sanity (or perhaps mere inanity) of these extrapolations?

You touch on what I think of as the link between the book on gift exchange to the one on trickster figures: the Greek word hermaion means “a gift of Hermes” and is usually translated as “lucky find” or “windfall.” It is the gift that comes out of nowhere; it is an odd sort of gift, then, carrying with it none of the social obligations often associated with gift exchange.

There is a hidden problem in the gift book: much gift exchange takes place is communities with a strong sense of in-group and out-group. Gift giving may be a wonderful thing, but what if you happen to be in the out-group? What if all the scientists are men and they don’t share their data with the women? In the Greek stories, Hermes is potentially in the out-group (an illegitimate child, etc.) and he begins his relationship to the gods by stealing Apollo’s cattle (pirate!).

Well, there’s much to say about all of this–it’s all in those two books. Here let me just say that digital copying and the internet have created a kind of neo-Hermetic space in which many things “happen” outside of any domesticating or ethicizing container. The rules are not clear. Then we get these polar camps: amateur anarchists on the one side, who happily believe we need no rules, and old guard “intellectual property” purists madly trying to enforce and sharpen the rules that worked so well back in 1965. What Creative Commons and others are doing is trying to enlarge the middle ground.

The basic trope–or mischief, as you put it–of Common as Air is a comparative study, a method far too little used, in particular with respect to copyright. Your points of comparison (among many others possible: you mention “children in China”, and “during the Protestant Reformation” as examples) are the 1700s, primarily in the core areas of the United States and colonies that formed it, and current claims about cultural ownership. The critique of current copyright that falls out of such a comparison will be familiar to many readers involved with Creative Commons. However, you tell another story as well concerning changing attitudes not just about cultural ownership, but about culture, and public life in general, across the 1700s and 1800s–could you say a bit about that arc, and perhaps what current cultivators of the cultural commons might learn from it?

The main thing I might add, not fully rehearsed in the book, is the point that Neil Netanel makes in a Yale Law Journal essay, “Copyright and a Democratic Civil Society.” Put simply, in the eighteenth century, at least, if you wanted a civil society that could stand free of the government, the aristocracy, and the church, then you would welcome the rise of an “intellectual property” market. Independent authors, publishing houses, newspapers: all these appear as a print market arises. And right now, of course, we see many of them struggling as that market is undermined.

The Washington Post just published a fine account of the pervasive post-9/11 secret intelligence establishment: who will have the money (and therefore the time and resources) to do that kind of journalism if newspapers like the Post can find no business model fitted to the digital future? Here again we need more thoughtful work in the thinly populated space between the amateur anarchists and the old guard IP purists.

I should leave well enough alone, as you earlier answered that Creative Commons and others are trying to enlarge the (thinly populated as yet) middle ground. That is positioning we like. However, (1) I had in mind another shift occurring across the 1700s and 1800s–very coarsely, from the conception of great people as building on the work of others, with concomitant responsibility to society at large, to the conception of great people as singletons, with no responsibility but self-aggrandizement. In Common as Air you wonderfully note this shift in the changing public narrative about Ben Franklin during and after his life. (2) Does not your answer “money (and therefore the time and resources)” privilege the default argument of “old guard IP purists”? Though business and money are crucial, time and resources may flow from non-pecuniary sources–”cognitive surplus” is a newfangled term for one such source; you’ve described many others. Learning how to fully leverage such sources may be just as important to society as new “business models”–and would seem to be a major determinant of how big of a role the cultural commons has to play in this world. To wrap up, I wonder if you have thoughts on any causal relationships in either direction between popular conceptions of how innovation occurs (by accumulation of knowledge and widespread collaboration, or singularly great and self-aggrandizing individuals) and how innovation is pursued (with or without sharing) and the implications of such?

You are right that I answered in terms of “money” and “business” and you offer one of the useful ways to widen my response–to include all the non-monetary ways to tap time and resources.

I am obviously someone who cares about gift-exchange and sharing in the creation of knowledge and culture but I am also a bit of a contrarian and thus find that sometimes I want to underline the complications that necessarily arise around gift-exchange in our current situation.

In Common as Air I devote some space to the publicly financed part of the human genome project. It makes a good example of an enterprise undertaken in a non-commercial spirit. At the same time, in the background one needs to recognize that funding came from the public purse (in the U.S.) and private philanthropy (the Wellcome Trust in England). Behind each of these lies “money” and “business” (a pharmaceutical empire behind Wellcome, for example).

That said, the Internet has produced modes of production we could not have imagined 25 years ago. Yochai Benkler seems to me to be doing some of the best work on tracking these and suggesting future possibilities. We should keep ourselves open to surprise.

1 Comment »

P2PU launches 3rd round of courses, with “Copyright for Educators”

Jane Park, August 26th, 2010

The Peer 2 Peer University, more commonly known now as P2PU by a growing community of self-learners, educators, journalists, and web developers, launches its third round of courses today, opening sign-ups for “courses dealing in subject areas ranging from Collaborative Lesson Planning to Manifestations of Human Trafficking.”

P2PU is simultaneously launching its School of Webcraft, which is a collaboration with the Mozilla Foundation and “is a powerful new way to learn open, standards based web development in a collaborative environment. School of Webcraft courses include Beginning Python Webservices and HTML5.”

In addition, Creative Commons Counsel Lila Bailey is co-facilitating the Copyright for Educators course this round, which will focus on United States law. The course is “for educators who want to learn about copyright, open content material and licensing” and “is taught around practical case studies faced by teachers when using copyright material in their day to day teaching and educational instruction.” For more information, see the course page.

Sign-ups for all other courses are available at http://p2pu.org/course/list. The deadline to sign up is September 8, and courses will run until October 27th. All courses are free to take and openly licensed under CC BY-SA. For more information, see the full announcement, but stay tuned for more courses!

Comments Off

Limited Edition CC Shirt Designed by Shepard Fairey

Allison Domicone, August 24th, 2010

Last year, we were thrilled to have Shepard Fairey craft a beautiful new design for our campaign T-shirt. Knowing they’d be a hot commodity, we kept a limited number of the shirts and are now making them available in our online store until they sell out. If you didn’t grab one of these beauties last fall, now is your chance!

The t-shirts are available for $25, a very affordable way to show your support for Creative Commons and look good doing it! Men’s sizes (S-XXL) available in black and women’s sizes (S-M) available in gray. Hurry over to the CC store and get yours today.

Comments Off

CC Talks With: Open High School of Utah’s DeLaina Tonks: Open Education and Policy

Timothy Vollmer, August 23rd, 2010

At the beginning of this year we announced a revised approach to our education plans, focusing our activities to support of the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement. In order to do so we have worked hard to increase the amount of information available on our own site – in addition to an Education landing page and the OER portal explaining Creative Commons’ role as legal and technical infrastructure supporting OER, we have been conducting a series of interviews to help clarify some of the challenges and opportunities of OER in today’s education landscape.

One major venue for the advancement of OER is through policy change at the local, state, federal, and international levels. DeLaina Tonks is the Director of the Open High School of Utah (OHSU). The Open High School of Utah is “an online charter high school that is 100% committed to the use of open educational resources,” and the curriculum is fully aligned with the Utah State Core Curriculum. We talked with DeLaina about how OER can help customize student instruction, OHSU’s innovative and collaborative approach to teacher training and professional development, and the ongoing awareness, logistics, and incentive structures that are needed for OER production and sharing to increase. The Open High School of Utah begins its second year of operation today.


Photo courtesy DeLaina Tonks / CC BY-NC

Can you briefly describe the history of the Open High School of Utah, and how the school’s mission relates to the mission of open education?

The Open High School of Utah was founded by Dr. David Wiley and approved for charter by the Utah State Office of Education in 2007. OHSU completed its inaugural year with 125 9th grade students, and on August 23rd, 2010, we will add 125 10th graders for the 2010-2011 school year. By 2013 OHSU will offer 9th-12th grade courses to potentially 1500 students.

The Open High School of Utah is putting the focus where it should be – on the student. Our mission is to facilitate lifelong success by meeting the needs of the 21st century learner through individualized, student-centered instruction, innovative technology, service learning, and personal responsibility. OHSU is a public charter school designed to meet the needs of the 21st century student. As an online school, we combine state of the art curriculum with strategic one-on-one instruction. Our methods can be described as “one-on-one tutoring for every student in every subject”. Instruction is individualized allowing students to work at their pace. Our delivery of education is structured to provide maximum flexibility that is student-centered; responsive to the needs of each learner, eliminating the negative aspects of a one-size-fits-all system. Our technology sets us apart.  It is data-driven, providing real time information that instantaneously tracks the student and their performance. Unique to OHSU is our commitment to share the curriculum we have developed as an open educational resource. All of these elements combined make the Open High School of Utah the future of education. We are the face of innovation.

The objective behind creating open content is to create free and simple access to knowledge and information through collaboration and innovation. The OHSU mission dovetails nicely with that of open education because we are among the first, if not the first, secondary school to create our own OER curriculum and share it worldwide. We are thrilled that there are already multiple international groups eagerly awaiting the release of our first batch of courses on August 25, 2010, most notably CORE China Open Resources for Education.

OHSU champions individualized instruction for its students, using technology and data-driven, realtime assessment tools. And, the OHSU curriculum content is comprised of Open Educational Resources. What are the efficiencies and pedagogical advantages of using OER within this system? Can you give a specific example of how a teacher will utilize an OER to build a lesson for a student, and how technology tools can return data to see if the student is hitting the learning benchmarks for that particular lesson?

The simple fact that our curriculum is housed online in such a data-rich environment provides us with invaluable, real-time information that allows us to best meet learner needs. Students who are fairly impatient digital natives, growing up in the video-game era of instant gratification don’t have the patience to wait for a week, or even three days, to have an assessment graded and returned. In a bricks and mortar setting the work flow might look something like this: Day One: the teacher makes copies of the test, pass it out, the students take it during their 50-90 minute class, and turn it in. Day Two: the teacher grades the tests and enters them into a gradebook (electronic or hardcopy). Day Three: the teacher hands tests back to the students when they come to class.

The virtual arena presents a much more efficient model: Day One: Students work through online activities, take the assessment, portions are computer-graded giving almost instantaneous real-time scores, others are quickly hand-graded for balance and the student is notified of their complete grade in a very short timeframe. Instant feedback enhances performance.

Pedagogically, OER makes it possible to customize instruction. Special education is an area where OER and technology are critical to the success of our students. We have the ability to create mp3 files of our OER text so that aural learners or students with reading disabilities have an alternate way to receive the information. The use of open resources also makes it possible to very easily modify the curriculum to meet student needs. One of our ninth grade students reads at a third grade level, so our special education teacher reworks the existing higher-level curriculum so that her student can understand it better.

All of our curriculum is standards-aligned, down to a granular level of test questions and lessons. The real-time data allows teachers to look at the collective test results broken down by question to see which ones are missed most often. Teachers are trained to then assess the test question itself. Is it confusing? Can it be clarified? If the test question is valid, the teacher can quickly find the content where that particular standard was taught. Is the content confusing? Can additional clarifying information be added? Is another practice activity warranted to make sure students understand the concept? Within 30 minutes the teacher will have improved the curriculum by first using data to target weaknesses in the open content, and by then finding or creating additional resources to assist in boosting student comprehension, retention and ultimately understanding.

Teachers also look at individual scores and pinpoint where each student could use some additional instruction. If it becomes obvious that a certain student is struggling with factoring, which is in turn affecting their overall math grade, the teacher will videoconference and provide one-on-one tutoring. Teachers also create personalized screencasts/videos that the student can have access to view as many times as is necessary to master the area of weakness. On the next assessment, the teacher can compare scores for questions tied to factoring and see if there has been improvement. Having this type of data at their fingertips, coupled with adaptable open educational resources equals meeting individual learner needs.

The OHSU curriculum is aligned with Utah state standards “to ensure the highest quality educational experience.” This is an important consideration for the growth of open education, because if OER does not align with standards, it will most likely be used less. Utah will be adopting the Common Core State Standards. What are the challenges to implementing content standards and aligning OER with these standards?

These are the instructions our curriculum writers are given prior to gathering, organizing and creating open educational resources:

  • The Open High School of Utah curriculum is 1) standards-based and 2) built from OER.
  • Each course is based on the Utah State Core Standards which are the foundation that the content is built upon. Courses are organized into 18 weeks, which each week addressing specific objectives. When building a course, lesson content is built, aligned to the standards, from available OER or self-created materials. OER versions of OHSU courses will be released to the public and must be built on content that conforms to OER guidelines.
  • Objectives should be assigned to each unit, folder, content page, assignment, assessment, and individual questions. By doing this, we will be able to have accurate data to evaluate the effectiveness of instruction and course materials, allowing us to adapt, evolve and improve the curriculum over time.

We have discovered that the most effective way to ensure standards alignment is to use them as the organizing principle or framework for the course. Teachers can then gather existing OER materials, organize them accordingly and fill in any gaps with teacher created materials. The greatest challenge our curriculum writers face is wading through the available OER and determining which content to use in order to create a cohesive course.

OHSU is committed to sharing the curriculum and resources it’s developed, to be usable by anyone at anytime. The first round of course materials will be published in August 2010. Is there a specific open content license that the materials will be offered under? What sorts of considerations were taken into account when deciding on a content license for the OHSU OER materials?

Course materials produced by the Open High School of Utah are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Open educational resources produced by other individuals or organizations that are embedded in Open High School of Utah course materials may be licensed under a different open license, so we notify potential users to please confirm the license status of any third-party resources before revising or remixing them.

We are thrilled that Creative Commons exists and provides a way to license content outside of a one-size-fits-all copyright system. CC licenses are adaptable to any particular situation, especially important for the Open High School of Utah since we gather content from so many different sources prior to arranging and compiling it as our own. A major consideration in choosing to CC license our curriculum is that our philosophies on sharing and collaboration are so closely intertwined.

Many teachers receive confusing information about whether they are able to share the educational resources they create. A Utah Administrative Rule clarifies that teachers are allowed to share curriculum materials under open licenses, specifically Creative Commons licenses. Can this rule be used as a model for other states, and what do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to teachers sharing curriculum content?

Conceptually this appears to be a good administrative rule to have in place, and could be a step in the right direction. The practical application is more difficult to implement, however. On a granular level the challenges become several fold:

  • Awareness: educating superintendents, administrators and faculty on the intricacies of when and how to use the Creative Commons licenses
  • Logistics: creating a repository or streamlined method of cataloging, and distributing OER content once it is CC licensed, otherwise multiple filing cabinets and hard drives contain countless licensable lesson plans that never see the light of day
  • Motivation: cultivating intrinsic motivation for teachers to share their resources with fellow teachers outside of their department, school, and district

As a teacher, I was continually told to be very careful with regard to copyright laws, that whatever I produced as a teacher actually belonged to the school since it was being created with taxpayer dollars, and that I was allowed to distribute within the department but not throughout the school or district. This type of territorial behavior in our schools is counterproductive to what schools should be doing; educating children, not fighting over fiefdoms. Time will tell if the Utah Administrative Rule has the type of impact I would hope it could have, were it followed by every educator in the state.

Obviously, the faculty at OHSU are familiar with creating and sharing OER. What professional development or training do OHSU faculty go through to learn best practices for use of OER? In your opinion, what are the major hurdles teachers outside of OHSU face in incorporating OER in their teaching?

At the Open High School of Utah, we are continuously focused on improving the process for creating our OER content as evidenced by these three phases–

Advance Preparation and Teacher Expectations: We started out hiring subject matter experts and instructional designers to build curriculum for OHSU, and throughout the process determined that a critical element was missing; that of teacher input and guidance. We invest a lot of time and effort in auditioning teachers to create curriculum for us, and have instituted an extensive process to ensure that we have the very best fit available. We post the position, gather resumes, and invite teachers to progress to the second phase of the interview process which consists of building a lesson for us from open educational resources. We supply them with two pages of resources and websites, give them a week and see what they can come up with. Those who are unwilling to put in the time and effort self-terminate from the eligible pool of applicants and we end up with 5-6 terrific lesson plans to choose from. At that point we interview the top three, based on answers to written questions and the lesson plan itself. The process is very open and transparent because we essentially ask them to prove that they can create OER lessons by doing just that. We then hire the teacher who possesses a personality that translates well in the online arena, who has proven that he/she is capable of OER lesson creation, and is dedicated to supporting the vision and mission of the Open High School of Utah.

New Teacher Training: Once a teacher is officially hired to create content for the Open High School of Utah, we provide an intensive two-day training on curriculum design, OER, tech tips and tools and answer any questions they may have. There is a great deal of unplanned collaboration that comes out of this training and it allows teachers to get to know each other and feel comfortable sharing ideas.

Ongoing Professional Development: In addition, we provide ongoing support from our curriculum director, who combs through every page created to ensure consistency in design and formatting, appropriate use of OER, and alignment to state standards. The curriculum director serves as an invaluable resource to guide our teachers through the OER creation process. At every faculty meeting we highlight the work of one or two teachers as they take us on a walkthrough of their virtual course. They share new resources, technology they have incorporated, and anecdotal experiences of how students are reacting to the course material. In addition, each teacher is enrolled as a student in every other teacher’s course so they can view the curriculum on their own and gain insights and ideas to incorporate into their own classes. In this online setting, the openness and transparency of viewing everyone’s curriculum creates a collaborative setting so the collective result is better than anything an individual teacher can come up with on his/her own. The old adage, “A rising tide lifts all boats” holds true for the faculty of the Open High School of Utah.

Outside of the Open High School of Utah, especially in the virtual setting, much of the curriculum is designed by corporations and delivered part and parcel to the students with little to no input from the teachers. A textbook publisher in Texas is designing curriculum for students in Indiana, and the people closest to their students, the teachers, have very little local control to customize the curriculum to meet the needs of their learners. That said, in a brick and mortar setting, good teachers find or create supplemental content on a regular basis, but are either unaware that they are able to license their work, or don’t have a common repository in which to share their work outside of their department.

How do you see the role of Creative Commons within the OER movement? How can CC help?

The mission of Creative Commons, to increase sharing and improve collaboration, is powerful for all of the right reasons. It hearkens back to the things we learned in Kindergarten about sharing and playing nice with others. The best part about Creative Commons is the breadth of licensing options available to educators in all arenas, and how nicely they dovetail with open-source curriculum, giving us the ability to select the license that best fits our needs. The challenge becomes increasing awareness, helping educators to understand how best to use Creative Commons and why it is important, and providing a forum in which to publish. The Open High School of Utah is doing its part by releasing several courses at the end of this month, all appropriately CC licensed, of course, which will draw attention to the merits of Creative Commons licensing. Keep up the good work!

Wrapping up, what does a successful teaching and learning environment implementing the power of OER “look like”? Do you have any lingering thoughts — worries, hopes, predictions?

This is perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Open High School of Utah! Every student’s educational experience can be customized to best fit their needs, turning the one-size-fits-all, teach-to-the-middle education system on its head. For example, at OHSU if a student is struggling with factoring, the teacher creates an additional, personalized screencast highlighting specifically where the student is going wrong, complete with suggestions and examples on how to fix the problem. The online delivery allows the curriculum to be housed in the cloud, freeing up teacher hours to work with students in a one-on-one setting, giving them what they need, when they need it, so they can move on. This teaching model coupled with the use of OER can produce amazing results that will hopefully reignite the passion for learning that we all possessed in Kindergarten.

1 Comment »


Page 9 of 22« First...789101112...20...Last »

Subscribe to RSS

Archives

  • collapse2014
  • expand2013
  • expand2012
  • expand2011
  • expand2010
  • expand2009
  • expand2008
  • expand2007
  • expand2006
  • expand2005
  • expand2004
  • expand2003
  • expand2002