Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Georgia State case and the rise of OERs

John Mark Ockerbloom, Coursepack sharing: An idea whose time has come?  Everybody's Libraries, April 16, 2008.  Excerpt:

...[The Georgia State case and the OA movement], combined, could lead to some interesting outcomes. If schools, for whatever reason, want to eliminate or minimize payment and permission requirements for course materials, and a growing body of literature potentially useful for course materials is openly available, then we can expect to see schools move towards building coursepacks made entirely, or mostly, of open access materials. They are therefore motivated to find, and build, systems for easily compiling such coursepacks.

Right now, it can be difficult to find suitable open access readings for a class you’re planning on teaching. Tools like OCWFinder help, but they’re more geared towards finding specific existing courses with open access materials (which might be no more than a syllabus and a few assignments in some cases) than finding specific open access readings that might be suitable for a planned course.

But in a world that’s brought us global content sharing systems like Flickr, CiteULike, and PubMedCentral, it’s not that much of a stretch to imagine systems that would let instructors provide and share open access course readings more readily. A well-designed, browsable and searchable repository of such readings could provide a convenient way for professors to upload, organize, and disseminate open coursepacks for their students (”Just [go] to the OpenCoursePacks website, and type in the name of my course”, they could say). The same site could also let profs could tag, annotate, and recommend their readings, thereby making it that much easier for other professors to find and include suitable open access content in their own coursepacks. With a good design, and suitable scale and interest, a coursepack sharing site could make a lot more good instructional material widely and freely used and shared....


  • John is right that OA course materials will proliferate.  Many sites already exist:  for example, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (to cut the list arbitrarily short).  But I don't believe the Georgia State case will directly support this proliferation.  The reason is that the case focuses on fair use, not OA.  Even if the university wins, it will have won the right to make nonprofit digital course packs available to its own students for educational purposes.  It will not have won the right to distribute digital copies to non-students for any purpose, to distribute copies to anyone for non-educational purposes, or to make any copies OA.  At best, victory would allow the Georgia State digital course packs to circulate within Georgia State, but not beyond.  (I'm not considering online leakage unauthorized by the court because --it wouldn't be authorized.)
  • On the other hand, the case may indirectly support the growth of OA.  The case may draw enough attention to the access restrictions on conventional, copyrighted teaching and learning materials that more and more authors, teachers, students, and administrators join the open education movement, and actively encourage full OA rather than mere fair use of TA literature.