Open Learn

From the Open Knowledge Foundation blog

Last week I [?Jonathan Gray?] went to the OpenLearn 2007 conference hosted at the Open University. A lot was packed into the couple of days, and there was representation from different OER (Open Educational Resources) groups from around the world. There were an abundance of new projects, papers, groups and initiatives mentioned, and a recurring sentiment was that it is difficult to keep track of all the things that are happening!
In terms of coverage: on-the-fly notes from conference bloggers are available from OCHRE and other blog posts should appear at the OpenLearn blog aggregator. I think the OU also intend to release video/audio footage of the conference.
[… ideas of Open learning snipped …]
Conceptions of ‘Openness’ and licensing practices
It was clear listening to the different talks that there were various different conceptions about what the ‘open’ in OER meant. There was certainly a strong sense that it is fundamentally related to liberal/open licensing practices (as opposed to just cost-free access) but it often seemed to have wider connotations than this. Erik Duval said that to him openness meant ‘removing barriers’ – including legal barriers, poor findability, and inconvenience to the user. Removing socio-economic obstacles to access, allowing access to source files, and creating a culture of inclusion and participation were recurring themes. I would be interested to hear more about how more people involved in OER felt about the Open Knowledge Definition!
Regarding licensing practices, speakers rarely made distinctions between different types of Creative Commons licenses. The term ‘open content’ was often taken to include material available under a license with noncommercial restrictions. In conversations I had about licenses with noncommercial restrictions (notably with people from MIT and the OU) – I was given the impression that many organisations were not opposed to the commercial usage of educational resources in principle. Commonly cited reasons for adopting one included wanting to incorporate other material available under noncommercial sharealike licenses (especially that which had been donated by other commercial organisations), the reluctance of content contributors (publishers, authors, educators, researchers…) and other parties, and wanting to prevent people mirroring with ads.
It would be great if more OER projects started using licenses requiring only attribution, or attribution sharealike so as to impose minimal restrictions on re-use! The absence of noncommercial restrictions could allow people to experiment with new models for sustaining the development of educational materials.

PMR: We’ve got an an enormous opportunity in chemistry. It’s an excellent subject for participation and creating Open materials. There’s a good history of publicly created material (several Molecule-of-the-Month projects) that would be ideal candidates for Open resources. And let’s make them CC-BY (you’ll note that this blog has finally got its act together – thank you Jim).

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