Since the inception of Rebus, we’ve worked closely with the OER community to ensure that everything we do is informed by the values of the people we support. In addition, we aim to advocate for those values, build them into our tools and processes, and remain responsive to evolving attitudes and ideas as we all contribute to a vibrant ecosystem of OER creation. One way we undertook this advocacy role early on was through our approach to licensing, requiring all projects we worked with to release content under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, as it is the most permissive, and most easily remixable CC license.
As product manager for the Rebus Community, I’m tasked with directing the design and creation of our platform. This means taking everything we learn from the projects we’ve worked with, as well as from other community members that give us feedback, and distilling it into a coherent piece of software that does something useful. In our context, “something useful” means creating a platform to support collaborative, community-driven, open textbook publishing at scale. Wouldn’t that be cool?
Open licenses are a hugely powerful tool in education. They have opened the door to a whole world of possibility and change. But if you start scratching at the surface of openness, to see what it means beyond open licenses, what do you find? For one, by expanding our definition and understanding of openness, we potentially have an even more powerful tool at our disposal to begin addressing systemic inequities in education, and society more broadly. As Ethan Senack recently pointed out in his post, A Broader Form of Openness, “it’s unfair to expect open licensing alone to fix [problems of inequity], or for open advocates to tackle them all at once. Lack of access, inequity, exclusion: these power structures are too deeply ingrained in, and perpetuated by, our education system.” I would add, these power structures are just as deeply ingrained in the publishing industry that produces and delivers content into that education system. But they don’t have to be.