Open Content

Time-to-Adoption: Two to Three Years
The movement toward open content reflects a growing shift in the way academics in many parts of the world are conceptualizing education to a view that is more about the process of learning than the information conveyed in their courses. Information is everywhere; the challenge is to make effective use of it. Part of the appeal of open content is that it is also a response to both the rising costs of traditionally published resources and the lack of educational resources in some regions, and a cost-effective alternative to textbooks and other materials. There is now so much open content that any new course design work should include a review of what is available and might be reused. The key stumbling block is that education is not yet a culture that rewards sharing — the reward systems promote new work and new thinking, and a "not invented here" mentality often infuses decisions about the use of open content. As customizable educational content is made increasingly available for free over the Internet, students are learning not only the material, but also skills related to finding, evaluating, interpreting, and repurposing the resources they are studying in partnership with their teachers.

Relevance for Teaching, Learning, or Creative Inquiry

  • The use of open content promotes a set of skills that are critical in maintaining currency in any area of study — the ability to find, evaluate, and put new information to use.
  • The same set of materials, once placed online and made sharable via the appropriate licensing, can inform a wide variety of learning modalities, not the least of which is learning for the sheer joy of discovery.
  • Sharable materials reduce teacher workloads as they do not need to be recreated from scratch.

Open Content in Practice

  • The Open High School of Utah is an online charter high school that leverages next-generation learning technology and strategic one-on-one tutoring to provide students with significantly better learning experiences:
  • Thinkfinity is a project by the Verizon Foundation to put many K12 education resources online for free access by students and teachers:
  • Carnegie Mellon plans to collaborate with community college faculty across the country to create research-based virtual learning environments that support teachers and students:
  • The Open Educational Resources Center for California provides support for community college educators to find, create, remix, use, and share openly licensed learning content:

For Further Reading

Case Studies of Open Source projects using Creative Commons
(, accessed Feb. 23, 2009.) These case studies present examples of how people have used Creative Commons licensing to publish work for wider use and dissemination.

Center for Social Media Publishes New Code of Best Practices in OCW
(Critical Commons, 25 October 2009.) The advocacy group Critical Commons seeks to promote the use of media in open educational resources. Their Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for OpenCourseWare is a guide for content developers who want to include fair-use material in their offerings.

The Impact of Open Courseware on Paid Enrollment in Distance Learning Courses (PDF)
(Dissertation, Justin K. Johansen, Brigham Young University, October 2009.) This research looks at the impact open content courseware has on paying, enrolled students. The study looked at both high school and college courses in open content models.