Industry attacks open courseware

Software publishers are trying to kill federally funded open-source learning materials, writes Amy Laitinen on The Quick and the Ed.

As part of the $2 billion in job training funds for community colleges, the feds required colleges to make learning materials “available to everyone in the world, free, under a Creative Commons intellectual property license,” wrote Ed Sector’s Kevin Carey. He called the idea “one of the most innovative federal higher-education programs ever conceived.”

The first $500 million in grants were awarded at the end of September. But community colleges could be required not to share their job-training materials with others — or even to develop courseware.

As a result of lobbying by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), Laitinen writes, a provision in the draft House FY12 Labor, Health, and Human Services appropriations bill effectively bans the use of federal funds to develop learning materials.

“SEC. 124. None of the funds made available by this Act for the Department of Labor may be used to develop new courses, modules, learning materials, or projects in carrying out education or career job training grant programs unless the Secretary of Labor certifies, after a comprehensive market-based analysis, that such courses, modules, learning materials, or projects are not otherwise available for purchase or licensing in the marketplace or under development for students who require them to participate in such education or career job training grant programs.”

SIIA’s board is “acting less like innovative software industry leaders and more like old-school publishers,” Laitinen writes.

“Private companies will be able to repackage, improve upon, and sell the materials they like, as long as they acknowledge the original developers,” wrote Carey in The Quiet Revolution in Open Learning. Apparently, they’d rather squash the competition.