Dear open educational resources (OER) community and anyone who cares about “open”:

The term “open” is losing all meaning. It is becoming an empty marketing term like “green” or “natural.”

In the last week, I have seen all manner of things claim to be “open” or even OER that are clearly not. Instead, they are proprietary, free sites, tools, and content owned by folks who have seen what an appealing term “open” is.

I know we don’t all agree on what “open” means, in terms of whether ND or even NC is “truly open.” However, if there can be no consensus among those who believe in “open,” how can we regain any meaning of the term? A while ago, Ahrash Bissell (then of ccLearn) proposed a consensus definition: free from copyright restrictions or are publicly licensed for anyone to use, adapt, and redistribute. I don’t know if this was actually published anywhere though or if any other “consensus definition” exists.

Perhaps an easier approach would be at least to agree what open is not. It is not “all rights reserved” copyright.

If we are to remain a movement (even if it is a diverse and somewhat fractured one), it seems important that we speak clearly to call out what open is and what it is not.

I believe that sharing is good, and that open-licensed content is a great benefit to learners around the globe.

It would be sad to see all the work we’ve all done on this aim usurped by corporate interests trying to sell another widget.


Karen Fasimpaur

Letter to the OER community
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One thought on “Letter to the OER community

  • October 17, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Karen, I agree that the term is being used to “open-wash” and that, despite our differences in the subtleties of licensing, we would do well to find some solidarity and common agreement sooner rather than later. In terms of “defining OER,” I am reminded of the definition of Creative Commons that my friend Brian Lamb once jokingly made; to paraphrase, CC is basically a badge to say “I will not act like an asshole about how you use my content.”

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