Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Harnessing Openness to Improve Research, Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

[A very useful overview of the impact of open courseware, open source software, open collaboration, and much more. The report emphasizes the point that institutions should be focusing on developing new tools and policies to support openness rather those that restrict access or require prior permission such as federated access, Shibboleth, Eduroam etc. While some applications will always require such permission based technologies, they should always be seen as a last resort subject to identifying alternative open solutions. Thanks to Mike Nelson for this posting on Dave Farber’s IPer list – BSA]

"Harnessing Openness to Improve Research, Teaching and Learning in Higher Education," a report by the Digital Connections Council of the Committee for Economic Development Committee

CED’s Digital Connections Council (DCC), a group of information technology experts from trustee-affiliated companies, was established to advise CED on the policy issues associated with cutting-edge technologies.

The rise of the Internet and the digitization of information are affecting every corner of our lives. In a series of reports we have examined how these two changes are increasing the “openness” of information, processes and institutions.

The degree of openness of information, for example, can differ dramatically. To the extent that people have access to information, without restrictions, that information is more open than information to which people have access only if they are subscribers, or have security clearances, or have to go to a particular
location to get it. But accessibility, quite similar to the concept of transparency, is only one aspect of openness. The other is responsiveness. Can one change the information, repurpose, remix, and redistribute it? Information (or a process or an institution) is more open when there are fewer restrictions on access, use, and responsiveness.

The Internet, in particular, has vastly expanded openness. It is changing the nature of information, processes and institutions by making them more accessible to people next door and around the world. It also makes information more responsive—capable of being enhanced, or degraded, through the digital contributions of anyone interested enough to make the effort, be they experts, devoted amateurs, people withan ax to grind, or the merely curious.

In this report we examine higher education through the lens of openness. Our goal is to understand the potential impact of greater openness on colleges and universities. Like other service industries such as finance or entertainment, higher education is rooted in information—its creation, analysis, and transmission
—and the development of the skills required to utilize it for the benefit of individuals and society.

But finance and entertainment have been transformed by greater openness while higher education appears, at least in terms of openness, to have changed much less. We aim, in this report to identify some of the potential gains from making higher education more open. We also make a series of concrete recommendations for
policy makers and for institutions of higher education that should help harness the benefits of greater openness.