Topic 2 of the ONL202 course took us to a difficult discussion this last week. When our PBL discussed how to be open and how to know how much open can we be or how much (or what, for that matter) can we share, we all felt we lacked the competence.
To investigate the competence of being open, there are two major ways of looking at it: institutional/legal competence (aka, knowing what we can share according to the law and according to the rules of our institution); and digital competence (aka, knowing how to share documents with our students/target group). There are several legal frameworks that regulate how higher education institutions interact with their students. In Sweden we have two major frameworks: the “Högskolelag” (Higher education law) from 1992 and the “Högskoleförordning” (Higher Education Ordinance) from 1993. Both have been revised. The former doesn’t mention openness or sharing. The latter actually has a section (chapter 11) devoted to Open online-based education.
In that chapter it says something like this: “Open web-based education may be arranged if it relates to and promotes the higher education at the undergraduate, advanced level or doctoral level for which the university has a degree permit or the research conducted at the university. Regulation (2018: 1329).” It all is quite vague though. Then we have the final part, which states that “Section 5 The university may issue further regulations on open web-based education. Regulation (2018: 1329).”
That means that every institution has its own set of rules. For example, at Karlstad University we have the “Regler för utbildning på grundnivå och avancerad nivå vid Karlstads universitet” (Rules for education of undergraduate and graduate levels at Karlstad University). Interestingly, there is nothing about openness and sharing in these rules.
The means that this is the grayest of areas, and it may have to be negotiated in a case-to-case scenario, between academics and their bosses.
For more concrete cases of distributing literature…this seems to fall under the category of copyright law. For that, KAU for example has a specific page aimed to students about what they can copy (https://www.kau.se/en/library/writing-referencing/copyright/copyright-students/copying-books-and-journals). For teachers, they provide the following resource: https://www.kau.se/en/library/teachers/teachers/copyright-and-teaching/copyright-and-teaching in which it is clearly stated that we’re not allowed to “Download and distribute copyrighted journal articles, or to publish them on websites, mailing lists, etc. Use articles for commercial purposes, to republish, distribute or alter the contents. Copy or download entire journals systematically.”
They refer to the Bonus Copyright Access (https://www.bonuscopyright.se/about-bonus/) which is a “Reproduction Rights Organization (RRO) that licenses reproduction rights to schools, enterprises, public authorities and other organizations” that I had no clue about. This includes something interesting:
“Copying and using material according to the 15/15 rule
The Bonus Agreement allows you to copy and share material – even digitally – according to the so-called 15/15 rule. This means that you may copy, scan, download or distribute 15 pages, but not more than 15% of the total number of pages.
You may also upload these pages to Its Learning, or share them with students, researchers or teachers, but you may not distribute them outside Karlstad University.
If you need to copy a large number of pages, or if you want to copy from required course literature, you usually need the permission of the publisher and copyright holder.” This means clearly that even if it is our own material…if we do not have the copyright, we cannot share outside our university.
The other form of competence is the digital one (aka about how to actively share with student/target audience). Here the question is not so much about what is legal, but about all the options we have. A good way to start thinking about this is the one we all should already know how to use, which is the institutional mode of communication. This often entails a Learning Management Systems (LMS, which at KAU is Canvas), email, or even something like Zoom. It should be relatively easy to share through these channels. However, it is clear that what we do within these channels, needs to fulfill the criteria set by the regulatory framework.
Then come all the possibilities beyond our institutions ruled by third parties, from file sharing services (like WeTransfer or SmartFile), and online drives and cloud spaces (like Google Drive and Dropbox), to social media (Youtube, Facebook, etc) or personal blogs.
Here I feel that the competence is not very steep and that we are more or less at plain level to communicate and share. The individual need will probably dictate what to tool to chose.
Once outside the institutional sphere, the gray area comes back to haunt us. Is it allowed, or not. If we publish open access, that’s a no-brainer, we can share it openly. But if we are sharing teaching materials the university has paid us to create, it is much less clear.
Finally, it may be interesting to know that in the Swedish case, there is a regulation on “side jobs or ancillary activities (bisysslor). In this case, the “gray area” is extended by framing the cases that are not allowed like this: activities that compete with the agency’s activities (competing ancillary activities) or work that can damage trust in the authority (trust-damaging secondary employment). These activities (among many others) need to be reported to the head of department and will be assessed in a case-by-case scenario, making it even less clear what we can do when it comes to openness.