David Wiley (whom I adore) wrote a blog post titled:
Where he suggests that the open educational resource (OER) movement is losing its impetus because of large-scale open-enrollment courses from Coursera and elsewhere are getting all the attention and that OER needs a clear and visible common goal to rally the community. His goal is to have several community colleges produce and promote a degree program by 2014 where every textbook is free/open.
I’ve been thinking about what’s next for OER… With the current set of MOOCs – which aren’t even open – grabbing attention away from the real movement, we need an exciting idea to get behind. Something that can inspire another decade of work across the nation and around the world. (When was the last time you heard about a new OpenCourseWare initiative launching in the US? When was the last time you personally thought of OCW as being really innovative?) We need something that can capture the imagination, something that can inspire both faculty and institutional leaders, something that will bring another 100 US post-secondary schools into the open education movement. Most of all, we need something that will significantly bless the lives of millions of students, providing them access to educational opportunities that can radically transform their lives for good.
Please read David’s entire post before continuing here. I want to make sure you read his post before you read my reaction/rant…
My Comment – Warning – somewhat ranty
Wow. A couple of points of of critique and then a suggestion. (a) It is ironic to hear the world’s pioneer in the idea of adding the dimension of “open/free enrollment” into our collective thinking back in 2007 http://chronicle.com/article/When-Professors-Print-Their/114058/ to make the statement in 2012 that courses providing “open enrollment” are not worthy to use the word “open” in any way to describe themselves. Or put another way – according to you, no one can use the word “open” to describe an activity unless they are using a remix-able CC license. (b) Large-scale open enrollment courses are and will drive the creation of OER/re-mixable course materials. At Michigan, every Coursera instructor works closely with Open.Michigan to make their materials as open and reusable as possible. We do copyright clearance and Open.Michigan actively helps instructors find alternate open resources to use in their courses so that their resulting materials can be as open as practical without compromising the educational outcomes of the course. Each Coursera course has a corresponding Open.Michigan web site where re-mixable materials can be downloaded when practical. At Michigan investment in supporting professor activity in Coursera is increasing investment in Open Michigan’s materials, capabilities, staff and importance to the university. Coursera is causing the creation of new OER materials at Michigan and wonderfully promoting those materials to over 200,000 students right at this very minute. Many of the students in my class *are* teachers curious how to teach my material – I actively encourage them to take and remix my CC-BY slides and make use of my openly available supplementary video materials through references to YouTube and Vimeo on the slides. They can *completely* remix my course if they so choose. Coursera is a content player – it does not decide the copyright of the materials that it plays. My *next* Coursera course will be based on open slides, open videos, and an open textbook.
David, there are 2-3 blog posts per day that mis-understand Coursera and see it as some kind of “enemy”. Life is to short to correct all the mis-understandings. But I figure I should comment to you since in my mind what we are doing in Coursera traces its seminal founding moment back to you back in December 2007. For me, Coursera is an amazingly effective execution of your idea from 2007. I personally loved the idea in 2007 and Coursera is my chance to honor your ideas and innovation. At over a million students we have come a long way from the 50 students in your course back 2007. So while I may not change your mind – I had to at least try. Enough of me defending Coursera – on to the larger mistake in your blog post…
A CC degree with only OER textbooks is not a particularly worthy or interesting grand challenge. There are lots of open textbooks – some may or may not be suitable. It would be pretty easy to do an all-OER CC degree – if folks tried to accomplish what you suggest in the timeframe you suggest – it would end up harming the OER movement in my opinion because it is easily done by compromising the educational outcomes of the degree or tailoring the degree to whatever textbooks are available. Accomplishing what you propose at the expense of educational outcomes would reinforce the mistaken notion that OER materials are somehow lower quality. Individual OER materials are *not* lower quality – we just don’t have high-quality OER materials in all subject areas.
The grand challenge that you *should* take on is to take this code - http://code.google.com/p/sigil/ and then take this code - http://cnx.org/ and fork them both and create a desktop authoring environment that allows authoring, import, export, and publishing to a wide variety of formats of augmented media-enhanced textbooks. In short make an open source / open standards version of iBooks Author – Oh yeah and fix the lame iBooks Author UI while you are at it. You need to fork SIGIL because they think EPUB is virtual paper and should never move beyond that. You need to fork cnx because they think that server-based authoring is sufficient – yuck! Actually the cnx format is likely a good start as the internal representation of the the desktop authoring environment – keep that and remain compatible with the CNX online authoring environment. Oh yeah – and Flat World Knowledge (and cousins) is also not a solution to the grand challenge because in search of a sustainable business model they are building a 99.4% open model and it turns out that the 0.6% matters. So there is your grand challenge. Empower authors. Remove the barriers to producing and remixing open content. If someone dropped a bunch-o-money in my lap – I would grab four grad students and do it – but it seems people want to fund me to advance the cause of open source and interoperable LMS’s these days rather than address the rate-limiting factors of the OER community – so this grand challenge falls to you or someone else.