Saturday, November 03, 2012

Flat World Knowledge Falls Flat

For use to open - free- education resources.
For use to open - free- education resources. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am very disappointed in Flat World Knowledge's decision to end free access to students as reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education. I was always very suspect of this company from the beginning. I am getting sick of businesses saying that they are a part of the open source movement, OER, or for Open Text Books and then coming up with some lame excuse to go back to business as usual - lets make money on the backs of students in the name of "sustainability"! In the article they admit that they are not really committed to the open license.

We should call companies like FWK businesses then and not advocates or proponents of open education resources. The idea behind OER is that faculty would freely develop their textbooks for students to freely use. I am not against business but lets call it business and not OER. I am really not interested in the content reviewers from commercial publishers because they are not in the business of creating, vetting, and customizing for my students or my college in my community with its unique issues - they are interested in packaging their material for a mass market and getting some Phd's name on the box to make it acceptable to colleges who are not quite ready to take the plunge into OER. I almost wrote a book for FWK but I realized that my content would be at the mercy of the market. I knew that at any time they could change their business model and the students would be the ones to suffer. The business of businesses is business. The business of education should be education. There are great textbooks out there with Creative Commons licenses that students do not have to pay for. We have a moral obligation to make education accessible to as many students as possible. OERs and open textbooks are a way to do that. Freedom as in free to charge the students is not the kind of freedom that I am interested in.

And what does this mean for the Creative Commons license? If a text is really CC, shouldn't a student have access to that text under the same license as FWK?

Look at any of the articles below for an alternative model of commercial businesses managing academic content.
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1 comment:

Cable Green said...

Hi Geoff:

Correct - if there is a book, licensed under a CC licnese, and that book is out in the open - anyone may use that book, forever (CC licenses are irrevocable), as long as they are in compliance with the terms of the CC license.

Cable