08 March 2010

Bill Gates (Hearts) Openness a Bit More

Here's an interesting project: the Open Course Library. These are its goals:

* design 81 high enrollment courses for face-to-face, hybrid and/or online delivery
* lower textbook costs for students
* provide new resources for faculty to use in their courses
* our college system fully engages the global open educational resources discussion.
* improve course completion rates

Here's some background on the project:

All of the information about the project is online on a wiki. A big part of this project is for our system to figure out what it means to share our digital educational resources. What does it mean to work with publishers in new ways and get them to reconfigure their content into affordable and modular formats? What does it mean to go out and find open textbooks and evaluate them and modify them? What does it mean to understand the different types of Creative Commons licenses vs. copyright? And what do we have to understand re: the legality around how those licenses mesh or don’t mesh? And then how does that affect the final digital thing that we release at the end, and put out in Rice University’s Connexions [repository]?

We’ve been trying to be very open about the process, so we’ve got this wiki online with all the [project] information. You’ll see the project budget up there with the goals and the timeline for the project. We’ve been having town hall meetings this fall—not only going out to the colleges and meeting directly with faculty face to face, but we’ve just finished our third online town hall meeting. We use Elluminate and anybody in the world is welcome to come [to these meetings which] are archived and put up on the wiki as well. As questions [and] concerns come in, we address those and put the answers up on the wiki.

As you can read, there's an awful lot of open goodness in there. That's great news, of course, but it's also rather remarkable because of the following little fact [.pdf]:

The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) proposes a partnership between the Washington State Community and Technical College System (CTC) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to improve access to and completion of higher education for low income young adults in Washington State.


The SBCTC requests $5.295 million to implement the Washington State Student Completion Initiative (WSSC). This initiative includes four multi-college student completion projects that will yield long term results by breaking down key barriers to completion throughout the Washington community and technical college system.

One of those projects is the Open Course Library. So good to see Bill supporting all that openness...


PV said...

Ever since the issue with Bill Gates "opening" Richard Feynman's lectures in Silverlight, I've been very suspicious of such calls for openness from organizations funded by him. Let's wait for the specifics.
a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Glyn Moody said...

@PV: I agree about that Silverlight, but this is different: it's completely arm's length, and the people driving this are committed to real freedom, as far as I can tell.