Digital Content: This Changes Everything

Tom Caswell
WA State Board for Community & Technical Colleges

Slides available here:

The Dream

In Washinton State, they have created digital materials that live in the cloud and anyone can access. It allows the faculty in Washington to have a place to begin when then enter the school system.

The Need

We need to find a better way to educate the millions of students we have – in another 15 years we will have another million students in the world to educate. How can we accomodate these students? We would have to open 4 new universities every week for the next 15 years. This is not possible – we have to find a different way.

Education is Sharing

  • Teachers share with students
  • Students share with teachers
  • If there is no sharing, than perhaps there is no education.
  • The most successful educators share the most completely with students.

Knowledge is Magical

  • You can give away knowledge with out losing it – you can teach someone to take great photographs and retain the skill yourself.
  • A physical expression – such as a book – you actually lose when you share. You lend a book and then you have to wait to get it back to use it again.
  • Digital expressions on the other hand allow everyone to access the same item at the same time.

Cost of “Copy”

For one 250 page book:

  • Copy by hand – $1000
  • Copy by print on demand – $4.50
  • Copy by computer – copy the file – $0.00084

Cost of “Distribute”

For one 250 page book:

  • By mail – $5.20
  • By computer – $0.00072

So copying and distributing is essentially free – except we have copyrights. What the internet enables, copyriht forbids and this presents a real challenge to educators. The solution, creative commons, “a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to your creative work.”

There is a two step process to using Creative Commons:

  1. Choose the License Conditions
  2. Receive License

Digital plus open licensing gives us diagnostic, adaptive, interactive, free, full local control. Its like peanut butter and chocolate! (Insert Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup image here :] )


There is a continuum for open resources. They can be as simple as individual images, like pictures on flickr. On the other end of the continuum are entire courses and certifications.

Open Content Continuum

From the faculty perspective, whats in it for them? Are faculty being replaced?

NO!Brett Shelton

Consider the example of Dr. Shelton. His instructional games, are on the first page of google. If you can end up on the front page of a google search – how much further can you go? The audience from this gives individuals unique opportunities to network with others.

Strategic Technology Plan at Washinton State Board for Community & Technical Colleges:

Open Course Library

A collection of openly licensed (CC BY) educational materials for 81 high-enrollment college courses in Washington. The goals fo the project were:

  1. Lower textbook costs for students
  2. Improve course completion rates
  3. Provide new resources for faculty

42 courses were released in October 2011. Since then, there have been over 35,000 visits from over 125 countries. Plus, over 80 media messages.

In the first year, students will save $1.1 million in textbook costs – the students’ textbook savings was greater than the cost of the entire project!

What happened to those materials? (Remember, its only been 9 months since these courses were released.) The Saylor Foundation took the 11 entirely free courses and made them better. They caught typos and had graphic designers on staff who made the courses look even nicer. A couple months ago, the Saylor Foundation moved their courses to iTunesU including these original course materials from the Open Course Library.

The best way to do your job is to do your best and give it away.

A few great models that are up and coming:

  • P2PU – Peer to Peer University
  • OpenBadges
  • UoPeople
  • Straighterline
  • Western Governors University

Some students need an educational version of a personal trainer, and these options may be a good fit for them. At the core of all these new models is the idea of digital content which allows us to meet a greater need.

The two big takeaways:

  1. Digital + Open
  2. Lifelong Learning

About Meegan
Meegan has over fifteen years experience working in higher education. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Statistics from Western Michigan University and a Master of Education with an emphasis on Instructional Technology from American InterContinental University Online. She is currently the Instructional Technologist/Designer at Grand Rapids Community College where her main focus is helping faculty to develop and deliver quality online and hybrid courses.

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