Filed under: Open Educational Resources (OER) | Tags: ALECSO, Middle East, National OER Framework, North Africa, Open Book Project, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, US State Department
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is a volatile mix of religion, ancient civilizations, political turmoil, wealth and poverty, beauty, extremism, and violence. Can Open Educational Resources (OER) be a form of diplomacy and peace in this region? Can open education offer some small hope as an alternative form of engagement, action, and reform – instead of drones and beheadings?
For the past year or so I’ve been helping the US State Department with their Open Book project. Announced by Hilary Clinton before she stepped down as Secretary of State the Open Book project is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State in partnership with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization and leading education innovators to expand access to free, high-quality education materials in Arabic, with a focus on science and technology. Promoting and expanding access to these resources will help to create educational opportunity, further scientific learning, and foster economic growth.
See Arab League, U.S. Launch Open Book Project for more.
The objectives of the Open Book Project are to:
- Developing an increased awareness of OER in MENA and the U.S., including refining the concept and identifying connections with copyright and open licenses
- Deliver the benefits of open education to the Arab world
- Expand access to free, high-quality, open education materials in Arabic, with a focus on science and technology
- Implement open licensing in the MENA region that enables anyone to use, adapt, and share these education materials
- Build partnerships between the US and MENA region to make more learning materials open, free, and connected to Arab educators, students, and classrooms
- Lower geographic, economic, and even gender-based barriers to learning
- Create open education resources that anyone with access to the Internet can read, download, and print for free or adapt a copy that meets the local needs of their classrooms or education systems
- Put a full year of high-quality college-level science textbooks – biology, chemistry, physics, and calculus – online, for free, in Arabic
- Help Arab professors and intellectuals create their own open courses
- Explore the benefits of OER for governments, institutions, faculty, students and the public, specifically examining how OER affects teaching and learning practices including the inter-relationships and synergy of OER with open access, open data, open policy, open science
- Evaluate the impact of OER on education business models and practices in MENA and the U.S.
With the support of World Learning and a team of OER experts (of which I was one) the Open Book Project was structured as a two phase exchange program. In Phase I education professionals from all countries in the Middle East and North Africa were invited to apply to participate in a US-based OER fellowship. Fourteen people from eleven countries including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, Yemen, Tunisia, Somalia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar were selected and came to the US for three weeks in March 2014.
After an initial gathering in Washington, DC for introductory sessions, participants were split into small groups for more individually tailored programs, including placements or mini-internships with relevant U.S. organizations as well as other site visits and meetings. The goal of these placements was:
- to learn about the day-to-day operations and projects that the American organization is engaged with
- to share aspects of the foreign organizational practices and challenges (especially as pertains to OER) with U.S. counterparts, and
- to work with the host organization on the development of an action plan or methodology to create/develop and apply OER in the foreign fellow’s originating academic institution.
Everyone reconvened in Washington D.C. at the end of the U.S.-based program to synthesize and discuss strategies for sustaining the MENA OER network and supporting implementation back in participant home regions.
In Phase II a sub-group of the OER practitioners and experts who helped plan the Open Book Project travelled to countries in the Middle East and North Africa region to work with the foreign fellows on implementation of the plans created in Phase I; meet with key stakeholders in academia, government and the NGO community that are already serving or have the potential to serve as local champions for the open educational resources effort; and learn about existing efforts and challenges.
I was privileged to be a member of this group and just returned home from site visits to Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
Tunis is home base for the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO). Comprised of 22 member states ALECSO works to coordinate cultural and educational activities in the Arab world. ALECSO is launching a new strategy, aiming to enhance the use of ICT in the areas of Education, Culture and Science through five projects approved by the ALECSO execution Council and the ALECSO General congress.
The ALECSO Arab OER project will:
- Promote the use and development of OER at a Pan-Arab level to institutions, teachers and students
- Make indexing, retrieving and accessing of Arabic OER easier for teachers and students
- Offer a wide exchange and scope of Arab OER
- Ensure community building for exchange of educational resources across Arab countries
- Enhance the quality of developed OER in Arab countries
The other four ALECSO projects are worth mentioning as OER could be strategically included in each.
ALECSO App’s project will provide:
- A Pan-Arab web-based repository for mobile applications, the ALECSO Apps Store
- A specific editor (ALECSO Apps Editor) for development of Arabic mobile applications by non-technical end-users
- An Arab competition (ALECSO Apps Awards) with awards to encourage Arab developers to innovate and create mobile applications and populate the ALECSO App’s store.
ALECSO Arab MOOCs project is planning to:
- Develop Arab capacity and infrastructure in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) at a Pan-Arab level
- Promote the use and development of MOOCs in Arabic countries
- Offer a Pan-Arab MOOC delivery platform
- Develop capacities in the use and development of MOOCs in the Arab region
- Pilot the delivery of MOOCs in selected subjects
ALECSO Cloud Computing services for education project will:
- Make known the advantages and benefits of using Cloud Computing services in education in Arab countries
- Organize a conference on using Cloud Computing Services in the education field and make its advantages and benefits known to different stakeholders in educational institutions
- Prepare a specific guideline for the effective use of cloud computing in education for Arab countries, through the implementation of a cloud computing based educational platforms
- Prepare a comprehensive work plan containing all the required milestones in order to set up appropriate infrastructure allowing the use of Cloud Computing services in Arab schools and universities
- Develop capacity in the use of Cloud Computing services in education in the Arab region.
ALECSO project to promote use of ICT in education for people with disabilities will:
- Develop public recognition and awareness on promoting ICT in education for people with disabilities in Arab countries
- Build capacity for webmasters and developers on improving web sites accessibility
- Translate the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) to Arabic
- Translate the “Model Policy on Inclusive ICTs in Education” document to Arabic
- Organize a conference on ICT and Accessibility
In addition to these projects ALECSO is hosting an Arab Forum for Scientific Research and Sustainable Development, in Dubai UAE December 19-21, 2014. As part of this event they will be reporting out on and planning future activities related to Arab – International Cooperation. One of these activities deals with Arab-North American cooperation and agreements. They plan to have an Open Book Project panel that engages Arab decision-makers, policy-makers, academics and researchers in advancing this work through planning, objectives setting, components of the project, and defining mechanisms for implementation.
ALECSO explicitly asked the State Dept. to consider transitioning the Open Book Project to an OER Project and move from a short term exchange program format to a longer term cooperative action plan program. They specifically are seeking support for:
- Selection, translation and localization of US OER to Arabic
- Raising awareness of OER and associated benefits across MENA region
- Building capacity of Arab teachers/institutions to produce their own OER and building community across countries for exchange of good educational practices, skills, expertise, know-how, etc.
- Developing and maintaining a Pan-Arabian OER infrastructure
- Building capacity by helping coalesce scattered initiatives across the MENA region, developing OER communities of practice, and putting in place a coordinated approach that supports dissemination and spread of OER and OER development capability across region
- Formulating open policies and regional indicators
Lots going on and heartening to see Creative Commons as a key building block for such a vision.
I was in Tunis right before Tunisia’s October 26th elections. There were signs of tension – parts of Av Habib Bourguiba were sectioned off by barbwire fencing and police were a visible force. There were some incidents on the outskirts. But overall on the streets of the city I’d say things are relatively low key with way less in your face political lobbying than we see in N.A. It is heartening to see the successful democratic election that took place being called a “beacon of hope in an uncertain region“, and Tunisia held up as one of the few countries to come out of the Arab spring with a democracy.
While in Tunis I was saddened to hear the news from back home in Canada. From Tunis I went to Riyadh Saudi Arabia where the October 25 editorial in the local Saudi Gazette said:
“It’s sad and worrying that such incidents have reached a land that is very distant from religious or ideological extremism. It is jarring and alarming that this has happened in Canada, of all places. Canada has always been seen as a successful country, minding its own business. It has always been an open, diverse society that has one of the highest levels of immigration in the world.
Then again, why should Canada be immune? Canadians fought in Afghanistan. The country is a member of NATO and an historic ally of the United States. …Joining the American-led alliance in the fight agains IS was not an easy decision to make in Canada. There was heated debate over the Conservative government’s decision to join the military campaign, as well as to increase anti-terrorist powers at home. …Canada, blessed largely by diversity and peace, is now chillingly aware that vengeance and hate have reached its shores, up to the seat of democracy…”
For me, advocating for openness as a representative of Creative Commons in the Middle East at this time felt like an alternative call to action. Not a politicians call for arms and troops but a call for everyday citizens to pool their knowledge and creativity as an expression of kindred spirit and for the common good of all.
In Riyadh we were hosted by Abdullah Almegren who leads the National Center for e-Learning & Distance Learning at the Ministry of Higher Education. This trip had many cultural components and I feel honoured by the way our hosts shared the history and culture of their region. Abdullah and his colleagues took us to old town Riyadh where we were suitably garbed. Here I am with Abdullah.
We were given tours of universities – James and I went to King Saud University and Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University. Mary Lou went to the women’s public university Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University.
Ministry of Education plans for a Saudi Arabian OER initiative were shared with us and we were asked to conduct a workshop for deans of e-learning from universities across the country. As part of this workshop I agreed to speak on Success Factors for a National OER Initiative. Based on the questions we’d been asked, their planning documents, and my own experience with OER initiatives I decided to put together a one page diagram that represents my take on what a national framework for OER should encompass.
This is the first time I’ve tried to consolidate all the various components of a large scale OER initiative into a single diagram. I’ve since added a few additional elements but let me start with a short explanation of this initial version. When it comes to OER I usually get a lot of questions related to technology. However, in this diagram I try and show that there are many components to an OER initiative that have nothing to do with technology and come well before technology decisions need to be made.
I start with Strategy. Large scale OER initiatives should be strategic and purposeful. Doing OER without a real purpose is not a recipe for success. The US Department of Labor TAACCCT program is a great example of a national OER initiative with a clear purpose – move displaced and unemployed workers into jobs in high growth industry sectors by funding community colleges to create stacked and latticed credentials in partnership with industry. All the curricula these community colleges create must be licensed with a Creative Commons CC BY license making them OER.
In addition to strategy a large OER initiative needs incentives which could be monetary or could be other things related to innovation or transformation of teaching and learning.
A national OER framework should include a research component. It is essential to test out the strategy and purpose of any OER initiative and evaluate practices and outcomes on an ongoing basis. Research informs success. I point to a current source of OER research – the OER Research Hub (and in subsequent versions of the diagram have included the OER Knowledge Cloud).
To enable large scale success OER require policy. Creative Commons has been aggregating examples of OER policy from around the world into an OER policy registry. In addition UNESCO has authored an excellent OPER policy development template that describes policy as it pertains to intellectual property, copyright, hiring practices, procurement and many other areas of education operation. (in subsequent versions of the diagram I’ve also included the recently launched Open Policy Network – at Cable Green’s suggestion).
Strategic purpose, incentives, research, and policy all impact the activities of institutions. A national OER initiative involves many institutions. Two institutional practices I’ve come to see as critical to success are:
- Forming inter-disciplinary OER teams within an institution made up of faculty, instructional designers, media producers, librarians, and educational technologists. For OER to succeed a team effort is needed and each of these roles has crucial skills and knowledge to contribute. Faculty have the subject matter expertise, instructional designers the ability to design effective teaching and learning structures and activities, media producers can produce rich multimedia, librarians are superb at finding and curating collections, and educational technologists bring essential skills about how best to develop and deliver OER with technology.
- Forming communities of practice across all the institutions involved in a national OER initiative that bring together people across institutions by domain (such as arts, science, engineering, etc.) and by role (such as faculty, instructional designers, librarians, etc.) All distinct fields of study and members of OER teams like to talk to their peers at other institutions. The challenges tend to be the same and they frequently learn about great resources their peers have found or new practices that are working well.
For actual OER content I advocate implementation pursue four distinct efforts. First review existing curricula already developed and in use that could simply be openly licensed and made in to OER. Second identify educational content that is desired and search existing OER to see if anything is available. If it is simply adopt it. Sometimes OER is found but is not a perfect fit. If that is the case why not adapt it – translate, localize, customize, update or improve the educational materials so that the fit works. Thats one of the benefits of OER – you can modify it. Finally, as a last measure, having exhausted the previous three efforts if OER is needed where none exists then go ahead and author it.
OER is transforming education by making educational materials visible and available to all. Success is contingent on high quality resources. In higher education research is quality assured through peer review. I believe the same practice is a success factor for OER too. OER should be vetted through a quality review process and peer review.
I place technology next well after all those other key success factors have been dealt with. I highlight a few of the key technology components in the diagram – authoring tools, open file formats (so others can modify the resource downstream), creating portable interoperable content that can be exported out of one Learning Management System and uploaded to another, classification schema for OER, and repositories or referatories where OER can be found, previewed, and downloaded.
Finally we come to usage. OER are multi-use. They can be used in on campus courses, mixed or blended courses, fully online courses, and MOOCs. OER don’t just have teaching and learning value they are useful as a means of marketing to students (try before you buy), they provide a rich source of supplemental resources for students to use when they are studying, they can help industry meet the professional development needs of their employees, they help working adults pursue career pathways, and they attract national and international interest in your institution.
In subsequent versions of this diagram I’ve added accessibility (ensuring OER meet the needs of those less abled) and pedagogy (factoring pedagogical approaches into the design of OER and innovating new open pedagogies based on the unique attributes OER have).
All-in-all I’m pleased with this diagram as it captures over ten years of work in the field on a single page. This diagram is generalizable to any large OER initiative.
From Riyadh I went to Doha in Qatar for meetings with Qatar National University. The Qatar National University has developed a Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Strategy for the years 2014 – 2019. A key objective of the strategy is for the university to embrace, promote, practice and evaluate the “Culture of Open Education”.
The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for this objective include:
- Institutional Openness Policy and Institutional Openness Strategy
- Open Education Resources – Open Courseware and Open Content contributions
- Open textbooks
- Incentives for faculty, research workforce, and staff for engagement in Open Education
- Licensing and Intellectual Property Rights
- Assessment, and Quality Assurance
- Accreditation of Open Access Learning Opportunities
- Adoption/Integration of OER Courses and programs
- QU Strategy Document for Open Education
- Membership in the OpenCourseWare Consortium
- Open Education Portal with link to QUOpenCourseware and external OERs
- Translation Capabilities for Arabizing Open Education Resources available in other languages (in particular English), mainly for K-12 Education, and fields taught in Arabic in QU (e.g. social sciences, humanities, business)
- Offerings of opportunities for outreach, training, and awareness for QU stakeholders, and external stakeholders on issues relevant to Open Access
- Number and impact of QU open access resources to the local community
- Engagement of the industry and employees in utilizing and/or co-developing Open Access Resources with QU
The plan has been approved but implementation is on hold. Open Book Project support could provide the necessary confidence needed to move forward with implementation.
Key opportunities exist around:
- open policy
- open pedagogies for increasing motivation
- open licensing key-note talks from visiting scholars
- OER for first year program
- early adopter and innovator use of OER – pilots
- Technology Enabled Learning strategy – but implementation stalled
- open access publishing of QU research
- library – institutional repository DSpace – OA research publication and theses, visiting scholars, finding and curating collections of QU specific OER
- Qatar Foundation – Education Above All initiative
Overall I was deeply impressed by the insights and plans that have emerged in the MENA region in response to the Open Book Project. There is huge potential. The US State Department and others could continue to play a key role as these countries move to implementation. It is not clear if the Open Book Project will continue but even if it doesn’t the recent U.S. Open Government Partnership National Action Plan makes a commitment to promote open educational resources, to help teachers and students everywhere. It outlines three key activities:
- Raise open education awareness and identify new partnerships. The U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy will jointly host a workshop on challenges and opportunities in open education internationally with stakeholders from academia, industry, and government. The session will foster collaboration among OGP members and other interested governments and will produce best practices to inform good policies in open education.
- Pilot new models for using open educational resources to support learning. The State Department will conduct three pilots overseas by December 2015 that use open educational resources to support learning in formal and informal learning contexts. The pilots’ results, including best practices, will be made publicly available for interested educators.
- Launch an online skills academy. The Department of Labor (DOL), with cooperation from the Department of Education, will award $25 million through competitive grants to launch an online skills academy in 2015 that will offer open online courses of study, using technology to create high-quality, free, or low-cost pathways to degrees, certificates, and other employer-recognized credentials. This academy will help students prepare for in-demand careers. Courses will be free for all to access on an open learning platform, although limited costs may be incurred for students seeking college credit that can be counted toward a degree. Leveraging emerging public and private models, the investments will help students earn credentials online through participating accredited institutions, and expand the open access to curriculum designed to speed the time to credit and completion. The online skills academy will also leverage the burgeoning marketplace of free and open-licensed learning resources, including content developed through DOL’s community college grant program, to ensure that workers can get the education and training they need to advance their careers, particularly in key areas of the economy.
Inclusion of the MENA region in items 1 and 2 could significantly improve the likelihood of successful OER implementation and advance cultural exchange and understanding.
Based on my experience OER affords a cross-cultural education experience and can act as a form of diplomacy, understanding, and peace-keeping. I am deeply indebted to the many people who hosted and helped me on this trip. I really enjoyed the camaraderie with my colleagues Mary Lou Forward, James Glapa-Grossklag and Vladimir Spencer. I was especially touched by the many in country people who shared perspectives and experiences of life in their country. Through OER we share and prosper together. Alhamdulillah.
Filed under: Creative Commons, Digital Economy, Innovation, Open Access, Open Educational Resources (OER) | Tags: BCcampus, creative commons, global food safety partnership, herbshare, OER, open access, open data, open government, Open Hardware, open licensing, open source seed initiative, open source software, open textbook summit, shared earth, Systems approach
In the 1990’s I worked for Hughes Aircraft of Canada developing large scale air traffic control systems for international customers around the world. Air traffic control systems are large, complex, mission critical systems. After extensive requirements gathering and analysis an overall architecture for the air traffic control system was defined including complete hardware and software requirements. Development of something so large required the overall architecture to be broken down into subsystem components which were then distributed to different teams for development. The lead systems engineering team had the responsibility of integrating developed subsystems into the final air traffic control system and ensuring that the overall architecture design and requirements were met.
This kind of approach is called systems engineering. The key characteristics of systems engineering are that it:
- gathers, analyses and shapes customer requirements into an overall system
- takes a holistic view that breaks the overall system down into components and integrates developed components together into a whole
- uses and coordinates an interdisciplinary set of expertise and teams
- focuses on not just the initial development of the system but its life cycle and iterative improvement over time
- combines technical and human-centred practices and work processes
The early days of open licensing and open resources were primarily shaped by innovators and early adopters using Creative Commons licenses and creating open resources as independent individuals. What I see now is open moving from an individual activity to a large scale system wide activity similar to systems engineering. As open matures a more holistic approach is being adopted involving many people working together.
Increasingly I see a systems approach to open as being the most strategic and impactful. A systems approach takes a multi-stakeholder perspective, strategically considering all the stakeholders in a value chain and how they can work together to achieve a common goal. This shifts the focus from individual adoption of open practices to system-wide adoption. A system working together can achieve greater impact than an individual.
Let me give a couple of examples.
The BCcampus Open Textbook Summit held in Vancouver 16-17-Apr-2014 brought together a wide range of organizations and people who are all collectively working on adopting, adapting, and authoring open textbooks for students. An open textbook is a textbook licensed under an open copyright license (such as Creative Commons), and made available online to be freely used by students, teachers, and members of the public. While online versions of open textbooks are available for free if students want hard copy they can print out their own or order a low-cost print version.
The open licensing of a textbook makes it possible for others to add to, adapt, translate, localize, and otherwise improve it. Everyone has 5R rights to:
Retain: Make, own, and control their own copy of the textbook
Reuse: Use the open textbook in its unaltered form
Revise: Adapt, adjust, modify, improve, or alter the book
Remix: Combine the book with other openly licensed content to create something new
Redistribute: Share copies of the original textbook, revisions, or remixes with others
The BCcampus Open Textbook Summit featured speakers representing a wide interdisciplinary group of expertise including government & institution senior administrators, faculty, students (and here), librarians, authors, publishers, and technologists. This wide representation of multiple stakeholders who all play a role in creating open textbooks is a great example of a systemic approach. Each stakeholder’s involvement in creating and using open textbooks is important but it is the cumulative effect of multiple stakeholders working together that creates the greatest impact.
One of the great things about the BCcampus Open Textbook Summit was that it brought together not only multiple stakeholders but multiple regional open textbook initiatives. Representatives of open textbook initiatives in California, Oregon, Washington and beyond were all in attendance. This enables sharing and comparing of approaches and lessons learned not just from different stakeholders but from different regional system wide initiatives. Its fascinating, and informative, to hear about the BC open textbook initiative and compare it to the one in California, or Washington, or Oregon.
Inevitably the adoption of open practices requires stakeholders to change current modes of operation, sometimes dramatically so. Change of this magnitude can be disruptive and may threaten traditional roles and responsibilities, business models, and financial structures. A natural reaction to such change is fear, risk aversion, and preference for the status quo.
To generate movement and acceptance I’ve found it important to keep the focus on the shared goal, cause, or issue that open solves. In the case of open textbooks the shared goal is making education more accessible and affordable for students. Having a shared goal as the primary focus make business models, roles, modes of operation and the like secondary to the main goal. When the impetus and value associated with achieving the main goal are big enough, change happens, the system and stakeholders adapt, new models and modes of operation emerge. Adoption of open practices is best enabled when the value proposition of doing so is high.
Open textbooks are one great example of a systems approach to open.
Another example emerged for me in the context of leading an open models working group for the World Bank’s Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP). Our task was to generate a range of open models that enhance the scalability and sustainability of food safety. Our primary goal was to show how open practices can support GFSP’s efforts to help ensure safe food, increase food supply chain value, accelerate economic growth, alleviate rural poverty, and improve public health outcomes. This is the big picture goal the GFSP seeks to attain.
Can adoption of open practices help the GFSP achieve this goal? If so, how?
The Global Food Safety Partnership is a public/private partnership representing many different stakeholders including:
- regulatory agencies – public regulators, inspectors and managers
- private sector agri-food processors and manufacturers
- farmers and producers
- universities, service providers, trainers and certification bodies
- international organizations
- non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
This suggests that a systems approach to open is required. It won’t be enough for one stakeholder to adopt open practices. The goals of GFSP are too large for that to be impactful. Achieving the big goals of GFSP requires multi-stakeholder coordinated participation.
One of the significant benefits of open practices is that they open up the opportunity for new stakeholders to get involved and participate. Food storage and cooking at home, the poor, the farmer, the food market seller, the street vendor, these uses and stakeholders are not well represented at the GFSP table. Adoption of open practices opens up the opportunity for them to be involved. If GFSP has a goal of alleviating rural poverty it is essential that they be engaged as active participants.
A systems approach to open offers opportunities for information sharing, public participation, and collaboration. Multi-stakeholder adoption of open practices generates cumulative benefits for all stakeholders. In a systems approach to open the more stakeholders participating the greater the impact.
Applying a systems approach to open for GFSP considers the role of each stakeholder and what open practices they could adopt that would contribute to the big picture goal GFSP is seeking to realize. Its not a one size fits all approach. Different stakeholders adopt different open practices. Government and funders might adopt open policy that require deliverables produced through the funds they provide to be openly licensed. Providers involved in generating food safety training and learning resources can publish their content as Open Educational Resources. There are many forms of open and a myriad of open practices can be brought to bear on a shared goal.
For the GFSP we defined nine different open practices stakeholders could adopt:
- open content (including Open Educational Resources and Open Courseware)
- open data
- open access (research)
- open government
- open source software
- open standards
- open policy
- open licensing
- open hardware
For each type of open practice we provided GFSP relevant examples. Here’s a sampling:
- open content – see Digital Green and Food Safety Knowledge Network
- open data – the US web site data.gov releases government open data.In 2012, a national annual competition was created as part of the Health Data Initiative to stimulate the innovative use of health data in apps and products. The “Health DataPalooza” is now a sold out event attended by over 2,000 health providers, technology developers, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and community advocates and has resulted in the launch of new products and companies. OpenFDA, providing easy access to public data of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and highlighting projects using these data, will be implemented in September of 2014.
- open access (research) – There are a number of open access journals and online publications that provide free and open access to scholarly articles specific to food safety, foodborne illness, manufacturing and processing practices, etc. In 2007 the US National Institutes of Health enacted an open access policy requiring the researchers they fund to make their final, peer‐reviewed manuscripts publicly available no later than 12 months after official date of publication. The number of open access journals is rapidly increasing – the Directory of Open Access Journals lists over 9,000. The Public Library of Science (PLOS) and BioMed Central are two popular examples relevant to food safety.
- open hardware – See Open Source Ecology and Farm Hack for examples relevant to food production and food safety. Photosynq is an open research project whose goal is to create a low cost, hand-held measurement device which researchers, educators and citizen scientists can use to build a global database of plant health. A low cost mobile prototype has been developed to replace the large, expensive and stationary equipment that was previously required to measure photosynthesis.
One of the challenges in open work is helping people understand the myriad forms of open and how they work. Defining open practices, along with associated value propositions and examples goes a long way to establishing a common lexicon and a tool box of methods that can be strategically deployed.
All that and more is captured in the GFSP Open Models Concept paper. Feel free to read the whole thing if this interests you. I also want to express deep appreciation and thanks to Theresa Bernardo and Garin Fons who co-wrote this paper with me and to Chris Geith and the World Bank for the opportunity.
Writing the GFSP Open Models paper led me to have a heightened interest in the use of open practices for food related issues. My colleague Puneet Kishor at Creative Commons shared with me another great example – the Open Source Seed Initiative. Linux for Lettuce and The Carrot Hack provide thoughtful coverage of this important development.
I also recently finished reading Jeremy Rifkin’s book The Zero Marginal Cost Society (highly recommend) which contains a few other fascinating examples including Shared Earth connecting land owners with gardeners and farmers, and HerbShare which is fundraising to develop online, searchable community maps of fresh herbs available for sharing.
A systems approach to open combines a wide range of open practices across multiple stakeholders and applies them to a shared common goal. It’s exciting work that not only accomplishes short term goals but sets in place a process that can scale, iterate, and sustain over the long term.
Filed under: Creative Commons, Digital Economy, Innovation | Tags: books, building blocks, business models, data, digital economy, free, images, music, open models, private sector, public sector, software, video
All I want for Christmas is for the world to be more open.
But I know from my interactions all around the world that most people struggle to understand what open is and its implications.
New open models require a rethinking of traditional models whether they be education models, business models, models of government, models of research, models of publishing, music, or the arts.
And of course new models can be scary. They threaten the status quo, they challenge pre-conceived notions on how things work, and generate fear of the unknown.
So I’ve put on my Santa hat and here, on Christmas Eve day, I’m working on what I think of as a gift for the world – new models for a new year. This is a gift we unwrap together with an open mind. Lets get started.
New open models are significantly different. Understanding them is a gradual process, a progression through a series of steps or stages that look something like this:
- Awareness – open models are a new concept most people haven’t even heard of. With new models for a new year I aim to make new open models visible. By making you conscious of them I hope you begin to consider them as options, choices you make in how you do your work and how you live your life.
- Responding to and overcoming the fear reaction. Almost everyone initially expresses a great deal of fear over new open models. With new models for a new year I aim to alleviate those fears.
- Looking at examples. One of the best ways to understand new open models is to look at real examples. Hearing the stories and use cases of those who have successfully adopted new open models creates a sense of possibility, soothes the fears, and inspires.
- Trying it out. Once a certain level of comfort has been achieved you’ll begin to see how you can make use of open models personally. As a gift I hope you’ll play with new models for a new year, dip your toe in and try using something that is open.
- Going open yourself. Once you’ve sampled someone else’s open work and experienced the benefits I hope you begin thinking about making your own work open – perhaps initially in a small way but gradually more and more.
- Adopting open as a cornerstone of practice. Once you get to this stage you’re in all the way and usually become an advocate of new open mdodels who won’t go back.
- Spreading open. If you adopt an open model in one area (lets say Open Educational Resources) you’ll become interested in other areas of openness (lets say open policy, or open data, or open access). You’ll start to see the synergistic benefits of adopting more and more open models. The cumulative benefits of multiple forms of openness are greater than each individually.
I aim to get you to stages 5, 6, and 7. But to get to that gift the wrappings associated with the earlier stages must first be removed. We all unwrap gifts in different ways. I’m going to start in the middle with stage 3 and use examples to work through the earlier stages and to lead to the more advanced stages.
Here are some wonderful examples of people using new models of openness.
New models work for both the public and private sector. Both the public and the private sectors can realize social and economic benefits through open models that cannot be attained in any other way. This is an important part of the gift so lets unwrap both the public and private sector aspects of new open models.
New Open Models in the Public Sector
The benefits of openness are often more readily understood in the public sector. The basic tenet of open models in the public sector is that public funds should result in public goods. The public should get what it paid for. I can see you all nodding. Yes, you say money I pay in taxes should result in goods and services I have access to. Yet, the truth is under current models this is not typically the case.
Lets take research. This diagram shows the current funding cycle for research.
As you can see the public pays for research and then pays again to get access to the results of that research. This limits dissemination, economic efficiency, and social impact.
New open models change that process in subtle but important ways that ensure the public does get access to what it pays for as shown in this diagram.
As you can see new open models maximize dissemination, economic efficiency, and social impact.
Governments everywhere are starting to get the picture not only for research but for many other aspects of public sector work. 2013 public sector use of new open models includes:
- US Department of State Open Book Project
- US Fair Access to Science Technology Research Act (FASTR)
- White House Directive supporting public access to publicly-funded research
- UK Open Access Policy
- US Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program
- Launch of the Digital Public Library of America
- US State level public access policies
- Canada’s Tri-Agency Open Access Policy
- US Executive Order in support of open data
- India’s Launch of a National Repository of Open Education Resources
- European Commission’s Launch of an Opening Up Education Initiative
- Polands Digital School e-textbooks program
- UNESCO’s Launch of an Open Access Repository
- Wales Open Education Declaration of Intent
These are all fantastic in their own right and the Open Government Partnership maps out many more ways governments are pursuing new open models.
In the new year I expect to see new open models spread from single to multiple use cases within these early adopters and more public sector organizations to follow suit. For me the real potential of new open models exists in the combinatorial effect of combining open models. This is “stage 7 spreading open” I describe in my progression at the start of this post. When public sector organizations adopt openness as a new operating principle across all their activities the combined impact will be even greater. Let me give an example.
One of the projects I’m involved with through my work at Creative Commons is the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP). This is a World Bank public-private initiative dedicated to improving the safety of food in middle-income and developing countries.
Imagine your public sector organization has responsibilities for food safety. At a very practical level one of the things you’ll need is a training program for food inspectors. Here’s my take on how you could combine multiple means of openness into a whole new approach to putting that training program together.
Step 1: Open License Existing Resources: As a publicly funded agency over the years funds will have been invested in a wide range of standards, competency frameworks of skills and knowledge inspectors require, training manuals, curricula and other resources. As with the research example we saw earlier typically these resources are held all rights reserved with no public access. These legacy resources can all be shared openly by digitizing them and licensing them with a Creative Commons license. This one activity alone, which essentially costs zero additional dollars, leverages and makes available for reuse a large body of existing resources and begins to fulfill your obligation to give the public what it paid for.
Step 2: Adopt an Open Policy: As a publicly funded agency adopt an open policy associated with all future funding grants you award. In this open policy require deliverables from funding awards be openly licensed and made available digitally to the public. (There are lots of existing model policies you could use to create your own open policy including: US Department of Labor’s TAACCCT grant policy and the California Community Colleges Board of Governors Chancellors Office policy)
Step 3: Open License by Default: Adopt a Creative Commons CC BY license as default. This license makes all content (such as curricula developed by developers, marketing and student recruitment resources, etc.) shareable with the public that paid for it. Commercial use of the resource is allowed. The resources can be reused, revised, remixed and redistributed allowing all interested parties to utilize it. Resource use requires attribution be given to the developer.
Step 4: Require Open Educational Resources: Base long term strategy for scaling and sustaining the food inspectors program on Open Educational Resources (OER). This enhances speed of updates, distribution, localization, and translation. It also significantly reduces costs for design, development, delivery, and participation.
Step 5: Use Open Design & Open File Formats: Require developers of the food inspectors training program to make use of existing OER as much as possible when designing and developing training programs. Emphasize the importance of developing all resources and OER as digital resources using open file formats to ensure they are editable and modifiable.
Step 6: Build Open Development Networks: Facilitate matchmaking between those looking for OER and those that have OER. Food inspection is a global need. Build a network of developers who all collectively work on shared food inspection OER they have a mutual need for and coordinate development of new resources across the network.
Step 7: Design for Open Pedagogy: Adopt teaching and learning methods that leverage the open nature of the learning resources and the open web (both resources and social networks). This includes connecting trainees to people and resources on the open web and having students actively modify and improve training materials.
Step 8: Open Delivery: Open up delivery to wide range of service providers who qualify in part based on their expertise in the above and a proven ability to use educational technology.
Step 9: Open Repository: Create a repository on the web, open to all, where openly licensed resources associated with the food inspectors training program are kept. Establish repository librarian like role for managing the collection of resources, ensuring they are appropriately tagged with meta-data (use Learning Resource Meta-data Initiative LRMI), and for curating collections of resources for multi-purpose use.
Step 10: Open Marketing and Recruitment: Develop (and openly license) marketing resources that recruit participants based on the unique value add (including cost/time savings and quality) associated with a food inspector training program that uses open models.
Step 11: Open Analytics: Openly publish a set of analytics/data that define program success. (Analytics could be associated with learning, completion, costs, networks, …) Openly license (using CC0) and transparently report out analytics/data on an ongoing basis.
Step 12: Open Access: Publish any research results that come out of studies done on the food inspectors program and the analytics using Open Access (OA). Provide free, immediate, permanent online access to the full text of research articles for anyone, webwide. This can be done using open access research journals (the golden road of OA) or through archiving articles in open repositories or on the open web (the green road of OA).
Step 13: Open Community: Build an open community around the training including students, developers, suppliers, graduates, … Engage open community in contributing to improvement of the training program, and formation of local, regional, national, and international partnerships.
I know this is a very specific example. But I hope it conveys something of the spreading open thinking that can come to bear on traditional practices. Combining open policy, open educational resources, open access and all the other forms of openness described above increases the overall impact and benefits associated with the approach. Limiting adoption of openness to just one small area also limits impact.
Perhaps by now you’re going OK, I see how new open models can be useful in the public sector but I’m in the private sector how do open models work for me? How can I use open models and still make a living?
New Open Models in the Private Sector
New models for a new year is one of those gifts with multiple presents inside. This is a gift that just keeps on giving. We’ve unwrapped new open models in the public sector, lets look at examples in the private sector. I’ve grouped these examples by industry sector. At the end of each example I’ve provided, in italics, a mini description of how they earn revenue.
The Noun Project: The Noun Project is a platform empowering the community to build a global visual language of icons and symbols that everyone can understand. Icons are designed and contributed by designers from around the world. All icons are licensed using Creative Commons and free to use as long as attribution is given to the creator. Pricing and money comes in to play if you want to use the icons without giving attribution.
Flickr: Flickr is one of the largest photo management and sharing platforms in the world. Flickr lets you store, sort, search and share photos online. Flickr provides Creative Commons license options right from within the platform. Many Flickr users have chosen to offer their work under a Creative Commons license, and you can browse, search and download their photos under each type of license. At http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons you can see the more than 280 million Creative Commons licensed photos users have contributed. Use of Flickr is free but each user is given a maximum limit of 1 terabyte of storage. If you want more than that you have to pay. If you want your photo collection to be ad free you have to pay for a Ad-free subscription account. Flickr also provides printing services for a fee.
Pixabay: On Pixabay you may find and share images free of copyrights. All pictures are published under Creative Commons public domain deed CC0. Sponsored images are shown to finance Pixabay and to provide a choice of professional photos. Sponsored images cost money.
Jonathan Worth, a professional photographer explains how open benefits photographers; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/8623680/How-the-Power-of-Open-can-benefit-photographers.html
Jamendo: Jamendo offers more than 350,000 free music tracks licensed under Creative Commons, all available for streaming and unlimited download without ads. It allows the public to discover thousands of artists of all genres who have chosen to distribute their music independently outside the traditional system of collecting societies. Jamendo artists can choose to join the Jamendo PRO service that allows them to sell commercial licenses of their music for professional uses, such as music synchronization for audio-visual productions or broadcasting in public spaces. You can search for music on Jamendo using the CC Search tool or directly on the Jamendo web site.
ccMixter: ccMixter is a community music site featuring remixes licensed under Creative Commons where you can listen to, sample, mash-up, or interact with music in whatever way you want. One out of six uploads to ccMixter are used in a YouTube video, Flickr moving image, podcast, compilation album and thousands of other places all over the web. ccMixter is ad free and free to creators and listeners. Funding is generated through sales of memberships to artists clubs giving you an inside access and experience with the artist including access to things like Digital-LPs, CD-quality downloads, private blogs and other unique things you can’t get anywhere else.
SoundCloud is a social sound platform for people to create and share music and sounds. Recording and uploading sounds to SoundCloud lets people easily share them privately with their friends or publicly to blogs, sites and social networks. Many SoundCloud songs and sounds are licensed with Creative Commons. Use the url http://soundcloud.com/creativecommons to see SoundCloud sounds and songs licensed with Creative Commons. Certain features of the Platform are only available to registered users who subscribe for a “Pro” or “Pro Unlimited” account. These paid accounts provide extensive stats such as count plays, likes, comments, downloads, who’s playing your sounds and where they are.
MuseScore: MuseScore: provides free and open source software that allows musicians to quickly create sheet music. They also provide a space where you can share your sheet music and comment on others. MuseScore lets people share music under all rights reserved or openly license their music using Creative Commons licenses. For a fee you can get a “pro” account where you have unlimited storage, detailed stats on how popular your scores are, and no ads.
Jonathan Coulton: a professional musician who uses open business models. See The New Music Biz: Cracking the Code to Online Success video explaining how he does this.
Books & Manuals
Boundless: Boundless is building an innovative learning platform by curating the world’s best open educational resources in 20+ subjects and delivering interactive learning tools to college students. Students at thousands of colleges are ditching expensive textbooks and discovering Boundless Learning Technologies that go way beyond traditional books. Boundless textbooks are available for free download as a .pdf. Boundless makes money from advertising embedded in the free, online education materials on their web site. Paid premium access gives you access to the book in their learning platform across multiple channels, including mobile, website, and iBooks.
Pratham Books: Pratham Books has been a front-runner in adopting a Creative Commons licensing framework and in the last 5 years has released over 400 stories and hundreds of illustrations under a Creative Commons CC BY or CC BY-SA license. Their vision is to put ‘a book in every child’s hand’. It makes money by selling hard copy print versions. Because the books are licensed with CC licenses other organizations and individuals have converted their books to audio, Braille, and DAISY giving visually impaired access to the books and saving Pratham the cost of doing so themselves.
Autodesk: In July 2013 Autodesk announced that its Media & Entertainment (M&E) support and learning content for its 2014 product line is now live and available under Creative Commons (CC) licensing; that equates to 20,000 pages of documentation, 70 videos and 140 downloadable 3D asset files. Autodesk also plans to publish product help materials, its Knowledge Base and Discussion Forums, as well as past and future training content from Autodesk University under the Creative Commons model. This is all part of Autodesk’s ongoing support of students’ pursuit of careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Autodesk’s goal is to ensure the next generation of designers, engineers and digital artists have great training and free access to the same software that professionals use every day. Autodesk makes its money from its software.
Cory Doctorow: Cory Doctorow is a science fiction author with a vast amount of work under his name. Cory, as a very early adopter of Creative Commons, has been producing Creative Commons licensed works since 2003 with the publication of the first CC licensed novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. See Cory’s views on openness in Giving it Away chapter in Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright and the Future of the Future
YouTube: YouTube has built into its platform the option of posting a video to YouTube using a Creative Commons license. As of July 2012 the YouTube Creative Commons video library contained over 4 million videos from organizations such as C-SPAN, PublicResource.org, Voice of America, and Al Jazeera. From the YouTube home page if you type in your search term followed by a comma and then “creativecommons” the videos returned are CC licensed. http://www.youtube.com/creativecommons lets you see the most viewed and most reused Creative Commons licensed videos. Not only can you can mark your videos with a Creative Commons license when uploading them to YouTube you can also incorporate the millions of Creative Commons-licensed videos on YouTube when creating your own videos using the YouTube Video Editor. Within the YouTube Video Editor you can click on the CC tab to find content available under a Creative Commons license. YouTube and its users make money through advertising.
Vimeo: Vimeo makes it easy to upload and share videos. You can share a video publicly or privately. Vimeo is also a community platform enabling you to pick filmmakers you want to subscribe to, receive updates from, and send messages to. Many Vimeo entrepreneurs and artists use Creative Commons licenses to gain exposure, widespread distribution, and secure a return on their creative investment. Vimeo has integrated Creative Commons license choices right into their platform. For a fee Vimeo provides users with ftp and dropbox integration, mobile/tablet/TV compatibility, customizable video player, html5 compatibility, etc. Vimeo On Demand supports users interested in renting or selling their videos. Vimeo’s Tip Jar lets fans to show their appreciation for videos with small cash payments to the creator.
For more on filmmakers use of new open models see: CC Filmmakers and Festivals Change the Rules
IBM. See A history of IBM’s open-source involvement and strategy for a description of their thinking.
Red Hat: Red Hat provides a portfolio of products and services in support of enterprise adoption of Linux open source software. Red Hat provides solutions to more than 90% of the Fortune 500 companies. Open source software makes vendor lock-in a thing of the past. Linux is free open source software. Red Hat makes its money providing support, consulting, and training services for that software.
Android: Android is open source software and Google releases the source code under the Apache License. According to Wikipedia as of November 2013, Android’s share of the global smartphone market, led by Samsung products, has reached 80%. The open source nature of Android lets third party’s rapidly produce apps. As of May 2013, 48 billion apps have been installed from the Google Play store, and as of September 3, 2013, 1 billion Android devices have been activated. The software is free and open, the phones, tablets and other devices using the software cost money – as do many of the apps.
figshare: figshare is a platform that allows researchers to publish all of their data in a citable, searchable and sharable manner. All figures, media, poster, papers and multiple file uploads (filesets) are published under a CC-BY license. All datasets are published under CC0. figshare offers unlimited storage space for data that is made publicly available on the site, and 1GB of free storage space for users looking for a secure, private area to store their research. Users of the site maintain full control over the management of their research whilst benefiting from global access, version control and secure backups in the cloud. For a fee figshare provides users with larger private storage, larger file size limits, and collaborative spaces. figshare also does custom-branded spaces for institutions for a fee.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of all private sector corporate entities using new open models, merely a sampling. There are many more. But you can see that open models do not preclude revenue generation and earning a living. New open models can be very successful business strategies.
Fundamental Building Blocks of New Open Models
There is one more part to this gift that lies at the very core of new open models. The gift within the gift. Lets unwrap the fundamental building blocks on which new open models are built.
New open models are built on three fundamental building blocks – digital, free, and open. There are lots of models that use just one or two of these building blocks but the new emerging models I’m referencing use all three.
The bits and bytes of digital things are fundamentally different than the atoms of physical things. Technology advances are rapidly increasing bandwidth, storage, and computing processing speeds. Semiconductor chips roughly double the number of transistors they hold every eighteen months. The number of bytes that can be saved on a given area of hard disk doubles every year. The speed at which data can be transferred over a fiber-optic cable doubles every nine months. At the same time costs associated with processors, storage and bandwidth halves at the same rate. The digital building block uniquely provides faster, better, cheaper. At a practical level the costs to store, copy and distribute digital things like images, music, books and data begins to approach $0. The physical realm of atoms and the economics associated with it are based on scarcity. Digital enables abundance. Scarcity in the digital realm is almost always artificially created.
As the cost of digital approaches $0 it becomes possible to provide everyone digital resources for free. Furthermore if I have something that is digital and I give you a copy of it, I still have it. This is dramatically different than what happens in the world of physical things. The free building block involves shifting your strategy from conserving resources as scarce commodities to treating them like an abundant commodity. Free enables scale. With technology advances giving us more for less the free strategy spreads costs over a larger and larger base of users. Free is the best way to reach the biggest possible market and achieve mass adoption. If the marginal cost of distribution is free you might as well leverage and multipurpose your resources as much as possible by putting them out there in as many different ways as possible. Of course not everything is free as we’ve seen from the examples above. But the free building block is an essential component of new models. The more people use the free digital resource you provide the more you can build complementary services and products around it. Typically the provision of free to all is funded by complementary products and services that a subset of users pay for.
Open is different than free. When things are open you can modify them, use them in whole or in part, improve them, localize them, translate them, and customize them to fit your need and purpose. Just because something is digital and free doesn’t mean it is open. There are lots of free digital things that are closed prohibiting the freedoms and permissions inherent in open. Open adds additional value by permitting change and participation in the act of creation. Open uniquely leverages the network of users by making them active participants in improving and advancing a product or service. The open strategy involves giving up control. Open sees users not just as passive consumers but as active and creative producers – co-creators if you will. Open tends to level the playing field between professionals and amateurs. New open models are not so much based on a “I know what is best” command and control strategy as a collectively we know what is best egalitarian approach. Open invites everyone to actively engage and contribute their knowledge and expertise.
As we enter 2014 I’m excited about new models built on digital, free, and open. Its the combinatorial effect of the three that has such innovative potential. I see in that potential great hope for a better world.
Happy new models for a new year.
Filed under: Creative Commons, Innovation | Tags: citizen inquiry, crowd learning, education innovation, forvo, free cultural works, free culture, free software, freedoms, galaxy zoo, Innovating Pedagogy, maker culture, maker faire, MOOCs, open source definition, P2Pu, right2remix, stack exchange, Webmaker
In the recently released video Recoding Innovation: Free Software – Free Culture, Larry Lessig says the development of a free culture movement came from asking the question “How do we hack the free software movement and turn it into a free culture movement?”
This led me to frame my own question, “How do we hack the free software and free culture movements and turn them into a free education movement?”
Free software and free culture are based on ethical principles of freedom.
With free software the aim is to ensure users control their own computing rather than programs controlling users. Non-free software is under the control of someone else making you dependent on them. Free software liberates your cyber-world giving you as much control as you want.
Software is free software if people who receive a copy of the software have the following four freedoms:
- The freedom to run the program for any purpose.
- The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
- The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits.
Free software expresses and grants these freedoms to others using a set of licenses, the most popular of which are:
- GNU General Public License
- GNU Lesser General Public License
- BSD License
- Mozilla Public License
- MIT License
- Apache License
Free software starts with a fundamental understanding that the best software builds on software that came before. Developers can only make a new idea useful by combining it with what came before and working together to improve and innovate. Inherently those involved in free software place a high value on community and working collectively to ensure freedom.
But its important to understand that free software is a matter of liberty, not price. As the saying goes, “Think free speech, not free beer.” Indeed the free software that lies at the heart of the Internet, and the individual control it gives us, has created vast economic and social value. New Zealand’s banning of software patents is not anti-business. If anything it acknowledges the criticality of free software principles as a driver of the economy in the digital age.
Free culture shares a similar ethic to free software. In the digital world everything we do involves making a copy. Every time you surf the web the pages you visit are “copied” to your screen. In the analog era writers, performers, publishers, and broadcasters were the primary cultural producers. The digital era has placed tools of creation in the hands of all users making everyone creators of cultural work.
Free culture aims to ensure users control their own creative process and actively create culture. Non-free culture is under the control of someone else. Free culture liberates creative processes giving individuals more control. Free culture empowers individual creation, democratizes culture, and ensures we all have the freedom to create and participate in culture.
Like free software, free culture provides users with a set of freedoms. Free culture freedoms are derived from those of free software. Free Cultural Works are works or expressions which can be freely studied, applied, copied and/or modified, by anyone, for any purpose. The Free Cultural Works definition describes the freedoms associated with free cultural works as:
- the freedom to use the work and enjoy the benefits of using it.
- the freedom to study the work and to apply knowledge acquired from it
- the freedom to make and redistribute copies, in whole or in part, of the information or expression
- the freedom to make changes and improvements, and to distribute derivative works
Free culture expresses and grants these freedoms to others using a set of licenses. Of the six Creative Commons licenses only two are considered free cultural works licenses:
Free culture views sharing and building on the work of others as fundamental freedoms inherent to creative practice. Free culture places a high value on community. At a time when Hollywood, the music industry, and publishers are trying to control culture, free culture is empowering individuals to take control of their creative expression. Free culture invites all people to participate in creation and re-creation of culture. Free culture takes culture out of the control of a few and places it in the hands of many.
But its important to understand that free culture is a matter of liberty, not price. Free culture is not anti-business. Free culture principles like those of free software are drivers of the economy in the digital age. The recently launched Right2Remix initiative in Europe presents the case well. The Right2Remix manifesto says:
We live in an age of remix. Creativity and culture have always drawn from previous works, but with the Internet and digital technologies, the creative re-use of works has been taken to a whole new level. More people are able to edit and share a greater range of works than ever before. More than ever, it has become clear that “everything is a remix!”
Right2Remix goes on to say:
In the classic notion of originality, the new creation tended to disguise the old beyond recognition. The core characteristic of the remix as a cultural practice, however, is that the old remains visible within the new. The remix is a creative copy that is readily identified as such. Since creative copying has become commonplace, the right to remix is a fundamental requirement for freedom of expression and free speech. We formulate the right to remix as a combination of three creative rights:
- The right to change works during usage and to publish the results. (Transformative usage right(s) with lump-sum compensation, e.g. background music in mobile phone videos)
- The right to create and to publish remixes of existing works. (Remix right(s) with lump-sum compensation, e.g. fake trailer for a TV series)
- The right to commercialize remixes, in exchange for appropriate compensation. (Remix commercialization right(s) subject to compulsory licensing, e.g. selling music mash-ups on iTunes)
Notice how Right2Remix acknowledges compensation. I especially like the way it invites those who sign the petition to also provide a link to their favourite remix.
The focus of both free software and free culture is on freedoms that empower individuals. If we are to successfully transfer and apply free software and free culture principles to education it is imperative the focus remain on freedoms and empowering individuals.
Let me hack the language of free software and free culture and apply it to education.
Free education’s aim is to ensure you control your own education and learning. Non-free education is under the control of someone else making you dependent on them. Free education liberates your learning giving you as much control as you want.
Free education has the following four freedoms:
- The freedom to access and use education for any purpose.
- The freedom to study and change education to make it fit your needs.
- The freedom to distribute your own education knowledge base so you can help your neighbor.
- The freedom to improve education, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits.
Inherent in free education is a high value on community as there is an interdependence on others working collectively to ensure freedom. Free education starts with a fundamental understanding that the best education builds on education that came before. You can only make education useful by combining it with what came before and working together. Free education views sharing and building on the work of others as fundamental freedoms. Free education empowers individuals to take control of their education and invites all people to participate in creation and re-creation of education. Free education takes education out of the control of a few and places it in the hands of many.
As I consider this hacked description of free education I’m struck by the focus on empowering individuals. In education there are individuals that have knowledge and skills and individuals that seek knowledge and skills. In education we call the former teachers and the latter students but if we follow the freedoms that free software and free culture espouse we’d do away with this artificial distinction. In free education we all are both teachers and students.
Free software and free culture leveled the playing field making it possible for everyone to improve software and participate in the creation of culture. Are innovations in education equally leveling the playing field?
Open educational resources (OER), open access, MOOCs, open policy, and open data are all current education innovations that are at least partly derived from free software and free culture principles. However, these innovations emerged from and are being driven by government, institutions, business, and faculty. Students are surprisingly absent as creators and active participants in these innovations. Instead students are largely seen as tangential beneficiaries and passive recipients. This is limiting the impact and potential of free software and free culture-like innovations in education. If the principles of free software and free culture are to truly transform education the focus needs to shift to empowering students.
This is easier said than done of course. At this point the locus of power and control in education rests with education systems – ministries, schools, colleges, universities, teachers and administrators. Access to education is limited, competitive, and costly. As a result any student who manages to gain access to education tends to simply comply with what the system tells them they must do for fear of losing their access. However, if we want to leverage lessons learned from free software and free culture we’d be well served focusing on empowering students with freedoms.
As with free software and free culture it’s important to see free education as a matter of liberty, not price. This critical distinction has long been a source of confusion.
In the free software movement large software vendors initially viewed the concept of freely distributed software and universal access to application source code as a loss of intellectual property and threat to their business. In addition, despite free software’s emphasis on free being about freedoms there were many who interpreted free software to mean “no cost”. In the late 1990’s there was a concerted effort to apply free software ideas and benefits to the commercial software industry. The social activism and freedom focus of the free software movement did not appeal to most companies and a way to rebrand the free software movement to emphasize the business potential of sharing and collaborating on software code was sought. The new rebranding name that emerged was “open source” and this was quickly adopted. Today large software vendors like IBM, Oracle, Google, and Microsoft are active developers in open source software.
Proponents of Open Source Software sought to dump the moral ethical freedoms focus of free software which they found confrontational and focus instead on the pragmatic business model for software development and marketing. Toward that end an Open Source Definition of open source software was created that shifted from describing freedoms to expressing the conditions that must be met for something to be considered open source software. The Open Source Definition has ten conditions.
I think its fascinating to see that in education the innovations are named Open Educational Resources (OER), Open Access, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Open Policy, etc. Open, and the conditions that must be met for something to be open, largely dominate the discussion – not freedoms. Further muddling matters is the reality that some of these innovations, like MOOCs, are simply free of cost and don’t meet the conditions of openness as David Wiley so aptly describes. To curb open-washing I expect we’ll eventually see a set of requirements that must be met before something is certified as open similar to those required for food to be deemed organic.
I am a strong advocate for the open education innovations but increasingly frame their importance and their future sustainability by examining them from the perspective of freedoms. So lets look at education innovations through the frame of freedoms.
cMOOCs definitely embody both openness and many of the freedoms I think free education is about. As Michael Caulfield notes in his xMOOC Communities Should Learn From cMOOCs post:
“When you finish a cMOOC, your relationships with members of that course don’t end. You don’t keep in touch with all 10,000 people, of course, but people in a cMOOC often cite the valuable relationships they fostered in the cMOOC as one of the big takeaways. These people end up part of their permanent Personal Learning Network, as members of their twitter feed, as tumblr or blogger friends, as emailable resources, etc. On the other hand, much xMOOC social connection seems to die at the end of the course, and not persist in any useful way.”
cMOOCs value community in the same way free software and free culture do.
Free education innovations are primarily taking place outside formal education systems.
Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) is a grassroots open education project that organizes learning outside of institutional walls and gives learners recognition for their achievements. P2PU creates a model for lifelong learning alongside traditional formal higher education. Leveraging the internet and educational materials openly available online, P2PU enables high-quality low-cost education opportunities. P2Pu focuses on learning for the people, by the people on almost anything. Three core values guide everything P2Pu does: openness, community and peer learning.
Webmaker is a Mozilla project with the goal of encouraging millions of people around the world to move beyond using the web to making it. Webmaker is a combination of tools, teaching & learning, and community.
I read through the Open University’s Innovating Pedagogy 2013 report with my education innovation as freedoms frame and found a number of intriguing examples.
Let me quote descriptions from that report of emerging pedagogy that embody and put in to practice some of these freedoms:
Crowd learning describes the process of learning from the expertise and opinions of others, shared through online social spaces, websites, and activities. Such learning is often informal and spontaneous, and may not be recognised by the participants as a learning activity. In this model virtually anybody can be a teacher or source of knowledge, learning occurs flexibly and sporadically, can be driven by chance or specific goals, and always has direct contextual relevance to the learner. It places responsibility on individual learners to find a path through sources of knowledge and to manage the objectives of their learning. Crowd learning encourages people to be active in setting personal objectives, seeking resources, and recording achievements. It can also develop the skills needed for lifelong learning, such as self-motivation and reflection on performance. The challenge is to provide learners with ways to manage their learning and offer valuable contributions to others.
Stack Exchange is a growing network of individual communities, each dedicated to serving experts in a specific field. Stack Exchange builds libraries of high-quality questions and answers, focused on each community’s area of expertise. User contributions are licensed using a Creative Commons Share Alike license.
Forvo is the largest pronunciation guide in the world. On Forvo you can ask for how a word or name is pronounced and another user will pronounce it for you. You can also help others by recording your pronunciations in your own language.
Maker culture encourages informal, shared social learning focused on the construction of artefacts ranging from robots and 3D-printed models to clothing and more traditional handicrafts. Maker culture emphasises experimentation, innovation, and the testing of theory through practical, self directed tasks. It is characterised by playful learning and encourages both the acceptance of risk taking (learning by making mistakes) and rapid iterative development. Feedback is provided through immediate testing, personal reflection, and peer validation. Learning is supported via informal mentoring and progression through a community of practice. Its popularity has increased due to the recent proliferation of affordable computing hardware and 3D printers, and available opensource software. Critics argue it is simply a rebranding of traditional hobby pursuits. Proponents contend that recent evolutions in networking technologies and hardware have enabled wider dissemination and sharing of ideas for maker learning, underpinned by a powerful pedagogy that emphasises learning through social making.
Maker Faires are happening all over the world.
Rafi Santo’s post Maker Faire 2012: Nerdy Derby as Inspirational Pedagogy provides a good analysis of how this method of education stacks up against the classroom.
Citizen inquiry refers to mass participation of members of the public in structured investigations. It fuses the creative knowledge building of inquiry learning with the mass collaborative participation exemplified by citizen science, changing the consumer relationship that most people have with research to one of active engagement. The concept is that people who are not research professionals engage in collaborative, inquiry based projects. For each investigation, they gather evidence of similar successful projects, create a plan of action, carry out a controlled intervention if appropriate, collect data using desktop and mobile technologies as research tools, and validate and share findings. Citizen inquiry not only engages people in personally meaningful inquiry, it can also offer the potential to examine complex dynamic problems, such as mapping the effects of climate change, by means of thousands of people collecting and sharing local data.
There are many examples of this. Here is just one:
Galaxy Zoo is a web-based citizen science project that use the efforts and abilities of volunteers to help reseachers deal with the flood of data that confronts them. Galaxy Zoo provides a data set made up of a million galaxies imaged by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and engages citizens in classifying them. More than 50 million classifications were received by the project during its first year, contributed by more than 150,000 people.
I highly encourage you to read the entire Innovating Pedagogy 2013 report to get the full picture.
* * * * * * * *
As you filter through the media hype surrounding education innovations and attempt to determine what is important and what isn’t, I hope you’ll join me in recoding education innovations as freedoms.
Education innovations should:
- empower us to control our own education
- engage us as both students and teachers
- create community
- encourage us to build on existing knowledge – remixing, adapting and improving it
- distribute community built knowledge bases as public goods shared with and accessible to all
Filed under: Open Access | Tags: BioMed Central, Directory of Open Access Journals, FASTR, Finch Report, gold open access, green open access, National Institutes of Health Public Access, OpenDOAR, PLOS, ROAR, SPARC, We the People petition
January 11, 2013 Aaron Swartz committs suicide.
The year 2013 starts on a somber note, an open wound.
I never met Aaron but I found it interesting to learn he was involved with the launch of Creative Commons.
Those who come before you leave a legacy.
So Open It Hurts provides a sense of Aaron’s personality and significant events in his life. This video of Aaron describing his personal involvement in the defeat of SOPA adds his presence, humour, and sense of intelligent innocence.
Aaron was a strong advocate for open access. His troubling and sad death has led to a rise in public awareness of open access. As part of Open Education Week 2013, and in the spirit of Heather Joseph’s Honoring an “Open” Activist by Taking Action, I thought I’d take responsibility to cast forward knowledge of open access, in my own way, through this post.
So what is this open access all about?
Open Access is the principle that research should be accessible online, for free, immediately after publication.
The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), an international alliance of academic and research libraries, has some great papers, guides and resources on open access. Their Open Access paper notes:
In the age of print, open access was physically and economically impossible. But thanks to the Internet, it’s an emerging reality. Now, the tradition of producing journal articles without expectation of payment combined with electronic publishing offers an unprecedented public good: the free online availability of peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly journal articles.
You may not have realized that research isn’t openly accessible.
What, you’re saying, you mean publicly funded research isn’t openly accessible?
That’s right, it isn’t.
Farhood Manjoo in his Slate post How MIT Can Honor Aaron Swartz describes the current situation like this:
The world’s colleges now collectively spend at least $10 billion and probably more than $20 billion every year on subscriptions to academic journals and archives like JSTOR. Even worse, those costs are rising at an astronomical rate—by one calculation, the amount that a typical college library spends on annual journal subscriptions rose by more than 300 percent between 1986 and 2005, much faster than inflation, tuition, and most university budgets. (Note that this was during a period when many journals went electronic—a time when you’d expect their costs and, thus, their prices to go down, not up.) These prices keep rising because the market for journals is inelastic—since there’s no substitute for any specific journal, whatever price it charges, universities feel like they’ve got to keep paying. This is all explained very well in a paper called “The High Cost of Scholarly Journals (And What To Do About It),” which I’d recommend you read if it weren’t behind a pay wall.
The amount universities spend on journals is especially perverse when you consider that most of the research in those journals was produced by scholars affiliated with and supported by universities, government agencies, and philanthropic endowments, all of whom have an interest in spreading scholarship far and wide. When you stop to think about it, the whole process looks Rube Goldbergian: People who work for universities and are funded by the public are giving their work away to journals for free—and then the journals are charging universities to buy it back. They’re making enormous profits from the scheme, too. For instance Elsevier, one of the leading publishers of scientific journals, routinely reports profit margins of around 37 percent.
Michael Eisen in his post How academia betrayed and continues to betray Aaron Swartz further elaborates:
Although most academic research is funded by the public, universities all but force their scholars to publish their results in journals that take ownership of the work and place it behind expensive pay walls.
Centuries ago, when printing and mailing paper journals was the most efficient way to disseminate new knowledge, a symbiotic relationship developed between scholars, who had ideas they wanted to share, and publishers, who had printing presses and the means to convey printed works to a wide audience. Transferring copyright to publishers, which protected their ability to recover costs and profit from their investment, was a reasonable price for authors to pay to further their disseminating mission.
But with the birth of the internet, scholars no longer needed publishers to distribute their work. As NYU’s Clay Shirky has noted, publishing went from being an industry to being a button.
Had the leaders of major research universities reacted to this technological transformation with any kind vision, Swartz’s dream of universal free access to the scholarly literature would now be a reality. But they did not. Rather than seize this opportunity to greatly facilitate research and education, both within and outside the academy, they chose instead to reify the status quo.
Instead of encouraging their faculty to make their work widely available, virtually all universities send the unmistakable message to current and aspiring faculty that success in their career depends on publishing in the most high profile place you can. Since the most prestigious journals are generally old, this edict has the effect of stifling innovation in scientific communication. While countless alternatives to the traditional model have arisen, academics in most fields are reluctant to embrace them, fearing that doing so would harm their career prospects.
It is hard to account for this abdication on a university’s basic mission to produce and disseminate knowledge as anything but institutional laziness, as universities essentially farm out responsibility for screening job and promotion candidates to journals.
Absurdly, as soon as the scholarly output of our universities is in the hands of publishers, they immediately buy it back, spending billions of scarce institutional dollars every year in subscription and licensing fees to provide access to students and faculty, but leaving everybody else out in the cold.
Posting our PDFs is all fine and good, but the real way to honor Aaron Swartz is to combat this pervasive institutional fecklessness and do everything in our power to make sure no papers ever end up behind pay walls again. We have to demand that our universities alter their policies to reward, rather than punish, free scholarly publishing, and that they stop cutting the checks that keep this immoral system afloat.
Above all else we need to enshrine the principle that the knowledge produced in the academy is a public good whose value is greatly diminished by turning it into private property.
So eloquently put.
And yet so shocking, almost shameful.
You mean research funded by the public, isn’t available to the public?
You mean universities don’t embody the principles of open access?
Yes, I’m afraid so, that is what this means.
But that’s wrong, you say.
Well some go so far as to say it’s immoral!
In a digital age open access is completely feasible.
Efforts to realize open access are underway.
Lets explore whats involved in going open access and progress toward that end.
Peter Suber’s Open Access Overview gives a really good summary of the ways and means of Open Access.
But let me start with practicalities.
How does one openly publish research?
Currently there are two main means of going Open Access.
1. Green Open Access (Self Archiving)
Green open access means self-archiving. Authors archive pre-prints (draft, uncorrected versions) and/or post-prints (the final version as it will be published) in repositories. Open Access repositories are institutionally based (OpenDOAR and ROAR are directories of institutional open access repositories), or connected to specific disciplines, such as arxiv for Physics or RePEc for Economics. When institutions host Open Access repositories, they take steps to ensure long-term preservation. Repositories can be searched with tools such as Google Scholar, and OAIster. Green Open Access involves authors publishing their work in any journal and then self-archiving a version of the article for free public use.
2. Gold Open Access (Open Access Publishing/Journals)
Gold open access refers to open access publishing, particularly in journals. Open access journals, usually electronic journals are available to readers free of charge and openly accessible on the Internet. These journals aren’t behind a pay wall and don’t charge a subscription fee. Instead they employ different methods of paying for the publishing including sponsorship, grants, advertising, and submission fees charging the author-institution for refereeing/publishing outgoing articles instead of charging the user-institution. Two well-known open access publishers include BioMed Central (BMC) and Public Library of Science (PLoS) but there are many more. There are thousands of peer-reviewed journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals.
Scientists and scholars are not directly paid for their journal articles. They write journal articles to advance knowledge in their fields and their careers.
Journal publishers have historically required scholars to transfer copyright to the publisher before they will publish their work. Standard practice is for authors to sign a restrictive publication agreement, often called ‘copyright transfer agreement’, that essentially transfers copyright from the author to the publisher. Through this transfer authors give up rights and must ask permission from the publisher green open access their work. However, publishers only need permission to publish an article, they do not need to control the copyright as well.
SPARC has developed the SPARC Author Addendum, which is a “legal instrument that modifies the publisher’s agreement and allows you to keep key rights to your articles.” Scholars are encouraged to retain copyright through use of this addendum so they can post it in an green open access online repository.
Interestingly, most publishers (60+% according to Suber) already permit green open access. However many authors fail to take advantage of the opportunity. Funders and institutions who are in a position to put in place policy that ensures open access for 100% of published work by grantees and faculty have not stepped up to do so.
It’s puzzling why academics, institutions and funders don’t take action around open access. For scholars dissemination and citation of research work generates metrics on which their personal reputation and merit are based. Open access generates more readers, more recognition and more research impact. Astronomy researchers who made their Astrophysical Journal articles open access doubled the citation rate of their articles. Scientists who chose the open access option when they published in Limnology and Oceanography had approximately three times more downloads. (see SPARC’s Open Access paper for references). The most highly cited articles are open access. Open access increases the impact of research work, shortens the delay between acceptance and publication, and makes articles easy to find and use. Open access research work is visible to search engines and retrieval tools.
And its not just citations from other researchers that matter. Open Access makes research work available to anyone. Students who read and rely on scholarly publications are not locked out of accessing work their library doesn’t subscribe to. Faculty who assign literature readings as part of course packs can choose the best research articles available. Open access promotes sharing knowledge for the public good. Those who rely on research for innovation and economic development can advance faster.
The booklet Greater Reach for Your Research points out that;
“Research is more valuable when it’s shared. Sharing enables new research to build on earlier findings. It not only fuels the further advancement of knowledge, it brings scientists and scholars the recognition that advances their careers. In the digital world, the ways we share and use scholarly material are expanding – rapidly, fundamentally, irreversibly.
Exact measures of how much of the worlds research is currently available through open access are difficult but studies show approximately 20% of research is available through green open access and 2-17% available through gold open access. (References here, here, here, and here.) Despite the obvious benefits only a small percentage of research is available through open access.
But things are changing and going open access is picking up speed.
Open Access by the Numbers provides a great synopsis of progress, growth, and current status.
Landmark steps toward change go back a few years. In 2007 the US National Institutes of Health enacted a Public Access Policy that says:
“all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central an electronic version of their final, peer‐reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication, to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after official date of publication”
The NIH policy goes on to describe what is at stake with this policy listing:
- Opening up to the public 90,000 new scientific articles each year reporting research that U.S. taxpayers have funded through NIH’s annual 32 billion dollar investment in biomedical research.
- Putting current, quality research in the hands of scientists in industry and academia to accelerate the pace of discovery.
- Creating a central repository of biomedical information that serves multiple audiences from researchers to students, from doctors to entrepreneurs.
- Fostering progress towards the common goal of combating disease and improving health.
In 2008 the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) followed suit with their Open Access Policy. Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) have also taken steps in support of open access and collectively the three principal funders of research and scholarship have established guiding principles around public access to research results.
In the UK the 2012 Finch Report recommends publicly funded scientific research be made available online for anyone to read by 2014. See “Free access to British scientific research within two years“.
The US has a web site called We the People which provides an online way to petition the government to take action on a range of important issues facing the country. If a petition gets enough support, White House staff review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response. In 2012 a petition to require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research was created and rapidly generated over 65,000 signatures.
In February 2013 the government responded with a directive to Federal agencies that requires those with more than $100 million in research and development expenditures to develop plans to make the results of federally-funded research publicly available free of charge within 12 months after original publication.
At the same time a Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) is before Congress and making its way through the House and Senate. As SPARC explains in its SPARC Applauds White House for Landmark Directive Opening Up Access to Scientific Research press release “The Directive is a major achievement for both open access and open government. We should now take the next step and make open access the law of the land.”
As Peter Suber points out in his Second shoe drops: new White House Directive mandates OA the two approaches complement each other.
The early days of open access have focused on science but other academic domains are following suit.
Project Aims to Bring PLoS-Style Openness to the Humanities
The Open Library of Humanities, (launched in Feb-2013) and
Mathematicians aim to take publishers out of publishing.
Open access is clearly transforming the publishing and public access of research. Two aspects of open access that continue to be refined are the need for, and duration of, an embargo period and the open licensing of research to permit reuse. Science publishing: Open access must enable open use makes the case for reuse.
Creative Commons licenses have emerged as the standard for licensing research articles. This chart from the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association shows growth in use of Creative Commons CC-BY license
Aaron Swartz’s suicide generated much sorrow leading many to question the status quo.
Was Aaron Swartz right? Aaron Swartz Was Right.
Has the scientific journal industry been disrupted? After Aaron, Reputation Metrics Startups Aim To Disrupt The Scientific Journal Industry.
Will MIT honor Aaron and other open activists? How MIT Can Honor Aaron Swartz.
Will others take action like Nina Paley? Ahimsa: Sita Sings the Blues now CC-0 “Public Domain”.
For me Aaron Swartz’s suicide led to introspection and this exploration of open access. Writing this post has been a kind of eulogy and a revelation. Higher education has often been defined as having three distinct functions – research, teaching, and community service. As I see things now open access is central to research, open educational resources to teaching, and the overall principles of open the basis of community service.
Filed under: Creative Commons, Digital Economy, Innovation, Open Educational Resources (OER) | Tags: Artists, creative commons, Creative Commons Canada, Crowdfunding, economics, OER, open access, Open Education Conference, open textbooks
Some personal highlights:
The BC Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation, and Technology open textbook announcement. This initiative will support creation of open textbooks for the 40 most popular first and second-year courses in the province’s public post-secondary system. The open textbooks will be openly licensed and made available for free online, or at a low cost for printed versions, to approximately 200,000 students. I’m especially pleased that BCcampus will lead the implementation of this initiative engaging B.C. faculty, institutions, and publishers through an open request for proposals. Tony Bates’ excellent blog provides additional insight and I personally am hopeful that some coordination can happen between BC and California where, in late September, Governor Jerry Brown signed two bills that provide for the creation of free, openly licensed digital textbooks for the 50 most popular lower-division college courses offered by California colleges.
Giulia Forsythe’s graphic facilitation skills wonderfully captured the BCcampus OER Forum events too. See – BCcampus OER Forum Summary.
The Open Education Conference was fantastic this year. The jam-packed program had an amazing array of sessions organized around micro-themes including – world wide initiatives, business models, open textbooks, open assessment, alternate credentials, social media and OER, data and analysis, and open from a wide range of perspectives including legal, faculty, students and librarians. Open has clearly gone beyond content and is pervading the entire education sector. The conference web site program has presentation materials and audio streams from sessions. I encourage you to explore them and see for yourself how open education is evolving. A stand out highlight was the evening dinner boat cruise with an awesome OpenEd music jam featuring attendees plus Gardner Campbell and John Willinsky, two of the keynote presenters. A conference where the keynote speakers rock out – my kind of conference! Enjoy it yourself:
Special thanks to Novak Rogic for these awesome videos.
While there is a great deal to assimilate coming out of all these events, I find myself thinking about matters from the Creative Commons Canada Salon that took place in Vancouver 15-Oct-2012.
This event featured a panel of practicing artists sharing how and why they use Creative Commons licenses for their works. I found the remarks of documentary filmmaker Ian MacKenzie especially intriguing. Ian referenced the gift economy, alternative ideas on money and the public commons from the book Sacred Economics, and crowdfunding.
Here’s why this is occupying my thinking. There is a natural inclination to think that Creative Commons open licenses are in opposition to financial remuneration. The thinking goes like this: “If I license my creation in a way that gives others permission to freely access and use it I’m forgoing financial compensation associated with charging for access and use.”
As I consider this I am puzzled by what I see in education.
Lets say I’m an educator employed by a public educational institution. My salary is essentially paid for by public taxpayer dollars. Given the way the economy works – if you pay for a good you get that good, it’s natural to expect that works developed by the educator should be freely accessible for use by the public. Yet this is not the case. Course materials educators create during their publicly paid for employment are not freely available to the public that paid for them. Shouldn’t public funds result in a public good?
But, you might say, it takes money to make the course materials educators create available to the public. This is true, but digital changes the economics of doing so. With digital the cost of copying is close to $0. The cost of distributing digitally is close to $0 as was so eloquently laid out by David Wiley in his presentation at the BCcampus OER Forum. See David Wiley’s presentation in it’s entirety Why Open Education and OER, and their implications for higher education institutions.
Lets try a different example. Lets say I’m faculty engaged in research. I apply for research grants from the national government and use those grants to conduct my research. When I complete that research the results ought to be available to the public who paid for them. But, and this is what I find puzzling, public access to the results of research requires another payment of public money in the form of a journal subscription fee even when the journal is digital. Given that the peer-review process is also supported through public funds, the public ends up paying for something three times, as Dieter Stein outlined in his keynote “Open access: effects and consequences in the management of scientific discourse.” at the University of British Columbia’s Open Access Week. The public 1. pays the scientist, 2. pays to publish, and 3. pays to buy publication. Why does the public have to pay three times?
For more on this I highly encourage you to watch Open Access Explained? from PHD Comics.
See why I’m puzzled? The economics underlying public education are not in line with our expectations of how economies work and, even more puzzling, aren’t in the best interest of the public who is paying for it.
But let me come back to my earlier point. There is a natural inclination to think that Creative Commons open licenses are in opposition to financial remuneration. The thinking goes like this: “If I license my creation in a way that gives others permission to freely access and use it I’m forgoing financial compensation associated with charging for access and use.”
At least in the context of someone being paid by public funds an open license that gives others permission to freely access and use the work isn’t in opposition to financial remuneration. The financial remuneration took place. The Creative Commons license ensures the obligation to the public is fulfilled.
However, what if we look at this from the perspective of an artist, a writer, a musician, a filmmaker. I’d expect artists to be thinking, “I made this and if anyone is going to make money on it it’s going to be me.”
Is it possible to openly license your creative work and still make a living?
I keep coming back to this question as it seems fundamental and generalizable to everyone.
Special thanks to Martha Rans for ensuring it stays front and centre in my thinking.
And so with this question on my mind I paid special attention when Ian Mackenzie spoke at the Creative Commons Canada salon.
My exploration of Ian’s remarks around the gift economy, alternative ideas on money, the public commons and crowd funding took me in interesting directions. Here’s a bit of what I found.
Sacred Economics is a radical rethink of societal values, the role of government, and the commodity we use as money. It envisions decentralized, self-organizing, emergent, peer-to-peer, ecologically integrated expressions of political will. Government becomes the trustee of the commons including “the surface of the earth, the minerals under the earth, the water on and under the ground, the richness of the soil, the electromagnetic spectrum, the planetary genome, the biota of local and global ecosystems, the atmosphere, the centuries-long accumulation of human knowledge and technology, and the artistic, musical, and literary treasures of our ancestors.”
Sacred Economics imagines an ecology of money with many complementary modes of circulation and exchange. In a sacred economy, money goes to those who “contribute to a more beautiful world – for community, for nature, and for the beautiful products of human culture.”
I’m not doing the Sacred Economics justice. There is much to admire and ponder in this work. For a more complete synopsis I encourage you to view Ian Mackenzies video on Sacred Economics.
I also ended up checking out a Policy Agenda for the Sharing Economy.
Ian has developed expertise with crowdfunding to the extent that he now offers consulting, strategy sessions and workshops on crowdfunding. His web site has a great list of crowdfunding resources and platforms. The crowdfunding platform listing is particularly interesting as it differentiates general crowdfunding platforms from specialized ones dealing with things like Business, Environmental, Scientific, Social Causes & Non-Profits and hey, even Education! Did you know that Scolaris crowdfunds personal scholarship fundraising?
How about Degreed? Degreed is crowdfunding to create the world’s first Digital Lifelong Diploma, which will ‘jailbreak’ the degree and enable learners to reflect everything they’ve learned, from any source, throughout their lives.
At Kickstarter there is a whole section devoted to artists who are seeking and getting remuneration for their Creative Commons licensed work. See http://www.kickstarter.com/pages/creativecommons.
As I consider larger world events around financial markets, bailouts, and countries massively in debt or bankrupt it makes we wonder whether indeed our current economic model and it’s underlying financial system is serving us well. Clearly a sharing economy, alternative forms of money, and crowdfunding are changing social norms. Whole new conventions around getting paid, raising money, and making an investment are emerging.
Creative Commons licenses are situated within this changing landscape. As I explore the financial remuneration opportunities associated with use of Creative Commons licenses it’s important to point out that Creative Commons license options specifically offer creators choices around licensing their work in ways that provide others with permissions that specify commercial or non-commercial use. An artist who openly licenses their creative work with a Creative Commons license can do so in a way that specifies that users can copy, adapt, modify, publish, display, publicly perform and communicate the work but only for non-commercial purposes. This ensures any financial remuneration coming from the work goes to the creator. On the other hand it encumbers the work with restrictions that may prevent users from using the work in innovative and entrepreneurial ways which the creator could benefit from downstream.
There are a great many differing opinions out there around the suitability of different Creative Commons licenses for different use cases. In fact this is a hotly debated topic right now. See:
- Students for Free Culture (SFC) blog post: Stop the inclusion of proprietary licenses in Creative Commons 4.0.
- Creative Commons blog post: Ongoing discussions: NonCommercial and NoDerivatives
- OKFN blog post: Making a Real Commons: Creative Commons should Drop the Non-Commercial and No-Derivatives Licenses
- Richard Stallman post: On-line education is using a flawed Creative Commons license
I especially appreciated David Wiley’s observations on these discussions in a 27-Nov-2012 Oer-community post where he commented:
“Just as there is not One True License, there is not One True Perspective on this debate. A few examples:
- Some people look at OER issues from the perspective of the content, and some see them from the perspective of the people who use the content. Content-p drives people to favor SA licenses, to insure that derivatives of the content always remain free. People-p drives people to reject SA, so that derivers always remain free to license their derivatives as they choose. Which is the One True Perspective?
- In this thread we have already seen people who view NC from the perspective of the licensor and others who see NC from the perspective of the licensee. Licensor-p sees NC as enabling and facilitating commercialization. Licensee-p sees NC as forbidding commercialization. Which is the One True Perspective?
- As we’re also seeing on this thread, we can look at OER from the perspective of Access to content (without which permissions granted by licenses are meaningless) and from the perspective of the permissions granted by Licenses. I recently discussed these two perspectives in more detail on my blog (http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/2596). Which of these perspectives is most important? Which is the One True Perspective?
- As a final example, some people look at “open” from the perspective of a Bright Line test, while others take a more Accepting perspective. Bright Line-p enables people to make clear distinctions between what is and what is not open. Accepting-p enables people to recognize and value movements toward becoming more open, without passing judgments on people who “aren’t there yet.” Which of these is the One True Perspective?
…LICENSING ARGUMENTS ARE ARGUMENTS OF PERSPECTIVE. When we argue that one particular way of licensing is better than others, we’re really arguing that one perspective is better or truer than others. In other words, whenever we make an argument that says “everyone should use a [free | NC | etc.] license,” we are making a _religious_ argument – an argument which dictates the perspective by which we think everyone else should be judged.
When we move licensing outside the realm of religion, we can recognize the … importance of perspective. We can also realize that, depending on the peculiarities of a specific context and the personal or organizational perspectives of a specific licensor, different licenses will be optimal under different circumstances.
It would be great if the world were simple enough that One License to Rule Them All could exist, but it doesn’t. I wish to Heaven we would stop arguing about it, and just respect individuals and organizations to understand their own contexts, goals, and perspectives sufficiently well to pick the license that best meets their needs.”
There clearly are two sides to the open licensing equation. On one side is the creator or licensor of the work. On the other side is the user or licensee of the work. Openly licensing creative works entails considerations of both. Personally I prefer a range of licenses that provide creators choice in specifying open permissions and limitations. One assertion I’d make is that the more open the license the greater the market participation and the greater the innovation opportunity.
As you can tell I’m very interested in understanding the business models associated with open licensing. There is so much more to explore but let me close this post with a couple of additional examples of how Canadian artists are using Creative Commons licenses.
Brad sells direct from his own website. You can buy the CD & all the MP3s or just the MP3s as a whole album or individually. Brad recommends a price for each but Brad offers flexible pricing – you can type in whatever price you’re willing to pay or download all the MP3s for free. Brad licenses the whole thing with a Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA) license and encourages you to copy and share with your friends.
In his blog about the album he says:
“The only reason I, a dude who made an album by himself in a country basement, has had any sort of success is because people took it upon themselves to share my music with their friends. They remixed it, they used it in their videos, they played it on their podcasts, they included it in software and games and it took on a life of its own.
To sabotage that would be a huge, retarded mistake. Instead I’ll be grateful if Out of It worms around the world in even close to the same freaky way I Don’t Know What I’m Doing did and continues to.
Anyway, this is a long way of saying I love you Internets. Thanks for all your support and I hope you like Out of It.”
Hmmm, interesting. One way artists are making this work is by going direct to fans via the web. The Internet and digital formats change the economics reducing the need for middle men publishers and distributors. Personally I’d prefer as much financial remuneration for artistic creative works as possible go directly to the artist so I’m thinking this is a positive direction overall. It’s also fascinating to see flexible pricing and encouragement of copying.
One final example. Celine Celines based in Montreal has started a new company of open fashion. Using open data and Creative Commons (CC-BY) licensed images from NASA Goddard Photo and Video’s Flickr photostream her first collection is a series of silk scarves. The Hubble images captured on silk are beautiful – see for yourself at her online boutique gallery. This is an interesting example of a user/licensee, Celine, making a creative work out of a creator/licensor NASA image in a way I expect NASA never imagined.
I’ve only just begun to explore the possibilities.
The range of business models and opportunities is vast and varied.
Lots more to come in future blog posts.