Coalition Wants Ed. Materials Available Online for Free

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A coalition of educators, colleges, and foundations is urging governments and publishers to make publicly funded educational materials available online for free, according to a declaration released by the group on Tuesday.

Releasing educational materials into the open education arena would give all students, regardless of income level or geographic location, access to valuable curricula, and help educators continually improve and update learning materials, advocates say.

This movement has significant implications for developing countries, according to supporters.

The Cape Town Open Education Declaration arose from a September 2007 meeting convened by the New York City-based Open Society Institute and the Cape Town, South Africa-based Shuttleworth Foundation, where 27 participants, including Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, collaborated to draft the document.

The document aims to raise awareness among educators and learners about the open education movement and encourage them to get involved in creating, using, and editing the existing resources.

“By getting the message out there, we hope that more educators and students will become aware of what’s available,” said Melissa Hagemann, a program manager for the Open Society Institute’s information program. “Our intent is … to really provide a roadmap and outline for open access.”

Not Practical?

The declaration calls on authors, publishers, and institutions to release their resources to be shared through open licenses so information can be revised, translated, and shared. It also aims to make open education a high priority for governments, schools, colleges, and universities, and urges governments to make educational materials funded by taxpayers available for open educational resources.

But experts in the textbook publishing industry doubt the practicality of such suggestions.

“There’s a great deal of effort and development that goes into creating instructional materials,” said Jay D. Diskey, the executive director of the school division for the Association of American Publishers, which has headquarters in New York City and Washington. “It’s not an industry that can operate for free.”

Vol. 27

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