Last Wednesday I went to the launch event for OpenLearn, a £5.65m project funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. OpenLearn aims to make 5,000 hours of Open University course content available online, free of charge by April 2008.
After the release of materials by MIT, It’s fantastic to be able to report that a British institution is able to see and realize the value of openly accessible materials. Vice Chancellor Professor Brenda Gourley’s opening speech highlighted the importance of open standards and open education, outlining "...the trend towards the all-access economy (open access, open source etc), closed systems are dead; open is the new standard. This site is open, free to use by anybody and subject only to Creative Commons licensing protocols."
Professor Gourley also drew a neat comparison to the previous pioneering work undertaken by the Open University in partnership with the BBC to the current XML based initiative. I grew up watching bearded men explain particle physics on a Sunday morning, and later stayed up far too late fascinated by the wonderful Stuart Hall. So far I haven’t studied formally with the OU, but I’ve certainly benefited, along with many millions of other people, from their output and their commitment to social justice and education for all. The transcript/film of Professor Gourley’s speech isn’t up yet - I’ll link as soon as.
I also got to say hi (after my nine year old son had finished with him) to Lawrence Lessig, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Creative Commons, Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and founder of the School's Center for Internet and Society. All OpenLearn materials are free for use under a flexible Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons copyright license. Prof Lessig delivered a brief keynote, as did Bill Rammell, UK Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education.
Check out the OpenLearn site for currently available materials and the LabSpace site (not sure what the joined finger sign means, presuming its nothing too rude), a community and meeting space I’ll write more about once I’ve had a chance to look around.