Recapping the 2018 & 2019 Open Education Symposiums at Virginia Tech

OER are More than Just $Free

Open Educational Resources (OER) are expert-authored and freely-shared learning materials available in various formats. They are not just textbooks and they enable much more than resources which are “low” or zero cost. OER are licensed to be customized, can be used in-part or as a whole, and can be adapted, combined and re-shared (with proper attribution) to create something new that fits a particular purpose. This transformation affordance significantly sets them apart from resources that are temporary (rented), or described as low-cost, zero-cost, or affordable.

Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely and publicly available teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. They include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge. – adapted from the Hewett Foundation

Graph of price changes for U.S. consumer goods
By using, curating, and sharing OER, course-material selectors can reduce cost-related barriers faced by their students and beyond. Course materials cost far now than more than even 20 years ago. College textbooks have among the highest rates of price increases among U.S. goods and services according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These costs are real for students and have significant personal, ethical, and academic impacts.

Used with Permission. © 2018 Mark Perry, American Enterprise Institute https://www.aei.org/publication/chart-of-the-day-or-century

 

Affordances of OER, beyond financial savings

Open educational resources afford control to institutions and course-material selectors in making course materials permanently available to ALL learners, even after they leave school.

By virtue of their open license or Public Domain status, OER allow adaptation and customization. (While there are many open licenses, including open source software licenses, Creative Commons licenses are the most-well-known open licenses.)

Imagine being able to update course materials on the spot to enhance relevance to current events, or to clarify a concept. Imagine giving learners the freedom and responsibility to exercise higher-order level thinking skills and demonstrate their knowledge by evaluating, adapting, or creating new materials. In order to drive these points home, the University Libraries at Virginia Tech hosted the recent 2018 & 2019 Open Education Symposiums. Hosted in the spring, each symposium feature leaders, practitioners, explorers, students, and champions selected in part of the basis of their ability to illuminate affordances of open educational resources. The following recordings document major events held during the 2018 and 2019 symposiums.

 

Open Education Symposium 2019: Expanding Open Education in Colleges & Universities

 

2019 Keynote: Improving Access, Affordability, & Achievement with OER

MJ Bishop, Associate Vice Chancellor and inaugural director of the University System of Maryland’s Center for Academic Innovation

Despite the transformative power that technology has had in a whole range of businesses, the history of technology use in education over the last 100 years paints a rather bleak picture of the extent to which digital tools, in and of themselves, can lead to sustainable academic change. The issue is that we often miss the key affordances of the tools that can be employed to help solve learning problems. This presentation traces the lessons we can learn from the history of educational technology in order to explore the true promise — the true affordances — of openly licensed educational resources and the future they may hold for teaching, learning, and student success.

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2019 Lightning Round Talks and Poster Presentations

Presenters: Garnett Kinniburgh, Sue Erickson, Christine H. Terry, Robert Browder, Matthew DeCarlo, Lisa Becksford, Jason Lachniet, and Britton Hipple. Moderators: Alex Kinnaman and Kayla McNabb

Faculty, instructional designers, graduate students, and librarians from six institutions of higher education introduce their peer-reviewed posters with lightning-round style talks. Topics including: Creating open educational resources, linking open education and the career center, #openlearning19 a cMOOC for exploring open education, class book projects, introduction to Odyssey an open learning object repository, open software for graphic, and campus responses to the use of open educational resources.

View poster proceedings and event video.

 

2019 Panel Discussion: Facilitating Openness at the University: Connecting the Opens + Making Change Happen

Panelists: MJ Bishop, Benjamin Corl, Karen DePauw, Diana Franco Duran, Ellen Plummer, Nathaniel Porter, Peter Potter. Moderator: Anita Walz

This panel discussion begins with brief presentations of several “core open practices”: Open Access, Open Education/Open Educational Resources, and Open Data by experts from the University Libraries at Virginia Tech. Faculty, administration, and student panelists from diverse disciplines discuss their rationale for exploring and in some cases adopting and championing open practices, their perception of overlaps in philosophy and values between different types of open practices, perceptions of the value of open practices for individuals, disciplines, and institutions, and barriers, opportunities, and processes to adopting open educational practices on an institutional level.

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Open Education Symposium 2018: Open Pedagogy

2018 Keynote: Open Educational Practices: Equity, Achievement, and Pedagogical Innovation

Rajiv Jhangiani, Special Advisor to the Provost, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, British Columbia

This presentation draws on a diverse set of examples to make a case for why the shift away from traditional (closed) practices is not only desirable but also inevitable, and how open educational practices (OEP) support the modern university’s mission by serving academic achievement, faculty and student engagement, diversity & inclusion, pedagogical innovation, and the university’s Land-grant mission.

OEP support teaching, learning, and publication in an increasingly diverse faculty and student body. OEP encompass the creation, adaptation, and adoption of open educational resources, open course development, and even the design of renewable, real-world assignments where students are empowered as co-creators of knowledge. These practices leverage learning beyond socio-economic disparities and put engaged, active student (and faculty) learning at the center. These practices champion academic freedom, pedagogical innovation, applied approaches, and innovation. OEP represents learner-centered and learning-together approaches to education that radically enhance both agency and access.

 

2018 Panel Discussion: Getting Comfortable Working in the Open

Panelists: Matthew DeCarlo, Susan Erickson, James Harder, Jennifer Kidd, Kathryn Murphy-Judy, Carrie Hamilton, Savannah Aigner, Amy Nelson. Moderator: Anita Walz

Taking a transparent, public or open approach to one’s work as an instructor or academic can be daunting for even the most competent and skilled faculty. Faculty, students, and a librarian from five different Virginia institutions of higher education are involved in working in the open — in their teaching, publishing, creating with students, and/or building or leveraging learning experiences. Panelists discuss their motivations, opportunities leveraged, and challenges they encounter in taking non-traditional and open approaches to teaching, learning, and publishing.

Further Details

Virginia Tech’s Open education event recordings from 2014 forward are hosted in VTechWorks. Further details about past open education week events at Virginia Tech are also available.

Open Education Week is an annual celebration of the global Open Education Movement designed to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide. Open Education Week is organized by the Open Education Consortium. For further details see: https://www.openeducationweek.org #oeweek

 

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University of California v. Elsevier: Why It Matters to Virginia

Note: This is the first in a series of Open@VT blogposts that will appear over the ensuing months focusing on Virginia Tech’s “Big Deal” contracts with commercial journal publishers. As the University Libraries’ contracts with Elsevier, Springer, and Wiley come up for renewal in 2-3 years, we will have to decide whether to renew or cancel these contracts. We look forward to engaging the VT community in a conversation about the best path forward.

Image of dominoes falling
Dominoes falling (Photo by aussigall. CC BY 2.0)

On February 28 the University of California announced that it was terminating all of its journal subscriptions with the scholarly publishing giant Elsevier. The news sent shock waves throughout the world of higher education—not just in America but globally. Why? Because Elsevier is the world’s largest publisher of scientific research and the University of California (UC), with its ten-campus system, is one of its largest customers. The impact on Elsevier was immediate: its parent company, RELX, saw its stock drop nearly 7 percent in the aftermath of the UC announcement—and its value still has not yet recovered.

In Virginia we are paying special attention to the situation because our own research universities, including Virginia Tech, have a similar journal subscription agreement with Elsevier that is set to expire in two short years. Millions of dollars are at stake in Virginia. Globally it is in the billions.

What’s the Problem?

At the heart of UC’s dispute with Elsevier is what is known as the “big deal.” A big deal is a contract between an institution (often a university library but sometimes a business or government) and a publisher to purchase access to a large bundle of the publisher’s journals. Think of cable TV bundles in which customers get hundreds of channels at a lower per-channel rate. Many of the channels, however, go unwatched, all while customers’ bills continue to rise. The same is true with big deals. Elsevier publishes more than 2,500 journals. Many are invaluable to their fields and frequently used and cited. Many, however, are used infrequently, and yet libraries still have to buy them as part of the bundle. All the while, the price of the bundle goes up and up. Over the last thirty years library journal budgets have risen by a staggering 500 percent (see chart), which inevitably leads to cuts in other areas of library budgets. UC was paying Elsevier more than $10 million per year for its big deal. Altogether, the publisher’s revenue in 2018 surpassed $3 billion and its profits exceeded $1 billion, resulting in a gaudy profit margin of 37 percent.

Universities are understandably tired of big deals. Not only have big deals meant runaway prices, they also perpetuate an outdated business model from a time when subscriptions were an efficient way to pay for the cost of printing and distributing journals. Today subscriptions are inefficient for the simple reason that journals can be published online for immediate access. Publishers like Elsevier, however, have an interest in keeping the old system alive. This is why they continue to invest in expensive publishing platforms that restrict access to only the wealthiest institutions. There must be a better way.

The solution proposed by the University of California is to do away with the big deal concept and replace it with what is known as a “read and publish” agreement. A read and publish agreement (RAP) is a single integrated contract that enables a library to pay a one-time, up-front charge for the right to read all of a publisher’s content and to publish in any of that publisher’s journals under an open access model. The first RAP agreement in North America was announced last year, between the MIT Libraries and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Ultimately, the goal of RAP agreements is to transition scholarly publishing to a universal access model.

Momentum Is Building

UC is by no means the first university to stand up to Elsevier, but UC has special clout because of the sheer size and research output of its ten-campus system, which accounts for nearly 10 percent of the nation’s research publications. Meanwhile, governments and national research funders are increasingly demanding open access to their researchers’ articles, even imposing concrete deadlines. Sweden’s government is calling for OA by 2026. Norway’s goal is 2024. The initiative known as Plan S is even more ambitious. Originating in Europe, Plan S calls for all publicly funded research to be published in open access journals by 2020. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was the first North American foundation to sign on to Plan S.

As more universities and governments push for open access, the more it seems that Elsevier is destined to lose this battle. But this does not mean that it will lose the war. Elsevier is shrewd enough to adapt to (and even shape) whatever new business model emerges around open access publishing. Perhaps anticipating this change in business model, Elsevier has skillfully and steadily turned itself into one of the world’s largest publishers of open access as well as toll-access journals. It has also been diversifying its business portfolio to the point that it no longer even refers to itself as a publisher but as a “global information analytics business.” In other words, Elsevier is not going away anytime soon.

Implications for Virginia

Virginia will soon be in UC’s shoes. In 2004 seven Virginia research universities including Virginia Tech negotiated a big deal agreement with Elsevier. (The other schools are George Mason University, James Madison University, Old Dominion University, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and College of William and Mary.) The number of journals in that big deal was 1,800 and the total cost to the seven universities was $27 million over five years. The license has been renegotiated several times since then, and we are now in the third year of a five-year contract covering 2,278 journals at a total cost of $46 million. This contract will expire at the end of 2021.

Not surprisingly, these universities are already looking ahead to 2021 and considering the possibility of walking away from Elsevier big deal as UC has done. (See, for instance, the University of Virginia.)

Here at Virginia Tech, the University Libraries, under Tyler Walters’s leadership, will be engaging the campus community in an ongoing conversation about how Virginia Tech can confront this scholarly publishing crisis. On this, we sincerely want your feedback. Please watch for Library-sponsored events that provide a forum for discussion. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to our librarians and engage them in conversations. Or let us know what you think by replying to this blog post or to future Open@VT blog posts. You can also find up-to-date information at the Library’s Open Access-Open Knowledge website.

 

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Book Review: Shadow Libraries: Access to Knowledge in Global Higher Education

Shadow Libraries book cover Shadow Libraries: Access to Knowledge in Global Higher Educationedited by Joe Karaganis (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2018).

Shadow Libraries is a collection of country studies exploring “how students get the materials they need.”  Most chapters report original research (usually responses to student surveys) in addition to providing useful background on the shadow library history of each nation (Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, India, Poland, and South Africa).  As editor Karaganis puts it in his introduction, the book shows “the personal struggle to participate in global scientific and educational communities, and the recourse to a wide array of ad hoc strategies and networks when formal, authorized means are lacking… ” (p. 3). Shadow libraries, sometimes called pirate libraries, consist of texts (in this case, scholarly texts) aggregated outside the legal framework of copyright.

Karaganis’ introductory chapter does an excellent job summarizing the themes connecting the chapters, and is worth reading by itself.  For example, the factors leading to the development of shadow libraries are common to each country covered: low income; a dysfunctional market in which materials either aren’t available or are overpriced; a rising student population; and easy access to copying and/or sharing technology. The student population boom in low and middle-income countries in the last 20 years is remarkable- quadrupling in India, tripling in Brazil, and doubling in Poland, Mexico, and South Africa.  At the same time, reductions in state support for higher education have exacerbated the affordability problem, leaving the market to meet (or more commonly, not meet) demand.  Add to this the tendency of publishers to price learning and research materials for libraries rather than individuals, and the result is a real crisis of legal access.

Due to the focus on student access to learning resources, there is less emphasis in Shadow Libraries on access to peer-reviewed articles and the best-known pirate library, Sci-Hub. However, Balázs Bodó presents two fascinating chapters on Library Genesis (LibGen) and how it was shaped by censorship and samizdat networks in Russia.  Online, shadow libraries are usually distributed (and easily forked), have separate indexing and item hosting, and are invisible to search engines (instead shared by word of mouth).  Other shadow libraries may be digital but not online, or in print.  Digital materials are often obtained via the sharing of university passwords.  In India, many materials are brought back by students studying in the U.S. or U.K.   The aggregation of scholarly materials is a community practice in which “a large majority of students… are shadow librarians by necessity if not choice” (p. 206).

The student surveys show the predominance of photocopying (in Argentina and Brazil, 90% of students obtain materials this way).  In many countries, “copy shops” in or near universities are ubiquitous, and students resort to other methods as well, such as taking photos of print materials (60% of respondents in Brazil).  Though publishers target university libraries for sales, in countries like India, few libraries can afford academic databases, and they provide access to only a “small fraction of the number of journals typically received by U.S. universities” (p. 186).

While there are some positive trends underway (the spread of SciELO to South Africa, greater fair use for education in India, and the rise of open educational resources, or OER), the current situation seems surprisingly resistant to change.  Indeed, access work-arounds only seem to reduce pressure on the system, as Karaganis notes:

“…the informal copying ecosystem operates as a safety valve… denying publishers the more complete markets they want but also forestalling a sharper crisis of access that might lead to a break with existing publishing and policy paradigms” (p. 11).

The book’s flaws are minor: some chapters go into more detail about a country’s copyright history than some readers may desire, and two chapters erroneously refer to U.S. fair use as limited to 10% of a resource.  References sometimes lack persistent identifiers such as DOIs or handles, and cited websites lack archiving (for example, with the Wayback Machine or Perma.cc, which should become universal practice in scholarship).

Shadow Libraries is a superb and fascinating book that is recommended to everyone in higher education.  As universities in wealthy countries emphasize international outreach (Virginia Tech is beginning to call itself a “global land-grant”), they should take into account access challenges around the world.  Of course, to some degree the same challenges are also present in well-funded institutions (textbook costs are receiving increased attention, and as Bodó notes, developed countries are major sources of traffic for LibGen).  Advancing university open access policies and creating OER can have impact on the crisis both locally and globally.  Emphasizing openness over prestige would help as well, with researchers in South Africa, Brazil, and Poland pressured to publish in “top” journals that often aren’t available in their own countries.  Such efforts would begin to remedy an academic environment that is “universalist in principle and unequal in practice” (p. 3).  Shadow Libraries leads one to ask: given the importance of higher education, why isn’t access to research and learning resources easier?

Shadow Libraries is an open access book (licensed CC BY-NC) available online in PDF, with buying options for those who would prefer a print copy.

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OpenCon 2018: Open Space for Critical Discussion

As part of Open Access Week, the University Libraries and the Graduate School offered a travel scholarship to OpenCon 2018, a conference for early career researchers on open access, open data, and open educational resources. From a pool of many strong essay applications, we chose Diana M. Franco Duran, a Ph.D. candidate in Civil Engineering in the Construction Engineering and Management program. Diana attended the conference in Toronto, Canada on November 2-4, and sent the report below. Be sure to check out the OpenCon 2018 highlights.

Diana M. Franco Duran writes:

Diana M. Franco Duran
Diana M. Franco Duran

OpenCon is a community with a culture of openness that seeks everyone who can participate. It promotes an open, safe, and diverse space in which ideas are respected. This year, OpenCon focused the discussion on two main topics: 1) community as the foundation for culture change, and 2) diversity, equity, and inclusion in open research and education. The conference’s goal was to motivate the attendees to change the culture towards a more open research and educational system with diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Open research and open education are about more than sharing the work. Open research and open education are about people. There is no way to make research and education open if we do not know the community. The community must be engaged into the discussion, so we can discover how openness can help them do what they want to do. Openness as a problem solution must work in the context of the community.

During the workshops, two of the topics for discussion were 1) how to motivate students to incorporate open access in research related activities, and 2) how to reward open research and education in higher education institutions.  It is important to communicate open access, open data, and open education to students as well as faculty, and to develop program policies/ strategies to incorporate any form of open access as an objective in the research of graduate students.

Do-a-thon at OpenCon 2018
Do-a-thon at OpenCon 2018

From my point of view, open access, open data, and open research have become significant in higher education in the last few years. However, open education has not reached that status yet. There is still the misconception that open education is only sharing educational resources. Open education is the collaborative development of educational resources to provide everyone access to high-quality resources and experiences. As a younger generation, we live surrounded by technology and unlimited resources provided by the internet. Therefore, we have all the tools to make the academic environment relevant to others by giving them access to education and knowledge.

At OpenCon, the voices and stories of all attendees are heard. I personally connected to the story of one of the panelists, Adbullah Alghurabi, a master’s student in Canada, who developed educational resources for his community in Yemen. He translated scholarship opportunities into Arabic to help students find these opportunities. He also provided students with educational materials they needed to prepare for the TOEFL and IELTS exams that did not require internet access, since students in Yemen often lack an internet connection. Undoubtedly, these stories connect to others.

Thanks to this opportunity, I am now part of the team organizing the OpenCon Latin America 2019 which will be held in Colombia. We want to focus on open education and how it is related to open access and open data, highlighting the Latin American context.

Organizers of OpenCon Latin America 2019
Organizing team for OpenCon Latin America 2019

I am thankful that I had the opportunity to attend OpenCon 2018 and represent Virginia Tech. This is a space where I had the chance to get to know people from all over the world but also I had the opportunity to know how open data, open research, and open education are helping the community. Through the workshops, story circles, open reflections, do-a-thons, and unconferences, OpenCon offers a space to work together and shape ideas to contribute the community by considering openness as an inclusive solution.

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Announcing: Electromagnetics, Volume 1 by Ellingson

Cover for Electromagnetics Volume 1
COVER DESIGN: ROBERT BROWDER; COVER IMAGE: (C) MICHELLE YOST. TOTAL INTERNAL REFLECTION (CROPPED BY ROBERT BROWDER) IS LICENSED CC BY-SA 2.0

The University Libraries at Virginia Tech is pleased to announce publication of Electromagnetics, Volume 1 by Steven W. Ellingson.

Electromagnetics, Volume 1 is a 225-page peer-reviewed, openly licensed textbook intended for use in a one-semester, first course in undergraduate engineering electromagnetics. This course is typically taken by electrical engineering students in the third year of a bachelor of science degree program. The open textbook is currently being used in Virginia Tech’s ECE 3105 Electromagnetic Fields course. 

The book and its accompanying ancillary materials  (problem sets, solution manual, and LaTeX Logo for the Creative Commons license Attribution Share-Alike licensesource files) are open educational resources: freely available and openly licensed (CC BY SA 4.0). Freely downloadable versions are available at https://doi.org/10.21061/electromagnetics-vol-1. A softcover print version is available via Amazon.

Features of the book: The book is designed to resolve pressing instructional, technical and financial barriers faced by students and to provide instructors with flexibility in rearranging the text for preferred instructional sequences. By following best practices for open and digital textbook production, this book offers the following benefits: 

  • Field tested content: Students were directly involved in field testing and in contributing figures. The text was used in multiple sections by different instructors. Students and instructors provided feedback and suggestions for improvement; 
  • Features that enhance understanding: These include examples, highlighted concept boxes, discussion of notation (1.7) to reduce ambiguity, appendices on constitutive parameters of common materials, mathematical formulas, and physical constants, and end-of-chapter links to external reference information;
  • Supplementary learning materials: The book is accompanied by problem sets and worked solutions;
  • Reusable figures: All figures are openly licensed and may be redistributed with attribution. Many are available in .svg format in Wikimedia Commons;
  • Quality and clarity: The book is peer-reviewed and has undergone field testing, technical review, and professional copy editing;
  • User and contributor community: Readers are invited to submit feedback. Instructors reviewing, piloting, adopting, or adapting the text are invited to register their interest and sign up to receive updates, find others using the book, and share openly licensed ancillary resources they’ve developed;
  • Legal and no-cost access: Anyone with internet access can freely and legally access the text. This reduces financial pressure on students. Existing commercial texts in this field can retail new for as high as $200, or $100 for a one-semester rental;
  • Accessibility: Screen-reader friendly navigation structure, an index, and detailed, hyperlinked table of contents make it easier for readers to navigate within the text. All readers, and especially those with sight disabilities, benefit from alternative text “alt text” available for each figure;
  • Upfront permission to customize the text and figures: Adaptation and redistribution with attribution is allowed because of the book’s open license (CC BY SA); And,
  • Technical methods for customization: Users may create their own version of the text by modifying the LaTeX source. This gives flexibility to instructors who prefer to sequence course topics in a different order. Openly licensed LaTeX source files are available so that instructors and other authors may easily remix, reorder, or change the text in other ways. 
Page 120 from the book
Page 120 from Electromagnetics, Vol 1

Electromagnetics, Volume 1 is part of the Open Electromagnetics Project led by Steven W. Ellingson at Virginia Tech. The goal of the project is to create no-cost openly-licensed content for courses in undergraduate engineering electromagnetics. The project is motivated by two things: lowering learning material costs for students and giving instructors the freedom to adopt, modify, and improve their educational resources.

Electromagnetics Volume 2, which covers the second semester (ECE 3106) course is expected in January 2020.

Publication of this book was made possible in part by the University Libraries at Virginia  Tech’s Open Education Faculty Initiative Grant program and by collaboration with VT Publishing, the scholarly publishing hub of Virginia Tech.

About the author: Steven W. Ellingson (ellingson@vt.edu) is Associate Professor of Engineering at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia in the United States. He received PhD and MS degrees in Electrical Engineering from the Ohio State University and a BS in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Clarkson University. He was employed by the US Army, Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Raytheon, and the Ohio State University ElectroScience Laboratory before joining the faculty of Virginia Tech, where he teaches courses in electromagnetics, radio frequency systems, wireless communications, and signal processing. His research includes topics in wireless communications, radio science, and radio frequency instrumentation. Ellingson serves as a consultant to industry and government and is the author of Radio Systems Engineering (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

A January 2018 blog post regarding the “beta,” field tested version of this book is available here.

Express your interest and subscribe to updates.

 

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Book Review: Fair Use for Nonfiction Authors

Cover image for Fair Use for Nonfiction AuthorsBrianna L. Schofield and Robert Kirk Walker. Fair Use for Nonfiction Authors: Common Scenarios with Guidance from Community Practice (Berkeley: Authors Alliance, 2017).

Fair Use for Nonfiction Authors is the third in a series of short, helpful guides from the Authors Alliance (the first two were Understanding Open Access and Understanding Rights Reversion).  The guide was created “to help nonfiction authors understand reasonable strategies for the application of fair use in common situations.”  With the help of several scholarly societies, the authors distributed a survey which garnered the responses of 60 authors with nearly 150 fair use stories.  In addition to the survey responses, the guide was also shaped by existing codes of best practice in various domains.  Keep in mind that the concept of fair use is evolving, and that there are no clear tests of what is or is not fair use.  Also, the guide applies only to fair use in the United States (and neither the book nor this blog post constitute legal advice).

Four factors must be considered to determine whether using a copyrighted work is a fair use: the nature of the use, the nature of the work used, how much of the work is used, and the economic effect of the use.  Case law shows that judges tend to focus on two questions: whether the use was transformative, that is, was the use for a different purpose or did it give the material a different meaning; and was the material used appropriate in kind and amount?

The guide then goes on to cover three common situations encountered by nonfiction authors.  The first is criticizing, discussing, or commenting on copyrighted material.  This use is well established, but does have the following limitations: the amount used should be appropriate for the purpose; the use should be connected to the purpose; and reasonable attribution should be given to the author.  While U.S. copyright law does not require attribution, courts may find it a factor in favor of fair use, and of course it is standard practice in scholarship.

The second common situation is using a copyrighted work to illustrate, support, or prove an argument or point (unlike the situation above, here the copyrighted work is not the object of commentary).  This use is also well established, and shares the limitations above regarding attribution, the amount used, and a connection between the work and the point being made.  An additional limitation in this situation is that a use should not be made if it is merely decorative or entertaining.

The third common situation is using copyrighted works for non-consumptive research, such as text and data mining. For this more recent situation, fair use is strongly supported by existing case law. One caveat, however, is that databases being used in this manner must not have any contractual restrictions on text and data mining. And the material should not be employed in other ways, such as reading normally, or providing access to works digitized by the researcher. Real-life examples of fair use appear for all three situations described above, as well as hypothetical cases to test your knowledge.

The FAQ section of the guide covers creative and commercial uses, options when permission is refused, fair use for unpublished works, and contractual limitations on fair use.  Two questions of particular interest to researchers concern the re-use of figures, and the policies of journals and publishers that require permission for re-use of copyrighted work.  In the case of figures, including charts, graphs, and tables, it is important to remember that facts are not copyrightable.  Creatively expressed figures may be copyrightable; one must analyze each particular case according to the scenarios above.  It is worth mentioning here that some forward-thinking researchers are eliminating the permissions ambiguity regarding their own figures by making them available separately under a Creative Commons license.  Where publishers ignore fair use and require permissions to re-use copyrighted work, the guide recommends engaging with them to explain the rationale and referring them to a code of best practices where applicable.  Where fair use is integral to a work, it will be worth finding a publisher willing to rely on it.

The section “Beyond Fair Use” provides the following suggestions if your intended use does not qualify as fair use:

  • Modify your intended use
  • Ask the owner for permission (which may include paying a license fee)
  • Use an openly licensed work
  • Use a work in the public domain

Fair Use for Nonfiction Authors is an open access book (licensed CC BY) available online in PDF. If you would prefer a print copy, you can order one ($20) from the Authors Alliance, or check out the copy in Newman Library.  For more information, see the Authors Alliance fair use page, which in addition to the guide includes a FAQ, links to fair use resources, and fair use news.

Through June 15, the Authors Alliance has a crowdfunding campaign for an upcoming guide, Understanding Book Publication Contracts.  If you would like help support that guide, please consider a contribution.

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Virginia Tech Co-Founds the Open Textbook Network Publishing Cooperative

Virginia Tech is one of nine founding members of the Open Textbook Network Publishing Cooperative, a pilot program focused on publishing new, openly licensed textbooks. The program was launched by the Open Textbook Network (OTN) and aims to increase open textbook publishing experience in higher education institutions by training a designated project manager at each institution and creating a network of institutions.

The Cooperative is a three-year pilot that will establish publishing workflow and processes to expand the development of open textbook publishing in higher education. As a member, Virginia Tech’s project managers, Corinne Guimont (Digital Publishing Specialist) and Anita Walz (Open Education, Copyright and Scholarly Communications Librarian), will gain expertise in project management and technical skills. After the training is complete, a minimum of three open textbooks will be published using the model and tools gained through the cooperative.

“We at Virginia Tech are excited to join the Co-Op because of the opportunity for learning and professional development within a cohort of other institutions,” said Anita Walz. “We will have access to additional technical expertise, workflows, and tools, so that we can create and share more open textbooks with the world.”

Virginia Tech’s involvement in the Publishing Cooperative builds upon previous open textbooks published in the library, including Fundamentals of Business by Stephen J. Skripak and newly released Beta Version of Electromagnetics by Steven W. Ellingson. These books along with other open educational resources adopted by faculty at Virginia Tech have saved 3,111 students $786,398 in course material costs.

At the completion of the three-year pilot, the Publishing Cooperative as a whole will publish at least two dozen new, freely available, textbooks with Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licenses.

If you are a VT faculty member interested in publishing an open textbook or other educational resources, please visit http://guides.lib.vt.edu/oer/grants.

Open Textbook Network logo

Founding members of the OTN Publishing Cooperative include: Miami University, Penn State University, Portland State University, Southern Utah University, University of Cincinnati, University of Connecticut, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Virginia Tech, and West Hills Community College District (CA).

About the Open Textbook Network: The Open Textbook Network (OTN) is a community working to improve education through open education, with members representing over 600 higher education institutions. OTN institutions have saved students more than $8.5 million by implementing open education programs, and empowered faculty with the flexibility to customize course content to meet students’ learning needs.

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Electromagnetics Volume 1 (Beta): Virginia Tech’s Newest Open Textbook

VT Publishing and the University Libraries of Virginia Tech are pleased to announce publication of a second, new open textbook: Electromagnetics Volume 1 (Beta). (You can read about the first open textbook in an earlier blog post.) The textbook is in “beta” for a Virginia Tech course in Spring 2018 and will be revised and re-released with LaTeX source code, problem sets, and solutions in Summer 2018.

Electromagnetics Volume 1 (Beta) by Steven W. Ellingson is a 224 page, freely available, peer-reviewed, full color, print and digital open educational resource. It is intended to serve as a primary textbook for a one-semester first course in undergraduate engineering electromagnetics within the third year of a bachelor of science degree program.

Cover image of Electromagnetics textbook
Cover design: Robert Browder; Cover image: (c) Michelle Yost. Total Internal Reflection (cropped by Robert Browder) is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

The book is the work of Steven W. Ellingson, Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech, in collaboration with the Scholarly Communication office of Virginia Tech’s University Libraries and VT Publishing. As collaborators with Ellingson, the University Libraries provided grant funding, overall project management, guidance on open licensing, attribution, student works, formats and styles, managed development and production processes, coordinated peer review, reviewed manuscripts (editorial and technical), provided technical specifications, and navigated print and distribution solutions.

A no cost downloadable version of Electromagnetics Volume 1 (Beta) is available here. A full color softcover printed version (ISBN: 978-0-9979201-2-3) is available at the cost of production and shipping from Amazon.com.

The LaTeX authored text includes extensive use of mathematical equations, figures, adapted, and custom-created and openly licensed diagrams, worked and narrative examples. This book employs the “transmission lines first” approach, one of three approaches to teaching electromagnetics. However, other teaching approaches may find the work relevant, since its release under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license legally allows addition, adaptation (with required attribution), and redistribution of content. The resulting work is of significant value in opening new possibilities for teaching and learning: Electromagnetics Volume 1 (Beta) by Ellingson is the first known openly licensed textbook for electromagnetics.

Logo for the Creative Commons license Attribution Share-Alike

Electromagnetics Volume 1 (Beta) will be field tested in Virginia Tech’s ECE3106 Electromagnetic Fields course in Spring 2018, and then revised and re-released in Summer 2018 as a text adoptable for courses beyond Virginia Tech. LaTeX source files, problem sets, and solutions will be released contemporaneously in Summer 2018. The editor and author of this book encourage feedback from individuals, classes, and faculty viewing this book. Feedback and suggestions may be contributed using the online annotation tool Hypothes.is, via a feedback form, or by emailing publishing@vt.edu. A Volume 2 and combined Volumes 1 & 2 are planned.

The intent of creating a remixable book for both internal use and free public release exemplifies trends within the Open Education movement and in higher education in general. These trends mirror aspects of the open source software movement and include public sharing under open licenses which allow contributions and adaptation (such as Creative Commons licenses), rewarding, valuing, and incorporating new ideas pertaining to teaching and learning, building collaborative faculty networks across multiple institutions, giving credit where due, and involving students as active contributors to course goals and/or the work of curricula and course design. Free public access is a start, but the possibilities for faculty, students, and others to create, openly license and share, freely adopt, adapt with attribution, and build open source systems for adaptation and sharing expand meaningful possibilities far beyond free access. These freedoms bode well for expansion of purposeful and engaging teaching and learning, the ability to leverage academic freedoms for broad, positive impacts on the common good, thoughtful conversations about ethics, incentives, voice, and access in the academy, and the advancement of innovative pedagogical practices and publicly available scholarly research which are already beginning to bear fruit.

I hope that many other faculty and institutions will take advantage of opportunities to create, adopt, adapt, and share openly licensed materials to fit their needs, the distinctive teaching and learning challenges and opportunities in their disciplines, the needs of their students, and beyond.

This textbook is part of the Open Electromagnetics Project led by Steven W. Ellingson at Virginia Tech. The goal of the project is to create no-cost openly-licensed content for courses in undergraduate engineering electromagnetics. The project is motivated by two things: lowering learning material costs for students and giving faculty the freedom to adopt, modify, and improve their educational resources.

Publication of this book was made possible in part by the Virginia Tech University Libraries’ Open Education Faculty Initiative Grant program which is led by Anita Walz, Scholarly Communication office, at the University Libraries, Virginia Tech. The goal of the grants program is to to encourage the use, creation, and adaptation of openly licensed information resources to support student learning. The author also thanks VT Publishing colleagues for their many contributions.

For more information on the origins of Creative Commons licenses, watch the short video “Get Creative: Being the Origins and Adventures of the Creative Commons Licensing Project” or visit the Creative Commons website.

About the author of Electromagnetics Volume 1 Beta: Steven W. Ellingson is an Associate Professor at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, United States. He received PhD and MS degrees in Electrical Engineering from The Ohio State University and a BS in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Clarkson University. He was employed by the US Army, Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Raytheon, and The Ohio State University ElectroScience Laboratory before joining the faculty of Virginia Tech, where he teaches courses in electromagnetics, radio frequency systems, wireless communications, and signal processing. His research includes topics in wireless communications, radio science, and radio frequency instrumentation. Professor Ellingson serves as a consultant to industry and government and is the author of Radio Systems Engineering (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

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OpenCon 2017: The OpenCon Platform

As part of Open Access Week, the University Libraries and the Graduate School offered a travel scholarship to OpenCon 2017, a conference for early career researchers on open access, open data, and open educational resources. From a pool of many strong essay applications, we chose Alexis Villacis, a Ph.D. student in Agricultural and Applied Economics. Alexis attended the conference in Berlin, Germany on November 11-13, and sent the report below. Be sure to check out the OpenCon 2017 highlights.

OpenCon 2017 workshop
Alexis (left) at an OpenCon workshop

Alexis Villacis writes:

The progress of science and access to education varies widely geographically, and sometimes are very limited due to economic, cultural and social circumstances. Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data are key to support those who are left behind and bring empowerment to the next generation. OpenCon brings together the worldwide champions who are working towards the advancement of the Open Movement. Students, early career academic professionals, and senior researchers all come together under one roof to share their initiatives. Participants hear their inspiring stories, from Canada to Nepal, of sparking change during a three-day conference; a conference I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of, as a representative of Virginia Tech.

Over these three days, participants showcased how Open is being advanced around the world. The discussion centered on how often higher education models (knowledge access, research questions, and research funding, among many others) marginalize underrepresented scholars and students. It was thought-provoking and sometimes shocking to hear how our western ways of knowing have colonized access to information and how this has impacted the progress of R&D in other parts of the world.

OpenCon 2017 selfie

Sharing with participants from other countries and hearing the challenges they face every day made me contrast our everyday realities and the privilege we have at VT. A privilege we take for granted in our everyday lives, where access to all types of tools, research, and content is one click away through our computers. We, as an institution of higher education, promote and share access to knowledge and new technologies throughout Virginia and beyond. The impact of these transfers is what keeps our society thriving every day, but where would we be if this access were restricted to us? Perhaps, VT as a Land Grant Institution would not exist at all, the state of Virginia would not be what it is today and neither many other parts of the US.

As I walked through the halls of the Max Planck Society, where the conference was held, I kept wondering: is this not what we are doing today? What changes are we withholding from the rest of the world by limiting access to data, knowledge, and education? The essence of this and the significance of Open Access clearly goes beyond journals and data, and it is also about social justice, equity, and the democratization of knowledge. We Hokies can make a difference in Open Access. More importantly, we are the key players called to work towards its advancement.

OpenCon 2017 group photo

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Stop Link Rot: Use Perma.cc to Preserve Web References in Scholarship

As research becomes increasingly digital, it’s becoming more important to ensure a findable and unchanging scholarly record.  Researchers are probably familiar with the digital object identifier (DOI), which in URL form provides a persistent link to articles (and more), and libraries and publishers provide redundant archiving to ensure  scholarship is preserved for the long term.

However, it’s also important to make sure links (other than DOIs) in articles work, and to make sure web pages represent what the author saw when she cited them.  Some journals are aware of these issues, and I’ve noticed a few authors who employ URLs from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine in their manuscripts.  Thinking back to my last article, there are probably some links that won’t work five (or twenty) years from now, or links resolving to web pages that won’t accurately represent what I was referring to at the time.

These problems are usually referred to as link rot and reference rot.  Link rot means a URL can no longer be found (your browser returns a 404 error); reference rot means the information cited at a URL has either disappeared or changed.  Research has shown 50% of the links in Supreme Court decisions from 1996-2010 had reference rot, one in five articles suffers from reference rot, and three out of four URI references lead to changed content.  In the last article, the authors say these problems raise “significant concerns regarding the long term integrity of the web-based scholarly record.”  In this era of fact-checking and “fake news,”  it’s more important than ever to stabilize the evidence base built in peer-reviewed articles.

Perma.cc logoTo help address this problem, Virginia Tech’s University Libraries is pleased to announce that we are now a registrar for Perma.cc, a service to provide archiving of web pages for research purposes.  Researchers at Virginia Tech will be able to archive, manage, and annotate an unlimited number of web pages with persistent shortlinks for citing, and will also receive local support.

Including a Perma.cc link in a citation or footnote may depend on the citation style you are using, but a general recommendation is to include the original URL, followed by “archived at” and the Perma.cc shortlink, for example:

36. Scott Althaus & Kalev Leetaru, Airbrushing History, American Style, Cline Center for Democracy (Nov. 25, 2008), http://www.clinecenter.illinois.edu/airbrushing_history, archived at http://perma.cc/G8PW-798L.

If you click on the Perma.cc link above, you can see how the web page looks in archived form.  In addition, the time of capture is recorded, there’s a link to the live page, and you can download the archive file (under “show record details”).  Perma.cc is intended for non-commercial scholarly and research purposes that do not infringe or violate anyone’s copyright or other rights.   Web pages to be archived should be freely available without payment or registration.  Additionally, some web pages employ a “noarchive” restriction, which Perma.cc archives but makes private.  In other words, the shortlink can be shared, but is available only to the researcher and upon request.

There are some advantages to using Perma.cc over the Wayback Machine (and the Internet Archive is a supporting partner of Perma.cc). Perma.cc provides a more thorough, accurate capture in two forms, a web archive file (WARC), and a screenshot (PNG).  Perma.cc also provides persistent shortlinks that are more convenient for citing, and enables researcher management of the links (with folders, annotation, and public/private control).

Other features of the Perma.cc system include:

  • Researchers will be added as organizations, and can add other users within that organization, such as lab members or collaborators
  • A bookmarklet and extension are available for easy use in a browser (users must be logged in)
  • Links can be deleted within 24 hours

See more information about creating Perma.cc records and links, and check out the FAQ.  Perma.cc is built by Harvard’s Library Innovation Lab, and in alignment with its focus on preservation, the service has a contingency plan and is also open source.

To get started, send an email to permacc@vt.edu and request an account (or to be added as an unlimited user if you’ve already signed up).  You can also send questions and problems to this address, or you can use the Perma.cc contact form.

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