I spent the day in Vancouver yesterday talking content with a great group of EdTechies from around BC. The one day Learning Content Strategies session was organized by Scott Leslie from BCcampus.
Much of the talk revolved around open education resources and some of the common barriers we face when trying to open content to the outside world, beyond the confines of the LMS. Copyright, collective agreements between faculty and institutions, and a reluctance on the part of some faculty to open their content (for a number of reasons) seem to be the major hurdles institutions are facing when it comes to making their content open.
I was thinking about this more last night, and wish now that I would have contributed more to the conversation. Specifically, there are 3 additional issues that I see as potential hurdles to adopting open content practices.
You want me to change this?
Issue one is existing process. Over the past 10 or so years since the LMS emerged as the primary vehicle for delivering content, considerable time and energy has been expended by institutions to establish LMS centered processes for content creation. No wonder talk of inserting a new strategy to make content open is seen as potentially disruptive to established processes – processes that took many people much work to establish. We have to figure out a way to incorporate strategies into our process that allows for open content without making it seem like we want to reinvent the process wheel.
What’s in it for me?
Faculty hesitation was touched on at the session, but much of it revolved around notions of the fear some faculty have that they might lose control of their work, or their effort would somehow be taken advantage of by others.
But for some faculty, I think the reason why they don’t adopt open content policies is a bit more pragmatic – they could view it as extra work.
I think there has to be something in it for them before they contribute. I don’t mean this as an ego bash against faculty, but rather an acknowledgment that they are busy people. They have to see some value in doing this otherwise it becomes just another task. The last thing they probably think about when creating content is the value of sharing it with others, if they even think of it at all. Which leads me to…
What do you mean open?
The last issue is awareness. At my institution there are probably many early adopters who would be happy to contribute their material to the common good if they were even aware this was an option.
This is where I can play an immediate role in my institution. Talking about initiatives like Creative Commons, pointing them to existing OER resources and generally raising awareness of open content on my campus will, hopefully, draw some of them out. I need to keep the conversation going that Brian Lamb started at my institution last spring (zip ahead to 11:50 to see Brian’s presentation, or check out his presentation notes).
One of the tools given to us by BCcampus yesterday to help continue the conversation is a new website called Free Learning. A custom Google search engine that only searches vetted, high quality open education resources, Free Learning allows educators to search for free and openly licensed educational resources that they can then reuse or remix for their courses.
The second resource I have are some of the loosely coupled presentations. Brian Lamb and Novak Rogic’s presentation has some fine examples of how content can live outside the LMS and the advantages to using blogs and wiki’s as content delivery platforms (as well as some super spiffy JSON code for embedding content from one page into another). Grant Potter from UNBC also demonstrated how distributed UNBC faculty are using a wiki to create a course and Richard Smith from SFU gave us the faculty perspective with a look at some of the tools he uses in his class, most notably livestreaming his lectures using uStream.
When it comes to bigger picture issues in educational technology (like Open Educational Resources), I am a neophyte. I haven’t spent nearly the amount of time working on these types of issues as my contemporaries. In the edtech scheme of things I am much more tech than ed. So I truly appreciate events like these that make me stop and critically think beyond the code about the work I do.