Effective open licensing policy and
practice for Australian universities

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Open Education Excellence Award

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We are excited to announce that our Open Education Licensing Toolkit has been awarded one of the 2017 Awards for Open Education Excellence by the Open Education Consortium global network. It is a great honour to receive this award alongside teams from all over the world working in open education. Our team member Carina Bossu was in Cape Town, South Africa last week to accept the award on behalf of the OEL Project team at the OEC Global Conference.

The Open Education Consortium is a non-profit, social benefit organisation made up of individuals, educational institutions and organisations that support the development of Open Education.

Their mission is to promote, support and advance openness in education around the world.

The Open Education Consortium global conference is held every year. The conference brings together administrators, policy makers, faculty, students, researchers and other professionals who all share an interested in helping Open Education shape the future of education worldwide.

The OEL project team are delighted to receive this award, particularly in a new category that recognises the need for resources outside of the customary open courses and sites. We hope the Open Tools category will be one that develops in future years.

If you are not familiar with the Open Education Consortium, we recommend you have a look around their site, which has some great information.

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Update on OEL Toolkit development

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The OEL project team is currently developing an Open Education Licensing Toolkit for use by the Australian Higher Education sector. The toolkit design is based on information from a survey, conducted in 2015, of individual managers, policy makers, educators, educational content developers and information professionals at Australian universities with an interest in Open Educational Resources and Open Educational Practices. The toolkit will help staff at Higher Education institutions who are developing online educational resources match open licensing decisions to the educational and business strategies of their organisation.

Technical infrastructure for the toolkit is being developed by the Tasmanian Institute of Learning and Teaching. An underlying database of short information snippets is linked to the navigation interface which directs users to sources of information about open licensing that are relevant to their specific needs. The online interface guides users through a series of decisions to describe the activity they are undertaking. Initially the user selects one of 5 access points:

  • Finding a resource
  • Using or modifying a resource
  • Making a resource
  • Sharing a resource
  • Reviewing a Resource

They then follow a guided decision tree path, answering questions about their plans for the development or use of the OER resource. As they progress through the pathway this generates an individualised selection of snippets of information about open licensing that are relevant to that user’s specific needs. The information is provided in plain language with links to authoritative external sources.

At the end of the decision tree path, users are provided with a Guidance Summary of resources designed around their specific question and answer pathway, which can be printed out or emailed to themselves or others for further use in the development process. Answers in the Guidance Summary resource are provided under one or more of the following categories:

  • General
  • Licences/compatibility
  • Making available
  • Media
  • Ownership/permissions
  • Policy/governance

As part of the toolkit development the OEL team held a series of practical workshops with stakeholders around Australia from July to October 2016, to test the toolkit content and interface. Participants in the workshops provided valuable input into the further development of the toolkit. Assistance with the workshops was kindly provided by Curtin University in Perth, Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane and the University of New South Wales in Sydney, who we’d like to thank for their assistance with the project.

Development of the toolkit is continuing and the team is currently planning to have it available online from late November 2016. The toolkit will be accessible from www.oel.edu.au.

Does © status really influence student learning?

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In a fascinating blog post last week, David Wiley from Lumen Learning provided a thoughtful response to an op-ed piece by Curtiss Barnes from Pearson titled “If OER is the answer, what is the question?”. Wiley’s blog post “OER: Some Questions and Answers” available here, makes some interesting points about OER and copyright. It’s a great discussion of the educational materials ecosystem and how and why OER is currently operating alongside commercially produced educational resources.

In relation to copyright Wiley points out that [t]he question of whether the language on the copyright page will significantly influence student learning is completely irrational. It is interesting that the purported link between copyright ownership and the quality of educational resources is so rarely challenged. Choosing to release something under an open licence does not inherently change the quality of the resource. It is only in the eye of the observer that the assertion of exclusive rights by an individual author makes a resource seem different, and of higher quality, to one created by multiple contributors through an unstructured process of creation and maintenance. And as Wiley notes; (t)here are no results from the instructional design, learning science, or cognitive science literature demonstrating that the language on the copyright page is a critical factor in promotion student learning.

Wiley points out that OER provides the opportunity for a form of creativity that relies on asynchronous, uncoordinated, incremental, continuous improvement. But we have to learn to trust this. In a world where creativity has been so intimately linked to an individual author jealously guarding the exclusive rights to reproduce and distribute content, it is taking time for everyone to come to terms with new, more networked forms of creativity and how they fit within our existing structures, including publishing and education. To Wiley, creativity and the production of resources in education it is not all about ‘market failure’ and ‘free-riding”, it is more about why people would chose to donate their time and effort to charitable and other causes, including the creation, improvement, and mantenance of … open educational resources.

Regardless of whether or not the alternative incentive models employed by creators and improvers of OER should be theoretically viable according to standard economic models, these models are viable and they are flourishing.

So if OER is the answer, maybe the question is; why has copyright law and its relationship with educational resources been so inflexible for so long?