Learning from open access

June 26, 2008 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, Melissa Hagemann, Eve Gray and I led a workshop called Opening Scholarship at Elpub 2008. Our aim was to dig into a very specific question: what lessons can those of us working on open education learn from the open access to research movement. As the room was filled with experienced open access folks (that’s the theme of the conference), it seemed like a good place to ask this.

It turned out we were right. There was three hours of fun and intense conversation about both open access and education. At the end, we brainstormed key takeaways with the group:

  1. Use the ‘public access argument’. If public dollars are paying for educational materials, the public should be able to use (and evolve) them freely.
  2. Build coalitions. Bringing researchers, universities and taxpayer rights advocates together under the Alliance for Taxpayer Access banner was critical to the open access NIH victory.
  3. Be strategic about where to focus early open education efforts, looking for areas like vocational training where traditional publishers are weak.
  4. Engage business and think about business models early on. Open access has worked in part because progressive publishers are involved and because there isn’t just one business model.
  5. Be patient and explain what you are on about consistently. It’s only after years of calm explanations and experimentation that bigger publishers have come to open access.
  6. Invest in early test cases that show what is possible. Do research. Develop metrics. Write up the best cases.
  7. Build a network of champions and evangelists who can talk about these early successes. And make sure to start building leadership in emerging economies early on.

On top off all this, there was also a good deal of reflection on the fact that open education is a different kettle of fish from open access to research. It’s not just about getting stuff out there, it’s about making it remixable and improvable by communities of teachers. And, by extension, it’s also about changing how we teach and learn, and putting students much more in the educational drivers seat.

As one participant said at the end of workshop. “Open education could be much more disruptive than open access was. It could be revolutionary.” Yup, I think so.

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