Feature Interview: Jane Park on the School of Open

Peer 2 Peer University and Creative Commons are joining together in a collaborative project called the School of Open. In advance of their virtual sprint today, ORG interviewed Jane Park the School of Open Project Manager to discuss openness, the collaboration and how the School will work.

Open Air Office

Image: CC-BY-NC-SA Flickr: zen Sutherland

 Ruth Coustick, ORGzine Editor, interviewed Jane Park at Creative Commons, on the School of Open, a new education collaboration with the Peer 2 Peer University.


Ruth: Could you start by telling us who you are and what you do?

 Jane: So my name is Jane Park and I am currently in a transition state at Creative Commons. I work for Creative Commons' organisation. I was the Communications Manager and right now I am transitioning to be the Project Manager for Education, so pretty much any work that Creative Commons is doing in education, particularly open education, I will be managing projects within that realm. One of the main projects I'll be managing is the School of Open project which is a collaboration between Creative Commons and the Peer to Peer University. P2PU, as you know, is an online grass-roots open education initiative that is working to build a community of peer learners where you don’t have to pay for an education and you don’t have to join an institution in order to eventually gain some sort of certification or accreditation to say that you learnt some kind of specific skill set or competencies.


Ruth: What is it you mean by 'open education'?

 Jane: OK so open education is actually a movement that dates back about 10 years ago, probably about when Creative Commons licenses were first created.

It is basically education as we know it -when you go online you can access things for free, such as Wikipedia or certain online courses or syllabi that people put online. But when it comes to reuse of those materials it is not always clear whether you can reuse them because of the copyright or other legal terms of use around that.

So Open Educational Resources [OER] are resources that have been openly licensed, either under Creative Commons license or another copyright license that allows for free and open reuse or remix or redistribution, by any member of the public. So for example, Wikipedia are OER because they are under Creative Commons attribute share-alike license which allows anyone to copy, distribute, remix, translate and adapt an article as long as they provide credit to Wikipedia.

If they do make a derivative work based on a Wikipedia article, they just have to share-alike under the exact same Creative Commons license


Ruth: Who are you targeting with the School of Open? Is it aimed at people who are already interested in Creative Commons, or are you trying to get those who don't even know about it involved?

 Jane: Both, actually. So we want people who already know about Creative Commons license and open education and openness in different sectors, such as museums or science or research. We want those people to get involved to help build and run courses at the School of Open that teach people who don't know about open tools and open practices or open standards how openness relies and relates to those fields. We want the lay person and the experts all involved together and we want them to be teaching and learning from each other.


Ruth: So will this be like P2PU, based purely online, or will there be physical courses as well?

 Jane: Everything is online. P2PU is a virtual initiative; it is all about peer learning online. That doesn’t of course discount, if people who want to, people forming offline learning groups based on the online courses. That's totally fine and we encourage people to do that. In fact, we encourage all kinds of experiments based on the courses, but the basic philosophy is that everything is online: free and open and reusable and what they want to do with that is up to the universe.


Ruth: How are the courses going to be run and assessed? Please lay out how it all works within one course.

 Jane: So School of Open is going to build on what P2PU has already done. P2PU started in 2009 they have this open platform that runs on Learnata technologies. We are in the middle of revamping the course structure. Previously there were three different kinds of things you could choose from on the website:

-You could choose to run a study group.

-You could choose to run a formal course that is more like the traditional classroom setting, with one facilitator teacher and students.

-Or you could choose to develop a challenge which would just sit on the platform and people could take on there own time whenever they want.

A challenge is like 'how to reuse a photo that is Creative Commons licensed'. When you complete the challenge you earn a badge and so on.

 We are in the middle of revamping everything and it is all called a 'course', but it integrates the best part of all three kinds of structure. The course will be very interactive and it will be peer learning based and there can be a facilitator or it can be more static. So you go on a platform you play around, you click on 'create a course' on any topic that you wish to give a course on and there is a support group of peers who can give peer review on your course so it can get up to a quality where you are satisfied with it.


Ruth: What is the current level involvement in P2PU?

 Jane: So I am not exactly sure about the P2PU numbers themselves. I know we have 1000s of people who have active accounts. In terms of active members each month you would have to ask P2PU staff. In terms of School of Open, we didn’t even launch it, we just announced it and so we are right in the middle of working on it now in Berlin. We want to get the community involved as much as possible. We are going to have a virtual sprint on 24th Tuesday afternoon Berlin time. Hopefully we will create some initial courses there to see how it goes. We have people coming to Berlin to work on it as we speak.


[Note: I got in touch with Philip Schmidt at P2PU to ask about the anticipated involvement in the School of Open and he said:

"We have about 6,000 users active on the site per month. I think School of Open has great potential internationally. As more and more of our work and lives are conducted online, questions about open practices are becoming more relevant to all of us. I know Jane is thinking about a roadmap that maps out her expectations for numbers of courses and users."]



Ruth: So you are based in Berlin at the moment. Does this mean that the School of Open is going to be international, will it be run in many languages?


 Jane: That is the ultimate goal, yes. P2PU is a kind of global grass-roots initiative. The founders are from South Africa Australia, Canada, the US, Europe. I am based in Berlin only for the month We are having a P2PU pop-up office because it is the cheapest European city to have a pop-up office in, and it is central to many places around the world. I am actually going to be based in California, as of of August, but it doesn’t matter where we are based because we are all working remotely and connected online. Plus it's a virtual initiative.


Ruth: Going back to the concept of the School of Open, what do you think the term Open means?

 Jane: So that's a good question -which I think could make a good challenge, a good course as part of the School of Open. From the Creative Commons perspective, openness has to do with the re-usability of a resource, the copyright terms with which you surround it, but openness can obviously mean transparency, Open Government and all sorts of things. I think having a discussion on the different meanings of open, depending on what domain you are coming from and what your profession is, is a useful activity to have. A useful introductory to any course as part of the School of Open.


Ruth: Do you think the term 'open' is over-used at all? I can think of Open Data, Open Government, Open Culture and Open Access immediately. It is such a used term in the digital world, has it begun to lost its meaning?

 Jane: I don’t think so. I think when you say open, when it applies to those domains, it is kind of similar in the meanings. When you say Open Data, well I guess Open Data is a little different. In once sense Open Data is the right to re-use the data and Open Government could mean transparency, but you can also talk about open policies that the government has implemented in terms of sharing their information and the rights to reuse that information, and open education and OER are the same. So I don’t think that it's been over-used; you just need to be clear at the beginning and in the context of where you are discussing it and what your aim is at. At Creative Commons we always deal with the copyright aspect, the right to reuse it.


Do you think that openness can ever be a bad thing?

 Jane: From the licensing perspective, if you view is as an opt-in system, rather than 'everything should be open' then you know it's not really a good or a bad thing: it's a choice. Obviously not everything in the world should be open: there are certain things that are confidential and should be kept non-open or closed for good reason. It is a matter of applying open tools appropriately and being able to gage that, which is also a challenge.


Ruth: Do you think that openness as a concept goes beyond the web or is something that is always linked to 'the digital'?

 No definitely not, even CC licenses can be applied to offline work. They have just been specially designed for the web because of the machine readability aspect of them. Anything that can be copyrighted, copyright goes beyond the web. The web is just another medium when it comes to open licensing anyway.


Ruth: What was it that inspired Creative Commons to work with P2PU?

 Jane: I think that P2PU started as a fledgling initiative and people who are working in the open education space have been looking to P2PU for a long time as this very experimental initiative: is it going to work/ is it not going to?  And since 2009 I think it's kind of proved itself to be self-sustaining. There is a community of learners who keep going with it. It it is entirely volunteer based with a few staff, but for the most part is a very cheaply run organisation and it is kind of amazing that it has come this far. I think Creative Commons recognised that when they wanted to build the School of Open, they realised that P2PU had had the same idea years ago too, so rather than 2 different organisations doing similar activities why not bridge those activities and build the School of Open together.


Ruth: Thank you. I have just one last question. What is the School of Open's main goal?

 Jane: The point of having a School of Open is to spread further openness in all fields. If more people know about openness, more people can implement it in their life and improve their life.


Ruth: Thank you very much for your time.

 Jane: No problem


 Details for joining onto the School of Open virtual sprint today are here:


(Live chat is at 1.00pm GMT)

Or find out more and discuss it further by using the #schoolofopen hashtag

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By Ruth Coustick on Jul 24, 2012

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