More on MOOCs and Being Awesome Instead
David Wiley, iterating toward openness, May 24, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

David Wiley clarifies, and his points are worth lingering on.



  • "Some readers may have gotten the impression that I was saying it was ok to 'Be Awesome Instead' of being open. That was absolutely not the point I was making. Being open – truly open – is absolutely critical..." Quite so.

  • And I am really really of the same mind as Wiley when he writes this: "For a number of years I have felt that the overwhelming majority of educational researchers are focused on the 'high quality' problem, to the virtual exclusion of the 'universal' and 'free' problem from the discourse." From my perspective, talk of 'quality' has become a useful red herring for those really wanting resources to be not open and not free. That's not to say I oppose quality (and neither does Wiley). But if it must be perfect before it is free, then it will never be free.

  • "The only way to accomplish the amount of personalization necessary to achieve high quality at scale is to enable decentralized personalization to be performed locally by peers, teachers, parents, and others." Once again, I'm completely agreed. This is what I was trying to urge at OECD (not that they listened).


My only quibble is with his insistence on "free 4Rs permissions" - which includes allowing commercialization of free resources. Given what he has just said about opoen access, and about there being "no rights and royalties regime under which this personalization could possibly happen" I just can't see requiring allowing commercial use. Somewhere someone is going to have to say, "if you throw up a paywall, it's not open access, and you've broken the agreement."


Do you doubt me? If I blocked access to this website and started charging a subscription fee for OLDaily, would you consider it consisten with my long-time committment to free and open access? No? Then why would it be consistent with free and open access if someone else did it to my stuff?

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Comments

Re: More on MOOCs and Being Awesome Instead

I'd like to weigh in on the commercial use issue. I once held similar views to yours, but have had to reconsider.

Yes, if you started charging for access, OLDaily would no longer be open. However, prohibiting any commercial use, as the implications of NonCommercial CC licencing were explained to us in a MOOC, means that all for-pay sites would be prohibited from republishing, reusing, or remixing your material on their site or in their content. (I think the examples given were educational start-ups in India, or private schools who keep costs down by using open resources. These are generally charging for finding, packaging, and sequencing the open resources, and often for mentoring students, rather than simply reselling the OER's.)

Therefore, even if someone exercises permission to use open resources behind a pay-wall, the original owner still makes his/her materials open to everyone. THEY don't get to lock the rest of us out of YOUR site. Yes, someone might get a free ride and make money off our work, but even that has an up-side. Provided the for-pay site abides by the attribution and share-alike requirements (if used), paying customers, who might never have stumbled across it otherwise, have the opportunity to share the open material outside of the course.

I have taken closed, for-credit tuition-charging courses that have used OER e-textbooks. If those OER's had had a non-commercial limitation, we would most likely have been forced to purchase copy-righted texts instead. (I have also taken a free MOOC that required purchasing a textbook that was not OER, but that's not material to this discussion.)

I have, therefore, stopped using "NonCommercial" in licencing my CC resources - except here where I accept the licence terms you specify.

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Re: More on MOOCs and Being Awesome Instead

> all for-pay sites would be prohibited from republishing, reusing, or remixing your material on their site or in their content...

Yes. That is the intent.

To be clear: I don't mind if commercial entities reuse the material. But if they block access to the material, making (their version of it) available only to fee-paying customers, then I have an objection.

> even if someone exercises permission to use open resources behind a pay-wall, the original owner still makes his/her materials open to everyone.

Yes, but that now gives the commercial site owner an incentive to put me out of business. To make hosting fees more expensive. To make it harder to show up in search results. To require compliance with obscure laws, or entry of detailed metadata. Etc.

And this is exactly what happens. Commercial providers manipulate the market to make it far easier to just pay them the money than to seek out and obtain the original no-cost material. If you don't believe me, go to your local mall and ask around for the original public-domain no-cost version of Plato's Republic. Can't be found.

> I have taken closed, for-credit tuition-charging courses that have used OER e-textbooks.

Yes, and so long as this situation persists it gets harder and harder to offer open non-tuition courses for credit. That's exactly the opposite of the direction we should be going.
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Re: More on MOOCs and Being Awesome Instead

Yes, but that now gives the commercial site owner an incentive to put me out of business.

That's a very powerful argument. I didn't realize that existed - but it makes business sense. Ergo, it must be happening somewhere. Guess I need to quit hiding my head in the idealistic sand. [Comment] [Permalink]



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