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.
Filed under: Creative Commons, Innovation, Open Educational Resources (OER) | Tags: BCcampus OER Forum, CC Canada Salon, MIT, MOOCs, Open Education Conference, Open Knowledge Fest, Open Policy Institute, open textbooks, openstax, saylor, School of Open, SEDTA
It’s great to be immersed in all things open at Creative Commons. My colleagues are very tapped in to open efforts around the world and a steady stream of news and developments flow across my screen every day. Actually steady stream is an understatement – it’s like drinking from a firehose. Let me share with you a few of those sips.
Open Textbooks are hot. At a time of economic and financial constraint with students are taking on more and more debt it’s worth seeking solutions that save governments and students money. There is an economic argument for open.
Earlier this year we saw OpenStax College release Physics, Sociology, Anatomy & Physiology, and Biology free open textbooks targeted for use with high enrolment undergraduate intro courses. See:
Rice University And OpenStax Announce First Open-Source Textbooks
Why Pay for Intro Textbooks?
Online Schools.org released a great info graphic Open Source (The Affordable Future of College Textbooks)
In late September California 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. The textbooks developed will be made available under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY) allowing others to use, distribute, and create derivative works based upon the digital material while still allowing the authors or creators to receive credit for their efforts.
20 Million Minds created a fascinating info graphic Embracing the Future: Free College Textbooks showing the benefits associated with this initiative.
Turning up the heat the Association of American Publishers put out a This Road to “Free” is Paved with Misinformation news release and AAP’s Roadmap to Misleading Infographics giving their analysis of the 20 Million Minds infographic. Leading to the PR Newswire story Publishers announce roadblocks to CA’s Open Road to Free College Textbooks where 20 Million Minds replies.
Clearly the publishing industry is in the midst of change similar to that of movies and music. I’m amazed that the publishing industry does not see open as an incredible business opportunity. The publishing industry’s historical role is to select expertise, support content creation which they then vet, edit and assemble into well designed, engaging formats, with high production values which they then market, sell and distribute. The publishing industry is being handed a gift – millions and millions of dollars of vetted high quality content available to them to freely use for business purposes. Sure this is a disintermediation of parts of the publishing industry supply chain. However, there is still a huge need for the curating, assembling, designing, creating engaging activities around content, and the assembly of content into formats that are then marketed, sold and distributed. I’d like to see the publishing industry stop bemoaning their fate and be less adversarial to these innovations. The publishing industry has a huge opportunity in front of them and ought to embrace the greater diversity of expertise being made available to them for free and innovate new forms of publishing that better support market needs.
In the K-12 space open textbooks are emerging in a slightly different context. In Sept 2012 the State Educational Technology Director’s Association (SEDTA) released Out of Print: Reimagining the K-12 Textbook in a Digital Age. This fascinating report describes how digital formats impact student learning and engagement and support personalized learning. Profiles of how different States are adopting digital policy and practices are outlined including initiatives that seek an approach that modular, flexible digital resources that don’t lock the entire class into a rigid sequential learning structure. In K-12 there is the potential, especially around Common Core curriculum to develop new digital resources that are used for subjects like Math and English Language Arts across many states.
And open textbooks aren’t just happening in the US other parts of the world are making similar initiatives. See Digital School program with open textbooks approved by Polish government! for a European example.
This past summer has seen a flurry of activity around MOOC’s as new education initiatives like Coursera, EdX, Udacity and others seek to reach thousands of learners by providing free access to education. Consider this ambition for large class sizes against long traditions of strike action by teachers over class sizes and enrollment limiting practices – proximity, marks, and money.
For me MOOC’s are a form of open pedagogy and I found George Siemens’ MOOCs are really a platform of interest for the way it differentiated connectivist cMOOCs from the newly emerged xMOOCs. While both MOOC types provide free access cMOOCs emphasize creation, creativity, autonomy, and social networked learning while xMOOCs emphasize a more traditional learning approach through video presentations and short quizzes and testing. As George puts it “cMOOCs focus on knowledge creation and generation whereas xMOOCs focus on knowledge duplication”.
In September 2012 Sir John Daniel, during his time as a Fellow at the Korea National Open University (KNOU), wrote a research paper Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility. In this paper Sir John examines the state of MOOCs today across a range of dimensions. Sir John makes a number of wonderfully provocative observations particularly around credentialing where he notes the MOOC dilemma that what decides whether or not a student can obtain a degree is determined not by their mastery of the courses, but by the admissions process to the university, which he calls “untenable nonsense”.
A little over a year ago Scott Young set himself a challenge. He committed to learn the entire 4-year MIT curriculum for computer science, without taking any classes. How is this possible? Well Scott tapped in to MIT’s OpenCourseware. You can see the rules he set for himself and his learning progress here.
On September 26, 2012 after 11 months and 26 days Scott finished the last project and exam for the MIT Challenge. Over that period of time he completed 33 courses including passing final exams and completing the programming projects. Check out The MIT Challenge is Complete to hear his summary of what he learned.
Given the discussion around the MOOC credentialing it is interesting to contemplate whether Scott should receive or even wants some certification/credential recognition from MIT.
When it comes to learners engaging in study using Open Educational Resources and formally receiving academic credit for their accomplishments the OERu and its growing list of academic partners are leading the way. I expect the OERu will be the first to solve this conundrum in a way that works for students around the world.
Year of Open Source
Scott Young’s story is an interesting example of someone pursuing personal and professional development through intensive immersion in open educational resources. Here’s another story of someone setting themselves a year long open challenge.
As described in his press release, Berlin-based filmmaker Sam Muirhead is abandoning all copyrighted products and switching to open source software, hardware, and services for one year, as the subject of his own series of online documentary videos. He aims to raise awareness of open source projects and methods, and get people from outside the tech world interested and involved in Open Source.
Over the course of his year of open source Muirhead will make his own Open Source shoes, jeans, toothbrush and furniture (and release the designs for others). He’ll be using Open Source educational methods to learn Turkish, avoiding food grown from copyrighted seed strains, and abandoning Apple software.
When asked what he hoped to achieve by only using Open Source solutions for everything in his life, Muirhead stated, “Open source is a fascinating way of collaborating, of creating, and working together for common goals, but it’s seen by most as something only relevant to software. By bringing it into ‘real life’ and adapting it to everyday purposes, I hope to get people thinking about how Open Source could work in their lives.”
Open Knowledge Festival
In September 2012 the first ever Open Knowledge Festival was held in Helsinki Finland. I didn’t attend but I found the topic streams of particular interest:
- Open Democracy and Citizen Movements
- Transparency and Accountability
- Open Cities
- Open Design, Hardware…
- Open Cultural Heritage
- Open Development
- Open Research and Education
- Open Geodata
- Open Source Software
- Data Journalism and Data Visualization
- Gender and Diversity in Openness
- Business and Open Data
- Open Knowledge and Sustainability
I like this expansive and comprehensive list of the way open is manifesting itself and impacting so many dimensions of society and culture.
Open Policy Institute and School of Open
On October 3-5, 2012 Creative Commons hosted a convening of open experts from around the world on an Open Policy Institute and School of Open. I was fortunate enough to be a participant along with colleagues from a range of organizations such as Mozilla, Wikimedia, OECD, SPARC, FSF, OKFN, P2PU, OCWC, and others. Thought people might find these initiatives of interest so here’s a snippet about each.
Creative Commons developed an Open Policy Institute one page description that says:
“Open policy advocacy efforts are generally tied to specific institutions or bodies of government, and as a result are decentralized and disconnected from similar initiatives. Moreover, there is little emphasis on sharing knowledge between these entities, despite their common goals.
Institutions and governments around the world frequently reach out to Creative Commons, seeking assistance to develop strategies to increase the adoption of open policies. The need for support and leadership around open policies was amplified at Creative Commons’ 2011 Global Summit, when affiliates from 35 countries called for a central hub where open policies could be shared and discussed.
Early adopters of open policies have created knowledge resources that could be broadly useful, but because these resources are not widely disseminated, momentum for adoption in other locales is hindered. Open policy advocates and supporters are calling for centralized access to existing open policies, sample legislation, and action plans for how they were created and enacted.”
Input into the Open Policy from participants was wide and deep. While much work remains to be done it’s clear the Open Policy Institute will bring together best practices, policy models, effective strategies and resources to help governments, institutions and advocates make the case for why and how to implement open policies.
Two repositories of open policy already exist. The ROARMAP is a registry of open access policy and the Open Educational Resources (OER) Policy Registry, is a database of current and proposed open education policies from around the world.
It would be great if the Open Policy Institute develops/showcases policy for each of the following:
- national government
- state/provincial government
- municipal/city government
- school district policy
- college/university/school policy
- organizational policy (e.g.. libraries, museums, galleries, …)
I’d even like to suggest there is policy that can be adopted at the individual level, but then your target audience starts to include everyone. However, there is a tendency to see policy as the responsibility of government only. By providing policy for a broad target audience we can empower all entities no matter what level to take some initiative around policy. This creates a scenario where policy is happening top down, bottom up, and diagonally at the same time.
My colleague Jane Park at Creative Commons is doing an awesome job of creating a School of Open in partnership with Peer2Peer University. Jane developed a one pager on the School of Open that says:
“The School of Open will provide online educational resources and professional development courses on the meaning and impact of “openness” in the digital age and its benefit to creative endeavors, education, research, and beyond. Individuals and organizations will learn how to use free technology and tools, such as Creative Commons licenses, to achieve their goals. Participants will also learn how to overcome barriers they run into everyday due to legal or technical restrictions.
Universal access to and participation in research, education, and culture is made possible by openness, but not enough people know what it means or how to take advantage of it. We hear about Open Source Software, Open Educational Resources, and Open Access… But what are these movements, who are their communities, and how do they work? Most importantly—how can they help me?
Learning about “open.”
The School of Open will offer courses on the meaning and application of “open” on the web and in offline environments. Courses will be powered by mentors and learners like you, and will be organized into study groups that leverage free and open resources and tools for collaboration. Artists, educators, learners, scientists, archivists, and other creators already improve their fields via the use of open tools and materials. So can you. A long-term objective for the School of Open is to offer certification on the skills learned, so that you can help others take full advantage of what the digital age has to offer. Current courses include Teach someone something with open content and Get CC Savvy.”
Big thanks need to go out to the international participants who all contributed great ideas for the future development and enhancement of the Open Policy Institute and the School of Open.
Creative Commons Canada Vancouver Salon
Before I left BCcampus to join Creative Commons I helped relaunch the Creative Commons Canada Affiliate. I’m thrilled to see the Creative Commons Canada web site launch and look forward to participating in the Creative Commons Salon Vancouver – October 15th featuring a panel of practicing artists who will share how and why they chose to use Creative Commons licenses for their works including a discussion on the changing landscape of creative practice, intellectual property and participatory culture.
This event if free and open to anyone interested in attending. Hope to see you there!
Open Education Conference
I’m super pumped for the 9th annual Open Education Conference taking place in Vancouver this year October 16-18, 2012. It has been a privilege this year to be part of the planning and program committee along with a bunch of people I admire. The theme this year is Beyond Content which is reflected in the program micro themes:
- Alternative Credentials
- Business Models
- Data and Analysis
- Developing and using OER
- Institutional Adoption
- Legal Aspects of OER
- Librarians and OER
- Open Assessment
- Open Textbooks
- Social Media & OER
- Student Perspective
- The Unexpected
- Theoretical Underpinnings
- Transformation, and
- World Views
The Remixathon brings focus to a relatively untapped aspect of OER – the fact that open licenses allow for remixing and creation of derivative works. We thought it might be interesting in the spirit of hackathons to organize a remixathon. Conference attendees were asked to submit OER for the opportunity to be remixed. We got lots of great submissions so from October 12 through Oct 18 we’re hosting a remixathon in SCoPE. The remixathon kicks off with a Blackboard Collaborate webinar where each person who submitted OER describes the resource along with envisioned enhancements. The SCoPE discussion forums will allow face-to-face and virtual participants to discuss and share enhancements over the ensuing week. We’ll showcase the before and after OER on the last day of the conference.
The Pitchfest idea is similar to that of someone making a pitch to venture capitalists (think SharkTank or Dragon’s Den). The basic idea is that many people are looking for others to adopt, utilize or otherwise invest social or financial capital in their Open Education initiative. At 3:45pm on Tuesday October 16th at the Open Education conference people representing projects, companies and ideas will have 4-5 minutes a piece to make their best pitch to the audience. You can see a list of who is making a pitch and what their pitch is about here.
To cap it all off this years Open Education Conference is having an OpenEd12 Jamcamp on a special boat cruise we’ve organized. I’m expecting to shake a leg and maybe even sing or play. I’d love to be the brass section for this bunch – where is my old trumpet anyway?
BCcampus OER Forum
I’m proud to be facilitating the BCcampus OER Forum for senior BC post-secondary institution representatives in Vancouver on the afternoon of October 18, 2012. The objectives of the session are to develop a common understanding of what OER could mean for BC and build a shared vision of how to develop and use them. The session will also consider ways BC can take advantage of the promise of open educational resources and open textbooks.
Having worked on open initiatives at BCcampus from 2003-2012 prior to joining Creative Commons I really hope that this event builds out a strong interest and direction. We’ve organized a fantastic key speaker (David Wiley) and panel (Alan Davis, Cable Green, Brian Lamb) asking them all to suggest “action plans” for BC. The BCcampus OER Forum is a wonderful opportunity to put on the table real action plans for institutions, heads of teaching and learning centres, VP’s/Presidents, and government. Action can be small or big, policy or practice, cost or no-cost. Action can be something an institution pursues autonomously or done in collaboration with others across the BC system and globally. This event provides us with the opportunity to move BC forward so hearing action plan recommendations will be very helpful for the Ministry, for institutions, and for BCcampus. Can’t wait to see what emerges.
For me, across these events, open is a gathering force. Not just in education. I sense a greater strength in breadth of impact across cities, design, culture, research, democracy, journalism, and business. Perhaps not a fire hose, a rising tide?
Filed under: copyright, Creative Commons, Open Educational Resources (OER) | Tags: access copyright, BCcampus, Bill C-11, copyright, creative commons, OER, Supreme Court
Packed up my office at BCcampus, took down the artwork, threw away the small amount of paper archives I had, loaded up the pickup truck, and closed the office door behind me. Thus ends almost 9 years at BCampus – the longest I’ve worked anywhere.
Judging by whats in the truck it’s amazing how small a footprint I’ve had. A rug, an odd ToDo chair that has been my place of work (instead of a desk), and a lamp that I like beside me – especially in the dark rainy days of winter.
On the other hand I’ve been sent e-mails by many people across BC’s post-secondary system expressing thanks and saying I’ve been an inspiration. Oh my, maybe that footprint is bigger than I think. To be honest I’ve been surprised by what many people have said in their e-mails to me. I had no idea they felt that way or thought those things – in some respects I wish I’d known!
BCcampus has been an amazing learning experience for me and I’m grateful to my senior management team colleagues, the entire BCcampus staff, the Ministry of Advanced Education, and the broader network of connections I’ve made across higher education. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to help create BCcampus and believe it has become a world class innovation that is both an inspiration and an accomplished provider.
My career has followed an adult learning and educational technology trajectory, for which there has been no career path. All of us in educational technology are inventing our own careers and so I’m particularly delighted with this most recent turn as my career path leads me to Creative Commons. I’m taking everything I’ve been doing at BCcampus and moving it up onto an international level where I hope to have more impact. I look forward to engaging with others who are adopting open willingly, strategically, and with some excitement.
I’ve written extensively in this blog about my own personal experiences with Open Educational Resources and with the open movement more broadly. I’ve come to see “open” as a fundamental change not only for education but for society and the world at large. I can imagine a world where the sharing efforts of all raise the bar on standards of living and create a new global economic future based not so much on growth but on better global use of collective works.
This blog has been quiet over the last few months as I’ve been dealing with the practicalities of wrapping up BCcampus work and making arrangements for my new role at Creative Commons*. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have some off grid time at Pacific Rim National Park near Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island where life was barefoot in nature, walking the beach, and riding boogie boards in the big surf. Time immersed in nature with no phone, no e-mail, no computer, no TV is wonderfully liberating and I came back rejuvenated and raring to go.
While I haven’t written much I have been following with great interest a number of significant developments including:
- AUCC, ACCC, and Canadian university and college settlements with Access Copyright
- Passing of new Canadian copyright legislation
- Canadian supreme court ruling on copyright cases
- UNESCO Paris OER Declaration
- Adoption of MOOC’s by elite universities and for profits – edX, Coursera, Udacity, …
- UK and European adoption of open access requirements for publicly funded research
- developments around Creative Commons version 4 and release of new Creative Commons license generator
Thought I’d get back in to the swing of things by writing a short synopsis on some of these:
AUCC, ACCC, and Canadian University and College Settlements with Access Copyright
Most countries have copyright collectives – organizations which collect royalties or payments from licenses, performances, and even blank media, for the ostensible purpose of distributing it to copyright holders, creators, or engaging in activities which benefit copyright holders or creators. In Canada we have Access Copyright. Back in June 2010 Access Copyright proposed new interim tariffs that would raise the fee they collect from post secondary institutions across Canada from about $5/student to $35/45 per student. Amazingly this was proposed without business case financial justification and without any disclosure of the catalog of works in both print and digital form that they represent. In addition Access Copyright expanded definitions of what a copy is in highly contentious ways and mapped out extensive reporting and access requirement expectations.
Access Copyright’s proposed interim tariffs, new copyright definitions and reporting requirements were met with widespread objections from CAUT, ACCC, AUCC, CLA, Canadian Alliance of Students, and others. I wrote about this development in Jan 2011 Access Copyright’s Royalty Demands Spark Interest in OER. By May 2012 at least 34 Canadian colleges and universities had opted out of Access Copyright.
In January 2012 the University of Toronto and the University of Western struck special deals with Access Copyright agreeing to an interim tariff rate of $27.50. This was met with considerable dismay Critics say universities paying to hyperlink is ludicrous such that the UofT Faculty Association Questions the Access Copyright Agreement.
In April 2012 the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) reached an agreement with Access Copyright agreeing to interim tariff rate of $26. Amazingly this deal was struck secretly, behind closed doors, without communication with AUCC’s own members.
At the end of May 2012 Access Copyright Announces Agreement With the Association of Community Colleges of Canada on a Model Licence for $10 per student.
OK, let me see if I have this right, Access Copyright starts out saying the fee per student will be $35-45. They then negotiate agreements with various organizations for rates of $27.50, $26, and $10. The variation in rates is puzzling. There was no business case explanation for the initial interim tariff fee and there has been no explanation for the reduced fees. On what basis are these rates being set?
These agreements continue to be widely questioned – The Best Possible Outcome for Universities, Really?, Why Universities Should Not Sign the Access Copyright – AUCC Model Licence, A Bad Deal: AUCC/Access Copyright Model License Agreement with many calls for universities not to sign the agreement. Some universities, like the University of British Columbia had taken bolder more principled positions.
While I (and many others) are critical of the way Access Copyright is handling its mandate I want to be perfectly clear that I personally believe writers, artists, musicians and other creators should be fairly compensated for their work. An artists life is frequently one of poverty (aside from the mega hit makers) which I think undervalues their cultural importance. However, I question whether collection agencies like Access Copyright are really serving the needs of creators – a view somewhat substantiated by Brian Brett Speaks Out: An Open Letter on Access Copyright and the Canadian Copyright Emergency. Third party middle men intermediaries seem more intent on funding their own activities over those of the creator. As William Patry notes in his book How to Fix Copyright “The largest problems facing authors today are not unauthorized uses but the obstacles put in the way of buyers willing to pay for access to or copies of the work. I hope this changes as new web-based business models emerge that allow creators to get paid directly.
Passing of New Canadian Copyright Legislation
In June 2012 the Canadian House of Commons passed the Copyright Modernization Act Bill C-11 reforming Canadian copyright law. The new law has a significant impact on education expanding the conditions under which educators can use a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright holder. Changes in the new act include:
- Expansion of fair dealing to education, satire and parody. (Am I the only one who finds it deliciously amusing to find education lumped with satire and parody? I”m sure Canadian comedy shows like This Hour Has 22 Minutes and the Rick Mercer Report are pleased at the inclusion of satire and parody). Fair dealing allows educators to use copyrighted works for private study, research, criticism, review, and news reporting. There is no explicit definition of what fair dealing means. Essentially you have to use the Supreme Courts six criteria for evaluating fair dealing – 1. the purpose of the dealing, 2. the character of the dealing, 3. the amount of the dealing, 4. alternatives to the dealing, 5. the nature of the work, and 6. the effect of the dealing on the work. While these six criteria are useful, the lack of a clear definition means that for most educators fair dealing is, and will continue to be, vague and ambiguous.
- Non-commercial user generated content. The new act distinguishes between commercial and non-commercial use. Non-commercial user generated content gives educators greater liberty to create instructional materials (within the parameters of fair dealing) as long as the use is non-commercial.
- Internet publicly available materials. This exception gives educators permission to reproduce and communicate works that are publicly available on the Internet. This will be a major relief for educators who are increasingly tapping in to digital web-based content. Under the new act this educational use of publicly available Internet materials is allowed as long as the audience is comprised primarily of students and the works in question are 1. legitimately posted by the copyright holder, 2. not accompanied by a statement prohibiting such reproduction, and 3. not protected by digital locks. This provision makes Access Copyright’s assertion that even a hyperlink is a copy for which users must seek permission seem bizarre.
- Public performances in schools. The new act allows instructors to display films and other media works in class, provided that the works have been acquired legitimately. This amendment lifts restrictions that required educators to acquire rights for public performance before they could show such materials. Coupled with the Internet publicly available material exception educators will now be free to include videos and other materials from sites like YouTube in their instructional materials.
- Technology neutral display exception in schools. The old act limited allowable technology reproduction to an overhead projector. The new act is more technologically neutral allowing for display via video projectors and other technological devices.
- Online transmission of lessons. The new act allows educators to create “fixations” (weird terminology given that a fixation often refers to someone with an obsessive attachment) of lessons and transmit these fixations to students over the Internet. In addition to weird language this exception has some strange requirements that are not particularly in line with pedagogical practice. The institution must destroy the fixation within 30 days after students have received their final course evaluations. And students are to be prevented from reproducing more than a single copy of the lesson for personal use which they too must destroy by the 30-day deadline.
For additional information BCLA has provided a Bill C-11 Guide for Academic Instructors that outlines how the new bill affects education. Michael Geist provides a good summary of the overall outcome including a side-by-side table comparing the old act to the new act The Battle over C-11 Concludes: How Thousands of Canadians Changed The Copyright Debate.
While these changes give educators more permissions and clarity on what is allowed and not allowed I still think the best way to avoid the copyright minefield is to use Creative Commons openly licensed materials whereby the copyright holder explicitly gives permission. Using Creative Commons licensed resources removes the fear of litigation that shrouds copyright.
Canadian Supreme Court Ruling on Copyright Cases
In July 2012, amidst the tumult of copyright deals and reform, the Canadian Supreme Court made rulings on five copyright cases. These rulings were made using the old copyright act not the new one which has yet to come fully in effect. Reading these rulings was a breath of fresh air – clear lucid thinking well argued.
One area of ruling was around the nature of fair dealing. As described above fair dealing lacks a clear concise definition. Sam Trosow does a nice job of analysing pertinent Supreme Court considerations and findings related to fair dealing – see SCC decisions provide clear guidance on fair dealing policies. The ones that stick out for me are:
- fair dealing is an important users right
- teachers share a symbiotic purpose with students/users who are engaged in research or private study. Photocopies made by a teacher and provided to students are an essential element in the research and private study undertaken by those students.
- “Private study” does not mean in solitude or geographically separate from the school. Students in a classroom can be engaged in private study.
- Research can be piecemeal, informal, exploratory, or confirmatory. It can in fact be undertaken for no purpose except personal interest.
Howard Knopf seems equally proud of the Supreme Courts rulings and provides a comprehensive summary at A Proud and Progressive Pentalogy Day in Canadian Copyright Law.
These Supreme Court rulings affect Access Copyright and the negotiated deals it has struck with various organizations. Clearly those deals are far more restrictive than necessary and in some cases have institutions paying fees for activities they are fully allowed to do under law. Michael Geist provides an interesting take in Why the Supreme Court’s Copyright Decisions Eviscerate Access Copyright’s Business Model.
Who knew that copyright had such high drama! Great potential for a TV series.
In tracking all of these copyright related activities I’ve come to appreciate the increasing involvement of the public and emergence of outspoken voices. I’m particularly thankful for the coverage and analysis the following people have provided:
Expect I’m not the only one who has learned a lot from these people.
While I admire and appreciate the analysis the above people are providing I’ve been surprised by the lack of coverage of open licensing using Creative Commons licenses as a means of cutting through the complex and often vague rights and permissions of copyright. If educators want to completely free themselves from being encumbered by copyright complications they should use and produce Creative Commons licensed resources instead. Doing so simplifies matters enormously.
As more and more organizations develop copyright guidelines and tools for faculty and staff to use (such as this one at the University of British Columbia http://copyright.ubc.ca) I look forward to side-by-side workflow diagrams that compare the process you must go through to ensure you are allowed to use something under copyright vs the work flow process you must go through to ensure you are allowed to use something that is openly licensed via Creative Commons. The copyright workflow will inevitably be comprised of innumerable steps with many if/then branches leading to stop signs or legal counsel interpretations of possible risk. The Creative Commons license workflow will be one step or, in the case of non-commercial and share-alike versions, two or three steps, after which it’s clear sailing with no legal counsel intervention and no risk.
UNESCO Paris OER Declaration
I’m not the only one seeing the potential for open licenses and open educational resources to create new models of education. In June 2012 the World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress took place in Paris, France. Organized by UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), the World OER Congress brought together Ministers of Education, human resource development representatives, senior policy makers, expert practitioners, researchers, students and others to:
1. Showcase the world’s best practices in OER policies, initiatives, and experts
2. Release a 2012 Paris OER Declaration calling on Governments to support the development and use of OERs
3. Celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 2002 UNESCO Forum that created the term OER
UNESCO member States unanimously approved the Paris OER Declaration (pdf).
This Declaration is the result of a yearlong process, led by UNESCO and the COL with regional and online meetings and final negotiations at the Congress. The Declaration recommends UNESCO member States:
a. Foster awareness and use of OER
b. Facilitate enabling environments for use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT)
c. Reinforce the development of strategies and policies on OER
d. Promote the understanding and use of open licensing frameworks
e. Support capacity building for the sustainable development of quality learning materials
f. Foster strategic alliances for OER
g. Encourage the development and adaptation of OER in a variety of languages and cultural contexts
h. Encourage research on OER
i. Facilitate finding, retrieving and sharing of OER
j. Encourage the open licensing of educational materials produced with public funds
Having received unanimous approval it will now be interesting to see how governments, institutions and other organizations adopt policies and practices in support of these goals. This is a whole new business model for education – one that brings with it social and economic benefits.
The Creative Commons Opportunity
Before going to start my new job with Creative Commons I thought I’d map out what I see as the opportunity sectors which are undergoing change through use of open licenses. I tend to think visually and create representations as one page visuals – here is what I came up with (you can click on this to make it bigger if you want):
Essentially I’m seeing activity and new public and business models emerge across:
- Open Educational Resources
- Open Access
- Open User Generated Creative Works
- Open Data
- Open GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, & Museums)
- Open Government
- Open Policies, Practices & Guidelines
- Open Licenses
- Embedding open license tools (like Creative Commons) in authoring and search engine platforms
- Open Standards, and
- Open Source Software
That’s a lot of open. The opportunity is large. Use and impact has only just begun. I’m looking forward to doing my part to grow the commons and by so doing generate global social and economic benefits.
(* 0941176 B.C. Ltd. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Creative Commons, the sole activity
of which is to provide services to Creative Commons and is operated separate from the Creative Commons Canada affiliate.)
Filed under: Digital Economy, Open Educational Resources (OER) | Tags: advertising, business case, business models, direct and indirect sales, donations, economic driver, economics, innovation, market, memberships, open educational resources, openeducationwk, services, subscriptions
Written for Open Education Week March 5-10, 2012
Open Educational Resources (OER) are materials used to support education that may be freely accessed, reused, modified and shared by anyone. OER include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, research articles, videos, and other materials used to support education. OER creators own the intellectual property and copyrights of the OER they create. However, they license the OER and make it freely available to others.
Every time I present the OER work I do at BCcampus I face questions from the audience:
“Why would a creator who holds copyright and intellectual property license it for others to freely access, reuse and modify for their own purpose?”
“Why would a creator give something away for free when it has inherent potential to generate revenue and income?”
“How does a creator earn a living giving away their work for free?”
“Why would an institution that relies on grants and student fees make core assets freely available to others?”
“Given the dire financial times countries, governments, and public education providers find themselves in why would we adopt this practice of open?”
“What is the business model of open?”
To those questions another one was added when David Porter and I were in Ottawa presenting the work of BCcampus broadly including the benefits of Open Educational Resources to Canada’s federal government.
The question we got asked there that stuck out for me is:
“How does open not only save money but act as an economic driver?”
The UNESCO / Commonwealth of Learning project Fostering Governmental Support for Open Educational Resources Internationally led by Sir John Daniel of the Commonwealth of Learning and Stamenka Uvalic-Trumbic is hosting a series of regional policy forums on OER for governments between now and the World OER Congress in June 2012. The purpose of these policy forums is to raise governments’ awareness of OER and their support for them, as well as getting input to the Declaration on OER and Open Licensing that will be put to the June OER Congress.
Shortly after returning from Ottawa Cable Green of Creative Commons sent out a request for responses to a question coming out of these policy forums:
“What is the business case for OER?”
I like all these questions.
Open needs to make financial and economic sense.
All of us involved in OER work need to be able to answer these questions directly.
We need to be able to state in simple, straightforward terms the economics of open.
So that got me to thinking that I should tackle these questions.
Someone needs to make a stab at generating answers.
So here goes.
Cable Green’s request for input into what the business case for OER is generated a flurry of responses and recommended readings on international OER list servs. I’ve gathered those readings into a What is the business case for OER? Collection which I’ve pasted at the end of this blog post. In addition my colleague Scott Leslie began assembling evidence of the economic benefits of many different kinds of open including open access research publishing, open source software, open standards, open data, and OER. I spent some time going through all these resources seeking to extract short straightforward statements that answer the question, “What is the business case for OER?” Here’s what I came up with.
- increase access to education
- provide students with an opportunity to assess and plan their education choices
- showcase an institution’s intellectual outputs, promote it’s profile, and attract students
- convert students exploring options into fee paying enrollments
- accelerate learning by providing educational resources for just-in-time, direct, informal use by both students and self-directed learners
- add value to knowledge production
- reduce faculty preparation time
- generate cost savings – (this case has been particularly substantiated for open textbooks)
- enhance quality
- generate innovation through collaboration
The business case for OER includes both cost savings and revenue generation. Making something open is not always a means of direct revenue generation. It often is indirect – because something is open it leads to a revenue opportunity that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. Using OER as a means to market reputation and institutional prowess can convince students to enroll. While better quality learning resources may not directly generate revenue they can lead to faster learning, greater learner success, or reduce drop outs. By their very nature OER can lead to new ways of education through more cooperation, collaboration, and partnerships between institutions. OER make totally new forms of education possible and bring new players into the education market.
I expect many of you may have additional short straightforward statements that answer the question, “What is the business case for OER?”. Welcome your statements as comments to this blog. I expect many more elements of the business case to emerge as the practice of open in education matures.
While the above statements provide a business case for OER they don’t completely answer questions associated with financial rewards to creators who share, or the business models of open, or how open acts as an economic driver. With the business case established lets move on to defining these other economic aspects of open.
The economics of open can be described from multiple perspectives. If I am a creator I describe it one way. If I’m a consumer I describe it another.
In education the way I describe the economics associated with open differs depending on whether I”m describing it from the perspective of a student, an instructor, a college, the education system of a region, or government of a nation.
The economics of open also differ depending on whether you are taking a public or private perspective. Education is both a public service and a for-profit activity around the world. In the public service context there is a very strong business case that publicly funded goods be made freely available to the public that funded them.
In the current OER higher education context “creators” are faculty and/or institutions. When you look at a question like “How does a creator earn a living giving away their work for free?”, in a public sector context the answer is partly that those in the public sector are already earning a living via salary derived from public taxpayer dollars. If they are already being paid by the public shouldn’t the educational work they are being paid to develop, whether it be research or educational resources, be freely available to the public?
After thinking a lot about which persona I should describe the economics of open for and which sector, public or private, I decided to discard these differentiations and focus in on how the economics of open generates benefits that accrue to all players regardless of who you are and regardless of whether it be for public service or for profit. My aspiration is for short direct answers that make sense to everyone.
To derive answers I started looking at things like open source software business models, the sharing economy, and how digitization and the Internet affect supply and demand. There is a lot to explore! I’ve taken it on as my challenge to show how the economics of open, as it plays out in other sectors, applies equally well to education. The language of business and economics is not always used in education. However, for the purpose of generating direct short answers that everyone understands I have chosen to use the language of business and economics in my answers.
Here then are my answers.
Open enables rapid market entry, market penetration, and market share.
We are all creators. Some take photos, some make music, some paint, some write. Most creators are interested in having others experience their work. However default copyright and IP laws tend to constrain access, dissemination and use. Openly licensing work reduces barriers to access and dissemination friction. Going open is a good way to make the market aware that you exist. When something is open it can be disseminated quickly and widely to people everywhere. You may have created a great work but if no one knows about it then its not generating you, or anyone else value.
A central reason for developing and distributing free open source software is that it enables fast entry into the market, rapid market penetration, and generates market share. When Google made the source code for Android open they wanted to make sure that there would always be an open platform available for carriers, OEMs, and developers to use to make their innovative ideas a reality. They also wanted to make sure that there was no central point of failure, so that no single industry player could restrict or control the innovations of any other. The single most important goal of the Android Open-Source Project (AOSP) is to make sure that the open-source Android software is implemented as widely and compatibly as possible, to everyone’s benefit.
Educational institutions who go open frequently report institutional impact in marketing terms.
Patrick McAndrew at the UK Open University in 2009 reported in his Learning from OpenLearn presentation that the the institutional impact from their OpenLearn initiative included:
- 3 million new “users”
- 232 countries
- 7700 “sign ups”
- 10 funded projects
- 30 collaborations
- established methods
- changed image
- won awards
- new plans
In October 2011 BBC News reported Open University’s record iTunesU downloads had reached 40 million and put the Open University alongside Stanford University for the most downloads.
In 2011 after ten years of open sharing MIT states it shared its OCW materials with an estimated 100 million individuals from over 200 countries worldwide. MIT’s goal for the next decade is to increase their reach to a billion minds.
The UK Open University, MIT, and Stanford all get that going open enables rapid market entry, market penetration, and market share. They’ve established first mover advantage in building up their market presence. For them going open is good business.
As the OER field moves forward I expect we’ll see data that shows increased enrollments where OER exists for courses and shows conversion benefits associated with students being able to try before they buy.
Open generates revenue through advertising, subscriptions, memberships, and donations.
When most people hear about open they find it hard to imagine how making something you own, open and free to others could possibly yield a financial benefit. Obviously you’re not going to generate direct revenue from a free resource. However, you can generate indirect revenue and there are lots of existing business models that already do so which education can emulate.
Google makes a search engine available to all Internet users for free. It makes its revenue from advertising.
Facebook provides a free social network platform that supports personal networks, friendships, and social movements. It makes its revenue from advertising.
Given the market valuations for Google and Facebook it’s clear that the business model of generating revenue from making something you own, open and free to others can generate large financial benefits from advertising. Both Google and Facebook have worked hard to make the advertising tolerable by personalizing and targeting it to match your interests and needs as closely as possible.
Advertising and education tend not to mix. There is a tacit understanding that education should be pure and not unduly influenced by something so crass as advertising. However, given the success of ventures like Google and Facebook I expect this will change. Already sites like Udemy have emerged. Udemy’s goal is to disrupt and democratize the world of education by enabling anyone to teach and learn online. They’ve built a platform that makes it easy for anyone to build an online course using video, PowerPoint, PDFs, audio, zip files and live elements. Students can take courses across a breadth of categories, including: business & entrepreneurship, academics, the arts, health & fitness, language, music, technology, games, and more. Most courses on Udemy are free, but some are paid. Paid courses typically range in price from $5 – $250. Udemy features advertising in their third column (aka Facebook) and takes a percentage of each course fee.
Its important to point out that sites like Google, Facebook and Udemy are not open in the full sense that I established at the beginning of this blog. Open in its fullest sense means education resources that are freely accessed, reused, modified and shared by anyone. While Udemy provides “free” access everything on the site is locked down by copyright and can not be reused or modified.
EdTech Frontier is built using WordPress open source software. Anyone can create a blog for free at WordPress.com. You get a whole array of free functionality – customizable design themes, ability to write posts, upload and embed photos and videos, stats dashboard, privacy options, complete hosting, … This free functionality is sufficient to get you going and may be all that you need. But for those who want more control you can subscribe to premium features. WordPress generates revenue from advertising so if you don’t want advertising you can remove ads from your blog for a low yearly subscription fee. Think about that for a minute – if its free you accept advertising, if you don’t want advertising you pay a fee. Additional subscriptions get you your own domain, extra storage, custom design, VideoPress, … The business model is very clear – basic for free, premium for a fee.
GoodSemester is an education platform that has adopted the same subscription model. GoodSemester is interesting in that it has been developed by students. They think that education deserves the collaborative power and ubiquity of the Internet, and they don’t understand how schools have gotten on for so long without some amazing tools we take for granted in other fields. GoodSemester is a course platform for students and teachers providing a means for developing and delivering online courses, notes, assignments, questions, discussions, groups and analytics. GoodSemester offers subscription plans for students and professors. While not exactly “free” GoodSemester is interesting for the way it has adopted business models from open source software entities like WordPress and applied them to education.
Memberhsips and Donations
Open initiatives like Wikipedia and Creative Commons are committed to the ideal of free and open with no restriction or influence from prospective advertisers. Accepting donations provides them with the independence they need to achieve their mission. Curriki the online community and wiki platform for teachers, learners, and education experts to share, reuse, and remix free quality K12 curricula uses both donations and memberships as a means of financing its work. Curriki membership is free to educators, but they ask a small annual membership fee from individuals who join Curriki representing for-profit entities. In exchange for a small annual membership fee, you can publish the Curriki logo on your Web site and let the world know you are a corporate member! Donations are welcome from anyone.
Open generates revenue through services.
Proprietary off-the-shelf software is funded through the sale of licenses to end users. Open-source software is given away for no charge. One of the main funding mechanisms for open source software is ancillary support services. Revenue is generated by value added resellers and integrators who specialize in supporting open. Consulting, selection of open source software, installation, configuration, integration, training, maintenance, customizing and tech support are examples of services used to generate revenue from open. The software is free but these fee-based services enable users to optimize use of the product and extract value from it. Its worth pointing out that proprietary off-the-shelf software often requires these support services too, so open source software typically provides a lower cost solution by not charging a license fee for the software itself.
Linux, Apache, Drupal, MySQL, MediaWiki, the list goes on and on of open source software available for free but whose full utilization is best achieved through support services. Red Hat provides services for Linux. O’Reilly Media has built a business around providing books, magazines, research, and training for open source software. Pick your open source software product and inevitably there is a local or global business providing support services for it.
There are a growing number of open source software applications in education. Moodle, Sakai, and recently Pearson entered the fray with OpenClass. As might be expected there are revenue generating business models around each of these.
Moodle has the Moodle Service Network.
Here’s how Pearson promotes it’s product.
OpenClass has no hardware costs, licensing costs, or hosting costs. Why would we do that? Because “free” enables the widespread adoption of new learning approaches that encourage interaction within the classroom and around the world. OpenClass is unbelievably easy to set up. It works with what you’re already using. Get set up with just a few clicks and instantly import content from other learning management systems such as Blackboard, Angel, or Moodle. OpenClass is simple to install, simple to use, and simple to support. We’ve provided a robust KnowledgeBase, up-to-date support forums, and numerous demos and instructional videos to help you get the most out of OpenClass. Of course, we know that self-service isn’t the right solution for everyone — we also provide 24/7 email, phone, and chat support to instructors, students, and administrators. (emphasis added by me)
The OERu is a more fascinating model. As described on its home page:
The OER university is a virtual collaboration of like-minded institutions committed to creating flexible pathways for OER learners to gain formal academic credit. The OER university aims to provide free learning to all students worldwide using OER learning materials with pathways to gain credible qualifications from recognised education institutions. It is rooted in the community service and outreach mission to develop a parallel learning universe to augment and add value to traditional delivery systems in post-secondary education. Through the community service mission of participating institutions we will open pathways for OER learners to earn formal academic credit and pay reduced fees for assessment and credit.
In each of these examples open has a fee for services built around it. Eric Raymond, in his book The Cathedral and the Bazaar called this “Give Away the Recipe, Open A Restaurant.”
Almost all the early examples of Open Educational Resource initiatives – MIT OpenCourseWare, Connexions, Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative, UK Open University’s Open Learn, and even the new initiatives like MITx are based on a model I think of as “Content for free, Teaching & Credentialing for a fee”. Explicit in all of these OER initiatives is that contact with faculty and the actual credential or degree that is awarded are not part of the offer. Those are services that cost.
The OERu is looking at a business model where some teaching/tutoring services are provided through academic volunteers international see A Framework for Academic Volunteers International: Dec 5-16, 2011. In the absence of teaching services and faculty contact students will turn to each other through initiatives like OpenStudy. I personally see a tremendous opportunity around bolstering education globally through OpenStudy student to student peer mentoring and support.
Teaching and credentialing are two areas of service that are undergoing change in the open market. Institutions like MIT and Stanford have brand value. A credential from those institutions has cachet. Indeed all institutions tend to think of themselves as having a prestigious brand. In the open market brand prestige and its value is undergoing change.
Udacity is co-founded by Sebastian Thrun one of the Stanford University professors who co-taught the massively open Artificial Intelligence course last year that attracted over 160,000 students from more than 190 countries. After teaching this course Thrun left Stanford to found Udacity believing that university-level education can be both high quality and low cost. Udacity aims to use the economics of the Internet, to connect some of the greatest teachers to hundreds of thousands of students in almost every country on Earth. Currently Udacity has investment funding and is offering its courses for free while it figures out its business model with several possibilities for revenue generation described in the article Massive Courses, Sans Stanford. Thrun is leveraging brand value out of his own name rather than Stanfords.
This idea that students will accept and appreciate a credential not from an institution but from a teacher has been done before in Massively Open Onlne Courses and is now emerging in the form of badges. The MITx initiative has put a new spin on this by devising a credential not exactly from MIT but associated with MIT. The extent to which these badges, letters and certificates of completion from an instructor or non-traditional institution have credibility and value in the market will be fascinating to see.
Open generates revenue through direct and indirect sales
In the economics of open there still are direct and indirect sales. Participants who receive free and open educational resources may still pay for teaching, assessment, and credentialing. The open textbooks being generated in the Washington States Open Course Library initiative aren’t completely free merely targeted to be less than $30 compared to $100-200. Open textbooks are often free in a .epub or .pdf format but cost for a physical print version. I think of this as “Digital for free, physical for a fee”. FlatWorld Knowledge, CK12 and others have all created an open business model around this new way of generating textbooks. The traditional print industry is scrambling to adapt. The economics of open still generates revenues but equally importantly generates cost savings. Take a look at the OpenStax Student Savings Calculator to see how big an impact this can have.
It has been fascinating to see Reuven Carlyle and Cable Green work together to establish the business case for open textbooks and create government policy that leverages the economics of open for Washington State. (Reuven Carlyle makes the business case here. Cable Green makes the business case here.) When you amplify cost savings at a state or national level the economics of open impact is huge.
Another variation on the digital for free, physical for a fee model, is software for free, hardware for a fee. In the rapid market entry section of this post I described why Google made the source code for Android open. Google’s end game was to generate revenue through direct sales, not of software but of hardware in the form of the Android phone itself. Lets see how well this tactic worked. As of February 2012 there were more than 400,000 apps available for Android, and the estimated number of applications downloaded from the Android Market as of December 2011 exceeded 10 billion. Android is one of the best-selling smartphone platform worldwide with over 300 million Android devices in use by February 2012. According to Google’s Andy Rubin, as of February 2012 there are over 850,000 Android devices activated every day. I’d say this strategy works pretty well. Eric Raymond, in his book The Cathedral and the Bazaar called this “widget frosting.” To date we’ve not seen hardware specifically designed and developed for the education market. But I see it coming and I bet it follows a similar model.
Another way of generating direct and indirect revenue from open is to build product add-on extensions and accessories. In the case of add-on extensions the base product is open and free, but additional more full-featured functionality costs money. Lots of apps work this way. You can download a basic app from Apple or Google but an “upgrade” is available for a fee that provides a more robust and full-featured version of that app. Product extensions can be modules, plug-ins or add-ons to an open source package. Indirect revenue can be achieved through accessories which provide users with an opportunity to customize something open in a way uniquely personal to them. The accessories market is huge. Ringtones, laptop covers, apparel, mugs, cards, the variety and range of accessories is endless.
It’s worth pointing out that in music, book, and photography markets some creators give their work away for free and simultaneously offer it for sale. Nine Inch Nails have a brand new 36 track instrumental collection called Ghosts I – IV. You can download the first 9 tracks for free. You can get all 36 track in a variety of digital formats for $5. You can get the tracks on two audio CDs for $10. You can get a a deluxe edition package which includes a blu-ray disc with the songs in high definition stereo and accompanying slideshow. You can get a $300 ultra-deluxe limited edition package (already sold out).
Giving away songs for free can generate more sales.
Cory Doctorow is an author who lets you download his books for free or buy them. He provides a great explanation on why he does this.
Open Generates Innovation
What makes open different is not so much what it derives economic returns from, but “how” it does so.
Open disaggregates supply chains into constituent parts and makes one or more of those parts open and free.
Here’s the OERu logic model:
Although it wasn’t designed for this you can see education supply chain parts revealed – textbooks, journals, curriculum, design & development, pedagogy, student support, ICT infrastructure, assessment, credentialing, … The OERu is looking at how open makes one or more of those parts free or substantially lower in cost.
Open diversifies and democratizes both the production and use of goods and services.
The innovation around open is not based on hoarding knowledge or building monopolies and locked-in proprietary models but instead on freeing knowledge, building collaborations, and finding flexible shared ways of generating economic benefits.
If I give you something and you give me back a new and improved version of that thing, we have engaged in mutual exchange. There has been no financial transaction but we both have mutually benefited. If we have a shared educational need, lets say we have common curricula across a range of courses. Using the economics of open we can divvy up the effort associated with creating that curricula and openly license the curricula for mutual use.
One of the ways the economics of open drives the economy is through reciprocity – by granting you rights I too gain.
Innovation is an economic driver. While the business case for open can be made within traditional frameworks its greatest impact is felt through new business models. When representatives in Canada’s federal government ask me how open acts as an economic driver I’m tempted to ask in reply, “How important the digital economy is to Canada?”
While the business model of open can work with physical goods, its effect as an economic driver is compounded when digital goods are involved. The economics of physical goods is predicated on supply and demand. If I have a physical good and I give it to you, I no longer have it. However, if I have a digital good and I give it to you, I still have it. This fundamentally changes the economics of supply and demand.
In a traditional economy based on supply and demand, scarcity generates premium prices. Supply emphasizes mass produced solutions that are just good enough to attract a large segment of users without being optimized for anyone. The power of the marketplace lies more with suppliers than customers. In contrast, the open marketplace, especially the digital open marketplace, massively diversifies and expands supply. In the open marketplace we all become suppliers and power shifts toward customers.
The open market reduces supplier lock-in and offers lower costs, more choice, and personalization options.
In the open marketplace you can choose what best meets your needs, customize the solution to a much greater extent, and flexibly integrate pieces into more complete solutions.
One of the greatest innovations in the open economy is the formation of communities of developers and users who collectively work on and continually enhance creative work for mutual benefit. So when I see Washington state developing an open course library of their top 81 high enrollment courses and a series of <$30 open textbooks I think about how this could scale by working with other states and regions. I think about the formation of an open consortia of others who collectively use the same courses and improve them together. I think about coordinating and building out through collectively planning and distributed effort.
Almost all successful open initiatives have a vibrant and active community built up around them. An intriguing innovative aspect of this is that frequently the community that forms around open is global not regional.
Leveraging open as an economic driver involves developing and delivering open products and services in partnership with others around the world.
Open leads to collaborations and trading partners within a global context.
Open Makes Better Use of What We Already Have
As I’ve thought about and worked through the economics of open in this blog post its occurred to me that the biggest opportunity open brings to all of us is making better use of what we already have. We are all creators. What if we adopted a default of sharing instead of not sharing?
On January 24-26, 2012, one hundred thought leaders from all over the world were invited to come together in Austin to mark the tenth anniversary of the NMC Horizon Project. They engaged in discussions around ideas of where technology is going and how it is impacting learning and education worldwide. From those discussions megatrends emerged. A number of those trends directly relate to the economics of open including:
- Openness — concepts like open content, open data, and open resources, along with notions of transparency and easy access to data and information — is moving from a trend to a value for much of the world.
- The world of work is increasingly global and increasingly collaborative.
- The Internet is becoming a global mobile network — and already is at its edges.
- Legal notions of ownership and privacy lag behind the practices common in society.
- Business models across the education ecosystem are changing.
At BCcampus, where I work, we’re committed to being open in everything we do. We decided to proactively state that position and openly share the work we produce through a corporate statement on our “open agenda”. It starts out saying:
We are a publicly-funded organization serving British Columbia’s post-secondary sector. The goal of higher education is the creation, dissemination, and preservation of knowledge, and as such we have an essential responsibility to distribute the results of our work as widely as possible.
Our open agenda corporate statement goes on to describe our commitment to publishing all BCcampus reports, web content, and other media resources using Creative Commons licenses. We describe how our events will be open and use open communication practices. At BCcampus open is a default practice. We belief there is collective value in proactively publishing organizational statements regarding committment to open. We hope more organizations follow suit and welcome others to adopt or use ours as a starting point.
In Mark Zuckerberg’s masterplan for the ‘sharing economy’ the CEO of Facebook believes he is not changing human nature but enabling it. Zuck’s Law decrees that every year, we will share twice as much as we shared the year before, because we want to and because we now can.
I’m fascinated by the emergence of the sharing economy. As Fast Company notes in their article on The Sharing Economy:
Spawned by a confluence of the economic crisis, environmental concerns, and the maturation of the social web, an entirely new generation of businesses is popping up. They enable the sharing of cars, clothes, couches, apartments, tools, meals, and even skills. The basic characteristic of these you-name-it sharing marketplaces is that they extract value out of the stuff we already have. The central conceit of collaborative consumption is simple: Access to goods and skills is more important than ownership of them. Botsman divides this world into three neat buckets: first, product-service systems that facilitate the sharing or renting of a product (i.e., car sharing); second, redistribution markets, which enable the re-ownership of a product (i.e., Craigslist); and third, collaborative lifestyles in which assets and skills can be shared (i.e., coworking spaces). The benefits are hard to argue — lower costs, less waste, and the creation of global communities with neighborly values.
Making better use of what we already have generates economic benefit by increasing utilization.
Given the worldwide demand for education shouldn’t we be doing a better job of using what we already have? Don’t the principles we see at play in the sharing economy apply equally well to education? If we really want to address the world wide shortage of education an obvious first step is to open up the education resources that already exist within education institutions around the world.
The economics of open drives the economy through better utilization of what we already have.
Economic development is driven by skilled labour. Better use of existing educational resources increases access and skill development. The economics are simple.
The economics of open allows us to increase the skills and knowledge of all.
Too many of our educational resources sit on a shelf unused or behind password protected systems. Open makes better use of what we already have.
Open works don’t end, they expand and evolve on and on through others.
This post is for everyone who has been grappling with the business case for open.
My hope is that you’ve had a few aha moments and that some of your questions have been answered.
I expect many of you have additional insights and examples of the economics of open.
I invite you to share your insights and examples by leaving comments at the bottom of this post.
The more we can collectively expand and evolve a global understanding of the economics of open the better for all.
Paul Stacey March 4, 2012
References for What is the business case for OER? Collection (from OER list serv Feb 2012)
Case Study – January 2012 – Also published in other places in 2011
Catherine Anne Schmidt-Jones
An Open Educational Resource Supports a Diversity of Inquiry-Based Learning
For teachers and students as well as self-directed learners, one function of OERs is as a resource for just-in-time, inquiry-based learning. the present case supports the conclusion that direct, informal use by both students and self-directed learners is the main use of OERs. Education researchers, policy-makers, and OER developers may want to consider the best ways to understand and support this type of use and take steps to make it truly available to all learners.
Case Study March 2011
Santally Mohammed Issack
OERs in Context – Case Study of Innovation and Sustainability of Educational Practices at the University of Mauritius
Conclusion: the inclusion of OERs helped maintain a good quality level, sustain a viable economic model with reduction of tuition fees for learners, increase access and achieve the intended learning outcomes without any negative impact on the learners’ experience.
Nottingham University February 2011
Title: “It turns out that students do use OER and it does save time”
This was a very limited study of 51 students and several faculty using a single repurposed resource.
Case Studies approximately 2009
Ms Rebecca Ngalande, Kamuzu College of Nursing, University of Malawi, Malawi
1) The Use of Open Education Resources at the University of Malawi (UNIMA) — Kamuzu College of Nursing
2) OER Basic Competencies in Midwifery, University of Malawi
The major findings of the pilot project were that OER are significant in higher education as they benefit both Faculty and students in many ways like faculty preparation time is reduced, produced materials are of high quality and faculty learn and share from others. It shed new knowledge on methods for accessing academic information, creation and production of such materials; teaching and learning; publishing as well as sharing. Faculty felt they can become more confident when they know that their work is of high quality.
The Policies for OER Uptake did substantial literature search (LUOERL) of the learner experience of OER last summer for the UK Higher Education Academy as part of the overall JISC/HEA OER Programme in the UK. This work will be updated again in early 2013 for the EU project POERUP.
Over 250 papers were analysed for the LUOERL study. The report is linked from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/elearning/oer2/LearnerVoice.aspx
You can also directly check their online bibliographies (on Mendeley) – see in particular http://www.mendeley.com/groups/1074991/learner-use-of-oer/papers/
The Case for Creative Commons Textbooks (2005)
Two early papers that compare the cost of developing open textbooks with that of commercial textbooks.
Economics of Open Content
Audio from Fred Beshears lecture for PBS and NPR forum at WGBH on January 2006.
A Sustainable Business Model for Open Electronic Textbooks (April 13, 2007)
The slides from Fred Beshears presentation to a US House subcommittee looking into the price of textbooks.
The Case for Openness, an African Perspective
A short briefing paper for a meeting of the Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA) late last year when they held a meeting to develop scenarios for the future of African universities.
Dramatically Bringing Down the Cost of Education with OER – How Open Education Resources Unlock the Door to Free Learning by David Wiley, Cable Green, Louis Soares February 7, 2012
A range of OER Knowledge Cloud Resources.
Filed under: copyright, Digital Economy | Tags: Internet Blackout Protests, PIPA, Research Works Act, SOPA
Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic blackout protest page January 18, 2012.
The Internet is a major source of innovation for both the economy and society. It enables entirely new forms of business, communication, and knowledge and plays a central role in changing repressive societies, creating global awareness, and forging relationships. The Internet provides us with a set of online freedoms.
It’s fascinating (and in many cases disturbing) to see governments attempt to modernize legislation from pre-Internet days and in some cases introduce new legislation seeking to leverage the Internet or control it. Yesterday, January 18, 2012 many of you may have experienced “blackout protests” when thousands of websites went dark in protest against two draft anti-piracy and counterfeiting bills in the US Congress.
Wikipedia’s web site featured this:
I thought I’d try and make sense of these protests. What are these bills all about? Why are legislators bringing them forward? Why are people protesting? How does it affect Canada? Is there similar legislation being brought forward in Canada? How does it affect me?
At this juncture in the evolution of the Internet rather than embracing the innovations the Internet is bringing many legislators seem intent on curbing it.
In the US two draft anti-piracy and counterfeiting bills are currently being reviewed in the US Congress. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). SOPA is intended to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. PIPA is intended to give the US government and copyright holders tools to curb access to “rogue websites dedicated to infringing or counterfeit goods”, especially those registered outside the U.S. These bills are in response to the perceived problem that piracy is having a large negative impact on US content industries.
It’s interesting to compare the list of those supporting SOPA with those opposing SOPA. Supporters of SOPA represent the movie, music and publishing industries while those opposed are primarily from the technology, public interest, and human rights groups. These lists themselves are interesting as they establish a kind of public transparency and accountability for what is happening.
There are several major problems legislators face in creating legislation of this kind including:
- clearly defining, and substantiating the nature of the problem legislation seeks to rectify. For an interesting analysis of this regarding SOPA see SOPA, Internet Regulation and the Economics of Piracy. It’s also interesting to hear from entities like Pirate Bay who are clearly the targets of this legislation – see The Pirate Bay’s SOPA Press Release
- legislation of this kind requires precise and technologically savvy language. See A technical examination of SOPA and PROTECT IP for an analysis of this perspective.
- legislation of this kind cannot erode or negatively impact societal freedoms or adversely affect innovation and economic/societal benefits. These issues are explored in: Websites Everywhere Dark In Protest Of US Anti-Piracy Legislation
SOPA and PIPA are not the only contentious bills. There is also the Research Works Act. In the US the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a policy that ensures that the public has access to the published results of NIH publicly funded research. The Research Works Act seeks to prevent NIH and any federal agency from adopting such open access policies. See Anti-Open Access Rises Again and Academic publishers have become the enemies of science.
While all the bills I’ve mentioned so far are US, Canada is not immune to similar activities. Our federal government has been pressured by the US to take stronger stands on enforcing copyright and IP similar to those being taken in the US. In response Canada’s government has taken steps to comply through efforts to update copyright legislation, signing of ACTA, and its willingness to join in the Trans Pacific Partnership. Michael Geist and others have written widely on these developments. See:
2011 in Review: Developments in ACTA
Canada Signs ACTA: What Comes Next
TPP Copyright Extension Would Keep Some of Canada’s Top Authors Out of Public Domain For Decades
Help Preserve the Canadian Public Domain: Speak Out on the Trans Pacific Partnership Negotiations
I find it disturbing that with all these legislative bills the economic benefits of a few are superceding the public benefits of many. These bills seek to control and limit freedom as is so eloquently expressed in my colleague Scott Leslie’s Short Poem About SOPA.
But for me its not just about control and freedom its about optimizing the use of technology. Much of what I see happening is seeking to break or disable technology in order to enforce old business models. I’m dismayed when I see technologies hobbled for economic gain. See Publishers vs. Libraries: An E-Book Tug of War for example. When David Wong says in his brilliantly funny 5 Reasons The Future Will Be Ruled By B.S. that “The future is going to hang on whether or not businesses will be able to convince you to pay money for things you can otherwise get for free.” I’m really hoping he’s wrong. In the digital world the incremental cost of distributing digital goods is next to zero. Creating business models based on artificial scarcity is sheer folly and fails to leverage the innovation that technology and the Internet bring.
If we truly are interested in improving our economies and societies we’d be well served to focus on how we incentivize the production and use of creative works not curtail them. We’d be better off looking at how we maximize access and use not limit it.