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.
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.
From Matthew Bloom, English Faculty, Scottsdale Community College.
We’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.
In 2014, MCCCD became the first college system to incorporate the ability for students to search for no cost and low cost (<$40) course materials, including OER, through the student information system.
To calculate the savings for the Maricopa Millions Project, the following steps are taken each Fall and Spring semester.
- 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)
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.).
Post from John Gibson, Business & IT Faculty, Glendale Community College, Arizona.
This 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.