During this week’s lectures, we touched on the subject of copyright, with particular emphasis on digital issues. This is a huge area and also an extremely complex one. With intellectual property, the creator might still have a copy of the original product, even though someone has stolen or copied it.
These issues made me reflect again on the whole area of Open Educational Resources. A good educational resource should have several qualities, one of which is that it should be clearly licenced and free of copyright content.
However, after browsing through some of the resources available on MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching), I was struck by how many contained copyrighted material. In this case, there might be material that is not an open education resource, but has been licensed for use in a particular context within an open educational resource. But if a user reuses that material, then they may not actually be covered to use that copyright material. However, if the material is used in an educational context, then it would be considered fair use to copy it. But this may not always be a clear-cut situation for the user.
In addition, the Creative Commons license for many of the open educational resources was classified as “unsure”, which really is not very helpful. Often the website for the resource fails to state explicitly if the material is licensed for use and reuse. I do not understand why they would not choose use the Creative Commons. It is a wonderful licence which allows creators of intellectual property to indicate clearly the rights that they want to keep. It is freely available and is widely used throughout the internet.
Nonetheless, the open educational resources movement continues to gain momentum. Recently, for instance, panOpen launched a learning platform based on open educational resources, which aims to provide students with a viable alternative to traditional textbooks. And the content in their website is licensed clearly under a Creative Commons license. While traditional educational publishers such as Pearson are beginning to run into trouble, it seems that open educational resources are now beginning to make serious impact in the world of education.