Post by Matthew Bloom
In 2013, I was funded by a Maricopa Institute for Learning and Instruction (MCLI) Learning Grant to develop an OER primer designed to get English composition faculty involved in using, adapting, and creating open resources. The project was both challenging and rewarding (as any good educational experience is), because I wasn’t, at the time, much of an expert at all when it came to open licensing. To be honest, every time I think about what I still don’t know about copyright and licensing, I feel the dread that probably everyone who isn’t a copyright lawyer feels when negotiating the details of open content publishing. This is similar to the kind of feeling I get whenever a particularly bright student comes to my office hours to talk about literature or culture and I’m reminded that I am not, in fact, the Knower of All Things. Even more precisely, it’s what I sometimes feel when I get into a classroom discussion about the Irish author James Joyce (about whose work I wrote my Master’s thesis) and can’t easily answer a random curious question about the author’s life. Who am I, Richard Ellmann? No.
Anyway, I learned a lot in the process of developing the OER workshop, and it has now been broadened and shared as an ongoing open course via Canvas Network (obligatory shameless plug: self-enroll for free at https://www.canvas.net/courses/making-transition-to-open). I recently discovered at a conference that it has served as the basis for the University of Central Florida’s faculty OER training regimen. That was after I said my name before asking a question following a session, and I was approached by the very person who had been remixing my content. Very flattering and very cool, I thought. Share it out and, maybe, you get the love later when you least expect it. That’s a cozy little thing to end on, but I should probably get back to the original purpose of this post.
I hadn’t initially considered licensing requirements when I developed the workshop. I was diligent about using resources according to their licenses, of course, but I had not considered that the funders of the project preferred the work to be licensed CC BY. Having spent I don’t know how many hours remixing content from WikiEducator and Wikipedia (among other resources), I could only explain that I was not able to place a CC BY license on the work because some of the remixed content was available under CC BY-SA, which means that derivative works such as mine would need to be licensed the same way. Nothing bad happened; MCLI is awesome and they immediately understood the predicament and the workshop was released under CC BY-SA and it has now served as a resource both inside our district and out.
So, if there’s a moral to this little story, it’s this: if you’re creating OER for someone else by contract, find out from them before you start how it is that they expect the content to be licensed in the end.