Open Ed Isn’t Just about Free — It’s about Community

Open Ed Isn’t Just about Free — It’s about Community


Late last year, Pearson announced its plans to launch Project Blue Sky, a portal for building your own digital textbook by choosing from a menu of for-profit Pearson resources along with as a selection of open educational resources (OER). The announcement set off a firestorm of comments in the educational blogosphere about

  • whether companies should utilize free materials for profit,
  • the intentions of the publisher,
  • doubts on whether the resource will make a difference.

Here we’d like to focus our conversation on one aspect of open education which we see missing on the preview site: the facilitation of collaboration amongst end-users (teachers and students).

Particularly in language learning, educators acknowledge the powerful impact collaborative environments have on students. Technology offers new ways for this to happen. Ask any student who has created a video project to share on YouTube or recorded a podcast segment to post on a class blog site. When learners get connected to other learners, language improves. In the same way, when educators collaborate by sharing resources and teaching methods, both the resources and practices improve exponentially.

Finding free resources online is only the first step. In order for open resources to obtain the level of reliability and sophistication textbook publishers claim they lack, forums for collaboration are absolutely necessary. Purveyors of OER understand this is where quality control happens, along with standard peer-review processes.

Several non-profit open language portals (MERLOT, Connexions) offer the kind of modular, teacher-created resource that Project Blue Sky is presenting; however, they include the built-in system for end-users to easily collaborate, remix, and re-present resources for public use. All of this is in service of facilitating on-going improvements and modifications to make a resource best serve individual classroom needs.

So what are your thoughts on the topic: Why is it important for teachers (and students) to have hands-on, immediate, and on-going involvement in the creation of online language resources?


  1. charlemagne says

    I have noticed that more and more commercial publishing companies are using the adjective “open’ to advertise products that have little in common with the Open Education Movement. I am not against collaborating with commercial publishing companies, but I resent cynical marketing methods. Buyers need to beware. Just because developers call their product “open’ doesn’t mean that they share the same value system as most open educators. Bottom line for it is whether the product carries an open license, a Creative Commons license. If not, beware.

    The other thing that makes materials open is that they can be edited and remixed by end-users. Most commercial products are not open in such a way because that would be a violation of traditional copyright. Like the title says, OER is about the community of end users who can continue to improve on the product…because they have the right to do so.

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