OCWC Raises $350k – Shouldn’t I Be Happy?

Yesterday OpenCourseWare Consortium President Steve Carson announceed that the OCWC has received commitments of $350k over the next five years from several of its university members. In a reference to concerns I (and others) have expressed about the sustainability of the OCW movement, Steve writes:

“Not only are these universities sustaining their own publications, but they are making meaningful commitments to the global effort to openly publish educational materials.”

So why don’t I feel happy at this news? I think it is because I just don’t understand how the OCWC adds value to the “global effort to openly publish educational materials.”

I understand that the OCWC organizes conferences, and this year’s program looks quite interesting, but with registration running at $450 per person (with no member discount), I don’t think membership fees are underwriting the conference.

The OCW Toolkit is a great idea, but this portion of the website is largely under construction. If you’re considering an OER project at your institution, you should check out this portion of the site, as it includes useful things sample IP release forms for faculty. However, the Toolkit cannot be what $350k + $500/member + Hewlett sponsorship is paying for.

The OCWC also maintains a list of members, which one might be tempted to interpret as a high-level overview of what’s happening in institutional OER. However, the list does not include non-OCWC-members like Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative, while other initiatives like Rice’s Connexions don’t qualify for normal membership because they don’t meet the OCWC’s definition of OCW. So, while this list will let you know who is a member of the OCWC, it doesn’t actually provide a comprehensive overview of OER in higher education. And maintaining a list can’t be what $350k + $500/member + Hewlett sponsorship is paying for.

The OCWC also maintains a list of news stories about OCW. But as above, maintaining a list can’t be what $350k + $500/member + Hewlett sponsorship is paying for.

You might argue that while none of these individual activities alone can be what $350k + $500/member + Hewlett sponsorship is paying for, together they are. But rereading the list, I don’t think so.

So, while I genuinely like all of the people involved with the OCWC and I continue to be a huge proponent of institutional openness, I have to continue to ask myself… If the hundreds of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on determining a governance structure, drawing up incorporation documents, establishing a board of directors and traveling to board meetings, forming subcommittees, setting definitions (that exclude projects like Connexions), etc., had instead been spent on publishing more OER, wouldn’t the world be a better place?

I’m happy to be wrong. Perhaps someone can explain in the comments…