GEORGE SIEMENS: Welcome to Introduction to Openness in Education. This is a six week course where Dr. David Wiley and I are going to spend some time looking at what open education is, why it's something that might be interesting to members of society in general, but specifically to faculty, teachers, administrators, and other individuals that are directly involved in the education process.

So in order to get started, David, I'll just throw it over to you. You know, your name is central to any discussion on openness in education. I mean, I'd heard about your work first in the late 90s and certainly the influence continues to grow with your current work. So can you talk a little bit about how you got here?

DAVID WILEY: Well, I got really interested in the mid-90s in the way that the digital nature of content changes our relationship to it. And I particularly had kind of an epiphany sort of experience as I was working on a JavaScript calculator, which was the very cutting edge of technology at its time.

But as I was developing it, I realized that there is something different between a digital calculator and a physical one. And that is, with a physical calculator, you might sit in a small group and wait your turn for that calculator to come around. But with a digital calculator, everyone can use it all at the same time. And, of course, economists have language for that. I didn't discover that idea.

But just that realization that once I'd created that calculator, a million people could use it all at the same time with no kind of reproduction cost or warehousing or distribution or things like that. It just seemed sort of magical. And from that kind of realization of that sort of magic, I got started down this road.

GEORGE SIEMENS: So when you say it's the magic, what was it that made it magical?

DAVID WILEY: Well, you know, I remember having this realization that first, this is how you get Bill Gates kind of money. All right, is where you create a product and after you've created it, you can make copies of it essentially for free and sell those copies for very large amounts of money.

But very quickly after thinking that, the second thought was, or if you can figure out how to fund the creation of it the first time, then you can give away millions of copies of it. And that seemed like-- particularly in the educational context. And I'm from West Virginia, which is not the most resource-rich state when it comes to education funding.

This realization that you could give away free copies, they could travel instantaneously, they could support, bless, help lots of lives. It just seemed like once I understood that, I felt like I had some kind of obligation to go do something about that. But what about you? How did you get into this?

GEORGE SIEMENS: For me, partly, it was probably late 90s, and I remember as Y2K approached, I remember being most frustrated that a website called Blogger was down and I was unable to post my very important blog post declaring that Y2K hadn't imploded society.

But I started with that, I started blogging. And at that point, there weren't that many people in the educational technology space. There was a few names certainly that are still around today, Stephen Downs probably being the most prominent.

And for me, the experience was, I was at Red River College at the time, and I found that being able to post without a mediating agent shifted a lot of the control to the person that has the idea. There was no agent in the middle that would determine whether something should be posted, is worthy of being published, and so on.

So the experience for me, though, was I was one of one at Red River College at the time. Meaning there weren't a lot of people who were interested in educational technology and pedagogy in teaching practices at that time.

But I found as I posted a few thoughts, a few people would come by from different universities where they were one of one. And they would share what they were doing in their system. And I would start following their blogs and post on their site.

So for me, the experience wasn't quite as pronounced as yours with the epiphany being like, wow, I can do this, and for no cost, give huge opportunities to many people. For me it was actually more that, wow, by being open, I can connect to people. By being open, I can have conversations that I couldn't have otherwise because they typically have to go through a mediating agent.

And then shortly after that, obviously being aware of Stephen Downs, I came across your work. And at that point, I think you had a publishing license called an open content license that you were working on at that time. And I started to see that there was this small community that-- I guess the idea is peripheral awareness.

I wasn't necessarily directly engaging with everyone but because people were learning transparently, they were teaching. And I think for me, it was that transparency and openness of sharing our experiences that was essentially a teaching practice. And that's how I first got interested in this area.