Three abstracts for OER15: Licensing talking points, Models of OER production, and OERs and Accessibility


I just submitted three abstracts for the OER15 Conference 14 – 15th April 2015. It started as one but I realized that there are really three distinct pieces of work that could be of benefit. I don’t expect all three to be accepted but here are the abstracts for anyone who’s interested.


Open licensing is an accessibility and inclusion feature of OERs

Much talk about accessibility is focused on removing primary barriers to the content for those with specific needs (perceptual, cognitive or physical). This can be done with a closed license document as much as an open license document provided it is not encumbered with Digital Rights Management restrictions. However, in practice, restrictive licensing comes with other restrictive practices that prevent accessibility. In many countries, it is legal to make accessible copies despite other restrictions but this requires setting their users apart and putting other barriers in their way.

This lightning talk will showcase several case studies demonstrating how closed licensing puts may be compatible with individual accessibility but works against inclusion. I hope that it will provide another argument for the promotion of OERs at all levels of education.

Have the licensing talk early to maximize impact: Experiences from three collaborative projects

The outputs of many collaborative projects often see limited use in the long term because neither partner is quite sure what is permitted. Frequently, the people involved in the creation of content have left their institutions and futher use and distribution of the developed works is in doubt.

Yet, in most projects, the talk about rights and licensing is left till close to the end or is omitted all together. People talk about the value of intellectual property but they never explore the limits unclarities about licensing impose on the potential impact of outputs. It is therefore essential that the licensing discussion is introduced early on in the development of the project.

This talk will present key talking points that have been used in three projects that have led to partners agreeing to licensing some or all of the work developed under the project using open licences. Often resistance to open licenses stems from ignorance and making a clear case for it as well as clearly outlining the options can prevent barriers from ever being formed in the first place.

Modes and models of production of OERs: The missing link to wider adoption

Much of the talk about OERs concerns their adoption and use. However, without proper consideration of the different models for their production, it is possible that a OERs will never become available at a volume and quality that makes their adoption a real possibility for institutions looking at a market where cost is only one of the considerations.

The typical model is that of an individual content creator (or possibly an institution) who decides to share her materials. However, this rarely leads to sustainable and readily reusable materials. A more likely result is for these materials to languish unused in one of the many repositories. We need to consider alternatives to this and make them explicit when talking about OERs. Luckily, there are several successful models that have worked and can be adopted for OERs.

This paper will consider three models of successful open content creation that should be more widely considered and supported by funders.

1) Wikipedia is perhaps the best known example of large-scale creation of open content. However, the way through which it is created and maintained is often confused with ‘crowd effects’. In fact, Wikipedia became successful because its creators are anything but a crowd, but are instead loosely organised into editorial groups with meritocratic responsibilities.

2) Code sprints (books sprints) provide a model for creating large amounts of documentation in short focused working sessions with experts gathered in one space. They have been extremely successful in both creating open source software and documentation for the software.

3) Fan Fiction is another area of content creation where free (although mostly not freely licensed) content is made available at a large scale. While mostly following the lone-creator model, Fan Fiction communities have largely resolved the editorial process through a system of alpha and beta readers as well as a network of reviewers who make content discoverable for others.

These models can co-exist and combined with one another. This paper will explore how existing OER projects could benefit from these models and present examples of where it has already happened.


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