Despite MS Challenge, Open Content and Open Source Get In

As per the alternately infuriating (do we need another reason to *hate* MicroSoft?) and comical article at InsideHigherEd, the US Secretary of Education’s Commission’s on the Future of Higher Education *did* succeed in getting some language around open content into the Commission’s formal recommendations / report – but just barely.

The original recommendation in the report read as follows:

The commission encourages the creation of incentives to promote the development of open-source and open-content projects at universities and colleges across the United States, enabling the open sharing of educational materials from a variety of institutions, disciplines, and educational perspectives. Such a portal could stimulate innovation, and serve as the leading resource for teaching and learning. New initiatives such as OpenCourseWare, the Open Learning Initiative, the Sakai Project, and the Google Book project hold out the potential of providing universal access both to general knowledge and to higher education.

However, after MicroSoft Corporate Vice President Gerri Elliott threw a hissy-fit about the inclusion of the phrases “open source” and “open content” in the report, things were up in the air for a while. The final recommendation in the report now reads as follows:

The commission encourages the creation of incentives to promote the development of information-technology-based collaborative tools and capabilities at universities and colleges across the United States, enabling access, interaction, and sharing of educational materials from a variety of institutions, disciplines, and educational perspectives. Both commercial development and new collaborative paradigms such as open source, open content, and open learning will be important in building the next generation learning environments for the knowledge economy.

The long and short of it is that the commission *is* recommending the creation of incentives to promote the development of open source and open content.

It’s been 8 years since I first said “open content” and started pushing the idea and the meme. I must say that it is extremely gratifying to see that open content has made its way into this recommendation that will potentially effect all higher education in the US, and even more gratifying to read Chuck Vest saying ‘the phrase “open source'” could go, but “open content” has to stay in the report.’ Obviously the idea of open content has thousands of champions, many of which are more influential than I am. But it is quite the thrill to see the words in the recommendation.

Now for the hard part… we just have to make the recommendations happen. 🙂

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • TheBizofKnowledge September 1, 2006, 11:17 pm

    I’ve not been following this story at all… can you tell me what is the difference between “open content” and “open source”? I’ve always been under the impression that the two terms could be used interchangeably, but clearly that’s wrong.

  • Jeremy Browne September 4, 2006, 1:14 pm

    I caught wind of this on Slashdot, and I figured you were already up on it.

    What annoys me most is not that MS would get someone on the committee, nor that this person would push MS’s position. What annoys me most (and I’ve seen this in other projects) is that a high-priced consultant like this would vote on the draft having obviously not read it (even if MS was picking up the tab).

    How could one representing the largest (proprietary) software company on the planet have not seen the words “open source” in the draft?