In this theme we have explored the concept of openness. Open education is about the conviction that everyone should have access to high-quality educational experiences and resources. It’s about sharing, producing and building knowledge together (https://opensource.com). Weller (2014) continues that openness comes from an altruistic viewpoint and a belief that education is of public good. Openness has become a natural part of everyday life and a lot of the open movements have come from universities, enabling sharing of knowledge (Weller, 2014).Despite those altruistic ideas, today the majority of open learners are already experienced learners, most of them with university degrees (Weller, 2014). Students are encouraged to take responsibility for their learning, to become autonomous, strategic, self-regulated and reflective learners (Fraser & Deane 1997), which favors those with experience. Furthermore, openness is only a reality for those with access to a computer, reliable internet connection and who knows how to use the technology and platforms (Peter & Farrell, 2013). This imply that less privileged students, who might need education the most are locked out, due to lack of access to technology, language issues or computer literacy (Weller, 2014).

This may show a quite gloomy view of openness and a critique against the concept, but on the contrary. I am very much for openness, I just think that we need to face the challenges and short-comings in order to improve the practice. Even if openness may have shown us that we are excluding students from our learning communities, going back to purely institutional teaching would be even more excluding and limiting. Letting this be the start of this blog post, I want to talk about my level of openness and what I see as advantages and disadvantages about open technology in my education.

Being a newbie in the Open learning community and, as we found out during the last theme, an immigrant in the digital world, my use of free resources and sharing of my own resources are limited. Mainly I have used pictures that are free of use, to illustrate my ppt-presentations or as illustrations of themes on the LMS we use. Then I have also experienced the consequences of Openness. I participated in a one-day-conference arranged by the County, as a presenter. They asked if they could video-record my presentation and I agreed. What I did not realize was that it was going to appear on YouTube, and that it would be lying there for years (now finally it’s gone). Or that slides that I used for education of clinical staff later on was shared on SlidePlayer by another person. There are several aspects of this; one is that things get outdated and needs to be revised. I revise my material continuously and what I said in 2012 is maybe not the same lecture that I would give today. Secondly, I do not want to be held accounted for outdated data, the responsibility has to be on the one who publish the slides or videos. Never the less, I am the monkey you see on the pictures. So the first lesson learned is about license and agreements. As a newbie, this could easily be foreseen. If I want to go open, it has to be on my terms.

So I started reading about the different CC licenses, and kind of liked CC-BY-NC-ND. You may share, give credit, not use it for commercial purposes and not alter…That does not quite fill the requirements of openness posted by Wiley (2009) (reuse, redistribute, revise and remix). I want to share, but I am afraid of the last two (revise and remix) since I don’t know if the material will be misused or interpreted the wrong way. What if the angry mob turns to me, holding me accountable for the revised material that provide false information? I am not responsible anymore, someone else has done it! Or are we always in some sense responsible for what we throw in the whirlpool of internet?

So firstly, maybe it is a good think to mark your materials; videos, slides etc. with a level of CC-license that you’re comfortable with. Then, if the license is respected, you will not receive any surprises. I had no such things on the YouTube material or slides I used for education so shame on me! Considering the CC-licenses; there are six levels (the one I voted for CC-BY-NC-ND being the most restricted and not very open or friendly). One may chose a more allowing license, CC-BY-NC. For me NC (non-commercial) has been important. I do not intend to make money on my material and neither should others. It’s about spreading and sharing knowledge, not profit. Well, turns out that this is not as crystal clear as you might think at first sight. Gordon Haff made a post back in 2007 about the trickiness of NC.
Openness can appear in various fields, and concerning open-source software, as Haff points out, those licenses are not concerned with how the software is going to be used or making restrictions in the usage. However, when it comes to pictures, photos, videos or slides that you may want to use for your education, the creative commons licenses are used and here we find terms of usage. As for my examples, this seems like a good idea, clarifying how to share and use things that I have created or developed. But consider the following questions that Haff asks;

·     What if I have some AdSense (Google advertising system) advertising on my Web page or blog?
·     What if I use the photo in an internal company presentation? (All companies are commercial enterprises, after all.)
·     What if I’m using those photos as “incidental” illustrative content in a presentation I’m being paid to give?

Are any of these uses truly noncommercial? Tricky, isn’t it? Putting the NC could be quite restrictive to me, but also to those who wants to use my material. Maybe they are less privileged in some part and my material would be of great help, but they cannot endorse to more restricted interpretation of NC. In the report Defining Noncommercial(2009), it is shown that people tend to be more generous with flexible use of NC licenses when it is a non-profit organization who uses the content. Even if that non-profit organization makes money on it (for example if a CC-BY-NC picture is used for a campaign raising money for some of their projects). It is recommended that licensees who are uncertain of whether their use is noncommercial should allow commercial use (e.g., licensed under CC BY, CC BY-SA) or ask the licensor for specific permission.  

So back to me and my education; will I have the courage to go open, and share my materials more? Yes, I think so. What license should I use? Maybe I should be generous (CC-BY) maybe that is the best contribution if I want to lessen the inequalities of access to educational material between privileged and not so privileged people or between experiences and unexperienced students and colleagues. And maybe I just have to face the wise words from Weller (2014) ‘Anything you say/write online can and will be used against you…’, and not be so concerned about how my material is used and if it will give rise to anger to some people. Lastly, and I know this is not really compatible with legal issues such as licenses, I think we are many newbies here and there are many grey zones, so it would be good with a great deal of tolerance and acceptance of how we share and use content. Most people do not mean to harm, but reuse, redistribute, revise and remix since they believe that education is of public good. That is a really nice philosophy to live by!

Defining Noncommercial report (published Sept 14, 2009). https://creativecommons.org/2009/09/14/defining-noncommercial-report-published/
Fraser, S. & Deane, E. (1997). Why open learning? Australian Universities’ Review, 1:25-31.
Haff, G. (2007). Does the Noncommercial Creative Commons license make sense?
Noncommercial Creative Commons is convenient. That doesn’t make it necessarily good. https://www.cnet.com/news/does-the-noncommercial-creative-commons-license-make-sense/
Posted Nov 27, 2007.
Peter, S. & Farrell, L. (2013). From Learning in Coffee Houses to
Learning with Open Educational Resources. E–Learning and Digital Media,
Weller, M. (2014). The battle for open – how openness won and why it does not feel like a victory. London: Ubicuity Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.5334/bam

The picture of this post is a montage of three different pictures found on Google, all of which where free to use, revise and remix. Thank you 🙂

To be or not to be Open…That is the question