Thursday, 6 December 2007

Open Access introduced

I suppose I'll start here then!

This blog is intended to track, from start to finish, a research and advocacy project focussed on persuading the Brown/Labour government to implement what I will describe as the Open Access package of policies. The two key principal policies are:
  • An instituted centralised hub of British open courseware from Britain's Russell Group (and contributing) research universities, at Open courseware constitutes a freely-accessible, IP-cleared, online publication of a university's full catalogue of under- and post-graduate course materials - syllabi, reading lists with links to open access papers, course notes, video/audio lecture notes, slideshows, past exam papers, assignments etc.. The pioneering university in the provision of open courseware is MIT, whose entire course materials can be found at

  • Complementing a high-quality and pluralistic British open courseware offering, I will be advocating a new kind of university qualification - an Open degree - whereby citizens can pay a premium fee and take the same exams as do existing students in enrolled face-to-face learning, with certificates signifying information about the specific courses examined on. This would be targetted, via a high-profile public information campaign, at adult learners, excluded minorities, and students at pre-university age.
The underlying economic and social basis for such policies are:
  • A growing public demand for a tangible return on their investment in higher education. The current taxpayer return is based on the idea of new graduates unleashing their human capital and higher skills on a grateful underskilled non-graduate population. I argue that there is no basis, in evidence or justice, for this view, and that in an age of digital infinite abundance, all citizens should be able to see and use what they're paying for.

  • Expanding access to the World Wide Web, and the negligible cost of making course materials freely available changing the scarcity assumption that has long reigned over the question of higher education course provision, to an assumption of abundance.

  • The growing influence of new analyses of intellectual property and innovation, identifying considerable opportunity costs and deadweight losses from the imposition of restrictions on quality learning materials, as well as the proprietary control over much publicly-funded research publication.
There are, inevitably, a wide range of benefits, risks and resistances that would be associated with these ideas. The project is designed to explore and develop many of these benefits, and to succesfully manage or placate all of the risks. In the posts that follow, many of these will be explored - from objections from some students, academics, and the major commercial publishers involved in academic publishing - to benefits for individual and communal development, for social mobility, for existing face-to-face students and academics, as well as for international relations and towards a more just lifecourse structure.

In the posts which follow, I will provide updates on the realisation of these goals, as well as cover related developments in the movement towards open education and open certification. Any comments or queries will be happily answered.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

. As someone who has been involved in graduate education for many years as a mature student Leo's project cries out to me with a resounding personal tone. Told over and over by professors and tutors that I was to participate as an observer because it was the professors,the young (and often for some strange societal reason those who held law degrees) who held the keys to the future of my prespective field, I was in turn subjected to lectures which were quite honestly condsending and tired. Such has been not an experience of attitude but a ongoing phenomenon of "unnatural selection" and prejudice where only the chosen and most eligible are thought of as valuable or capable enough to inspire earnest teaching and full oppurtunity. Such is not life, as the 1980ish addage would tell us, it is a sympton of an decaying system of authority and "get it right" attitudes. Getting it right in all areas of intellectual endeavor is truly a matter of originality and diverse talent. Let's work on Leo's idea of opening the world up to education in it's fullest and most expansive dynamic.
I will pledge to write to all those who I know personally in higher education to introduce them to this site and to Leo's cause. I truly hope others will also offer support and attention to this very compelling suggestion to this very public yet personal matter.
Thank you,
Rebecca Farinas