126.4 Open-source education

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 1:36 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Bryan STEPHENS , Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs (Univ. of Texas at Austin)
The intellectual property regime in the US complicates education reform, hindering policy’s ability to establish alternative systems that provide more affordable education while expanding global access to knowledge. The strong IP system, through inflexible “fair use” practices and stringent publishing/licensing rights for education-related content, locks the US into an inadequate institutional model that dates back to the industrial revolution.  More specifically, the current IP regime (1) deprives low-income individuals (particularly global partners in LDCs) from accessing and fairly using content for instructive purposes; and (2) obstructs more active collaboration among the academic community while depriving scholars with resources and technologies that may be used to extend the frontier of knowledge. Ergo, it is likely that the unwieldy IP system stifles innovation and human capital.  Previous studies demonstrate how technology, open-sources, and “crowd-sourcing” can be utilized to provide higher-quality education that is more diverse, more affordable, more personalized, and more convenient.  Evidence from earlier works that investigate open-source computer software and file sharing illustrate the efficacy of new, open-source social practices, specifically transforming production, sharing, and distribution of information.  The organizational structure and innovativeness of these networks often outperform their industrial model equivalents. Concomitantly, the US has largely transformed into a knowledge-based economy.  Although these jobs demand a creative, collaborative labor force, scholars contend that the proprietary system cripples creatively and collaboration.  Together, these shifts compel policy makers to begin testing open-source systems in education on a larger-scale. Consequently, the author outlines an intermediate open-source model based off a more progressive institution: charter schools.  This early model may serve as intermediate phase, allowing policy experts to collect more information about the strengths and weaknesses of collaborative-based learning systems; positive results will likely depend on the courts embracing a more generous judgment of fair use and the continuation of user-generated, academically-friendly licensing.