There is a lot of confusion  about the different concepts of openness, underlying different philosophical approaches and a lack of interdisciplinarity and clarity (legal perspective). Any of this views and philosophies has huge political and policy repercussions that must be considered carefully.

  1. Openness and Openness (Philosophical movements)

a) The term “Open” was used by the Advisory Committee to Prime Minister Howard Wilson, 4 August 1965, to establish the principle of open access: “Enrolment as a student of the University should be open to everyone … irrespective of educational qualifications, and no formal entrance requirement should be imposed.”

http://www.open.ac.uk/researchprojects/historyofou/story/1963-65-the-university-the-air. Afterwards it was also used to convene anytime, anywhere, any device, learner centered.

b) Open Source Movement, 1983 appeared as an opposition to proprietary applications, where individual programmers, individually or in group, began to develop software programs that were made available for others to use, reuse, share, and develop further under open source licensing.

c) Later on, the term Free was extended to mean absence of cost, changing the basic underlying philosophy and creating a separated approach/movement that is on the basis of Open Education as a Public Good.

  1. Openness and Openness (Legal movements)

a) In 1886, in the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works[1],  (Berlin Act, 1908) copyright is for the first time secured in article 5.

b) In the Human Rights Declaration, Article 27, point 2, addresses the “right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author”.

c) In the 90´s “Open Software” was defined by Perens  as “ a broad general type of software license that makes source code available to the general public with relaxed or non-existent copyright restrictions. Open source licensesgrant users the right tocopy, modify and redistribute source code (or content). These licenses may also impose obligations  (Coleman, 2013)[i].

d) In 2001 Creative Commons is founded creating flexible licenses within the spectrum of copyright.

  1. Openness and Openness, how the “mouse gave birth to a mountain”

The current discourse surrounding in particular openness, open education, open educational resources is devoted to the need to “develop”, “produce” OER, MOOC. However, the fundamental thing that truly distinguishes  OER from another content is the type of copyright licensing used.

When the definitions of OER and Open Access are analyzed what stands out is the type of licensing used.

Open Educational Resources is defined as “Teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”, by the Hewlett Foundation (2013)[i].

UNESCO defines “Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation.

Open Access as “the online availability of scholarly information to everyone, free of most licensing and copyright barriers—for the benefit of global knowledge flow, innovation and socio-economic development.”[1]

This means that as soon as institutions, teachers, learners change their licensing practices and understand their copyright rights, OER, Open Access will be made available without the need to develop, produce specific new contents, engage different teams, create new areas, increase costs to move towards Openness. It is fundamentally a strategic and political decision, for policy makers, institutional leaders, stakeholders, as to the type of licensing to be used and to consider them free of cost as Global Public Goods, with the correspondent outputs and outcomes…This is an important discussion to have!

As for the MOOCs , they end up representing somehow this “openness and openness” differences. The  cMOOCs, (Siemens, 2008)[1]  adopted the use of already available Open Educational Resources and open learning environments, while the  xMOOCs, mainly based on behaviourism (Bates, 2012)[2] use mostly proprietary content and environments.

The European Commission  “Opening Up Education” Communication launched last year was drafted under the consideration that there is a need “to produce OER” and that MOOC’s  as “Open technologies allow All individuals to learn, Anywhere, Anytime, through Any device, with the support of Anyone.”. (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:52013DC0654&from=EN )

I can imagine  Prime Minister Howard Wilson, with a smile in his face, remembering his University of the Air, from 1963.

[1] http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/access-to-knowledge/open-access-to-scientific-information/browse/2/ last accessed June 5, 2014

[i] The William Flora Hewlett Foundation. (2013). Open Educational Resources Breaking the Lockbox on Education.

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