Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Too Many Levels?

Our reflection question this week regards copyright licenses - are there too many levels. In Creative Commons (CC) alone there are 6 license types available on their license page. There is also confusion about what the terms mean within those license types. Non-commercial is a good example of this. Many of our readings/viewings this week mentioned the confusion surrounding non-commercial.

On the CC FAQ page non-commercial is describes as the restriction of works which are "primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation". CC goes on to explain that judging whether something is commercial or non-commercial will depend on both the situation and intention of the user. This makes the definition wide open for interpretation which could lead to some tricky situations. The FAQ page suggests that if you are unsure if your use is commercial or non-commercial you should contact the license holder to see how they would interpret the use.

In the reading by David Wiley a future is imagined where the non-commercial part of the CC license brings about lawsuits because of interpretation. Eventually the non-commercial part is taken out and the issue is solved. Is this solution too optimistic? Would the actual reality be more complicated?

Confusion abounds in the copyright issue. What constitutes fair dealing or fair use? In the USA educational use of works is covered under fair use. In Canada (where I live) this is not the case. Fair dealing in Canada does not pertain to education. If I wanted to show a video in my class for educational purposes I would have to write to the copyright holder for permission. I found a rather handy quick guide on some of the differences at the Concordia University Library website. In Canada educational institutions must belong to collectives like Access Copyright in order to make copies of works for classes. As we read in class this week Access is raising its rates significantly which will raise issues for the next academic year.

At the very least all of the different options available make it difficult to navigate what you can use and what you can't. It might be simpler to have just copyright and public domain, but with copyright laws differing so much from country to country it would still be pretty complicated.

Different licensing options like those offered by CC offer an alternative to restrictive and obsolete copyright laws. It might not be the perfect alternative but I think we can look at it as a healthy step along the way to copyright reform. I am hoping for the evolution of the marketplace to new types of copyright which allow for the protection of both the producer and the consumer.

Interestingly, on my way home from work today I heard a podcast interview on the TVO show Search Engine regarding some thoughts on the future of Fair Dealings in Canada. You can listen here if you are interested.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What Does it Mean to be an OER?

All three of the terms open, educational and resource seem to be difficult to define to anyone's satisfaction. I believe this is because to a certain extent all three of these terms have a different meaning to everyone

What does it mean to be open?

To say something is open might mean that it is freely available or it might mean for a small fee you can use that something and have knowledge about how it was created. Each of the articles we read as well as the video we watched delved into the concept of what it means to be open a great deal and all agreed clarification is needed. In the Tuomi article three levels of social openness were described which leads me to believe that some things can be more open than others. In my mind to be open something must be easily available, freely usable, and customizable.

What does it mean to say something is educational?
This question always leads to the formal verses informal education debate. It is not really fair to say that only things created at an educational institution or with the purpose of education are educational. Informal learning occurs all the time and because it is personally relevant may have more of an impact on the learner. My definition of education is any situation from which a person learns. This is probably way to broad for the purposes of defining an OER, but I do think it is something which is personal and should not be confined to formal learning.

What is a resource?

I don't really want to limit resources to tools or digital assets. I think resources can include people, places (eg. a library) and things. I was wondering if an experience could also be a resource, but I think a resource might need to be more solid. A picture of an experience could be a resource because it is something tangible you could refer to again. My definition of a resource would be an object or asset which can be used for a particular purpose. The resource would not have to be created with learning in mind in order for it to be educational though.

My definition of an OER

According to what I have written above an OER must be an easily available, freely usable and customizable object or asset which can be used formally or informally to learn. I view the open part of the definition to be most crucial however. If something is open on all three of the levels discussed in the Tuomi article it wouldn't matter if it was intended to be educational or a resource. It could still be viewed as an OER by the user as long as they had open access to it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cape Town and Budapest Declarations

For week one of the Open Educational Resources course we were asked to read both the Cape Town and Budapest Declarations and sign them if we agreed. I signed both of them.

I agree strongly with the statements made in both. The Budapest Declaration makes the point that freely sharing ideas for the "sake of inquiry and knowledge" is an old tradition. I believe this is what has allowed our collective knowledge evolve over time.

Limiting access to ideas only limits how these ideas change over time. I suppose that is why access to ideas was limited - to limit the changes to that idea. An idea is the property of the idea holder however that idea came from the idea holder's exposure to other ideas. How could it not? So, to say that an idea should remain static is ridiculous.

The point of documents like these is to raise awareness about the free sharing of ideas. I really liked that both documents gave suggestions for action. Even if changes at the institutional level are a long time coming documents like these at least have people thinking about change.

We are using Angel as our course management software in this class. Using any CMS is in direct opposition to what the Cape Town and Budapest declaration support. We are closing off our ideas and discussions when we should be opening them up.