Yes, the heading is somewhat facetious, but the first UK-based rival to the massive open on-line courses (MOOCs) Udacity, Coursera and EdX has been announced. Led by the Open University, 12 UK universities will offer on-line courses for free from 2013, though details are sketchy at this stage. Martin Bean, the OU’s Vice-Chancellor, says that MOOCs have the potential to revolutionise access to higher education and that “we want to be well positioned” (as quoted by the BBC report).
Given that the Open University has literally millions of people accessing its course materials each year, which are open to all and licensed with Creative Commons for re-use, the move makes sense in that they may be able draw more of those potential students into some more formal means of engagement. Early indications are that they will follow one of the models offered by the US MOOCs, where access is open but you pay for an optional certificate for a course or for an invigilated examination. One challenge for this consortium – as with the others – will be how to balance the cost to students for the on-line courses against that of on-campus students, who in the UK face a real cost of up to £100,000 for a degree, a government report has revealed, once interest payments are counted.
The other lingering question is whether students in on-line courses will be able to gain credit towards qualifications. This, as Mr Bean says, is the “big frontier” for on-line education in the MOOC era where the cost to students is driven down by their numbers and organisations see less tangible but no less significant value in the reputation and brand benefits ‘open access’ will bring.
For those in Dunedin, Creative Commons Aotearoa NZ will be hosting a discussion session just prior to the opening of the NetHui South Conference (see this post). Anything CC-related can be raised, discussed or debated, though the focus will likely be on open access and Open Educational Resources.
The session is open to anyone, regardless of whether you’re attending NetHui. Matt McGregor, CC ANZ’s Public Lead, will be down from Wellington to facilitate.
Creative Commons Meet-up, Kakapo Room, Otago Museum, 11am Friday 23 November
It’s Open Access Week across the world – and here at Otago, with our third and final seminar in our Open Minds series on Thursday 25 October, this time focusing on Open Data. Otago staff who have not registered but would like to attend please do so ASAP. See the relevant blog post for the programme and the contact details for registration.
And with a broader national focus, Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand is hosting a series of posts on the theme of Open Access. Featuring contributions from academics, publishers and librarians (and humble Copyright Officers), Open Access in Aotearoa discusses the future of free and open access to New Zealand’s publicly funded scholarly research. My own post discusses the reality of open access here at Otago but within the broader context of international trends, looking at the attitudes and understanding I see from our staff and students as Copyright Officer on a day-to-day basis.
Data is perhaps the trickiest type of ‘open.’ It is often seen as the precious jewel that must kept locked away as the source of all power — and that’s before you even start thinking about privacy or intellectual property issues. Where, for example, is the line between pure facts (which you can’t own) and datasets that are the product of a particular researcher’s brain? And who owns data that is the product of such a brain if that person’s salary comes out of the public purse?
Nevertheless, the voices of those calling for the opening up our data are getting louder. Governments are doing it, as the NZ Government has done with the NZ Government Open Access and Licensing Framework (NZ GOAL) and the Declaration on Open & Transparent Government to actively release data of value to the public. BioMed Central is one publisher consulting the scientific community about how they might “put the open in open data and open bibliography” by proposing to establish CC0 (i.e. public domain) as their default for data published alongside academic papers. And a provocative piece by Peter C Gøtzsche (Why we need easy access to all data from all clinical trials and how to accomplish it) appeared recently in Trials, suggesting that it is not only advantageous to publish your data “it is a moral imperative to render all results from all trials involving humans…publicly available” in the interests of patients, the progress of science and heath systems around the world. He even proposes legislative changes that could facilitate such a quantum shift.
We’ll be discussing these things and more in the third of our Open Minds seminar series, to be held in the Arana College Main Common Room, 9.30 – 1.00pm on October 25. Check out the full programme for details of our keynotes and panel members. This is a University of Otago staff only session for us to consider what strategies we might pursue in this area but we plan to release some video footage later under CC BY-SA. Otago staff should email email@example.com to register your interest by 12 October.
Video and audio material from the Open Publishing seminar, the first in Otago’s 2012 Open Minds series held in February, is now on-line, ahead of our second session on Open Educational Resources on 28 June.
“We’re gonna be payin’ double for a while,” suggested one participant in our first Open Minds seminar, which focused on open publishing. After listening to presentations from Natalia Timiraos of open access publisher BioMed Central (Open Access Publishing – how it works, how it evolves) and from Jane Hornibrook, Public Lead of Creative Commons Aotearoa NZ (Creative Commons licensing in open scholarship), participants grappled with the issue of who pays for open access to publications, especially with the current co-existence of traditional and open access publishing models.
Some bemoaned the fact that many open access models simply transfer cost from commercial publisher to author – meaning the public would still pay for access, just through a different system (though a new model has since been announced, as blogged below). Others considered the role that the library has to play, given that it currently pays for access to e-resources. Ultimately the general consensus was that we are in a transitional phase and we can’t see exactly what we’ll end up with. One participant argued that the transition would transform the research culture of universities because the internet is forcing us to re-think “the very fundamental question of what we are here to do…how can we now reach this objective in a more efficient, cost-effective, sustainable manner using these new technologies that we didn’t have before” (listen to the whole conversation here).
All the content is licenced CC BY-SA. Thanks to our guest speakers Natalia and Jane for allowing this re-use of their material.