Open Education 2013 Review

Publication1In early November, two of CALI’s staff members – Elmer Masters and me (Sarah Glassmeyer)  – traveled to Park City, Utah to attend the Open Educations Conference.  We presented on our eLangdell Press open casebook publishing project and were also featured in a showcase of open textbooks. (More about that later!)  Open Education attracts educators from all levels of education and all over the world.  It was a fabulous opportunity to share what we’ve learned in creating open educational resources as well as learn from others.

Before sharing some of the neat tools and projects that we saw, I thought I’d first give a brief introduction to Open Education and Open Educational Resources (OER).  If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the terms Open Access, Open Source or even Open Law.  As you might expect, Open Education and OER are open tools and content used in education.

OER goes beyond textbooks and MOOCs. It’s software, it’s syllabi, it’s credentialing and more. It’s for formal and informal education and all levels, even post-graduate professional continuing education.  And unlike Scholarly Publishing or Open Law, much of the power to make education and OER open resides with the educators AND much of it doesn’t require any extra work on the part of educators. As with any of the Opens, the first thing that people latch onto is the cost.  Yes, OER will be free, and in a time where law students are paying upwards of $200 per casebook, this is no small consideration.  However, the real strength and benefit to OER, Open Source and the other opens is that it’s accessible and able to be remixed and improved upon by any and all who wish without copyright or format restrictions inhibiting the changes.

Open Education mainly just requires a commitment to sharing with other educators your creations that you are already making anyway.  Okay, so that’s a bit of a simplification, especially in some areas of formal education where there are state requirements for textbooks and curriculum.  However, in higher ed, informal education and professional education – the areas where you likely reside, Gentle Reader – there is a great opportunity for innovation and taking back control of our classrooms and pedagogy.  Fortunately, advances in technology make this easier than ever.

The one tool I heard mentioned over and over again was GitHub.  If you’re not familiar, GitHub is mainly a repository for code, but it can be – and is! – so much more.  Elmer and I used it as the platform for our eLangdell Presentation.  It can also be used to share documents, make books and host pretty much anything text-based that you’d like to share.  Think of it as a wiki x dropbox.    People can fork what you post, which means that they can make a copy and work on it on their own, make changes and it doesn’t affect what you have on your repository.  However, they can submit a request to add it to yours.  So you have the benefit of maintaining the integrity of your work with the opportunity to allow others to improve/change it AND you can use their changes in your work if you think it’s a good change.

Now, Git Hub can be a little intimidating and strange if you don’t have a reason to visit.  So I’m going to give you one.  Instead of ending this post with a list of links of the cool things that I saw at Open Education, I created a Git Hub repository on Open Legal Education.  (I’ve been meaning to do that anyway to collect all the code and tools I’ve been seeing in the wild.)    To see the list of tools from Open Ed, click on the file titled “OpenEducation2013.asciidoc”   It will open up and behave pretty much  just like a webpage.

Finally, I mentioned above that CALI was highlighted in a showcase of Open Textbooks.  Throughout that presentation, the total cost saved to students through the dozen or so programs mentioned was about $100,000,000.  Yes, you read that right, one hundred million dollars.    The organizer of the conference, David Wiley, challenged us to save students one BILLION dollars in the next five years.  I think it’s doable.

CALI, though eLangdell, has saved law students and the legal profession about 1.4 million dollars.    Our executive director, John Mayer, estimates that if law schools really wanted to, we could save our students 150 Million dollars.   So…who wants to join in and make this a reality?

Image: Open Education Logo  CC-BY 3.0

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