Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, September 21, 2007

More on the forthcoming Cape Town declaration

Eve Gray, Open Sourcing Education, Gray Area, September 20, 2007.  Excerpt:

After weeks of intermittent rain, the sun finally came out - bright but chilly - for a gathering of open education activists from around the world, meeting at the Shuttleworth Foundation's offices, set in beautiful gardens in the Cape Town suburbs. We were there to discuss the possibility of drafting a Declaration on Open Education Resources, The model for the exercise was the OSI's Budapest Open Access Initiative, so influential in profiling and driving the Open Access movement over the last 6 years. The Cape Town meeting followed on from the workshop sessions held at the iCommons Summit in Dubrovnik in June (which are reported on by Mark Surman and Phillipp Schmidt on the iCommons blog), and sought to codify and consolidate the understandings of open education mapped out in Dubrovnik.

The workshop was supported by the Shuttleworth Foundation and the Open Society Institute and was attended by an impressive array of leading names in open education, from Mark Surman, who helped facilitate the workshop, Darius Cuplinskas and Melissa Hageman from the OSI Information Programme, Helen King, Karien Bezuidenhout and Andrew Rens from Shuttleworth, Phillipp Schmidt from the University of the Western Cape, James Dalziel of Macquarie E Learning, Richard Baranuik from Rice University, Paul West from the Commonwealth of Learning, David Wiley from Utah State University, Peter Bateman from the Open University, Delia Browne from the Australian Copyright Advisory Group, Werner Westerman from Chile, student textbook activist David Rosenfeld from the US PIRG consumer group, Lisa Petrides from IKSME – and many more. The proceedings, which were very interactive, were tracked in a wiki during the course of the discussions, as the facilitators used a number of workshop techniques to collectively map the terrain, agree on values, identify strategies and brainstorm the selling points of open education resources.

What came out of this meeting for me? First of all, a realisation that the OER terrain is very complex, from a number of perspectives. Drafting a statement is going to  be an even more complex task than the Budapest Initiative and it will need to incorporate the diversity that emerged across the education system, vertically and geographically, in the course of our discussions. Most importantly, there are major differences between the provision of resources at different levels of the education system - not always acknowledged in the OER discussions....

The most contentious issue turned out to be that of the kinds of licence that would be appropriate and that would signal true openness. This is something on which consensus is going to need to be reached over the next few months. 

The availability of technology in the poorer countries of the world is a major concern and it was clear that this would need to be addressed if the vision of this group was truly to be a global one....

The next steps? A draft declaration will be drawn up by Mark Surman, working with three 'stewards', Ahrash Bissell of CC Learn, Delia Browne, an IP lawyer working for the Copyright Advisory Group of the Australian government and  James Dalziel from the E Learning Centre of  Excellence at Macquarie University, also Australia. This will then be circulated to the broader group for feedback before being more widely canvassed. High profile supporters from academe and the educational world will be sought as champions for the initiative.

As Darius Cuplinskas said, "We're about to launch a wave of creative disruption." I am looking forward to it.