Utah State University has announced the closure of its OpenCourseWare initiative due to budget woes. I call nonsense (or BS). Apparently OCW needed $120,000 per year. Given the size of Utah State University, I’m going to guess they have an annual operating budget somewhere in the range of $300-400 million. This is not a budget shortfall – this is a commitment shortfall. 120K is a fraction of a fraction in light of the larger university budget.
This illustrates my concern about centrally organized open educational initiatives – they have a single point of failure: funding. There is a solution. It’s called systematization.
Let’s consider lowriders (the cars/trucks, not the jeans). I’m not into lowriders. This is mainly due to my general lack of being cool. But it is also partly due to how people react to after market modifications. When I buy a new vehicle, I like things to be fairly painless. Air conditioning? Yes. Power windows? Yes. (can you even get new cars without those options?). Satellite radio? Yes. However, if the salesperson stated it would take a few weeks to months to get specific features like GPS, I would likely pass. Why? Because certain options are not really options. They are cast as additional features, but in reality, we expect them as part of our vehicles. These options have been systematized into the development of the vehicle.
Lowriders, on the other hand, are true after market vehicles. Expensive customization is the general rule here. Which means if you didn’t buy your vehicle as a lowrider, there’s a very slim chance you’ll get it customized. A small fraction of society will pay for this extra work.
What does this have to do with Utah State?
Everything. The OER and OCW movement(s) are fundamentally flawed in where they assign openness. Openness is being treated as separate from curriculum development and delivery. Openness is viewed as an after market feature. And most universities aren’t too eager to pay for the extras.
Openness should be built into the process of curriculum design – it should be systematized just like so-called options of air conditioning and power windows in vehicles. As long as openness is separated from the rest of education, it will be seen as a cost-cutting option. Which is really rather silly. The 0.034% savings to Utah’s budget this year reveals the precarious position open education holds when treated as an optional add on…