Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Reflections on Open Access Event on Campus

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That moment when a total (Egyptian) stranger walks up to me with a wide smile and says “I came to this event JUST to meet you, I’ve heard about you so much from Jim Groom. He says you know more about open than anyone here”. **

We had an Open Access event on campus today. My colleague (a librarian) Mark and I had bonded over our passion for open access back in 2013 and held a 2-day OA event in April 2014. We haven’t done anything near as big since, but today we had an event. The folks from Unpaywall/ImpactStory (Jason and Heather) were here and they presented with such passion and I think everyone learned so much from them both on the philosophical level of open, and the practical nitty-gritty of open. It’s a difficult balance to achieve, but they did it beautifully (I actually missed Heather’s presentation coz i was in class, but her comments throughout were really helpful).

I also moderated a panel on open education where a couple of OpenMed folks presented what they were working on, a couple of AUC folks also did so (one about a MOOC with Edraak, one about our first Open Textbook with Rebus), and our final panelist was from Cairo University and she integrates open courses from Edraak into the University curriculum (she has an agreement with Edraak).

We also had a presentation by a faculty member who produced digital Latin texts with a CC license, and a presentation from a librarian on predatory publishers and our AUC repository, DAR.

We also had a discussion about possibly doing an Egypt open manifesto. This was a session format we had scheduled but i now realize needed more prep and more time. We had it for the last half hour but maybe we should have looked at other open declarations in small groups or something and then built upon them? 

But it was interesting because a lot of issues outside of open per se came up: things like ensuring internet infrastructure equity and that any open material we produce is accessible via mobile so more people can access it; issues of internet governance and censorship ; questions about EKB; issues of accessibility to people with disabilities as well. 

During the panel on open education, some of the key things that came up were familiar 

  • Difficulty of bringing a culture of open into a culture where “open education” used to mean lifelong learning as in the UK Open University 
  • Bringing in digital approaches to learning when mindsets are still skeptical about this as if it might replace teachers and teaching
  • Issues of sharing research openly and fears of blatant plagiarism (of entire texts, mind you, not parts of them) 
  • Issues of financial loss from textbook sales if professors instead make their work openly accessible (i am guessing students don’t scan and upload the books coz they have watermarks that make photocopying them difficult and probably also scanning? Dunno)
  • Issues of credentialing 

But also new issues I hadn’t considered 

  • Professors who would not want to reuse/repurpose/remix the work of others mainly because of pride

(oops got distracted and almost slept w/o posting this…er…so I’m positing it now)
** This is less surprising than it sounds. Several people outside my institution (at two public universities) are involved in the OpenMed EU-funded project, and they were recently at a training event in Turino where Jim Groom did…something… And someone (Fabio I think?) tweeted out a slide Jim used that mentioned me. So I know he mentioned me. But it was still kinda cute

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