CoverI. Intellectual Property1. James Boyle, “The Why of Intellectual Property”2. James Boyle, “Thomas Jefferson Writes a Letter”II. Free Software3. Richard Stallman, “What is Free Software?”4. Richard Stallman, “The GNU Project”III. Open Source5. Eric Raymond, “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”6. Eric Raymond, “Homesteading the Noosphere”IV. Open Content7. David Wiley, “About the Open Publication License”8. David Wiley, “Open Content: The First Decade”V. Defining Free9. Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The Four Freedoms Speech”10. Richard Stallman, “Four Freedoms”11. Erik Moller, “Freedom Defined”12. Bruce Perens, “Debian Free Software Guidelines”VI. Defining Open13. Bruce Perens, “The Open Source Definition”14. David Wiley, “Open Content”15. OKFN, “Open Definition”16. David Wiley, “The Access Compromise and the 5th R”17. David Wiley, “Open Definitions, Specificity, and Avoiding Bright Lines”VII. Open Source Software Licenses18. GNU General Public License19. BSD License20. MIT License21. Apache License22. Comparison of Open Source LicensesVIII. Open Content Licenses23. Creative Commons Licenses24. GNU Free Documentation License25. Open Publication LicenseIX. Open CourseWare26. Charles Vest, “Disturbing the Educational Universe: Universities in the Digital Age — Dinosaurs or Prometheans?”27. History of MIT OCW28. MIT OCW Evaluation Report (2005)29. MIT Reaches OCW Milestone30. David Wiley, “OpenCourseWars”X. Open Educational Resources31. UNESCO Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing32. Cape Town Open Education Declaration33. UNESCO, “2012 Paris OER Declaration”34. Wiley, Bliss, and McEwen, “Open Educational Resources: OER Literature Review”35. Boston Consulting Group, “Open Educational Resources: The OER Ecosystem”XI. Open Textbooks36. Nicole Allen, “Open Textbooks: A Cover to Cover Solution: How Open Textbooks are the Path to Affordability”37. Frydenberg and Matkin, “Open Textbooks: Why? What? How? When?”XII. Research in Open Education38. OER Research Hub39. Open Education Group40. Marshall Smith, “Ruminations on Research on OER”XIII. The Economics of Open41. Yochai Benkler, “Coases Penguin, or Linux and The Nature of the Firm”42. Yochai Benkler, “Common Wisdom: Peer Production of Educational Materials”43. Yochai Benkler, “‘Sharing Nicely’: On shareable goods and the emergence of sharing as a modality of economic production”XIV. Open Business Models44. Eric Raymond, “The Magic Cauldron”45. OSI, “Open Source Case for Business”46. Various, “A Summer 2014 Conversation on Business Models in Open Education”
An Open Education Reader

Yochai Benkler, “Common Wisdom: Peer Production of Educational Materials”

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This paper was commissioned by The Center for Open and Sustainable Learning at Utah State University. It was first presented at Advancing the Effectiveness and Sustainability of Open Education, the 17th Annual Instructional Technology Institute at Utah State University, September 30, 2005.

Key Points

Yochai Benkler is answering the question: is peer production suitable for educational resources? He discusses the limits and the barriers to creating educational resources. He also talks about the strategies and innovations that might improve development. The two main reasons he supports this  are to provide education everywhere and especially in the poorest countries.

There are two different types of production that he addresses. Commons-based and Peer-based. Commons based is when inputs are received from the commons and no one has exclusive rights. Peer-based production is similar but it adds an element of coordination.

Discrete learning objects is the term he uses to describe the most basic educational resource. He says that the reason that peer production of these objects is because of three reasons. Cost reduction, diverse motivations, and cheap, ubiquitous internet access. Because the creation of these objects is so easy the problem is sorting them so they can be useful. This problem can be solved by a system that has self-archiving and tagging tools. Or it can be done through peer production.

Higher order materials such as textbooks are harder to make in this fashion because they are not as modular. Wikipedia is a good example of a higher order material but it is an encyclopedia and not a textbook. A textbook requires themes, approaches and theories to run through the material.

WikiBooks tried to use their model to create textbooks but they have had little success because textbooks aren’t as modular as an encyclopedia. People have tried to write open textbooks collaboratively but they haven’t succeeded because once broken down to smaller levels of granularity textbooks can’t be put back together because they are  too granular and the transaction cost is too high.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why have textbooks historically been more difficult to create by means of peer-production? What do you think is the ideal contribution size to successfully peer-produce an open textbook?
  2. When might commons-based production be more valuable than peer-based production? Why?
  3. How would the creation of a tool that can successfully create open textbook through peer-based production change education?

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