An Open Education Reader

tl;dr – We’ve published An Open Education Reader, a collection of readings on open education with commentary created by students in my graduate course Introduction to Open Education taught at Brigham Young University, Fall 2014.

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Fall 2014 was the fifth time I’ve taught my graduate course Introduction to Open Education. I’ve taught it in many different ways in the past. In 2007 I taught it at USU as an open course with dozens of people from outside the university (and outside the US) reading along and completing assignments in order to earn a course certificate. Later at BYU I taught it as a Massively Multiplayer Online Game complete with character types, skills trees, guilds, quests, and experience points. Each experiment in teaching the course has been an opportunity for me to be more open in my practice and provide students with a different perspective on open education.

This year, I wanted to help those who joined the course develop a deeper appreciation for why open licensing is necessary in the first place. I wanted to build “open education” up from first principles, beginning with questions like “what is intellectual property?”, “should we use the language of ‘property’ to describe it?”, and “why and how should intellectual property be protected?” From this foundation I wanted to build outward with an overview of the history and features of popular open licenses. An appreciation of where IP law comes from, how we got to where we are, and why we’re moving so aggressively in the wrong direction is fundamental to understanding some of the core problems open education is trying to solve. Likewise, a well informed understanding of how we’ve tried to solve these problems to date, through open licensing, is the starting point for future progress.

So this year I combined a traditional “readings course” approach with my ongoing efforts to reject disposable assignments and engage in open pedagogy. I spent a great deal of time selecting the readings that would communicate what I felt was most important for this semester’s students to learn. (Though there would certainly be some overlap, I do not doubt that your preferred list of readings would differ significantly from my own. That’s terrific! I hope you’ll email it to me. I’m already fretting that we weren’t able to cover The Battle for Open this term, for example.) Rather than have students write response essays they would hate writing and immediately throw away after grading, I challenged them to create a textbook that could be used by students in future Introduction to Open Education courses.

As the semester drew to a close, the students worked collaboratively to organize and synthesize all the notes they had taken on each of the readings and our in-class discussions. These combined, synthesized notes became An Open Education Reader. For each reading, we have tried to provide you:

  • a Link to an open access version of the article,
  • a brief Background,
  • a summary of Key Points,
  • Discussion Questions for you to consider as you read the article, and
  • Additional Information that may be of interest.

This is by no means a complete or final version of this book! We’re sharing it now in the spirit of “release early, release often,” trusting that you will join in helping to correct errors and omissions.

We’ve published An Open Education Reader using WordPress plus the open source Pressbooks. Pressbooks is very easy to use and produces great looking HTML, PDF, EPUB, Mobi, WXR, and other formats. (I’m a big fan.) The students and I will be autographing each other’s printed copies of AOER as part of our final exam this week. (We sent the print-ready PDF to our campus print-on-demand service.)

I hope you enjoy the book, and I invite you to contribute additional discussion questions, observations, etc. in the comments on the specific pages in the book. I will be extremely happy to work your contributions into the core text along with an attribution for your efforts. If there are additional readings you think should be included in an introductory reader like this, please leave them in the comments here.

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Elevating the 5th R

Part of an article on the P2P Foundation website today struck a chord with me with regard to the importance of being able to OWN things and not simply stream or lease access to them. It’s this kind of thinking that caused me to introduce a 5th R, Retain, this last year. In Owning is the New Sharing, Nathan Schneider writes:

The notion that sharing would do away with the need for owning has been one of the mantras of sharing economy promoters. We could share cars, houses, and labor, trusting in the platforms to provide. But it’s becoming clear that ownership matters as much as ever. Whoever owns the platforms that help us share decides who accumulates wealth from them, and how. Rather than giving up on ownership, people are looking for a different way of practicing it.

+1 for ownership.


The Publisher’s Dilemma

I’ve stopped saying the word “disrupt” since people began exclaiming it in a kind of religious ecstasy. At some point in the last 18 months or so, “disruption” has completed its slide down the proverbial slippery slope and has stopped being a means and become an end in and of itself. Ends-means confusion is a terrible mistake, and never bodes well for the people who make it. I expect it bodes even worse for an entire field of endeavor (I’m looking at you, educational technology) that seems to have wholeheartedly bought into the switcheroo.

Remember Freedom Rock?

I hear variations on this conversation all the time:

“Hey man, has that approach to doing something tangentially related to education been considered a best practice for longer than 12 months?”

“Yea, man.”

“Well it needs to be disrupted, man!”

Modern-day ends-means confusion aside, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. The analysis presented in The Innovator’s Dilemma is brilliant and still has much to teach us. Reading this recent piece on Wired about the innovator’s dilemma made me appreciate, yet again, what a completely awful position commercial textbook publishers currently find themselves in. [Brackets are my commentary]:

Technology leaders [including commercial textbook publishers] evaluating whether to invest in new and immature technologies [like OER] must do so with a futuristic frame of reference. The key question is, if these technologies found new customers and new markets which may in themselves be small and insignificant (now and in the future) [like people who can’t afford to spend $600 per term on textbooks], could they mature enough to make inroads into our playing field and have our lunch? [Yes.] And if so, does investing in them today at the risk of cannibalizing ourselves make sense in the longer term? [Yes, but no publisher will.] Hence, the innovator’s dilemma.

Talk about your scylla and charybdis…

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