Opening Education Marshall S. Smith, et al. Science 323, 89 (2009); DOI: 10.1126/science.1168018 The following resources related to this article are available online at www.sciencemag.org (this information is current as of January 5, 2009 ): Updated information and services, including high-resolution figures, can be found in the online version of this article at: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/323/5910/89 A list of selected additional articles on the Science Web sites related to this article can be Downloaded from www.sciencemag.org on January 5, 2009 found at: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/323/5910/89#related-content This article appears in the following subject collections: Education http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/collection/education Information about obtaining reprints of this article or about obtaining permission to reproduce this article in whole or in part can be found at: http://www.sciencemag.org/about/permissions.dtlScience (print ISSN 0036-8075; online ISSN 1095-9203) is published weekly, except the last week in December, by theAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science, 1200 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005. Copyright2009 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science; all rights reserved. The title Science is aregistered trademark of AAAS.
SPECIALSECTIONto online learning. Similar initiatives have arisen 8. J. Fjermestad, S. Hiltz, Y. Zhang, in Learning Together Online, institutional quality, and that approval is a requirementin the community college sector in several other S. Hiltz and R. Goldman, Eds. (Lawrence Erlbaum, NY, 2005), for institutional participation in the federal student pp. 39–80 financial aid programs.countries and regions such as England, Wales, 9. R. Ragan, J. Kleoppel, J. Asynchronous Learn. Networks 8, 18. See (16), section 495, paragraph 1.Bavaria, and Norway. So, although many U.S. 15 (2008). 19. Dow Lohnes; www.dowlohnes.com/postsecondary/providers are looking beyond the border and 10. National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of accreditation.seeing very little competition, the global situation Education Statistics, 2007; http://nces.ed.gov/programs/ 20. P. Bacsich, Lessons to be learned from the failure of the digest/d07. UK e-University (2005); www.odlaa.org/events/2005conf/is likely to get considerably tougher in years to 11. A. Finder, “Adjuncts outnumber tenured faculty on ref/ODLAA2005bacsich.pdf.come, when competition for online students who U.S. campuses,” International Herald Tribune, 20 21. Megatrends in e-learning provision: E-learninglive anywhere becomes as fierce as it is for tra- November 2007; www.iht.com/articles/2007/11/20/ initiatives which were discontinued because theyditional campus students. america/college.php. failed to reach targeted goal: The Scottish 12. A. Pickett, Faculty Development Process, Sloan-C Interactive University (2002); http://nettskolen.nki.no/ Effective Practice; http://sloanconsortium.org/node/347. in_english/megatrends/Discontinued/. References and Notes 13. E. Kashy, M. Thoennessen, Y. Tsai, G. Albertelli II, Discontinued_ScottishInteractiveUniversity.pdf 1. E. M. Noam, Science 270, 247 (1995). J. Asynchronous Learn. Networks 4, 231 (2000). 22. See www.du.nl for a cryptic closure message (in Dutch). 2. See, e.g.; http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/home/home/ 14. P. Shea, J. Asynchronous Learn. Networks 11, 73 (2007). 23. D. McLeod, “NHS University axed,” The Guardian, 30 index.htm. 15. NASULGC-Sloan National Commission on Online November 2004; www.guardian.co.uk/education/2004/ 3. See, e.g.; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Learning, Benchmarking Study: Preliminary Findings nov/30/highereducation.uk3. Learning_management_system. (2008); available at www.sloanconsortium.org/ 24. I. E. Allen, J. Seaman, Staying the Course: Online Downloaded from www.sciencemag.org on January 5, 2009 4. Second Life; http://secondlife.com. publications/survey/nasgulc-prelim. Education in the United States, 2008 (Sloan Consortium, 5. See www.sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/index.asp. 16. Higher Education Opportunity Act, P.L. 110-315, 14 Needham, MA, 2008); www.sloanconsortium.org/ 6. C. Dziuban, P. Moskal, Educause Q. 24, 60 (2001). August 2008. publications/survey/pdf/staying_the_course.pdf. 7. J. Hartman, C. Dziuban, P. Moskal, in Online Education: 17. Accrediting commissions are nongovernmental 25. The authors are grateful for helpful critiques from Proceedings of the Sloan Summer Workshop on agencies that conduct independent assessments of C. Dziuban at University of Central Florida and Asynchronous Learning Networks, J. R. Bourne, institutional quality and integrity. Certain accrediting M. Goldstein of Dow Lohnes PLLC. J. C. Moore, Eds. (Sloan Consortium, Needham, commissions have sought and are recognized by the U.S. MA, 1999), pp. 155–179. Secretary of Education as being “reliable” arbiters of 10.1126/science.1168874 cause of firewalls, passwords, or proprietary rights;REVIEW (ii) use the content by downloading, duplicating, and distributing it with or without restrictions;Opening Education and (iii) reuse the content by translating or other- wise modifying it to accommodate local contextMarshall S. Smith and by combining it with other material and distributing the altered content, with or withoutSpurred by the publication of Massachusetts Institute of Technology OpenCourseWare in restrictions.2002, the open educational resources (OER) movement, which has rapidly expanded and captured Although OER are controversial, the affor-the imagination and energy of millions of creators and users throughout the world, now faces dances of the Web, together with growing interestmany opportunities and substantial challenges as it moves to become an integral part of the and use of OER, make possible a leveling ofworld’s educational environment. The confluence of the Web and a spirit of sharing intellectual access to knowledge and information around theproperty have fueled a worldwide movement to make knowledge and education materials open to world, as well as provide the potential for dra-all for use. OER are content (courses, books, lesson plans, articles, etc.), tools (virtual laboratories, matic transformations of education practice. Stu-simulations, and games), and software that support learning and educational practice. OER dents everywhere, enrolled or not, have freeare free on the Web, and most have licenses that allow copyright holders to retain ownership access to content and interactive instruction, aswhile providing specified rights for use in original and modified forms. At the least, OER have well as to networks of people with similar in-helped to level the distribution of knowledge across the world. A second promise of OER is terests, enabling them to collaborate in theto help transform educational practices. This article explores the history of and promises and construction of knowledge and to learn at theirchallenges for OER. own pace. The act of modifying an OER to meet language, cultural, or readiness requirements teacher in a Kenyan secondary school These are examples of open educational re- increases useful access and may be a creativeA uses a free Web-based interactive simula- tion designed by a Nobel Prize–winningphysicist (1). In a university in Xian, China, a sources (OER). OER include lesson plans, courses, textbooks, videos, podcasts, library collections, games, research journals and articles (often called learning endeavor. Open high-quality content and instruction can set standards of practice and, because of their quality, transparency, andstudent having trouble learning linear algebra goes open access), encyclopedias, dictionaries, simu- availability, help improve the practice of teachingfor free help to a translated Web-based collection lations, and assessments and the open software and learning throughout the world.of course lectures from Massachusetts Institute of that support their creation, hosting, and dissem-Technology (MIT) (2). And, in the United States, ination. Most OER are covered by flexible li- A Short History of OERthousands of students go to a Web site that pro- censes that allow copyright holders to retain OER have been around almost as long as thevides free homework help aligned with their state ownership of the materials while permitting users Web, although not by name. During the mid-standards for most secondary school academic certain rights (4). 1990s, U.S. government libraries and museumscourses (3) (Fig. 1). The power of OER comes from three rights posted examples of OER. Later in the decade, the fundamental to openness and sharing (5). OER U.S. Department of Education, the California users may be granted by the copyright holder of State University, and European SchoolNet allCarnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the resource some or all of the rights to (i) free provided substantial amounts of educational ma-Stanford, CA 94305, USA. E-mail: mike.marshallsmith@ access anytime, anywhere, to content or software terials for free on the Web. In 1998, David Wiley,gmail.com that often has been available to only some be- then a student at Brigham Young University, www.sciencemag.org SCIENCE VOL 323 2 JANUARY 2009 89
Education & Technology created the first license for content that provided such applications and platforms, the rights to use dent learning and enhances information sharing, authors a way to maintain ownership of content and reuse are restricted to those able to afford participative behavior, collaboration, and possi- while giving others the right to use it. Examples proprietary tools. To facilitate full adaptation to bly even creativity. This (Fig. 2) is the world in of open source software tools for creating and new contexts and the addition of new functional- which our children are growing up. using open content appeared on the Web. ity, open educational platforms and software In this complex environment, our education MIT faculty and administration decided in should be modular and extensible (11). In addi- institutions have mixed incentives for opening 2000 to make available on the Web the core content tion, depending on its use, the success of OER access to knowledge. Some university presidents of all MIT courses (6). Named OpenCourseWare may require additional standards and best practice see OCW and its transparency as a mechanism (OCW), it includes syllabi, reading lists, lecture models that establish criteria for quality and for for improving the quality of courses and teach- notes, assessments, and video lectures: by 2007, meeting its promise of accessibility to everyone. ing. Professors who are comfortable with their 1800 MIT courses open on the Web were being For example, best practice protocols for making course content post their material openly and are accessed yearly by millions of students, teachers, content openly accessible to the physically hand- motivated by a desire to share, to further establish and the general public. icapped would be particularly useful. The field their reputation with their peers all over the MIT’s commitment to “openness” sparked the also will need to become comfortable with meth- world, and to improve their students’ experi- imagination of people around the world, helping odologies for evaluating materials and setting ences. University or department policies to make to spur dozens of other universities to post their standards ranging from formal peer reviews and research articles openly available are viewed as Downloaded from www.sciencemag.org on January 5, 2009 own course materials freely on the Web and to statistical trials to user judgments such as those speeding the transmission of knowledge and form the OCW Consortium (7). In 2002, the used by Amazon.com and eBay.com. facilitating greater opportunities for knowledge United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cul- Adaptive: social, cultural, political, and legal. aggregation and partnerships. Many teachers tural Organization (UNESCO) proposed the name Making intellectual property open on the Web have a thirst for seeing others’ lesson plans and open educational resources, and in 2007 the Organi- often requires a major adaptive shift in the at- strategies and for sharing their own. zation for Economic Cooperation and Development titudes, norms, incentives, and legal orientation Working against OER, however, are financial (OECD) published a study of the use and prevalence of organizations, groups, and individuals. Sharing concerns, authors’ fears of exposing mediocre of OER in the developed world, concluding that “An is difficult in a society where competition and content, the weight of traditional practice, and apparently extraordinary trend has emerged” (8). private enterprise are dominant. legitimate reasons for protecting intellectual OER advocates believe that it will become a Yet, even though the dominant values may property. Course materials, such as books and vibrant part of the educational and social fabric of weigh against OER, there are substantial social, videos, cost time, energy, and money to create, the world. Lawrence Lessig, a professor of law at cultural, and political movements in the devel- and authors may rightly expect compensation. Stanford University, argues for the Web to be an oped and developing worlds that value openness Open content challenges conventional modes of open commons; if some people are restricted and transparency, particularly in public trans- publishing and distributing academic content. from knowledge while others are not, creativity actions (12). Openness can be a way of organiz- Some publishers and professional academic orga- will be constrained and inequalities heightened ing social activities that favors universal over nizations believe they have a lot to lose as OER (9). However, there are questions often asked: restricted access, participatory over restricted become more popular. These are trying problems How can OER survive if it gives away its pro- decision-making, and collaborative over central- that may sort themselves out over time. Instruc- ducts for free? Can the current momentum for ized production (13). Aspects of the Web, such as tors are becoming more comfortable with trans- OER be maintained and self-sustained? After all, social networks, video sharing, wikis, and blogs parency and sharing, and publishers and academic the OER movement must survive in an envi- facilitate an environment that supports indepen- organizations are testing different economic, ronment that has a robust infrastructure to protect the private ownership of property and the max- imization of financial return. For a movement with a very different ideology to coexist and grow, it, too, must have a supportive infrastructure. Toward an Infrastructure for OER An infrastructure provides an organizing and facilitating framework for the system it serves; in this case, the worldwide network of people and organizations that create and use OER. In recent years, a variety of studies and articles have been written about technology infrastructure issues (10). Most take a broad perspective, including not only pipes, standards, and software but also social, economic, and legal issues. Technical. Effective use of technology and, therefore of OER, relies on a stable general tech- nical infrastructure. This includes hardware, soft- ware, standards, and protocols. The rights to use and reuse content, however, may require software design characteristics different from those of software programs that operate in an environ- ment without those rights. The need for open Fig. 1. This is a picture of an open interactive simulation of a Circuit Construction Kit that is used software tools for creating, recreating, and sharing in classrooms from middle school to graduate school to teach basic electricity relationships. See (1) the many forms of content is an example; without for Web site information.90 2 JANUARY 2009 VOL 323 SCIENCE www.sciencemag.org
Education & Technology The second indicator stems from the fact that Another powerful application of OER lies in courses. The courses would have multimedia, there are as yet few well-documented examples empowering users in the developing world to interactive simulations, and cooperative learn- of powerful OER utility. OER will begin to come participate and, in a short time, control the ing opportunities, and they would incorporate of age when there are multiple examples of its creation and dissemination of important learning AI-supported feedback loops to personalize the ability to improve the lives of substantial num- materials. The Commonwealth of Learning instruction. They would also be modular and bers of users—by increasing the flow of useful sponsors the Virtual University for Small States extensible. information, producing opportunities for collab- of the Commonwealth, in which representatives of Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) 11 Open oration and creativity, and enhancing teaching 30 countries collaborate to produce vocational Learning Initiative (OLI) courses most closely and learning. and academic content for learning inside and conform to the model suggested here. The courses outside of education institutions (19). With use intelligent tutoring systems, simulations, and Powerful Examples of OER assistance from the Open University of the United corrective feedback loops and contain the same The Internet will change dramatically over the Kingdom, the Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan content as regular CMU lecture courses. next decade as it incorporates such emerging Africa network—16 public tertiary institutions in In the fall of 2007, OLI undertook an im- technologies as geo- and semantic mapping, speech eight countries—develops and disseminates open portant randomized trial (22). Students in CMU’s recognition, artificial intelligence (AI), data teacher training materials to support public school beginning statistics course were asked to choose mining, and techniques that immerse learners in teachers. As yet, we lack data about the effect of whether they wanted to take the semester-long Downloaded from www.sciencemag.org on January 5, 2009 virtual worlds that engage multiple senses. The these efforts on teaching and learning. But the course with traditional lectures, weekly discus- opportunities for influencing learning and teach- process of production, delivery, and use may be as sion sessions, and optional access to the statistics ing will expand dramatically. The power of OER important as the initial measurable effects on tutor software (the control group) or the same to increase access and to allow use and reuse traditional educational outcomes. course with the tutoring software as the in- should both enhance and be enhanced by these The increasing number and quality of open structional medium, no lectures, two optional week- innovations. textbooks and open textbook providers repre- ly discussion sessions, and only half as long to For now, however, our question is what cur- sents a third application that could prove to be complete the entire course (the experimental treat- rent OER applications might be candidates for powerful, this one directly facilitated by student ment group). The volunteers for the experimental game changers in education. Many would con- and faculty concern over the high cost of com- treatment were randomly assigned into experi- sider OCW a candidate. Since MIT put up its site, mercial textbooks. A fourth possibility stems from mental and control course sections. The students more than 90 universities and colleges from 14 a growing interest in the medical community and in the control and experimental sections took the countries around the globe have adopted OCW around developing-world users in exploiting OER same in-class exams and, before and after the and created a consortium (OCWC) to share best for public health and medical treatment knowledge. courses, an externally developed and standardized practices and course materials. As a result, more My fifth example is also in the formative stage. assessment of introductory statistics. The results than 7800 courses are now available on the Web. It is possible now to create an open library of ef- were statistically similar for the two groups for the Students and teachers across the world look to fective, high-quality, Web-based courses for second- in-class exams, whereas the experimental group OCW to expand their understanding of courses they ary school and college students (20, 21). Experts in made significantly larger gains on the standardized are taking or teaching, whereas nonstudents turn to content areas, teaching, Web application devel- assessment, indicating that the experimental group OCW for self-learning (Fig. 3). opment, and cognitive science would develop the learned better and in half the time. CMU is following up this experiment with similar studies in other content areas and with students from other colleges. If the findings stand, they will challenge our conventional think- ing. Do we need lecturers in many of our courses? Is the lecture an efficient way of delivering high- quality instruction? Is the semester sacrosanct, or should we be trying to determine what kinds of learning can be accelerated? Now imagine a 21st century library whose holdings would be very-high-quality software courses built to the specifications suggested earlier and informed by the experiences of successful software course developers, such as those at CMU. The cost of creating a library of 50 such secondary school courses and 50 early college courses would be roughly $300 million, less than 2% of California’s current budget deficit (for 2009–2010). Another $100 million would provide a powerful set of performance and multiple-choice end-of-course assessments to measure individual student success and a dozen rigorous experiments to assess the effectiveness of the courses. These would be fixed, one-time-only costs. Continuing costs of $50 million a year Fig. 3. This chart shows conservative estimates of the number of individual visits per month to OCWC would be required to maintain, update, evaluate, sites from October 2003 to October 2008. The blue area represents visits to sites where the OCW is in the and house the courses. When completed and made originally posted language, and the red area shows sites with translated versions of the OCW (7). available, every person and school in the world92 2 JANUARY 2009 VOL 323 SCIENCE www.sciencemag.org
SPECIALSECTION competent teachers or in application. We need research on effectiveness of laboratories or in face- using OER materials, but, if we knew more about to-face groups of peers. commercial technology applications’ effects on But the project could teaching and learning, we would also know more make a dramatic contri- about the potential of OER. bution beyond its own direct impact by estab- References and Notes 1. See http://phet.colorado.edu/index.php for science lishing a standard for simulations designed by C. Wieman of the University of many instructional set- British Columbia and University of Colorado. tings because of the 2. See www.ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/home/home/index. quality of its content htm for G. Strang’s course, which has received over one million visits. and its use of strategies 3. The homework site is www.hippocampus.org/. for providing feedback 4. For a recent more extensive treatment of OER, see and support for students. T. Iiyoshi and M. S. Vijay Kumar, Eds., Opening Up The capacity to quickly Education (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2008). update a open Web- 5. Not all three rights are available on all OER. Many OER have an attribution requirement, and rights two and Downloaded from www.sciencemag.org on January 5, 2009 based course with new three are often restricted to noncommercial use. knowledge or based on 6. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has new understandings of supported OER, including MIT OCW, since 2001. what parts of the in- See www.hewlett.org/. 7. For more about the OCW Consortium, struction work or do not see www.ocwconsortium.org/. work to effectively teach 8. Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open students is another pow- Educational Resources (Organization for Economic erful argument for imple- Co-Operation and Development. Paris, France, 2007) p. 9; www.oecd.org/dataoecd/35/7/38654317.pdf.Fig. 4. One way of better understanding use is to go to the potential users menting the project. 9. L. Lessig, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons inwith materials that have familiar designs and for advice about ways to a Connected World (Random House, New York, 2001).improve the product. This photo shows Chinese students, in a middle school Building Momentum 10. See “Revolutionizing science and engineering throughjust outside of Xian, China, trying out an early version of an online, game- Although there have cyberinfrastructure: A report of the National Science Foundation blue-ribbon panel on cyberinfrastructure”based, open learning course with cartoon characters, for teaching English to been many successes, (NSF, Arlington, VA, 2003). The panel chair wasChinese speakers. the OER movement con- D. E. Atkins of the University of Michigan. Available tinues to face a substan- online at www.nsf.gov/od/oci/reports/toc.jsp.would have access to an entire repertoire of high- tial number of challenges. Two areas are important 11. See Wikipedia Web sites www.wikipedia.org/wiki/ modularity and www.wikipedia.org/wiki/extensible.quality high school courses (including elective and to the ultimate sustainability and the impact of OER 12. D. E. Atkins, J. S. Brown, A. L. Hammond, A Review of thevocational courses) and an equivalent coverage on teaching and learning. Both require research. Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement:for the first 2 years of many college programs. The first has to do with the extent of use of Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities Making the courses open rather than proprie- OER in the developed and developing worlds. (William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Menlo Park,tary has several advantages. First, the courses CA, 2007). The authors argue that MIT OCW helped Without significant use, there will not be sus- begin a cultural change in higher education from awould be immediately available to everyone. Sec- tainability. But we do not know what the demand proprietary position toward a culture of sharing.ond, the open nature of the courses would give in- is for OER, how to use supply to increase de- Available online at www.oerderves.org/wp-content/stitutions and individuals the rights to modify, adapt, mand, how to make use more probable, how best uploads/2007/03/a-review-of-the-open-educational-and customize the courses for their purposes. Third, to measure use, or what we might consider to be resources-oer-movement_final.pdf. 13. For a more complete treatment of these ideas seefully open materials would allow organizations to little or great amounts of use. These questions M. L. Smith et al., “Open ICT4D” 19 November 2008,build professional services around the courses— pose complex and probably expensive design, International Development Research Center workingsuch as professional development—providing a fi- measurement, and analysis problems (Fig. 4). paper, www.idrc.ca/en/ev-133699-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html.nancial source for sustainability. Lastly, for non- The other challenge concerns the question of 14. Creative Commons has become a nonprofit organization located in San Francisco. See http://creativecommons.org.enrolled students, a service could offer a fee-based effectiveness. One aspect of this question is easy. 15. L. Lessig, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons inproctored assessment. If students pass the assess- OER has expanded access to knowledge both by a Connected World (Random House, New York, 2001).ment, the same service or a local school might re- being open and by allowing adaptation to various 16. J. Howard, Chron. High. Educ. 55, A-12 (2008).ward them with credit, thereby replacing seat time contexts, although we are not sure about the ex- 17. www.bloomsburyacademic.com 18. http://cnx.org/with learning performance as the criterion for success. tent of the expansion. But we do not have evi- 19. www.col.org/colweb/site/pid/100 This relatively small investment could have dence, for example, about whether the act of 20. See M. S. Smith, C. M. Casserly, Change 38, 8 (2006).immediate ramifications in a nation with a troubled modifying materials has special educational 21. C. M. Christensen, M. B. Horn, C. W. Johnson, Disruptingeconomy, a retiring teacher workforce, and a great value. And, with a few exceptions, we know little Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns (McGraw Hill, New York, 2008).demand for more highly skilled workers. On the about the effectiveness of individual OER appli- 22. M. Lovett, O. Meyer, C. Thille, J. Interactive Media Ed.,other hand, successful implementation would cations in causing their users to learn. http://jime.open.ac.uk/2008/14/jime-2008-14.html (2008).have to overcome the weight of powerful cultural To some extent the latter question reflects our 23. M.S.S. is a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Foundation forand social norms and practices. For example, lack of understanding about the effectiveness of the Advancement of Teaching. He has worked at the Williamwidespread use would require a significant technology applications in education. OER is an and Flora Hewlett Foundation as well as for the U.S. federal government and three major universities. He appreciateschange in the role of some teachers from presenter enabler. An OER application by its nature is more the useful comments on earlier versions of this article fromto mentor. widely accessible and, if modified or otherwise E. Kemble, M. L. Smith, C. M. Casserly, B. Alberts, P. Hines, This project would not be a universal solu- adapted, potentially more appropriate for a target J. O’Day, S. Tracy, and two anonymous reviewers.tion. There are many skills and concepts that are audience than a commercial application, but other-better learned in classrooms taught by caring and wise it is not technically different from such an 10.1126/science.1168018 www.sciencemag.org SCIENCE VOL 323 2 JANUARY 2009 93