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What is the cost of "closed"?

Written by Karen Fasimpaur
October 18, 2012

In classrooms where connected learning is happening, there is a demand for lots of digital content, and the unfortunate fact is that many schools cannot afford to purchase all the commercial digital content that teachers and students need to create a rich learning environment.

Fortunately, there is now an ocean of free and/or open content on the Internet. The challenge is sorting out what is best to use. This obviously involves curation, but there are other issues to consider as well.

There is a large body of content that is currently free, but not open. That means content that is freely available, but is published under an “all rights reserved” copyright. With that content, users must make a determination of whether their intended use falls under fair use. Reading the terms of use for a site may be helpful in that process.

Also, things that are free, but not open, may not be free for long. Many who have started with freely available content have later decided to charge a fee for it and/or to put it behind a firewall. While this is certainly their prerogative and understandable, it can be inconvenient to educators who have had an expectation of being able to use the content freely.

Advantages of open content include that it is free, it will always be free, and it is unambiguously legal to use.

Another important consideration related to the economics of open is in the broader area of public policy. For materials created with government funding, it is good public policy to make sure that those materials are open licensed for sharing. Think of all the taxpayer dollars that are going into grants for new curriculum and other content. Shouldn’t those materials be available to be used by all?

Beyond the economic and legal reasons to prefer open, there are perhaps much more significant benefits of usability and culture that open can promote, which will be discussed in the next two chapters.

Money image credit: Andrew Magill, CC BY

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