TITLE: Providers of Proprietary Education Resources Concerned About Federal Investment in Non-Proprietary Education Resources
LEDE: Some high-powered executives in the proprietary education world are speaking their minds about the Obama administration's two billion dollar investment in open educational resources. Those of us from the open source world have heard similar sentiments before.
The original article from <a href="" href="http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/publishers-criticize-federal-investment-in-open-educational-resources/31483" target="_blank">http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/publishers-criticize-federal-investment-in-open-educational-resources/31483">the Chronicle of Higher Education</a> speaks for itself, but there are some wonderfully illustrative quotes that absolutely scream for rebuttal.
Wonderfully illustrative quote #1: “I think it’s very dangerous for them to be in the product business.” Bill Hughes, vice president of business development and innovation at Pearson Education.
Okay, Mr. Hughes. But maybe you should consider the notion that the government isn't actually in the "product business", as you call it. Because the Commons only becomes a product when participants in that Commons decide to treat it as such. The great thing about the Commons is that everyone has equal access to it -- and because the Obama administration mandated the use of the very liberal and business-friendly CC-BY license for this grant, that means that everyone has the equal right to make their own products from the resulting content. (That includes you, Mr. Hughes. Which you must surely know already, since you're including the CC-BY licensed REDACTED in your REDACTED. And you don't have to pay REDACTED one red cent for all their hard work.)
Wonderfully illustrative quote #2: “There’s no free lunch.” James Kourmadas, vice president of strategic marketing at McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
True, Mr. Kourmadas, but only to a point. It's often said that "free software is only free if your time is worth nothing," and there's a lot of truth to that -- and it may well turn out to be the case that similar rules will apply in the world of the Education Commons. Then again, Euclid wrote his elements 2500 years ago, and textbook companies have been remixing Euclidean geometry content ever since. I wonder if McGraw-Hill is still keeping up with its royalty payments to Euclid's estate?
Wonderfully illustrative quote #3: “I fear when big bucks from government is put into certain places, it actually stops pushing people to innovate.” Kevin Wiggen, chief technology officer of Blackboard Xythos.
Perhaps, Mr. Wiggen. But perhaps it's just as possible that a Commons, no matter how it's initially seeded, will actually spur innovation. When people are free to reuse content without asking permission of the original content holders, isn't it possible that innovation will actually accelerate? Because that's precisely how it's happened in the world of free software. Which you must know better than anyone -- the presence of Moodle in the marketplace has pushed Blackboard to innovate more aggressively than ever, wouldn't you agree?
Wonderfully illustrative quote #4: "The federal government can put some money into OER, but what is much more important is we can help you all in whatever way you need help in opening doors and building global business." Karen Cator, director of educational technology, U.S. Department of Education.
In other words: quit complaining and start innovating.
(Special thanks to the <a href="" href="http://chronicle.com/" target="_blank">http://chronicle.com/">Chronicle of Higher Education</a> for breaking this story.)