Content IS Infrastructure (Welcome to the club, Chris)

Chris Lott’s recent post Open Content is So, Like, Yesterday has earned him Stephen’s attention and misinterpretation. Well, that’s happened to many of us. =)

I want to remix a little of his post and provide some supporting comments:

Good open content is a vital part of creating a vital open education apparatus… Content is just one piece of the open education mosaic that is worth a lot less on its own than in concert with practices, context, artifacts.

Opening content up isn’t the sexiest activity. But I would argue that in one way if it’s not the most important, it’s still to be ranked first among equals. (Emphasis added)

Yes, yes, yes! The way I’ve tried to communicate this idea is “content is infrastructure.” Now, everyone knows that infrastructure is not the sexiest thing to work on. Who grows up thinking “I want to build better roads when I grow up!” or “I want to squeeze more bits down a piece of glass faster when I grow up!”? Infrastructure is generally hidden away in the background, and we all just assume that it will be there and will work. Most people would rather ride the Harleys and launch the Web 2.0 startups, not lay the asphalt and improve routing efficiency.

Creating and sharing content is certainly not the sexiest part of the open education movement. But the open education movement is going nowhere fast without open content. And while infrastructure / content work generally doesn’t excite anyone, the results of innovation in the infrastructure space do excite people. What would you say if I told you that “fiber to the curb” internet service was going to be available at your house/apt in January!”? Probably the same thing you would say if I told you that “content complete, interactive courses – including assessments with feedback – will be available from BYU’s Open Learning pilot in January!”

Infrastructure is critical; open content is the infrastructure of the open education movement; and open content deserves the respect Chris is trying to give it.

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  • David,

    ‘Content as infrastructure’ pretty much describes what I might term ‘learning frameworks’. I think we are approaching the same issue form different perspectives. The user should not have to worry about who built the roads or frameworks. All she needs to know is that there is some way for her to appraich the discipline. The millions of Google results provide essentially no guidance. (I’m assumning she is not prepared to spend thousand of hours researching and evaluating these results.)

    A ‘learning framework’, to my mind, requires context: your people, content, system. I beleive it has to offer some actual substance, but also enough choice/freedom to create their own context. (A learning object repository with practitioners and a broader community can do that. I’m erm, indebted to you again.)

    And while I applaud the OER movement and beleive it will come to fruition, I’ve seen that, in the interim, people are willing to pay for learning frameworks that save then time and frustration and offer motivation, etc. (The different perspective.)

    I blogged about this issue in more detail on Nov 4th:

  • It may all be infrastructure, but the type of infrastructure matters.

    It’s one thing to be wired for cable television. There’s content, but that’s about it. It’s quite another thing to be wired for an internet connection. Now ‘professional’ content is a small bit of it – and what’s really interesting is the fact that I can create and share with my friends and with people around the world.

  • Thanks, David. I suppose the misinterpretation wouldn’t have made me type as furiously if it hadn’t come from someone like Stephen, who I have a lot of respect for!

    Content as infrastructure makes sense… and succinctly represents the kind of argument I was making.

    I think Stephen is right as well– the kind of infrastructure matters. If sharing whole courses or sharing through the OCWC umbrella or sharing through some kind of aggregated portal– if sharing “just” content in any form– were all that we were doing, I’d feel more appropriately called out. But we’ve been pushing to open up the entire educational process with our faculty for years… the OCWC content is one part of that effort. And to be fair, the OCWC doesn’t make any kind of mandate that even those “courses” that *are* shared through them must be shared in some particular manner.

    And that’s not even to get into the differences between what *I* individually can do, what faculty I work with are enabled to do, and what our organization is doing. They overlap considerably, but we are trying to push past constraints, not create more!