Tuesday, May 22, 2018 News

Marking Open Policy Milestones in the U.S. and Brazil

Open Education

Today marks the one year anniversary of the U.S. Department of Education’s open licensing rule taking effect, a landmark victory to expand public access to publicly funded resources. In this post, we provide an update on rule’s implementation, and celebrate recent news that Brazil’s Ministry of Education has adopted an open licensing policy as well.

One Year Anniversary

On May 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of Education’s open licensing rule took effect. The rule requires that recipients of direct competitive grants from the Department to openly license and publicly disseminate educational resources and other copyrightable works created with grant funds. This landmark policy setting the default to “Open” was the result of an extensive, multi-year advocacy effort by SPARC and our allies, and will ensure that more taxpayer-funded educational resources are available for the public to freely use, share, and build upon.

One year later, the open licensing rule is fully in effect. Notices for applicable grant programs published this fiscal year include language informing grantees that the open licensing rule applies. Some examples of programs covered by the rule include the Arts In Education National Program, the Innovative Approaches to Literacy Program, and the Supporting Effective Educator Development Program, all of which are likely to produce valuable educational resources that will be made openly available to the public by default. The rule will also apply for the $5 million Open Textbook Pilot recently funded by Congress, which we expect the Department to announce early this summer.

SPARC will continue to watch implementation of the rule closely. It will be some time before the first grantees covered by the rule begin to share back openly licensed deliverables, and many factors remain to be seen: which open licenses grantees will choose, what acceptable dissemination plans look like, and the extent to which exemptions are granted. But, so far so good, and we will continue to keep the SPARC community up to date as these efforts evolve.

Brazil’s Open Licensing Policy

This is also a significant moment for our OER colleagues in Brazil, where the national government has just adopted an open licensing policy of its own. Under an ordinance published by the Ministry of Education (MEC) last week, educational resources intended for basic (K-12) education produced with MEC funds must be OER and, when digital, made available online. MEC’s definition specifies that OER must be licensed for users to “access, use, adapt and distribute at no cost,” and also that OER should be made available in open formats when possible. MEC recently established a national repository for digital educational resources that will house OER covered by this ordinance.

This victory in Brazil was hard-won, and is the result many years of advocacy work by the OER Brazil project and the Open Education Initiative. Priscila Gonsales, long-time OER advocate and executive director of the Educadigital Institute, attributes the victory to efforts by advocates and civil servants that grew out of a 2015 OER symposium at the Brazilian Congress and a commitment established in Brazil’s national open government plan. We detailed some of the decade-long history of OER advocacy in Brazil in our previous post on the national textbook purchasing program.

Brazil’s long march toward progress parallels our own experience in the U.S. It takes many small steps and hard work by countless people both inside and outside government to reach this kind of policy milestone. Advocacy is not glamorous. It requires sweat, determination, resilience, and — sometimes above all — patience. So for both American and Brazilian OER advocates, let us take a moment to pause, acknowledge, and savor the real progress we are making toward a world where education is open and available to all.

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