O is for Open

opensource.com CC BY-SA-2.0

The first O in MOOC is for Open and in this post I’ll be looking at what this ‘openness’ means and relating it back to my MOOC experience.

Open is a simple term with different meanings in different contexts and this can cause confusion.  Cronin (2015) gave a very good overview of this in her keynote presentation for the OER16 Conference – for example open can mean free, as in without charge, or open as in available to all but with charges (e.g. open admission – courses in the Open University). Cronin points out that ‘open’ is a term used in relation to resources, practices and values. Open software gives access to source code, it’s open in the sense of being available to everyone to see and modify. ‘Free’ is also used in relation to  Open Source Software is but can be assumed to mean non-commercial as Sullivan (2011) explains, citing Stallman:

…”free” simply meant free as in free speech, not as in “free beer”

Openness also refers to the ability to remix and build on others’ work. Lessig (2004) considers openness in the changing context of modern copyright law explaining that:

“…copyright power has grown dramatically in a short period of time, as technologies of distribution and creation have changed and as lobbyists have pushed for more control by copyright holders”

I started to think about the openness of the DelftX: OG101x Open Government MOOC from the start, in Getting started – registering. I was concerned about how ‘free’ it would be in terms of cost – the promotion of the validated (paid version) is very keen. In  Week 1 – MOOC first impressions I started to think about the Creative Commons Licences used in the course and the Terms & Conditions of student contributions within the course.  In week 2 we were asked to contribute to a survey Week 2 – no longer a newbie and this made me think about how ‘open’ the data was that was contributed by course participants. I also thought about the openness of the papers that formed the key readings of this course Week 4 – Exploring the *Master Track*.

Could I reuse this course

The  DelftX: OG101x Open Government course is a licenced under (CC-BY-NC-SA) 4.0 so could be considered an Open Educational Resource (OER) – an important aspect of open education is the ability to reuse and re-purpose content. I began to question – what will I be able to access after the course is complete? I now know that I can still access an archived version: https://www.edx.org/course/open-government-delftx-og101x but I’m not sure how long will I have access for?

The course videos are in YouTube but they are not easy to find (they are unlisted) – I could only find them from the course. Also when viewed in YouTube you no longer have access to the transcript or slides which are in edX. The video is  listed as having a Standard YouTube License  which is somewhat confusing as the whole course sites under a CC-BY-NC-SA licence and this could have been applied in YouTube. So in theory I could collect the links and reuse them in my own teaching because there is a licence on the whole course that says CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 though if you take the videos from YouTube directly this is not clear.

How ‘open’ are completed MOOCs?

In my reading I keep hearing mention of influential MOOCs that have run. I’m interested to see if any of these are now available?

I’d like to be able to see  CCK08 Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (the first cMOOC), I go searching and I can find parts of this still available.

I’m interested to see Introduction to Artificial Intelligence by Sebastian Thrun and Pater Norvig in 2011 (the first xMOOC).

I’m also interested in the  University of Edinburgh’s E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC. Actually I’ve just gone to Coursera to look at this, I thought you could only register interest for future sessions – but it turns out you can go on register for a previous course, so I can see this as an ‘archived’ course.

Salmon et al (2015) have tried to address this in relation to the Carpe Diem MOOC and state in their paper that the course videos have been uploaded to Swinburne Commons and YouTube. Yet, two years after the MOOC ran I can’t find any of these on YouTube, they are on the Swinburne Commons site but you have to search for them. However, when you find them they are licenced for reuse as CC BY-NC-SA 3.0. So what I can access now are just a few fragments of a course.

What do MOOC providers regard as open?

de Freitas, Morgan &  Gibson (2015) talking about Open2Study courses say:

“The courses are only partially ‘open’ both in the sense that the course materials have a restrictive copyright and that they are not freely accessible, rather a prospective student must sign up to the course and await a start date”.

This is a very different definition of ‘open’ from ‘open source’ where you would expect access to the entire source code for a program. It’s more like an open door that can easily be shut again.

Cronin, C. (2016) Keynote presentation: Open Culture, Open Education, Open Questions. OER16: Open Culture 19th & 20th April 2016, University of Edinburgh, UK http://www.slideshare.net/cicronin/open-culture-open-education-open-questions

de Freitas, S., Morgan, J. and Gibson, D. (2015) Will MOOCs transform learning and teaching in higher education? Engagement and course retention in online learning provision. British Journal of Educational Technology. 46(3): pp. 455-471.

Lessig, L. (2004) Chapter 10: Property. In Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, (Penguin, New York): pp. 116-173.

Salmon, G., Gregory, J., Lokuge Dona, K. and Ross B. (2015) Experiential online development for educators: The example of the Carpe Diem Mooc. British Journal of Educational Technology. 46 (3) : pp. 542-556.

Sullivan, J.S. (2011) ‘Free, Open Source Software Advocacy as a Social Justice Movement: The Expansion of F/OSS Movement Discourse in the 21st Century’, Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 8(3): pp. 223-39.


Author: Susan Greig

I'm a Learning Technology Advisor at the University of Edinburgh. I just finished my Postgraduate Certificate in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh.

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