#fote13 – Some remote observations (including on Open Access)

Today I have been following tweets from the Future of Technology in Education event (#fote13) which a lot of my Twitter contacts seem to have attended.  Interestingly, it included some content on Open Access, less encouraging is that according to this blog at least the only question emerging early on was “so what else is new?”.

This made me think back to my previous comment that (learning technology) conferences all too easily preach to the converted.  Contrast this to Noam Chomsky, who I have been catching up with a bit of late, who successfully seems to suggest a way forward at the end of speeches/Q&As.  Admittedly, those ways forward may be difficult, even unrealistic, but he does seem to do a good job of at least proposing something.

Open Access interests me partly as it was a fairly big topic when I did my MA but also in that it offers alternatives to very established business models, which at the very least makes it worthy of attention considering how entrenched some are. Pre and prior to the MA I have attended a number of sessions over the years where the feeling in the room has been academics/librarians vs publishers and its interesting that Open Access models still seem to revert to that or concerns around quality.  The alternative discourse then becomes publishers saying ‘well you don’t want Amazon to win do you?’ when it perhaps should be academics saying ‘okay so what about self publishing?’.  Even though the web has various platforms for self publishing the argument seems to be that take up doesn’t happen due to the RAE, or equivalents, or that Amazon is already the one-stop shop.  This is how I see it though…

Accenture’s offering to help publishers establish new digital business models is an interesting development but also surely too little too late for those who have not progressed already, especially considering that the publishing industry is itself dominated by a fairly small number of big players (and even more so at the delivery level with Amazon, Play and iTunes dominating digital distribution).

For universities, the real value in MOOCs seems to be that it is bringing up old debates on improving the format of university courses and I would hope the outcome will be:

  1. A chance to reinvigorate the ‘university press’, with iBooks, Kindle and other formats bringing in funding.  If Korean secondary school teachers can make millions of dollars selling videos online surely UK academics could make a few quid via rethinking scholarly communication as mentioned above?
  2. Publicly funded research made available publicly.  Papers, yes, but also make academics disseminate via Wikipedia, etc.
  3. A better offering of varied course length/types for different audiences.  Foundation degrees were a start, but there is plenty of room for MOOCs to influence the pre and post degree skill/knowledge set (I’m presuming the degree already has plenty of online/blended elements – if it does not it more than likely should have had about 5 years ago).

All of the above would mean big changes for HE organizations and I suspect discussion will inevitably run and run, meaning plenty more conferences on such areas.  Ultimately they could find themselves in a more diversified industry but ultimately that makes sense – seeking revenue streams away from the traditional under/postgraduate teaching/research restraints.

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