Course Narrative

Course Narrative

Tue Aug 30 – What’s the broader context of Introduction to Open Education?

Open education is radically changing the effectiveness and the economics of education – where it is understood. A growing body of evidence indicates that open education is capable of drastically reducing costs while significantly improving student outcomes. Unfortunately, the majority of faculty are still unaware of ideas like “open educational resources” (OER) or “open pedagogy.” Until we improve awareness of and increase support for open education initiatives among students, faculty, staff, and administrators across the country, open education will continue to under-deliver on its promise.

How do we build this awareness and increase the supports available to faculty (who are the ultimate decision-makers about what resources get used in classrooms)? What has been done in related fields that has worked well? How bad is the awareness problem?

Thu Sep 1 – Why do we even care about education? (Weekly Discussion)

Education is more important than ever before. Nothing else can do as much to promote happiness, prosperity, and security for individuals, families, and societies. And while many novel and useful experiments are occurring outside formal education, the degrees, certificates, and other credentials awarded by formal institutions are still critically important to many people’s quality of life.

Why should we care about education? How do people’s financial prospects vary based on their level of formal education? How do people’s degrees of happiness vary based on their level of education? Do we need to work to ensure that everyone has access to education? What are the ethical, moral, and religious perspectives on these questions?

  • Search the internet to find answers to these questions from government, business, NGO, and other sources. Share sources you find on Twitter with the #intro2opened hashtag, and highlight key portions of documents using H.

Tue Sep 6 – Why do we even care about education? (Weekly Create)

Thu Sep 8 – Cost is a major barrier to education. (Weekly Discussion)

Unfortunately, formal education is also more expensive than ever before. This is a significant problem in the US and growing problem around the world. Even the content and materials used to support education have become dramatically more expensive. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that the cost of textbooks is comparable to 26% of in-state tuition at public universities and 72% at community colleges – up over 800% over the past three decades. Students literally drop out of post-secondary programs because of the cost of textbooks, while others simply forego purchasing required textbooks and suffer the academic consequences. (The situation is equally dire in secondary schools – many schools have either stopped purchasing textbooks altogether or purchase only a “classroom set” once every ten years.)

How much do students actually spend on textbooks, and why is this question so complicated? How quickly has the cost of textbooks been rising over the last several decades? How does the cost of textbooks impact students’ success, if at all?

Tue Sep 13 – Cost is a major barrier to education. (Weekly Create)

Thu Sep 15 – OER overcome the cost problem. (Weekly Discussion)

Open educational resources are “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”( Hewlett, 2012).

OER allow “free use and repurposing.” This lack of cost contrasts directly with recent attempts by publishers and others to strengthen the copyright monopoly and erode fair use and other copyright exemptions. In economists’ terms, OER are public goods – they are nonrivalrous and nonexcludable, resources that are free for any and all to use – like sunlight or wind.

Tue Sep 20 – OER overcome the cost problem. (Weekly Create)

Thu Sep 22 Open means free plus permissions. (Weekly Discussion)

It seems almost impossible that over 1 billion open educational resources could have been created and shared for free online. However, when you stop and reflect on it, the entire public internet is free – over 4.5 billion pages of content, photos, and videos (Walker, 2015) freely available for you to read, look at, and watch. If the entire public internet is already free, what makes open educational resources special? Why don’t we just call them online educational resources?

The “open” in open educational resources has a two part definition – it means they (1) are free and (2) come with the “5R” permissions. Because these permissions can only be granted by means of a formal copyright license, most educational resources become open educational resources when their creator applies a Creative Commons license to them.

Tue Sep 27 – Open means free plus permissions. (Weekly Create)

Thu Sep 29 – We aren’t the only ones working on open. (Weekly Discussion)

My inspiration for launching the open content movement in 1998 was something called open source software. Because of the compelling arguments for the open source approach and the track record of incredible success that open source has established, many other movements have adopted its principles. Open education’s nearest neighbor is the open access movement, which argues that research and the scholarly record should be made open. Others include the open data and open web movements.

Tue Oct 4 – We aren’t the only ones working on open. (Weekly Create)

Thu Oct 6 – Open education has come a long way in 18 years. (Weekly Discussion)

Over the past two decades open education has used a variety of different terms and focused on a wide range of issues. With open content we worked to establish mechanisms that made it possible to openly share things like articles, books, videos, songs, and images. With open courseware we began advocating for people to take the materials they had developed for use in teaching their own courses and share them openly. With open educational resources we broadened the definition of where openly licensed content supporting learning could come from (not just faculty who teach courses at Research I universities). With open textbooks we tried to down-convert the idea of OER into concepts that were more familiar to faculty. With OER degrees we began the conversation (in earnest) about transforming teaching and learning in higher education.

Tue Oct 11 – Open education has come a long way in 18 years. (Weekly Create)

Thu Oct 13 – You get what you pay for. (Weekly Discussion AND Weekly Create)

It’s all well and good that a massive, distributed community of authors and makers around the world have created materials that can be used in support of learning, that they’re also willing to openly license. However, we all know that “you get what you pay for.” There is simply no way that some free thing I download off the internet can be as effective in supporting learning as expensive, professionally produced resources…

  • Fischer, L., Hilton, J., Robinson T. J., & Wiley, D. (2015). A Multi-institutional Study of the Impact of Open Textbook Adoption on the Learning Outcomes of Post-secondary Students. Journal of Computing in Higher Education. 10.1007/s12528-015-9101-x
  • Robinson T. J., Fischer, L., Wiley, D. A., & Hilton, J. (2014). The Impact of Open Textbooks on Secondary Science Learning Outcomes. Educational Researcher. DOI: 10.3102/0013189X14550275
  • Weller, M., de los Arcos, B., Farrow, R., Pitt, B., & McAndrew, P. (2015). The Impact of OER on Teaching and Learning Practice. Open Praxis, 7(4), 351-361. doi:10.5944/openpraxis.7.4.227
  • The Review Project, John Hilton
  • OER Research Toolkit, Open Education Group

No class week of Oct 17 – AECT Conference

Use this week to finish next week’s readings. They are long and dense. James Boyle’s chapters are open and free for you to read. There’s a wonderful audio version of the book available for $8 you might also consider.

Tue Oct 25 – The possible versus the permitted. (Weekly Discussion)

The internet gives us incredible capabilities never before imagined. With a physical newspaper, I have to wait for my wife to finish reading one section before I can read it. However, if the same news is published online, we can both read it at the same time – in fact, millions of people can.

This conversion of content from a private good to a public good has far-reaching implications that are difficult to fully comprehend. It can be difficult to want to share textbook (a private good), because while your friend is reading it you’re unable to. However, it’s easy to want to share YouTube videos, because a million people can watch them at the same time. (Imagine getting an error message that said, “Sorry. Someone else is currently watching this video. Please try again later.”) This shift in the very nature of sharing creates incredible opportunities for education – especially in areas where access to resources has historically been a problem.


Just because the internet makes it technologically possible for us to share doesn’t mean that we’re allowed to share. Copyright law strictly regulates who is allowed to copy and share with whom. In other words, what the internet makes simple and free, copyright law make complicated and expense. Even more simply, what the internet enables copyright forbids (free and instantaneous sharing around the globe).

How did we get in this mess in the first place? Where did the notion that ideas could be “property” come from? What is the scale of the conflict?

No class Oct 27 –  Nov 1 – Educause / Open Ed Conference.

Use this week to begin expanding your Weekly Creates for the Final Project.

Tue Nov 8 – The possible versus the permitted. (Weekly Create)

Tue Nov 15 – Exploring open pedagogy. (Weekly Discussion)

OER resolve the tension between the possible and the permitted. Via the 5Rs, open educational resources provide faculty and students with a wide range of permissions and opportunities that were not available to them before. Faculty can interact with content in ways they couldn’t previously – revising, remixing, and redistributing to students. Students can interact with content in ways they couldn’t previously – retaining copies of all their course materials indefinitely, revising and remixing the core resources used to support their own – and their peers’ – learning, and sharing these artifacts with friends, family, and others.

When the restraints of copyright are removed, what can we do that we have never imagined before? What can we do significantly more easily or powerfully than we could do before?

Thu Nov 17 – Exploring open pedagogy. (Weekly Create)

Tue Nov 22 – No class (Friday Instruction)

Thu Nov 24 – No class (Thanksgiving)

Tue Nov 29 – No class (Writing day)

Thu Dec 1 – Present first drafts in class

Tue Dec 6 – No class (Feedback from David and peers due via

Thu Dec 8 – Present final drafts in class

Extra Credit – Sustaining open education

Public goods are often discussed in the context of what is called the “public goods problem.” When use of a resource can’t be restricted to those who will pay for it (meaning anyone can use the resource for free), there is little market incentive for an individual, organization, or company to spend the resources necessary to create the public good. Historically, this has lead to the underprovision of public goods and necessitated the government stepping in to provide these resources (like national defense). And yet – we see millions of examples of individuals, organizations, and companies creating open educational resources and other open artifacts (like open source software and open access research articles) online. What is going on here?

What incentivizes people to create and share open educational resources and other open artifacts? Will these incentives be sufficient to enable the creation of all the OER we need? If so, why? If not, what must change to make open education more sustainable?