This is not part 1 of a post about MOOCs

Nope, not at all. Not even a little bit.  Maybe. Maybe a little bit.

But here’s what I’ve found – when you bring up the term, even if it is just to say, “I think this one specific thing is interesting about MOOCs,” what you’ll get is, “let me share My Opinion About MOOCs and not engage with that one thing or anything else you said at all.”

Anyway, obligatory caveats — I don’t think MOOC’s are probably radical (in pedagogy or platform) — and if there was a radical aspect, how they are in practice or how most people talk about them has entirely diluted that. I don’t think most of the discourse about them is very sensible. I do think there are important critiques. I do think that the immediate “how can they be monetized” narrative points to some broader problems with how we think about education, and I think that the idea that they could “replace college” reflects some broader structural inequalities in our culture and is based on a pretty impoverished understanding of what “college” is and how it functions in our society.

So why do I want to talk about them? Well, it comes down to an issue that has been a part of library instruction discourse since long before I became a librarian – the sharing issue.  As in, we share so well in libraries, but it’s all about stuff, how can we share beyond our stuff?  Also known as the reinventing the wheel issue in library instruction — we spend a lot of time reinventing wheels that have already been invented.

The thoughts I’m trying to make coherent on this one are these:

  • Teaching librarians have never gotten to where we want to be with sharing – instructional talent, resources or materials.
  • We’re not satisfied with one-shots, most of the time.
  • We all spend a lot of time teaching skills-level stuff (how to navigate tools, understand academic information workflows, how to work around bad interfaces) and there are students who need (or want) those skills.
  • Much of our assessment is basic and skills-based too, in our asynchronous tutorials and in our one-shot sessions.
  • Most academic libraries are trying to do more with less, whether less means human resources or other types of resources.
  • There is new cool stuff we teaching librarians want to do, and it’s usually resource-intensive and won’t reach all of our students.
  • Knowing how to go out and get trained on new things when you see you have gaps is an important skill, and one that we’re increasingly expected to do independently.

I’m going to start with the first four.

My big question is this – does the MOOC format which (as I’ve said) is not particularly radical or disruptive, offer an opportunity to librarians to think about teaching collaboratively, or sharing our teaching strength, in a new way?

I’m taking a MOOC right now – a refresher on statistics — and I’m definitely struck by how non-transformative the delivery is. We’re talking about talking head videos, broken up by multiple choice quizzes. There are labs which have you doing hands-on work with a particular piece of software. This is followed by a weekly assignment that’s just a more robust quiz that allows for freely written answers. The videos are short, high-quality and watchable, but if the professor is a “super-professor” I’m pretty sure it’s because of all of the other things he does to connect with and help students on the face-to-face campus than it is because he’s a superstar lecturer.

(Competent but not a superstar at the lecturing, is what I’m saying)

20131006-215258.jpgI suspect the difference between this class and a million and one other canned online courses that have existed in the world is found in the discussion forums. For me, though, the class hasn’t progressed to the point yet where I feel like I need to visit the forums. Everything so far is pretty straightforward and clear. Given the reasons people gave for starting it, I would guess that I am far from alone in that. The class does take the openness aspect of MOOC fairly seriously. The resources provided are all open, and while the professor did point us to a paywalled article from Science, the article is where it is. Most notably, the software being taught is open and widely available – a decision that I am certain was deliberate.

Anyway, the point is that nothing I’ve read about MOOCs suggests that this is an unusual experience – from the reasons I have for taking the course, to the structure and delivery of it, to the uneven participation on the forums — this all sounds about right.

I’ve never heard of a multi-institution MOOC, and I will admit to not going beyond cursory Googling to find one. I have seen evidence of non-college-related MOOC content, but I haven’t seen any examples of higher education institutions. collaborating to deliver a course. I don’t see any reason, however, why that wouldn’t work — and indeed — why it might not be better. Obviously, if you’re interested in replacing or replicating credit courses then that becomes more complicated, but that’s part of the beauty of library instruction. Most of us don’t do for-credit instruction, and even if we do, it’s only a fraction of what we do. Most of our teaching falls outside of university credit or tuition structures. We can be creative when we think about delivery, credentialing and cooperation. I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t share in this way (besides the ways it would be challenging).

So what if there were a topic per week, clearly marked so someone could do them all or pick and choose, with high- quality video lectures and related resources and assessments? The ability to take quizzes for assessment, or for self-regulation, would be built in. A resource page listing participating schools and pointing towards tutorials or handouts that outline local processes could be provided. Libraries could monitor local cohort discussion boards, host meet-ups of people taking the course, or just point faculty to the lectures, resources and quizzes for specific topics — their level of involvement could be whatever they could support.

Is this a crazy idea? It doesn’t need to be called a MOOC – it was just the discussion forum/ local cohort, shared resources aspects of the MOOC that made me think about it.

The plot does come from somewhere, though, and it starts with years of people asking me instruction librarians don’t, or can’t, share their stuff better.

Teaching librarians have never gotten to where we want to be with sharing – instructional talent, resources or materials.

I’ve written about this before.  A lot. Most of our efforts about sharing to this point have focused on building and sharing asynchronous online teaching tools like tutorials — repositories like ANTS, databases like PRIMO or sharable tutorials like TILT.

While all of these efforts have been successful in different ways, none of them have taken the question of “why don’t we share more” question off the table. We have a long history of consortial involvement here in the Pacific Northwest, and since my first days as an instruction coordinator, the Alliance has been asking (in general, not asking me specifically) how we can extend that spirit of sharing to our public services, especially instruction.

Real sharing, where we don’t adapt, customize and tweak to make it look like we made it at home, will take a cultural shift — but there are a couple of reasons why I think that it might be a good time to think about it in a new way. First, there are some real reasons why the tutorial/ learning module repository is problematic. We’re not the only ones to find it so – and we’re not the only ones who have tried it. Hannah and I outlined a lot of the reasons why in our paper, but tl;dr – cultural, technological and individual workflow issues all work against the idea of a robust, user-populated repository.

Secondly, I think the conversation right now about what our students’ gaps are and what they really need is more robust — which makes sense because we’ve got decades of embedding IL, thinking about IL, and teaching IL to draw upon now. From Barbara Fister’s case against the undergraduate research paper, to Amy Mark’s deconstruction of the “use peer reviewed articles” requirement, to Threshold Concepts, the common thread in a lot of this critique is — our students may not know the mechanics of research, but their true gaps are deeper and more complicated than that.

Does this make sense? I’m not saying our students don’t need to now how to find the full text, or search for a known item, or even how to do more complicated things like identify keywords — I’m saying that for a lot of them (not all of them, but a lot of them) knowing those things won’t help because they have deeper gaps in understanding — gaps that will take more teaching to fill, not less. So we need to figure out what we’re okay shifting to a more collaborative platform to free up time for this work. I’m going to pick this idea up a little further in part 2.

Most of us are dissatisfied with one-shots, a lot of the time

We all spend a lot of time teaching skills-level stuff (how to navigate tools, understand academic information workflows, how to work around bad interfaces) and there are students who need those skills.

Many of my thoughts about one-shots come from some research Kate and I did a few years ago. We asked teaching librarians to share practice stories, coded and analyzed those stories and then did much more in-depth interviews with about 20 of librarians who shared them.  I want to emphasize that pretty universally, these were not cynical, jaded or otherwise negatively-focused teaching librarians. They were passionate, committed, capable of drawing great joy from their work teaching librarians. We presented on this research at different steps along the way, and between those conversations and the data we gathered I am pretty sure that the conclusions we drew are likely and they both point to these issues.

Anyway, the overwhelming conclusion from both rounds of data was that the pieces of teaching librarianship that gave most people the most satisfaction were those things that happened outside of the boundaries of the one-shot.  And because they were situations where librarians got to follow up, assess, give feedback — I don’t think the anonymous tutorial would fit the bill either. These were all situations where librarians got to engage with students about the process of research on a process level, even if it was just to see and share in the celebration of the final product of that research.  Some of these situations started with a one-shot or two, but they extended beyond it.

some rights reserved by fouro (flickr)

On the other hand, situations where librarians felt powerless or frustrated, where they questioned their own impact, or felt otherwise Sisyphean usually focused on the one-shot.  And it’s that wheels-spinning aspect of the stories that I wanted to focus on here.  The one-shot conversations and stories were largely about the frustration inherent in teaching the same basic skills repeatedly, without the ability to find out see a broader impact on broader goals like critical thinking or lifelong learning.

I think we’ve all experienced classes where we planned for something broad and conceptual, but got bogged down in the details of finding full text or figuring out why the discovery layer keeps serving up broken links. Or workshops where we planed to wow a graduate class with Zotero and instead fell into a “what are databases” rabbit hole. Or, on the other side of things, we’ve had the classes where students got really interested in a meatier question, we had a great discussion but at the end of our 45 minutes, we knew that they still didn’t know how to find the full text (even if they didn’t know that yet).

We know that learning to navigate local systems is important, that many students need instruction in the skills, that some of our workflows are not intuitive and strange, and that some of our interfaces are super terrible and our users need workarounds. Some of our students have missed out on basic research instruction coming in, and that we also need to provide resources for the others who are just the opposite – the students who already “get” libraries and know they need to learn this one. I’m reminded of this every fall when I get the emails and go to the outreach events and talk to the students who just want to learn everything about their new environment.

So how to strike that balance – to provide the resources for students who want to get ahead, and for those who need to catch up before they’re left behind, while still saving ourselves the time, energy, and resources we need to do the other things we want to do?

Much of our assessment is basic and skills-based too, especially in our online tutorials and in our one-shot sessions.

So Hannah and I actually did some surveys about tutorial creation in academic libraries. While we were focusing on the sharing issue, one thing we asked was about assessment and interactivity. Our data reinforced a concept found elsewhere – that academic library tutorials aren’t very interactive, and such interactivity that exists pretty much takes the form of simple quizzes.

I don’t have data on one-shot assessment at my fingertips, but I know that we all know there are significant, structural issues that come up when we try to assess those meaningfully. The most important of these issues is the fact that the only time that most of us can control our assessment is immediately after the session and that’s not a great time to do it. At best, we find out what they feel about their skills immediately after practicing them in the relatively safe and controlled atmosphere of the library classroom. What happens when they go out to do the actual research they need to do, is another ball game altogether.

Not a Conclusion, but the End of the Middle
So the issue here is that a lot of the things we do in library instruction wouldn’t tax the relatively limited scope of teaching that a MOOC is equipped to support. And that while a lot of the things we do are important, and necessary, they’re not all we think we should be doing.

Tomorrow, I’m going to broaden out a little bit and talk about context — why this is a time when we need to think about shifting what we do now to be able to do more.

open access mandate in action

Kate and I had an article published in Reference Services Review at the end of last year, and we just got a copy to put in our institutional repository.

“I don’t think it’s harder, just that it’s different”: Librarians’ attitudes about instruction in the virtual reference environment

This article was based on some work we did for this presentation at the Virtual Reference Summit in 2008.  From the conclusion:

It is easy to let the technology be a barrier to teaching and learning.  It is easy to assume, in the absence of visual cues, that patrons who come to us via virtual reference services are not interested in learning how to search for themselves.  Facilitating exploratory search via virtual reference does not depend on new technology, it depends on policies, reference interview skills, and perhaps most important, attitudes that are geared towards looking for opportunities to put the patron in control of his or her learning.  New technology features or tools might make this switch easier or more successful, but in the absence of an instruction-focused attitude there is no technology that will make instruction simpler, more effective, or more prevalent.

Open Access Mandate

In this case, the open access mandate didn’t really influence our behavior, but it probably pushed some things up a little higher on the priority list, and made it more important to follow up on things that we would have wanted to do anyway.  It influenced the choice of venue – RSR is published by Emerald, a Romeo green publisher.  When we weren’t sure what version to archive, the mandate pushed us to more actively communicate with the journal editor for clarity.

free information, because information is not free

So the whirlwind trip back to Philadelphia is over.  It was definitely fun; still might end up being ill-advised.  The WILU presentation is looming large now, and we’ll see how much I end up missing that 36 hours.

We walked up to see the hullaboo that is alumni weekend/ reunions at my alma mater, and while we were there we came upon the alumni edition of the student newspaper, which featured this story below the fold on the front page — LexisNexis offers free access to law school grads pursuing nonprofit work.

The program in question is called the ASPIRE program – Associates Serving Public Interests Research.  This sounds like something that might have been around forever – a corporate donation to public good work type of thing, but it’s actually in response to the current economy, which I thought was really interesting.  First, because being past the friends graduating from law school phase of my life, this is an impact of the current situation I didn’t know about —

Almost a fifth of Penn Law’s graduating class had full-time post-graduate plans secured – only to have their hiring firm delay start dates and withhold expected salaries.

Since a large number of firms are recommending, or even requiring, that graduates pursue nonprofit work during the deferred interim, a number of graduates are finding themselves without adequate resources.

It’s also interesting to me because of what it says about the significance of information, and access to information.  Obviously, keeping law school grads addicted to the kind of access, convenience and research power that LexisNexis affords has an economic upside for this company — I regularly tell students that I am going to have to stay in academia my whole life because I don’t want to give up that access —  but that doesn’t change the fact that doing research with access to LexisNexis is a different thing than doing research without that access, one thing the haves have is this kind of access, and this makes me think more about that.

dude, that’s so punk rock

So my Facebook friends, and my other friends, and the people in the cubicles next to me, and, well, anyone who has ever heard me speak knows that I’m not a big fan of the Blackboard learning management system. Despite having some good interactions over email with Karen Gage and the group of people responsible for the “2.0” side of Blackboard development, my actual experiences with Blackboard have been confusing, frustrating, clunky and … more frequent than I would like to remember.

So this post yesterday at the Chronicle’s Wired Campus made me smile when I scanned the headline and saved it to my account – I’m not just a disgruntled librarian who lacks the patience to make Blackboard sing. I’m totally punk rock. This morning, however, I realized I needed to go back and read more than the headline – this edupunk idea is apparently a whole thing that resonates with a bunch of people.

This post says “Enter EDUPUNK” and future posts will continue to develop the idea and what it means. I’ll admit I loved this post because it details how the idea developed out of connections made between frustration with something Blackboard was doing, reading a really great novel and an awesome bar conversation — a process I can totally relate to. I loved this statement:

The insanely irresponsible advertising for BlackBoard 8 suggests that Academic Suite release 8.0 will “enhance critical thinking skills” and “improve classroom performance.” What LMS can do this? What Web 2.0 tool can do this? This is total bullshit, how can they make such an irresponsible claim? These things are not done by technology, but rather people thinking and working together.

OMG yes. But more than that – the connections drawn go on to talk about the implications of the specific, corporate environment Blackboard creates and is created by — “And this move by BlackBoard to commodify the labor of others is exactly the problem with the idea that educational technology “is about the technology.”

On his other blog, term-coiner Jim Groom provides an image of himself as the edupunk poster boy. There’s a little badge on the bavatuesdays blog now – leading here — (nothing there yet but an anthem)

Leslie Madsen Brooks at BlogHer provides a much better rundown of the conversation that’s been going on on the blogs.

Generally speaking, when I’ve talked about my problems with Blackboard I have focused on the closed nature of the LMS and how I think that closed off, password-protected, walled garden e-learning environment doesn’t work. Of course on one level I’m talking about the way that Blackboard just doesn’t work very well and there’s no way to go in and fix it. It’s a closed shop and a closed shop that doesn’t seem all that interested in creating something that works well.

But the real problem with the passwords and the walled gardens isn’t really about how it affects me as a teacher. I usually end up talking about how those things affect students as learners. I think that learning how to learn on the web and learn from other people on the web, is an essential part of what it means to be able to learn at all today. And that means learning how to learn in public. It means learning how to find the learning communities that will help you get where you need to go, and learning how to participate in those learning communities — contributing to the shared knowledge as well as consuming it. My network is hands-down one of the most important learning networks I have and it has been for a long time. And a big part of why it is so important is the way that it pushes things I wouldn’t otherwise find across my path. In that community, I make connections between things that I would never have made otherwise.

When Blackboard introduced it’s clone Scholar, Karen Gage provided me with a password so that I could check it out. Even though my interactions with her were really positive, my reactions to the product were not. The big advantage over del.icio,us seemed to be the ability to tag items by course name/number. I needed the special password in the first place because the only way to use it in my own BB environment was for our Blackboard administrator to do a system-wide implementation. And at that time, you could bring your bookmarks into Scholar, but you couldn’t export them out.

Scholar to me became the perfect metaphor of the BB LMS — sort everything into courses, don’t even consider that the best learning comes sometimes from drawing connections between learning experiences, don’t consider customization or user control of their own environment and once you leave school – you won’t need that knowledge base you developed while you were there anymore. Yeah, I know that Scholar might have improved in the year since I checked it out. But at the end of the day, I don’t think that matters.

Even if Scholar worked perfectly and even if it did some awesome things that could never do — I don’t think I would think it a substitute because of the walled garden thing. Our students don’t need to learn how to learn from a pre-selected, safe group of peers. They need to learn how to function on the wild, wide open web. They should be learning that in college. E-learning is something they will be doing for the rest of their lives. They should be learning how to do that in college. Closed off LMS’s don’t give them that experience, and they never will.

Alex Reid takes a rhetorical look at the term, and decides that it might be a case of trying too hard. And I think he might be right. I like his concise articulation of the question —

Still, I think there’s an interesting question here about how pedagogues position themselves in relation to institutionally-approved technologies and in the marketplace and commons of the larger techno-mediascape.

But I’ll also admit to liking the edupunk term. My friend Matt Cibula wrote this essay way back in the nascent days of the participatory web when we were very young but already nostalgic. Matt was a year ahead of me at Canby High School and while we never talked about the Clash while we were in Canby, this essay explains why they were important to some of us who were there better than I ever could. I honestly never expected to have a reason to link to it here – so bonus!

Notes from the freeculture front

From this — The Future of Online Music: Why Closed Platforms Will Fail —

Alternatively, the disappearance of an open platform could spell the end of DRM technology altogether, at least for digital music. Since I believe strongly that the market in the end must and will be based on interoperable digital formats, if DRM is used to erect barriers to that goal, then there is no question it will be swept aside, and the industry may end up with what many have believed was the obvious choice from the beginning: open MP3 files.

Either way, Napster has the tools in place to adapt to whichever way the environment evolves and will remain committed to the common-sense goal of helping to shape a music industry that actually benefits consumers over the long-term.

To this — Napster goes DRM-free as iTunes war steps up —

Napster has bowed to the inevitable and stripped away the DRM from its entire catalogue of tracks, meaning music purchased through the service is Mac, iPod and iPhone compatible for the first time. The service is offering six million tracks, free of usage limitations, in high-quality 256kbps MP3 format.

(For an interesting exercise – check out the difference in tone between the Macworld (US) story and this one – the US one reads much more as a “Napster vs. Apple” tale.  Or maybe that’s just me.

Both stories point out that the significant thing here is that Napster has apparently convinced all of the major labels to take part, including Sony-BMG, something Apple has been unable to do.

Napster’s subscription service continues, with a slightly higher price tag.  The DRM-free option does not apply to the subscription service, only to songs purchased individually.

And shifting gears – from the MIT chapter of Students for Free Culture ( comes a fairly awesome research project – Youtomb.

From the project —

…YouTomb continually monitors the most popular videos on YouTube for copyright-related takedowns. Any information available in the metadata is retained, including who issued the complaint and how long the video was up before takedown. The goal of the project is to identify how YouTube recognizes potential copyright violations as well as to aggregate mistakes made by the algorithm.

And a little further down – they say that they became interested in the issue after YouTube announced that the takedown process would be automated.  The students wondered if this would lead to collateral damage and take-downs of videos that should fall under fair use or that should not have received any scrutiny at all.

You can’t watch the videos anymore – and the site makes it pretty clear that this is an informational/research project only that’s trying to see what kinds of videos are being challenged and to see if there are any patterns to be found.  So it’s kind of interesting to look at the comments on the TechCrunch story about it where it’s being discussed more like it’s just another startup.

openness in scholarship – not just about peer review, or journal prices

and because it’s in Nature Precedings, I can link to it here. John Wilbanks, VP of Science Commons, argues that open access means more than keeping journal costs down, but that access to information is an essential condition for innovation and the creation of new knowledge.

He’s talking about access broadly too – talking about it on a legal/cultural/intellectual property level and on a technological/information organization level –

That’s the power of what we might call a “knowledge web,” built on a knowledge infrastructure.  Just to be clear, here’s what I mean by a knowledge web: it’s when today’s web has enough power to work as well for science as it currently works for culture.  That means databases are integrated as easily as web documents, and it means that powerful search engines let scientists ask complex research questions and have some comfort that they’re seeing all the relevant public information in the answers.  A knowledge web is when journal articles have hyperlinks inside them, not just citations, letting systems like Google do their job properly.

A knowledge web is predicated on access, and not control, of knowledge.

What he’s not talking about is libraries –

But this knowledge web, where all of the literature and databases are cross-linked and searchable from a single interface like Google, isn’t going to happen by accident.  Unlike when we built past information network, we don’t have the luxury of building the knowledge web before anyone knows it’s valuable.

We have to build this web together.  It’s going to require commercial publishers…. It’s going to require hackers…. It’s going to require funders…. It’s going to take users, like the pharmaceutical companies and the academics.  It’s going to take all of us to build a knowledge web, a web that truly supports the kind of complex queries required to get valuable answers out of the deluge of information.

I  don’t think he just forgot libraries, nor do I think that he’s unaware of what libraries do. He just talked at MIT libraries last month about these very topics, after all.  Does it matter that he didn’t specifically include libraries?  I’m really not sure.  At the very least, it’s important to remember I think that libraries can’t do this thing alone either.  That the partners he mentions are essential.

But I just happened to read this the day after I read this at Dorothea Salo’s blog and maybe it connects?   She doesn’t think most librarians are very engaged with the issues of open access.  She might be right – it doesn’t feel like that from where I’m sitting, but where I’m sitting could definitely be atypical.  So I’m wondering what others think.  But most of all I’m hoping others read this article.  I found it accessible, thought-provoking and even a little inspiring.  Three of my favorite things.

open access (go Harvard!) and peer review

After seeing versions of this headline — At Harvard, a Proposal to Publish Free on the Web — all day yesterday in my feeds I was actually waiting with bated breath to see what the outcome of the vote would be. Weren’t you? Okay, probably not. But some people wrote the headline in ways that made it seem like the vote had already happened, like this one — Open Access at Harvard – Seriously — and I would get all excited and click on it to find out what happened. Only to find out that we didn’t know yet. After a few of those, my breath started to get more bated.

But now we do know — and it’s a YES.

The gist of the story is this, yesterday the Harvard Arts and Sciences faculty voted on a policy that requires faculty to post their published scholarly work in a free, open-access repository. In other words, if a journal refuses to let an author do that, this policy says that Harvard A&S faculty won’t write for that journal.

It’s not absolute. Faculty authors can apply for waivers that will allow them to opt-out of the repository. But that’s exactly the opposite of the situation on most campuses, where including one’s work in a scholarly respository is an opt-in thing. And getting faculty to opt in is one of the more difficult things many libraries are trying to do.

I think one reason that I was so invested in the outcome of this story is the discussion/debate that’s made its way across most of my listservs and a lot of my regular blog reads over the last few weeks sparked by this post on danah boyd’s blog.

Not really getting into the details of that discussion (if you’re interested, I thought Anne Galloway’s response to the initial post was pretty great, and clear about why people were bothered by it) one thing that kept coming up, and kept bothering me was the way that discussions about boyd’s initial post would quickly shift into discussions about the need for or value of peer review.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a good debate on those questions, but open access doesn’t immediately mean publishing free for all where no one evaluates the quality of anything. Never has, and I don’t think it ever will. But that’s where discussion after discussion seemed to end up. If you want to see what I mean, check out this thread on Air-L.

For a taste of what’s going on, check out the initial post by Barry Wellman, and the responses by Jimmy Wales and Jeremy Hunsinger I like this thread as an example of what I’m talking about because Wellman pretty quickly realizes that he’s conflated some issues and issues a correction. Most of the discussions I read weren’t started or continued by people who really think that if anyone can find an article than that article must have been written for the lowest common denominator. It’s more like something about the word “open” (or maybe it was the word “closed,” as in “closed journals”) pushes people’s minds to the question of audience, authority and peer review. And I started to get really worried about that — it made me think a lot about how much farther open access still needs to go in just communicating the issues and defining the terms.
So yes, Harvard’s just one school. And yes, this was the Arts and Sciences faculty, not everyone. But on the heels of this from the NIH, it’s pretty exciting.

(And yes, the second comment on the Inside Higher Ed article claims that this is the “academic equivalent of relaxed fit jeans” – that’s harshing on my happy moment just a bit)

open learning?

So from transparency and participation in peer review to openness – openness in teaching and learning.

Most of you have probably seen some mention of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration. There’s a good description with some background on the initiative and its participants at Inside Higher Ed.

So what does openness mean in this context? Looking at the declaration, they mean a lot of things.

On the one hand, it means that the materials of teaching – the lectures, the courseware, the activities, the questions and more – should be freely accessible to as many people as possible. On the other hand, they also mean using technology to create open learning environments that “facilitate collaborative, flexible learning and the open sharing of teaching practices that empower educators to benefit from the best ideas of their colleagues.”

Like the Budapest Open Access Initiative the preceded it, the Cape Town declaration points to new technology as a catalyst, but relies on older shared values to direct that catalyst in meaningful ways.

This emerging open education movement combines the established tradition of sharing good ideas with fellow educators and the collaborative, interactive culture of the Internet.

Specifically, the Cape Town declaration calls for openness in three places – in educators and learners who “actively participate in the emerging open education movement,” in resources, and in policy.

Karen Munro points out where to sign.

Then just today, I saw a reference to a related openness project – focused on open access to required course materials. We all know that textbook costs are out of control. And increasingly, faculty are looking for things they can do about the problem. In a meeting today I heard that the number of books we got for course reserves has already exceeded the number of call numbers we’d set aside for the purpose. Most of us can’t just go out and buy all of the texts our students need each year, but I think most of us in libraries are sympathetic to students being asked to pay more than top dollar for less than top-dollar information when they buy their textbooks.

So here’s another petition you can sign – this one’s from the Campaign to Reduce College Textbook Costs.

As an academic librarian, I think there’s a lot more here than the chance to sign some online petitions. This couldn’t be more of an information literacy issue if it tried. We spend a lot of time working to make sure our students can find and use the information they need to succeed for classroom assignments like research papers; here we’re talking about our students’ ability to find and use the information they need to succeed in their day-to-day learning. I haven’t been treating this as an information literacy issue, but I think maybe I should have – maybe this is a good opportunity for partnering with faculty to help our students succeed.