Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Using Free and Open Source Software to Create Free and Open Courseware

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On Remembrance Day 2004, I will be doing my bit for the openCourseWare cause, and giving a hands on workshop to the Western Sydney Institute of TAFE on free and open software (FOS) and Free and Open Courseware (FOC).

In the space of an hour I'll be showing participants how easy it is to set up a blog, and how great Open Office is for creating PDF, SWF and html. Using those two examples alone I plan to promote further use of free and open source software in public education, and to push the need for FOC production in public education.

Lately, I have been encouraged at the generally positive response I get when I mention FOC production, where as only a year ago I was dismissed as a raving lefty and a hopeless idealist. I may be a raving lefty, and a hopeless idealist - but FOC's nothing to dismiss.

There are sound financial and ethical incentives for developing FOC, which are generally outlined in the same ways as FOS. By allowing your educational resources to be freely available online you are not only promoting your organisation in a number of ways, you are attracting more students who maybe thankful for being given the opportunity to look into your course before enrolling. TAFE should not be in the business of making money from content (asking students to first pay to enroll and gain access to online courses), instead, TAFE should be opening their content for all, and if they must charge fees, charge for what they have always done -
facilitate learning, assess, recognise, and qualify.

There is no sense in locking up learning content, especially if it was public money that produced it.

So, hopefully in the coming years we will see more and more contributions to the Australian free for education resource database.

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6 comments:

Sean said...

Yay to us raving lefties and hopeless idealists!

Information does want to be free.

I find the whole open content philosophy exciting.

Sure, you can sell the idea to training organisations by pointing out it makes business sense, but for me the exciting thing about this concept are the philosophical, ethical and even spiritual implications.

It seems unfair, unethical, even unGodly (dare I say that?) to withhold information and knowledge that could be of benefit to the human race, especially for the sake of pecuniary gain.

As long as I can get paid for the development and delivery of content, and I get appropriate attribution, I'm happy to share it with the world - it costs nothing to do that now.

And it is these new technolgies, such as digital reproduction and the Internet, that are showing how out-dated this concept of knowledge-as-property is.

Educational institutions, like the recording industry, are fighting an uphill battle against reality to stem the flood.

Open the flodgates, and lets learn to swim!

Leigh Blackall said...

G'day Sean,

It was really nice to meet you at the workshop today, thanks so much for your help in seeing things run smoothly. I am so encouraged at the positive reception that FOC is getting, and its really great fun to show people how easy it really is to get on with teaching online, don't you think? I got so many glowing looks from people when they actually had their blog up.

I'm with you on the ethics tip. The business argument excites me only in that it makes the more heady and worthy stuff more "rational" to those that somehow run the place.

Free and open is such a paradigm shift for some, but its like a shining bright beam of clarity for others. It will be interesting to track the changes to come in Australian public ed.

Regards
Leigh

Sean said...

Umm.. wrong Sean. I'm the Blog-0n! Learnscope Sean. I didn't meet you today!

Leigh Blackall said...

Blush!
I realised this soon after posting the comment last night... but I couldn't get into the comments section to edit it. Oh well, keeps us honest, this information really does want to be free!

Seems you and the guy I met yesturday have quite a bit in common, but now I can't be sure that I have his name right!

Joyce Smith said...

Hi there my 'Flash Friend' what a fantastic , inspirational 'show' you have put on !! and methinks the start ,or should I say continuation of lively discussion keep up the great work
Joyce

Leigh Blackall said...

Thanks Joyce, and you have been quite a driving force of inspiration for me too. If only the whole world was like this!