GEORGE SIEMENS: So with openness in education being around for-- I guess we're approaching close to 20 years as a domain where people have been actively working on trying to increase the scope and the access of open education resources, open pedagogy just openness in general. So from your perspective, why is it important that we're focusing on openness? Why is openness in education a relevant or even an imperative issue for us to deal with?
DAVID WILEY: So for me, that becomes a question about why is education something we should care about? Why is there an imperative around education? If openness is about increasing access, increasing affordability, increasing the effectiveness, or the vibrancy, or the engagement of people in education.
Why do we care about education? So for me, it comes down to-- when you think about both big global issues of poverty, of hunger, of war, of whatever those kinds of things might be-- climate-- and local things, the things that happen in individual people's lives that keep them from having the kind of life that they wish they had, it seems like education is the single piece that unlocks answers to all of those things.
And if selfishly if you only have one life to work on one problem, and you look ahead and you think, gee, I've got maybe 25, 30 productive years left, what am I going to spend my time on. If education is the one thing that potentially can start to knock down multiple dominoes at once, then how do we increase access to educational opportunity for people? How do we make that more engaging, how do we get people more involved and interested in that?
And to me, for a very long time now felt like openness is the biggest lever to move that in the direction of more people having access and being able to participate.
GEORGE SIEMENS: Now how is it-- so is one of the challenges with a course like this, you'll have people from around the world-- being involved in the course. So the US has a unique dynamic, and I'm at the University of Texas Arlington, I'm crossing point with Athabasca University in Canada, and there's very, very different cultures.
And then you go to places, say, Germany or even any of the Scandinavian countries, where education is often free. There is zero cost to individuals, so the issue of access and cost is really pronounced in a country like the US.
What if you're in a region like Germany, why is openness important in a country where education is essentially free?
DAVID WILEY: So there are a couple of pieces. To me, when I think about open-- in the context of openness and education, there's a couple of pieces to that definition, and that cost piece is certainly part of it. But this starts to drift now into a conversation about permissions and what we're able to do and what we're allowed to do.
And I'm sure I'll say this a couple of times before are done with this course, but it becomes a five part formula for me. The first is if we learn by the things that we do, and I think we learned by doing, and if the function of copyright is to restrictive or prescribe the things we're able to do, then that means that copyright prohibits us from learning in some ways we might otherwise be able to learn.
We learn by doing-- copyright prohibits us from doing certain things, therefore. So as openness comes in and starts to remove some of those barriers that permits us to do things we weren't able to do before, and if we learned by doing, now that means that we ought to be able to learn in ways we haven't been able to learn before. And that notion is really fascinating to me.
So that's beyond the cost argument. I think it unlocks new forms of pedagogy, new ways of engaging, and interacting with one another.
And so even in a context where tuition is free or there's not other costs associated with it, I think there's still a lot of power in open for people to explore.
GEORGE SIEMENS: So then if you were to take a look back at how open education has evolved and how it's developed, what does that look like? How did we get to where you first started working with an open content license to eventually MIT comes along and does open course ware and gives a big boost to a movement that's been around for a while, to eventually we have open online courses, to eventually you'd be BYU and end up setting up a company to particularly advance the needs of the field.
Explain that history to me. How did we get pre David Wiley's open content license to where we are today?
DAVID WILEY: Yeah. For me personally, it all hinged around open source.
GEORGE SIEMENS: And you mean open source or free software?
DAVID WILEY: I mean open source actually. I've been involved with the free software-- I should say I've been peripherally involved as a benefactor of and an interested observer of the free software movement during the 90s when I was working as a webmaster and running a little internet startup and doing some things like that.
But I can remember very clearly in early 98 when this group of people came together and said, the free and free software is causing us-- it's causing us trouble, it's causing us trouble with the kind of commercial adoption of this sort of approach to developing and working with software. And a group of people sat down and said, this label and some of the personalities affiliated with this label are harming the movement going forward. Let's pick another name, and let's pick another focus.
GEORGE SIEMENS: The Stallman was nowhere in that conversation.
DAVID WILEY: Stallman was not in that conversation. This would be Bruce Perens and Eric Raymond and people like that. And that came out of that sit down saying, let's call this open source, and let's focus on the pragmatic benefits of this approach, rather than saying the word free and talking about principles of freedom, that if you don't accept, you're a lesser human being.
GEORGE SIEMENS: I think you're making a really important point with that. So with some of the reading that we'll have in the course, and we certainly get into Eric's-- the cathedral and the bazaar, this broad idea of how openness can change the relationship that we have between who produce and the mediating agents and so on.
But it probably is worth at least emphasizing or giving a nod to-- and more than a nod, really-- but if you look at a personality like Stallman, very consequential, and yet by sheer brute force of will, made a pronounced change in the development of commercialization of software.
I know there were others at the time, but he really put a stake in the ground and became an electrifying personality that did turn some people off from it. But the idea of openness as a philosophical ideal versus the pragmatism that people like Raymond and Parens and others came along and utilized-- can you talk a little bit about that distinction, because I think that's important especially in a course like this where we're talking openness. Because there are idealistic attributes, and there's pragmatic-- let's get stuff done and have an impact.
DAVID WILEY: Yeah and I think that very much comes down to the personality of the individual. And as you look across people participating in the field, you can see there are people who are clearly idealists, who really feel strongly about the principals, who are unhappy by notions of compromise, or made unhappy by notions of compromise. And then there are people who are just trying to get the work done and whatever kind of steps you have to take.
And I think there's room for both of those players in the space. There's a really productive tension between those two-- I fall much more on the pragmatist side than on the pure idealist side, but I get pulled that direction and I have to have arguments with people there that benefit and enrich the pragmatic work that I'm trying to do.
And I think at the same time, I pull on some of the people who maybe are at 30,000 feet and can't quite see what's happening on the ground. I think that tension is really productive. If the whole field tilted one direction or the other, they'd be a really bad thing for the field.
GEORGE SIEMENS: Well, it's derailed that original conversation, but we can turn-- so we got Stallman, the original free software. We have Raymond and others that started developing with the open source software movement.
You were going to lead into how that related to you educationally, the work that you started doing, and then where we got to here.
DAVID WILEY: Yeah, so I was a grad student at BYU. And I remember-- I have these moments in life I can look back and see where I was and what was going on at the time. I was cutting the grass at the little triplex where I lived when I realized this open source model of licensing, the way of thinking about that and co-development and things like that, could actually be applied to things that aren't software.
They could be applied to textbooks, or to journal articles, or any non-software thing. And I remember thinking, this is important. Somebody should try to take those principles, that licensing approach, and we should try to roll that over into what's happening in education.
And it just so happened that I was the first one to get something published online. There is very much a zeitgeist at the time. Rich Baraniuk at Rice within a year had independently arrived at the same conclusion. You have MIT OpenCourseWare and Creative Commons both starting within a couple of years of that, without knowing about the work that I had done or that had gone in other places.
So it was very much in the air in the late 90s, early 2000s that this idea of open could be applied in other places.
GEORGE SIEMENS: And so, open course ware comes out. You at that point-- I think you were at University of Utah?
DAVID WILEY: I was at Utah State.
GEORGE SIEMENS: That's right. So you're at Utah State, and you started with some open education work or a lab that you actually had set up, moved to BYU. And what was going on around your work and openness at that time?
I know at some point, you took open education or the open content license and you folded it into Creative Commons or basically deprecated it, if that's the right term to use, and said, hey, go here and do this stuff.
So I'm just trying to get this trajectory of thought between openness as the broader trends that were going on, because there is a-- open education layers on top of and influences to a degree a number of other patterns. Obviously the open source software movement, the open licensing, and other schemes, they are an impact to what we do educationally.
And we'll get it through that in the course where we start to see how publishers are responding to open content and in some ways, being willing to acquiesce the battle, but focus on the war, so to speak. The bigger issue is they've shifted their focus on content.