Education, of course, is transferring knowledge and skills through formal and informal means.
Open, when used in the context of information or technology, means that something is monetarily free so there’s no cost to use it (although there are often costs to maintain). It also means that there are no legal impairments to use. That doesn’t mean that one must give up one’s copyright or ownership of material or a tool, just that there is a license (such as Creative Commons or GPL) that allows for others to use it. There are different levels of these licenses so, for example, you can make sure you are credited as original author, prevent people from altering or modifying your work, and keep people from making a profit off of your material.
Technologically, most people stop at the definition of Open with the ability to download the material. However, as anyone who has tried to copy material out of a PDF knows, sometimes the ability to download something doesn’t really help you use it. In a perfect world, Open material would also be in a format that allows for easy editing and reproducing, such as HTML, Excel, Word or Google Docs (to name just a few.)
Putting it all together…Open Education is transferring knowledge or skills via free and accessible material and tools (known as Open Educational Resources, or OER). Although MOOCs and Free Casebooks* monetarily benefiting students have gotten most of the press around Open Education, another beneficiary of Open Education is….educators. That’s right, professors and librarians!
When educators share their materials such as syllabi, exercises/homework or even casebooks or textbooks, that gives everyone a head-start on the basic legwork of creating a course. I am a former legal research professor, a subject that is pretty standard across the country. I never could figure out why all 500+ legal research professors all had to recreate the same wheel.
With the preliminary work out of the way, educators can spend their time and energy on adapting existing materials or creating innovative uses for them. When they re-share these materials, others can use them as is or adapt and find other innovations. All of these advances in education ultimately benefit students. They may not be as aware of it as a free casebook, but they are benefiting.
CALI has tools and materials available for you to create and use Open Educational Resources. Our eLangdell® Press casebooks and casebook chapters are all licensed under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA license, which means you can use and edit them however you wish, free of charge for both you and your students. We provide a variety of formats, including Word, so that you can easily edit them even if you’re not a “techie.” The only hitch is that you need to provide credit as to where you found the material and license your creations the same way.
Another option is Classcaster, our blogging, podcasting and website creation tool. Classcaster gives you an easy way to create and distribute OER in a variety of formats. And if you’re not quite ready to share with the world, it has privacy controls so that you can limit who views and uses it.
If you have any questions about Open Education – resources, practices or tools – please contact CALI. We’re here to help!