Open, cost and practice: CLA FE Copyright Master Class

I was delighted to once again represent ALT at a master class for copyright in teaching and learning in FE this week in Glasgow.  Organised by the CLA this workshop focused on providing guidance and information about copyright and various resources from the CLA and others including SCRAN and ERA specifically aimed at the FE sector.

It was fitting that during Open Education Week that I got the opportunity to talk about open educational practice, OERs within the context of my personal open journey. I think the CLA should be commended for recognising and, for a number of delegates, introducing the concept of open educational resources and practice.

Of course the main reason for this series of masterclasses is to give an overview of the services CLA and other agencies provide to (in this case FE) the sector. It also provides an opportunity for the community to feedback to CLA around their issues and pain points.

I had forgotten about SCRAN, so it was good to get a reminder of the image bank and the services that I can access via my institution’s subscription. I did ask the question about opening up the services, at present there are no plans, despite support for that from staff. The original (and at the time probably quite ground breaking) license still stands.

I do feel there is an opportunity there for at least a part of the collection to become “open SCRAN”, and opportunity for some nationally funded cultural institutions and resources become and show support for the Open Scotland movement.  I suspect I am not alone.

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Cost is always an issue (or pain point), and not just in FE. Although currently FE is being increasingly squeezed. And of course it did come up during the discussions.  There is of course a cost for open resources too. Open doesn’t = free. As was pointed out during the discussions, many freelance writers, artists, musicians rely on license fees to make their living.

However in (publicly) funded educational institutions sharing back resources does make perfect sense to me and many others. Our open-ness isn’t free -there is a cost: staff, time etc but open-ness core to many of the common goals of institutions such as the common good, something my own institution GCU and the University of Edinburgh share. As an aside it was great to hear that Edinburgh has joined us with the publication of their institutional OER policy this week.

Finding the balance of open-ness is something we all struggle with personally and institutionally. I was at the workshop in my capacity as an ALT Trustee. ALT,  is a great supporter of the open education movement. This week it has been involved in a number of events for Open Education Week. As a  membership organisation can’t afford to make everything free. For example conferences.

As a membership organisation (with a very small staff) we can’t afford to run major conferences such as OER16, and our main ALT-C conference for no cost.   We try to make as much of these events as open as possible via live streaming, open publications etc. To this end we also rely heavily on open and free contributions from our membership as well as the many additional hours the ALT full-time staff contribute.  We also rely on conference fees to cover the expenses of providing a first class conference.

In my day to day job I have to make decisions about what conferences I want to attend, where will it make the most impact to have my work shared, presented and published.  There is always a cost. I, like the majority of my peers, regularly give up my time to review conference submissions. That’s part and parcel of academic life. I now consciously support conferences that are committed to publishing conference proceedings openly. My positive open-ness if you like.

Open educational practice is constantly evolving, and gaining more mainstream traction. Open Education week is a great opportunity to share an reflect on this evolution.  It’s also a good time to reflect and gain greater understanding of how, where and when open education in the form of resources, practices and most importantly people use open-ness most effectively in their context.

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