Who Knew I’d Have to Consider the License (or Be Recognized by Strangers)?

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.


Prix-Fixe and Buffet Models of OER Adoption: An Analogy at Dinner

Post by Matthew Bloom

As Maricopa Millions evolves into Maricopa Millions 2.Open, our grant funding model is evolving, too.  This analogy intends to help explain why.

Persons familiar with the restaurant industry (whether as an employee or as a patron) will recognize the very different “Prix-Fixe” and “Buffet” models of dining options.

A “Prix-Fixe” (PREE-fix) dinner is a complete meal made available, as the French term translates, at a fixed price.  (In Spain, restaurants commonly offer a “Menú del Día,” which is basically the same concept.)  While the menu options are typically limited to the plan of the designer (in this case, the chef) and there is very little choice involved, the consumer of the dinner may simply enjoy the curated meal without the burden of too many choices.  There is little customizability, but, ideally, the promise of a fulfilling meal.  Some diners like this model.

On the other hand, the “Buffet” dinner offers a variety of options for each part of a dining experience.  Diners are obliged to choose based on their individual tastes and needs, but this customizability is preferential to some.  In the end, those eating get what they want and/or what they need.

Hear me out—I know this analogy is far from perfect, but I hope that you are already seeing some of the vital comparisons to how we might refashion our catalogue of open resources.

First of all, to be clear, the “Buffet” model in this analogy does not imply that we’re suggesting that faculty “skip” courses.  Imagine that there is a nutritionist on hand to let you know that you don’t have enough leafy greens on your plate (i.e. that you’re missing a competency).  Or, better yet, let’s assume that you are yourself committed to consuming a meal that includes all the nutritional benefits of a healthy diet.  You know what your course’s competencies are, and you’re not going to skip any of them.  But we all know that’s not going to be a problem, right?  Who goes to a buffet and only eats macaroni and cheese with a side of strawberry shortcake?  (Are we getting hungry yet?)  This is, admittedly, one place where the analogy begins to rupture, but we know that many faculty receptive to switching to open materials are not seeking a full meal; maybe, if you’ll allow the extension, they’ve already had their shortcake and macaroni and cheese before arriving to the buffet and all they’re looking for are a couple of sides, say grilled asparagus (multimedia content) and sautéed squash (a set of formative assessments).  We want to make these options readily accessible to them if that’s all they need to help them make the transition to open (or just finish eating a healthy, rounded meal).

The overall design of this grant project is to encourage faculty to identify what’s either missing from or needs improving on the buffet menu and work on filling in those gaps so that everyone has an even more mouth-watering selection of resources from which to gather whatever kind of meal they’re looking to eat.  And, if there are faculty who have a great idea for a new Prix-Fixe menu for which there is sufficient demand and projected impact, they are fully able to propose the course’s development according to the traditional Maricopa Millions model.

To take the whole analogy even further (since I’m sure you’re not sick of it already), there may exist gaps in the fare offerings that funded projects may seek to fill.  For example, the “Buffet” for a given course, or discipline, may not include any options at all when it comes to a particular competency.  If and when that is the case, a funded project might carve out a space on the buffet line for a new set of choices.

Enough!  Time for lunch.

Searching for Openly-Licensed Content on Google Is Easy, but You Have to Pay Attention

Post by Matthew Bloom.

There are (at least) two easy ways to find content that is openly-licensed using Google search, depending on how you’re looking for whatever it is that you’re looking for.

From any Google results page, you can simply click on “Settings” and then select “Advanced Search” from the drop-down menu.  Scroll down, and you’ll find a “Usage Rights” filter.  This isn’t worded the same way as the Creative Commons licenses, but they more or less cover the same principles of permission.  Select the permissions you’re looking for, and voila! you’ve got a million things to look at that are, supposedly, licensed the way you want.

If you’re looking for an image and using Google Image Search, then it’s even easier: the “Usage Rights” filter appears as soon as you click on “Tools.”

Keep in mind, though, that you still have to “investigate” whether or not the work is actually licensed in that way.  In my experience, bad hits are rare, but they exist.  A best practice, as always, is to go to the source of the content and see what kind of licensing it has.  If nothing’s explicitly stated (e.g. it doesn’t have a Creative Commons license along with its copyright info), you may need to go elsewhere.

Getting faculty to collaborate on developing OER is easy–especially if they barely know they’re doing it!  

From Matthew Bloom, English Faculty, Scottsdale Community College.  

scc_logoWe’ve probably all heard that groan before.  You know: the one that follows any suggestion that a task is going to be made even more complicated than it already is because of some arbitrary decision made by someone else.  That sound–somewhere between disappointment and irritation–that you make when you realize that your house keys are in your left pocket and since you’re holding all the grocery bags in your left hand you’re going to have to put them all down just to unlock the door.  Something like that.

That was the sound I did not want to hear from all of my colleagues one Friday morning when we’d gathered to work together to develop some practice exercises related to our department’s assessment program and I wanted to make sure that what we produced was open.  We were broken up into groups and tasked with writing questions that would test a student’s ability to determine the relevance of evidence as used in an argument.  We were going to be there for a few hours still.  The last thing anyone wanted to hear from me at that point was, “Hey, everyone, make sure that you put a Creative Commons license on your work” or “Yeah, so don’t use any copyright-restricted materials.”  It would have been additional complication.  So I was sneaky about it.

“You know,” I told them, “if we just make up all of the examples, we don’t have to worry about violating copyright.”  That was it.  No mention of Creative Commons and no mention of OER (at that moment).

For the most part, everyone nodded sagely at my advice (I think they understood that we didn’t want to get sued).

Then, when we were done and lunch had arrived, I explained that I would compile the questions we’d produced and, after quickly verifying that nobody had been copying from the web, slap a Creative Commons license on it all.  Everyone agree that it was a good idea.

They had developed OER without really even knowing it.  All it took was a sly OER advocate to focus their attentions in the right place.

How are Savings for the Maricopa Millions Project Calculated?

To calculate the savings for the Maricopa Millions Project, the following steps are taken each Fall and Spring semester.

  1. Identify the number of sections of each of the 50 highest enrollment courses that use “No cost or Low Cost” materials (i.e. less than $40)
  2. Identify the number of sections of additional developmental education courses (not in the 50 highest enrollment courses) that use “No cost or Low Cost” materials (i.e. less than $40)
  3. Add the number of sections from #1 and #2 above and multiply by 20.  Twenty students is a very conservative estimate for the average class size.
  4. Multiply the result from #3 above by $100.  One hundred dollars is a commonly used dollar amount for average savings per student.

Filter used to help students find “No Cost/Low Cost” course in the class schedule (Links to an external site.).

OER Filter 2015.png

How will students react to OER?  

Post from John Gibson, Business & IT Faculty, Glendale Community College, Arizona.  

Business_Description_ImageThis is my 3rd semester teaching an OER-based “Introduction to Business” course.  The impact was immediate.  When I asked my students on the first day how they liked having a free textbook, there was widespread and enthusiastic applause to start the class.  How often does that happen?  They appreciated the easy access to their textbook that first day.  Even though a third of them were not sure about using digital materials and another third thought they needed a print copy, it required a little training and for each person to consider and experiment with what learning approach best worked for them.  But by the end of class 96% said they would suggest this approach for future classes.  2% decided to print the textbook from our PDF file.

Saving Maricopa Community College Students $5 Million over 5 Years with Open Educational Resources (OER