OER Issues at first hand

This week in Change Mooc  – I have particularly enjoyed reading Rory McGreal’s rant. It is interesting how a bit of passion can make a topic come alive.

 A short harangue by this week’s discussion leader: McGreal, R. (2009, October 21). Stop paying twice for education material: Online resources, open content make proprietary textbooks obsolete. Edmonton Journal. Retrieved from http://auspace.athabascau.ca:8080/dspace/bitstream/2149/2324/1/rory_ed_journal-1.pdf

In parallel with the MOOC topic I have myself been involved in OER issues this week. I am working on a government-funded project with a team, which is tasked to develop some educational training packages for primary and secondary schools in England. The idea is that we will write new materials, but also review and update a wide range of existing archived resources, which have been produced by the same team for prior government-funded projects. We will then filter and select from this extensive archive the resources we need to create new training packages.

This is where the OER issues arise. The question is who owns these archived materials. Evidently there are millions of pounds worth of educational resources languishing in government archives, while the powers that be decide who can have access to them and whether they can be remixed and repurposed. My understanding is that this kind of archiving often happens when governments change. The funders of the project who attended the first team meeting told us that one education project had recently been taken to court for infringing copyright – a very costly mistake. So funders are nervous about OER issues, but at the same time didn’t appear to know anything about Creative Commons licenses. Fortunately one of our team is very knowledgeable about this.

As an aside I often wonder if the number of Flickr accounts with ‘all rights reserved’ is through choice or simply because people are not aware of the other options. I wasn’t aware of them myself until my MOOC friend and colleague Matthias Melcher asked me why I had all rights reserved on my Flickr site.

The issue of accreditation also came up in our project meeting. The training materials we develop will be used by education centres to deliver training for schools. Will the University, which has been funded to do this project, accredit this training – for example – by allowing the modules to carry 10 or 20 credits? Evidently this will take considerable time and effort to thrash out.

So it has been interesting to experience first hand the issues that Rory McGreal discussed this week. It seems that perhaps the biggest challenge is educating people about the issues and raising awareness.

See A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER) and Guidelines for OER in Higher Education  for further information.

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