What is Open Content?

The movement toward open content reflects a growing shift in the way scholars in many parts of the world are conceptualizing education to a view that is more about the process of learning than the information conveyed. Information is everywhere; the challenge is to make effective use of it. Open content uses Creative Commons and other forms of alternative licensing to encourage not only the sharing of information, but the sharing of pedagogies and experiences as well. Part of the appeal of open content is that it is a response to both the rising costs of traditionally published resources and the lack of educational resources in some regions. As this open, customizable content — and insights about how to teach and learn with it — is increasingly made available for free over the Internet, people are learning not only the material, but also the skills related to finding, evaluating, interpreting, and repurposing the resources. Recent data from Edcetera indicate that open educational resources make up three quarters of the content in most MOOCs; paid content, such as required textbooks, is less than 10%. These data reflect a notable transformation in the culture surrounding open content that will continue to impact how we think about content production, sharing, and learning.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Open content can enable people with a reasonable level of intelligence to create reasonable online learning courses at a reasonable cost - what could be wrong with that? Sounds... well, reasonable doesn't it? But online education companies that are springing up all over the world in search of a fast buck have no need for research or for the advancement of their subjects - they can turn a quick profit by standing on the shoulders of giants, and contributing nothing in return. Like all utopian visions, it can only exist if the motivations of all parties remain pure - once someone acts selfishly and, for example, profits from someone else's work, the system crumbles. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Oct 14, 2013 - helga helga Oct 20, 2013
  • The more open and free educational resources there are, the more we will be able to choose, remix and build on them/repurpose them to fit our needs, something which is not possible with closed and proprietary resources, which reduce people to mere consumers of formatted material. By creating resources and having a feedback from others, one learns and improves. I completely agree. I think its important that the community respects the author to a body of work but I think its essential that our current knowledge is readably available. [- matthew.worwood matthew.worwood Oct 27, 2013]

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Who is managing the quality of the open resources? I don't just mean the technical quality (Although that is a major issue!), but the veracity of the information they contain? For example, there are very well produced resources freely available on the internet to support such controversial areas as Holocaust Denial and Creationism, and it could be argued from an academic point of view that these resources are part of the wider context and realities within which these subjects exist, but what if online courses are produced where these are presented as the only, true version of events that did or, indeed, did not happen? This suggests that perhaps we need to create a virtual library of "acceptable" resources that can be deployed which have been peer reviewed and deemed fit for purpose. Who will pay for this resource creation? The people creating the courses. How will they recoup their outlay? By charging their customers/learners. Suddenly, open resources, once again, become closed resources, and we are back where we started. Not to mention the fact that, as far as I am aware, we have yet to ask the students who ARE paying for their education, and therefore subsidising the creation of OER's, how they feel about us giving them away to those who are NOT paying for their education. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Oct 14, 2013 Both the quality of open and proprietary resources should be questioned. The fact that resources are open does not make them less reliable. This is part of critical learning and the role of educators is to curate this content and contribute to better versions. - bdieu bdieu Oct 25, 2013 Your point highlights our need to improve information literacy and for students to identify credible sources of information. [- matthew.worwood matthew.worwood Oct 27, 2013]
  • While OER is often seen in the west as a marketing strategy or means by which academics can free themselves from the limitations and extortions of the academic publishing industry, it is of far greater importance in the third and second world where the high costs associated with publishing to a small market makes legal access to high quality educational resources problematic. The internet has provided a distribution model for personal philanthropic contribution to global education and legal frameworks should be built to support this rather than serve the needs of an increasingly sidelined publishing industry. Most academics are already paid by the public to conduct research and teach, publishing through Open Content for the public good can been seen as part of this employment. - j.zagami j.zagami Oct 23, 2013

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • Philosophically, it is hard to for me argue against the wonderful concept of free education for all. I was educated at a time when the state paid for me to do not just one, but two of my degrees, and gave me money to live on whilst I was doing them. How could I possibly argue against free education for everyone else? At the risk of repeating myself (See section 1) it is the abuse of such resources to create craptacular online "degree" programmes that I object to, as the rest of are subsidising their dirty little businesses. I used to work for one such company, much to my shame, (Legally I am still, almost four years on, forbidden from mentioning their name, but you know who I mean, or could at least take an educated guess!), and the thought that altruistic content providers are giving such leeches free, high quality content out of the goodness of their hearts that adds legitimacy to the sub-standard worthless travesties they have the nerve to call degrees makes me really sad. However, the only way to stop the rise of such parasitical organisations is for organisations like ours to provide high quality, free of charge degrees for those with the abilities, if not the finances, and perhaps the leveraging of OER's would be a cost effective way of helping to make that a reality? Gosh. Didn't realise how strongly I felt about this. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Oct 14, 2013
  • While on the surface open content seems to reduce barriers to publication, the pay-to-publish model (the UK model) has the potential of skewing access even more to those who can pay. - billshewbridge billshewbridge Oct 24, 2013 . Check Peter Suber's article: Open access: six myths to put to rest which has recently appeared in the Guardian, and read his book Open Access
  • There needs to be a balance between online quantity over quality. The education community must come together and establish a 'best practices' for this culture while working hard to not undermine its potential. [- matthew.worwood matthew.worwood Oct 27, 2013]

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?