Introduction

Fall 2014 was the fifth time I’ve taught my graduate course Introduction to Open Education. I’ve taught it in many different ways in the past. In 2007 I taught it at USU as an open course with dozens of people from outside the university (and outside the US) reading along and completing assignments in order to earn a course certificate. Later at BYU I taught it as a Massively Multiplayer Online Game complete with character types, skills trees, guilds, quests, and experience points. Each experiment in teaching the course has been an opportunity for me to be more open in my practice and provide students with a different perspective on open education.

This year, I wanted to help those who joined the course develop a deeper appreciation for why open licensing is necessary in the first place. I wanted to build “open education” up from first principles, beginning with questions like “what is intellectual property?”, “should we use the language of ‘property’ to describe it?”, and “why and how should intellectual property be protected?” From this foundation I wanted to build outward with an overview of the history and features of popular open licenses. An appreciation of where IP law comes from, how we got to where we are, and why we’re moving so aggressively in the wrong direction is fundamental to understanding some of the core problems open education is trying to solve. Likewise, a well informed understanding of how we’ve tried to solve these problems to date, through open licensing, is the starting point for future progress.

So this year I combined a traditional “readings course” approach with my ongoing efforts to reject disposable assignments and engage in open pedagogy. I spent a great deal of time selecting the readings that would communicate what I felt was most important for this semester’s students to learn. (Though there would certainly be some overlap, I do not doubt that your preferred list of readings would differ significantly from my own. That’s terrific! I hope you’ll email it to me.) Rather than have students write response essays they would hate writing and immediately throw away after grading, I challenged them to create a textbook that could be used by students in future Introduction to Open Education courses.

As the semester drew to a close, the students worked collaboratively to organize and synthesize all the notes they had taken on each of the readings and our in-class discussions. These combined, synthesized notes became An Open Education Reader. For each reading, we have tried to provide you:

  • a Link to an open access version of the article,
  • a brief Background,
  • a summary of Key Points,
  • Discussion Questions for you to consider as you read the article, and
  • Additional Information that may be of interest.

This is by no means a complete or final version of this book! We’re sharing it now in the spirit of “release early, release often,” trusting that you will join in helping to correct errors and omissions.

I hope you enjoy the book, and I invite you to contribute additional discussion questions, observations, etc. in the comments on the specific pages in the book. I will be extremely happy to work your contributions into the core text along with an attribution for your efforts. If there are additional readings you think should be included in an introductory reader like this, please leave them as comments on the Readings to Consider Including in the Next Release page.