On Sustainability

Several interesting thoughts about sustainability are making the rounds after our recent conference. I thought Kerry struck a particularly alarming chord:

Eisenhower National Clearinghouse is a good example – once enc.org, home to a plethora of math-based lesson plans, tutorials, java applets, etc. – now a paid subscription site due to the end of NSF funding.

Is this really the eventual end of opencourseware and other open education projects once Hewlett funding and other sources dry up? Do the resources disappear from those who can’t afford them (trans. those who need them most)? Saying things like “oh, the Internet Archive will still have them” is only helpful as long as people keep funding the archive.

I think the best strategy, and the one enabled by our choices of CC licenses, is to simply proliferate copies of all this content around the globe on the personal home pages of interested people. Kind of a low-tech version of LOCKSS. As long as some undergraduate interested in physics has 10 megs of personal web space, as long as some postal clerk interested in literature can afford $10/month to host their personal website, these materials will always be available. Because they are more than just materials that someone is looking to make a buck from. They’re a contribution to the cause of educating and benefiting humanity. And that makes them special. Call me sentimental, but I think people will treat them that way.

1 thought on “On Sustainability”

  1. Even though NSF funds paid my stipends in grad school and monies generated by NSF-funded still pay for me to have a nice dinner with former professors and colleagues, this stuff has always ticked me off.

    As a 2nd year un-tenured professor, I arranged for a mirror of 50 or so GB of K12LTSP’s stuff. I’m pretty sure that I could similarly arrange to have ENC.org mirrored with a little lead time. I can’t be unique. And, did I mention, this is my third year at a land grant institution? The folks that built that archive, or as the case may be, enabled other people to create it (I’m not really familiar with it), could have, in 10 minutes, had someone host the stuff for free. Indefinitely.

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