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Robert Farrow
27 October 2011

Cable Green
CC's Director of Global Learning

"The Internet, increasingly affordable computing, open licensing, open access journals and open educational resources provide the foundation for a world in which a quality education can be a basic human right. Yet before we break the "iron triangle" of access, cost and quality with new models, we need to educate policy makers about the obviousness of open policy: public access to publicly funded resources."

Green is interested in the policies that form barriers to providing education to anyone who might want it.  Oftentimes, we don't think about obvious things or we aren't in close enough contact with policymakers.  The goal of this talk is to make explicit the policy needs of OER.

Some things are both ovbvious and important.  1 in 7 people don't get enough food.  If we had a food machine that could feed everyone at no cost, shouldn't we turn it on?  It's obvious!  We have an education machine, but it requires the right policies before it can work.  We should all strive for a world in which everyone can achieve the education they desire

The worlds knowledge is a public good:  one that can be shared through communication technologies.  As David Wiley has suggested, 'if you aren't sharing, you aren't teaching'.  The following organisations/initiatives are supporting this:

  • Creative Commons
  • Cape Town Declaration
  • Connexions
  • OLnet
  • Wikipedia
  • OER Africa
  • OER Braxzzil
  • OLI
  • CK-12
  • Washington Declaration
But there remain policy issues.  Policymakers (both governance and institutional) don't understand 21st century technical and legal tools that can support education.  How can we help them to understand?

What is an Open Policy? Publicly funded resources should be openly-licensed resources, freely and openly available to the public that paid for it (policy = regulation, legisaltion and public mandates).

At present, much of the money spent on education (typically 5% of GDP) is not spent in this way.  

Sustainability can be achieved in two ways
  1. There'e plenty of public funding that could be spent more efficiently on OER
  2. If/when open licensing becomes the norm, the question of sustainability ceases to be an issue:  it's just part of business as usual
Being open is not about forcing any particular kind of behaviour.  It should never be mandated.  

OERu and P2Pu are leading the way.  Open policies have been adopted in Brazil, Austrailia and other countries.  This often involves use of the CC-BY licence.
But change is complicated by historical educational business models based on being 'gatekeepers' of intellectual resources.  Consider the FY2012 bill, section 124 (amendment) which serves to protect commercial publishers (even with respect to works in development!).

We shouldn't attack existing business models head on, but play by new rules enabled by new technologies.  Most of our policymakers think within the world as they know it:  we need to re-frame this view of education.  Policymakers should be brought back to two basic principles:
  1. Efficient use of public funds to improve access
  2. Everything else is secindary: we should have no sacred cows
Can we think and act anew?  Green thinks so.

"The opposite of open isn't closed:  the opposite of open is broken"

Extra content

Cable Green, is interested in changing the boring policies that impede development, hence the title of the talk is the obviousness of open policy. Slides had nice selection of photos with (of course) cc attribution and a great quote from John Daniel (former OU VC) about the challenges of scale facing education - see figures at As Rob notes above he draws on the example of the food machine - marginal cost is zero and using it does not hurt others (i.e. use is non-rivalous), but it needs policy decision to turn on. The suggestion here is that we just need to get over the idea of what not rivolous use means.  

This is the unique characteristic of digital ... but how can we make policy makers undestand what it means to be non-rivalous? (In this claim, I'd agree that policy makers don't understand, but also would point out that we have not yet clearly made the case that sharing openly 'does not harm'. I'd agree that it does more good than harm and that that is sufficient justification - but more evidence (the theme of this conference) would be nice).

Public funding should require public access is an attractive mantra and one which I have no problems ageeing with. Green pulled out various figures on education as a percentage of GDP (you can track the background to amassing these at The amount spent on public education available runs into trillions of US dollars globally. It's not clear how much of this is spent on acquiring/making content. 

Green's background includes time as Director of eLearning & Open Education for the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (see and WS initiatives were well represented at the conference. He emphasised that while there WS was building for 'ourselves' but then sharing widely and openly (cc:by) -  because 'why not?' There was a belief that good things would happen if we shared - see From shared to open - the evolution of open education in Washington State, which emphasises the history of sharing throughout WS and the consequences of this.

Expanding on the open textbook theme which had come into every other keynote speech at this conference, he pointed out that the costs of a single text ($100 for English 101 - which does raise the question of why US texts are so expensive?) scaled up to $5m pa. expenditure. This can lead to very out of date texts (he suggested 18 years for some at Washington State - wondering whether that is some library books rather than teaching texts.

In contrast he called attention to Athabasca University which requires initial search for OER when a resource is required.  Overall, suggestion that the time is for new thinking, citing the Lincoln speech about thinking and acting anew   'The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.' Rousing stuff, well in tune with the conference.

Chris Pegler
18:55 on 31 October 2011 (Edited 19:00 on 31 October 2011)

Embedded Content

The Obviousness of Open Policy

The Obviousness of Open Policy

added by Robert Farrow

Thursday Keynote - Cable Green

Thursday Keynote - Cable Green

added by Robert Farrow


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