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Opening up education the collective advancement of education through open technology, open content, and open knowledge
McMartin, F.

PeriodicalChapter Open educational content: Transforming access to education, Pages 135-147
PublisherMIT Press
EditorsIiyoshi, Toru and Kumar, M. S. V.

Today, people world-wide have access via the Internet to information and artifacts of knowledgeby which I mean the textual, visual, and audio works that embody knowledge. They access this widely available range of resources to learn, and in so learning, apply knowledge and thereby change some part of their lives. This is a perfectly reasonable example of open educational content, in that by accessing knowledge, an end-user accomplishes an educational goal. But defi nitions are controlled by those who make them. UNESCO has defi ned open content as part of the broader conceptual movement of open educational resources (OER), where content is described as digitized educational materials and tools freely offered for educators, students and self-learners to use and reuse for the purposes of teaching, learning, and research (2002). Others have defi ned open content and open educational resources differently and more simply, emphasizing the practical perhaps more than the theoretical by describing open educational content and resources as digital learning objects, such as small (relative to the size of an entire course) instructional components that can be reused a number of times in different learning contexts . . . deliverable over the Internet . . . any number of people can access and use them simultaneously (as opposed to traditional instructional media, such as an overhead or videotape, which can only exist in one place at a time) (Wiley, 2000). Still others, especially members of the digital library world, view open content as being anything used for educational purposes, usually free, that someone has posted to a managed collection of learning materials and resources such as MERLOT or the National Science Digital Library (NSDL). For the purposes of this overview, I will 136 Chapter 9 use the term open educational content to describe actual contents as well as the projects that provide and support the generation and distribution of that content. I have characterized these defi nitions with sweeping brush strokes to a) give you a fl avor of what we mean by educational content in the context of this collection and b) to give you the lay of the land. As you engage with the authors of the following chapters, you will fi nd that their defi nitions of open content, while generally consistent with the defi nitions above, contain nuances, caveats, and exceptions to these defi nitions. All agree, though, that open content relates to knowledge. You will also fi nd in their descriptions that content derives meaning only from within a context (formal or informal learning), community (target audience for the learning), and purpose (ranging from educational change in local settings to changing education world-wide). These later dimensions of the defi nitions are extremely important, for they represent the challenges that open content providers must meet in order for the OER movement to succeed. If Content Is King, Then Why Are the Context, Community, and Purpose So Darn Important? Content is King, or so Internet mythology supports. A simple Google search of Content is King results in a standard Google return of millions of hits. Yet, just as the fi rst result (Callen, 2007) claims in its title that content is the most important aspect of a Web site, since the Internet

Keywords MERLOT · MIT · OCW · OER adoption · OER perceptions

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