Why share?

In a comment to a previous post of mine, Gayle reminded me of the point made by the ACETS project:

“Re-use is not in itself a good or bad thing and it should not be encouraged or discouraged as a matter of dogma. Rather it should be nurtured and supported where it can provide benefits and not where it will not.”

So the question we should ask is: when will re-use provide benefits? Here are some links to recent and ongoing work relating to the benefits of sharing, reuse and open content.

Firstly there’s an article Why Give Knowledge Away for Free? The Case for Open Educational Resources by Jan Hylén, in an online journal that covers open source developments. It’s interesting that this sits alongside articles about open source software but concentrates on the “giving away for free” side of the argument rather than the benefits of openness while developing a resource (“release early, release often“, “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow” etc.). Given the time required to develop learning materials (and hence the cost), there’s sense in thinking about sharing the load rather than giving away the product.

Secondly, following a recommendation from a recent report on sharing eLearning content, JISC have commissioned a project to “improve the evidence base in support of sharing learning materials”. Yep, I freely admit that in over a dozen years of trying to promote the sharing of learning materials I’ve based my arguments on “common sense”* and speculation rather than sound evidence and business cases. The project is being undertaken by Intrallect and due to deliver a report, with actual business cases and business models, by December.

Finally, and on a bit of a tangent, there’s a JISC podcast “Uncovering the social and economic benefits of open access”, about the wider benefits of institutional repositories and open access. It ignores learning materials, of course, and focuses exclusively on sharing research and development output; but it’s an interesting listen nonetheless. The main theme is that, since what we want is a cost-effective solution, any analysis of open access needs to look at benefits as well as costs. So the work described in the podcast models the effect of open access on the benefits to the wider community (i.e. the people who pay tax to fund universities) of knowledge creation through research and development: apparently the case for open access is clear.

(* Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.–attributed to Albert Einstein)