what a difference a “c” makes

In Learning Technologies on May 27, 2009 at 1:33 pm

In the beginning there was the word and then it was quickly copyrighted with a  ©. In 2001, we attempted to free the content and added another “c” and called this “Creative Commons”. Whereas © indicated that rights were restricted, the CC symbol explained what rights the user could have. However, both © and CC assume that (A) the user audience understands these symbols and their implications and (B) will abide by them.

In the education sector, policymakers are embracing open content, typically referred to as “open educational resources” or “OERs”, often licensed under Creative Commons or similar schemes. This makes absolute sense – why pay for content when the education community are developing resources already “for free”? Some of these OERs are of high quality and educators often prefer using content created by other educators. This perspective is fine however someone is paying for the development of OERs (their use may be free but there is a cost of development). The budget for MIT OCW was/is apparently over €2million per annum. How does it cost so much? Actually, I can understand this type of cost – you need professional staff, technology and other support services. Who pays for it? There are a variety of models including endowments, membership fees, sponsorship, donations, research grants etc. And governments. So although the outcome is OERs, there is still an investment – its just not by “commercial publishers”. Giving content away for free doesn’t solve the fundamental problem that commercial publishers also face – many, if not most, educators do not have the capabilities required to engage with digital content to get the signficant outcomes we all believe can be achieved. 

So, does the content sector need more “c”s? Absolutely. At least three more – Content Capability Capacity-building. Ok, there’s a “b” in there but let’s not quibble. The open content and commercial content publishers have to put aside their intellectual property debates to focus on developing educator capabilities related to content. What are they?

  • How to discover content?
  • How to evaluate content?
  • How to license/procure content?
  • How to download/install content?
  • How to modify content?
  • How to use content?
  • How to (re)package content?
  • How to describe content?
  • How to apply licenses to content?
  • How to expose content?
  • How to retract content? 
Educators need to be able to answer these questions regardless of content source and license type. Building content capacity benefits all. Educators, at all levels, will be able to find education resources and select the best ones for their needs, whether open or commercial. More importantly, they can build and adapt content. They can contribute to the wider education community under an open content model or if they want to, sell it. They will know what © means but also what CC means. Everyone wins. The open content movement gets more informed users and contributors but so does the commercial publishing industry.

It’s easy to criticise but I am, as they say, in the tent. Recently, DCU LINK and Cambridge University Press started a new project as part of the Global Grid for Learning initiative with partial funding from the Nominet Trust.  The aim of the project is to create a series of learning opportunities to kickstart content capacity building. Our approach is to use a synchronous learning platform, like Adobe Connect or Wimba, and make this platform available to volunteers to deliver pre-approved modules on topics such as those listed above. Participation in the online sessions will be free and all sessions will be recorded and made available for free as learning objects through the Global Grid for Learning project and other partners. Please email me if you would be interested in giving up some time to prepare and deliver a module – We welcome commercial publishers, content-related software vendors, trainers, teachers, lecturers from both worlds, the commercial and open content.

Oh yes, the license for these learning objects?  Creative Commons-Attribiution-Noncommercial-Share Alike.




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