Beyond Good and Evil: being open-ish with closed content

The first event for me in 2012 will be the Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference in January. The theme is Openness (sic!) and I will be giving a talk based on a number of things I’ve been thinking about whilst i’ve been thinking about my SCORE fellowship, really to do with trying to recognise that open and closed content are often intertwined, the boundary can be pretty murky and that open-ish practice can happen within and through the use of closed content.

My talk will be based on a couple of case studies. The first of these is about the reading pack I’ve put together for my anthropology course. I’ve already blogged about the practicalities of putting this together but here I will explore what is possible within the confines of the Copyright Licensing Agreement. Essentially within certain limits (mainly regarding the amount of content and the extent to which it is made available) there is quite a lot that can be done. This has enabled me to re-use and repurpose copyright content in a way which has been popular with students. New technologies allow for some interesting possibilities, even within this constricted environment. One student this year was accessing the pack as a pdf (accessed via the VLE) on his iPad, and there is the possibility of collaborative notetaking etc. to explore.

The other case study came about after my institution’s upgrade to BB9, with its new ‘mashup’ feature. Cringeworthy nomenclature aside this feature makes it easier, amongst other things, to embed slideshare presentations within the VLE. This got me thinking about making my lecture slides available through my slideshare account, which I currently only use for conference slides. This has potential implications concerning copyright and quality. Whereas I might not be too concerned about the appearance of slides which are only of limited availability I am a bit more concerned about slides which are publicly available, and as I’ve said elsewhere I’m no graphic designer!).

It’s actually quite a big step to make all my slides publicly available, and I’m considering this for my sociology class next term. For now I’ve made my revision lecture available and it will be interesting to see whether or not students comment and engage with this material via slideshare (something I’d imagine they are unfamiliar with).

These case studies, and my talk in January, will reflect on how the debate about open/ closed copyright can be quite polarised. Those advocating open practice can be quick to dismiss closed content as if it precludes any sort of open practice. Naturally copyright does place limitations on content and practice, but in some cases (such as the reading pack above) there is still quite a lot of interesting stuff that can be done.

Open and closed can be quite distracting and harmful labels, which stifle debate. I’m definitely a big fan of open content, and for me the nearest ‘quick wins’ are to be found in scholarly publishing and open data, but let’s not forget that in the meantime copyright material can be used in ways which encourage open-ish practice.  

I think I’ll be musing some more on what exactly open-ish practice is in January, but I think it will recognise that there is a wide range of practices possible beyond the purely open (based wholly on open content) and closed. Things like my reading pack and lecture materials could be shared in ways which recognise the limitations of copyright, but are still of value to the wider community.

Open-ish Educational Resources anyone?


About digitalscholar

I am a sociologist with an interest in new technology. Previously I’ve worked on a number of projects at Lancaster University and the Open University looking at the use of new technologies and social media by researchers. I was also a social sciences teaching fellow at the foundation centre at Durham University teaching sociology and anthropology. I am now a senior lecturer at the University of West London's Institute for Teaching, Innovation and Learning where I oversee the foundation provision and support retention. I'm sure I'll still be interested in, and occasionally blog about, tech related things. I use this blog to post thoughts about using new technologies in my professional academic life and wider thoughts and links relating to technology more generally.
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One Response to Beyond Good and Evil: being open-ish with closed content

  1. Nice post – and very valid reflections. I agree there is a lot that can be done with traditionally licensed content: . I look forward to hearing more! (now off to read what you have to say about monkeys, sex and death!)

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