Providing free learning with pathways to formal credit, the OERu officially launched on Friday November 1, 2013 at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops British Columbia. “In basing your learning and teaching on OER, you have an excellent opportunity to treat the minds of your students primarily as fires to be set alight rather than as vessels to be filled with the knowledge of just one teacher,” said Sir John Daniel, former UNESCO Assistant Director General of Education and open learning visionary.
Coordinated by the Open Education Resource Foundation, headquartered in New Zealand, the OERu is an independent, not-for-profit network that offers free online university courses for students worldwide using open educational resources (OER). As a designated project of the UNESCO-COL OER Chair network and with over thirty-two partners from five continents, the OERu is using OER to provide more affordable ways for learners to gain academic credit towards qualifications from recognized, accredited institutions.
“The OERu makes affordable education accessible to everyone,” said Open Education Resource Foundation Director Dr. Wayne Mackintosh. “All you need is an internet connection and you can study independently from home, with access to world-class courses from recognized institutions around the world. It’s about sharing knowledge and the sustainability of education.”
Research from the Commonwealth of Learning and UNESCO predicts that an additional one hundred million post-secondary learners will be entering into the tertiary education system over the next fifteen years. “The key challenge we are trying to address is how to provide spaces for the additional one hundred million students – that’s the equivalent of building four sizeable universities with roughly 30,000 students each, every week for the next 15 years,” said Mackintosh. The OERu aims to provide students excluded from the formal education sector with learning pathways to credible credentials.
Coming at a time of dramatically rising higher education cost and high youth unemployment, the OERu provides a parallel learning universe based solely on OER, quality assurance, and institutional accreditation. The OERu sees OER as a key means of expanding and sustaining higher education and aims to see OER and open education practices integrated into every institution in the world.
The distinctively open aspects of the OERu, including its use of open-source software, open peer review, open public input, open file formats and open educational resources are key differentiators from MOOCs. Another major difference is the OERu’s commitment to providing students with the option of getting formal credit for their study for a small fee.
“The OERu will reduce the cost of higher education dramatically,” says Sir John Daniel. “I believe that radical innovations in higher education must be accompanied by particularly robust frameworks of accreditation and credentialing in order to reassure the public. It’s all very well for evangelists to promote do-it-yourself accreditation from the personal safety of CVs replete with reputable qualifications, but ordinary people want the ‘beef’ of proper recognition too.”
The OERu launch at Thompson Rivers University coincided with the second meeting of the OERu open network of partners including post-secondary institutions, nonprofits, government, and international agencies who all engaged in an intensive two-day implementation planning meeting. I was delighted to attend and contribute to the planning, including a summary of a two-week-long discussion exploring OERu’s unique differentiators, operations, micro-credentials, potential use of textbook zero, and quality assurance processes. Livestream recordings of the OERu launch and plenary meetings are available from the Thompson Rivers University live streaming channel.
At the time of launch, the OERu is offering two credentials – one undergraduate and one post-graduate and is experimenting with micro Open Online Courses – mOOCs. As an open network the OERu is expanding the courses and credentials it is offering and its partners. Organizations choose to join the OERu for three main reasons:
- to be part of a global network of “like-minded” institutions
- to participate in the philanthropic mission of widening access to more affordable education, especially for learners excluded from the formal higher education sector
- to learn new business models and retain a competitive advantage as open education approaches become more mainstream
As Estrella Patrick Moller First Nations Elder for the Secwepemc Nation put it in her OERu launch blessing, “I thank all of you for having big dreams… Help us to reach hundreds and hundreds and millions of people so that mother earth will be covered with people on an equal footing with education.”
- Free Open Learning University Launches at TRU, CFJC TV, Kamloops, 1 November 2013.
- TRU joins free education movement. Online university combines resources from around the world. The Daily New, Kamloops, 1 November 2013.
- Open Educational Resource university is launched, University World News, 1 November 2013.
- The free university launching in NZ. TVNZ Breakfast, 2013
- The launch of OERu: Towards free learning opportunities for all students worldwide, BCcampus, 31 October 2013.
- Mooc rival OERu puts accreditation on menu, Times Higher Education, 31 October 2013.
- Polytech opens a door to the world, Otago Daily Times, 26 October 2013.
- Open Educational Resource university to be launched worldwide, 25 October, 2013.
Today we’re pleased to announce that Athabasca University, BCcampus, and the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic have joined together to re-establish a CC affiliate team in Canada. All three organizations will take part in the official relaunch at the Creative Commons Salon Ottawa: Open Data on Friday, March 30.
This is not a new affiliate so much as a re-ignition of our existing Canadian community. Since 2004, a number of volunteers, interns and affiliate leads have supported and promoted CC and the use of open licenses generally in a Canadian context. This new team, representing three organizations spread across the geographic and cultural expanse of Canada, will be a key asset to support and lead the CC activities of this community.
Through public outreach, community building, tools, research, and resources this team will work with a network of open supporters to maximize digital creativity, sharing and innovation across Canada. The work of CC Canada is aligned with the overarching vision of Creative Commons — to help provide universal access to research and education, and full participation in culture to drive a new era of development, growth and productivity.
Whether you’re an artist, teacher, scientist, librarian, policymaker or just a regular citizen, Creative Commons provides you with a free, public, and standardized set of tools and licenses that create a balance between the reality of the Internet and the reality of copyright laws. CC Canada joins over four hundred other affiliates working in seventy-two jurisdictions around the world in supporting the use of Creative Commons infrastructure. Collectively this global network is creating a vast and growing digital commons of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.
Be sure to check out the CC Canada roadmap on the wiki. Congratulations to the CC Canada affiliate team!3 Comments »
Techdirt’s Mike Masnick is perhaps the most prolific blogger on the ill impact of overly restrictive legal regimes, including of course copyright and patents, but also trademark and even employment law (see Noncompete Agreements Are The DRM Of Human Capital) and often on people delivering real value to customers (sad that these are considered “alternative” business models) instead of replying on protectionist legal measures — as blogged here, Masnick’s case study on NIN is an absolute must read/watch — and he hosts awesome guest authors.
So it’s a little disappointing to read Masnick write:
I don’t use any of their licenses, because I don’t necessarily see the point. We’ve declared in the past that the content here is free for anyone to do what they want with it, and thus I feel no need for a Creative Commons license.
The need arises from the reality that sharing without standardized legal tools doesn’t scale. It doesn’t scale socially — if I wasn’t a regular Techdirt reader I wouldn’t know that Masnick had declared Techdirt content is free for anyone and for any purpose (and even now I could only find one such declaration because I remembered that Masnick had written about it in a post that mentioned CC!), nor depending on wording would I know what that meant. It doesn’t scale technically — there’s no way for software such as search engines to recognize ad hoc declarations. It doesn’t scale legally — any community or institution that requires legal certainty (eg due to risk that the community’s work will be suppressed or that the institution will be financially liable) will avoid ad hoc declarations.
It’s no surprise that in the more developed field of free and open source software (which has a 10+ year head start on free culture/open content) anyone who claims that making an ad hoc declaration is good enough and did not release their code under an established license would be laughed at and their code not allowed in other projects, distributions, and repositories, not to mention getting no attention from IBM, Google, Red Hat and thousands of other corporate contributors to and adopters of open source software.
Communities and institutions outside software also require works under established licenses (ie those provided by CC) to scale, e.g., Wikipedia, OpenCourseWare, the Public Library of Science and many, many others. What about individuals and small group efforts? Of course they don’t have to use real legal tools for their content any more than an individual programmer has to share code under an established open source license — that is if they don’t actually want others to “do what they want” with their content or code — because no license means no-understand, no-find, and no-go.
One of Masnick’s best turns is his stylized formula
Connect With Fans (CwF) + Reason To Buy (RtB) = The Business Model ($$$$). As he explains, each part of the formula has many facets — reasonable copyright terms are just one — and as he points out, in a sense copyright is irrelevant, as CwF+RtB would work in the complete absence of copyright. However, as Techdirt points out every day, copyright is in more than full effect, producing all kinds of anti-creative and anti-innovation effects, from labels suing fans, bloggers, startups and anyone else available to heirs suppressing the use of work by long-dead authors. In this environment it seems rather necessary to offer fans the legal certainty of an established public license that grants at least the right to non-commercially share. Anything less seems to betray a lack of respect for fans or, if done unknowingly, is an instance of failed sharing.
Of course one might want to go beyond offering a relatively restrictive license and not rely on copyright at all, giving fans complete freedom with respect to one’s works. As Masnick has noted, CC has developed a legally rigorous tool to do just that, worldwide — CC0 — we hope that he is still considering it.☺
The Techdirt post quoted above is primarily a solid response to another blogger’s post on whether CC is good or bad for copyright policy — a very worthy question. Masnick’s conclusion is good:
Many of the people behind it went through (and are still going through) numerous battles to push back on the excesses of copyright. Creative Commons wasn’t the solution — it was a helpful (and hopefully temporary) oasis in a bleak desert, following numerous well-reasoned, but ultimately futile attempts to push back corporate expansion of copyright. And while I agree that there are problems with shifting the issue to a contractual agreement (and the post highlights some of the many legal problems CC licenses may cause), I think that CC, as a whole, did turn a lot more people onto the some of the problems with copyright law as it stands today. In many ways, CC is an easy way for people to first start to understand the problems of copyright law, in understanding why CC is needed.
From there, many who do understand this have started questioning the larger issues around copyright — and many of those involved with CC have continued to fight that good fight, rather than just assuming that CC is “the answer.” So, in the end, I agree that we should be clear to recognize that Creative Commons and efforts to really rethink copyright are two separate things, but that doesn’t mean that Creative Commons is necessarily bad for copyright policy issues. It has been, and hopefully will continue to be, a real stepping stone to getting more people to recognize these bigger issues. In fact, I’d argue that many of the folks now leading the debate for more reasoned copyright policy in Canada first came to understand these issues via their exposure to Creative Commons’ licenses.
While CC and other voluntary efforts (such as free software and open access) aren’t the solution (if there is such a thing), their contribution goes well beyond serving as stepping stones for thinking about how messed up the copyright environment is. They are simultaneously tools for enabling billions of dollars of collaboration across organization boundaries and unlocking untold social value now and in proving out models that don’t rely on excessive enforcement, changing the facts on the ground in a systemic way that arguably should increase the probability of good outcomes relative to those likely to result from a single-track strategy of merely complaining about the current regime as it worsens.
Copycense, the blogger that Techdirt responds to above, has unrealistic assessments of CC’s ability to “muzzle” the conversation about copyright reform and of the ability of such a conversation to obtain the “best case scenario, with a balanced and effective law that serves citizens and corporate owners equally well”. Copycense is enamored with the current Canadian copyright consultation — it’s worth noting that CC Canada has been around since 2004, that Michael Geist, the most prominent voice for positive reform, is a long time CC user and advocate — one can hardly say CC has muzzled the conversation — and furthermore it isn’t clear the consultation will lead to any good progress. Hopefully good reform will result, and many involved in CC in Canada and elsewhere are also involved in reform efforts (if you read French see the consultation of Olivier Charbonneau, one of the project leads of CC Canada) — but to denigrate voluntary efforts, at least while some rather intractable problems with the ability of concentrated interests to hijack politics remain, is a gigantic missed opportunity at best, and possibly flirting with very bad outcomes.2 Comments »
Canadian copyright scholar Michael Geist explains why Whitehouse.gov‘s adoption of our Attribution license for 3rd party content is important in light of Canada’s policy on government works:
Now consider the Prime Minister of Canada’s copyright notice:
The material on this site is covered by the provisions of the Copyright Act, by Canadian laws, policies, regulations and international agreements. Such provisions serve to identify the information source and, in specific instances, to prohibit reproduction of materials without written permission. …
While this is better than some other Canadian government departments (who require permission for all uses), it is still not good enough. First, Canada should drop crown copyright so that there is no copyright in government-produced materials. Second, there is no need for a distinction between commercial and non-commercial – Canadians should be free to use the government-produced materials for either purpose without permission. Third, third-party materials, which are Creative Commons licensed in the U.S., are subject to full restrictions in Canada.
While the decision to use CC on Whitehouse.gov may appear uncontroversial in light of the fact that US federal works are not subject to copyright protection, very few other countries share this policy as evidenced by Geist’s post. This is precisely where Creative Commons can help. Obama’s far sighted choice should serve as an example for other governments around the world: now is the time to start sharing.1 Comment »
CBC Radio 3 has chosen Creative Commons Canada as 5th of 100 contemporary issues facing Canadians today.No Comments »