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Leigh Blackall - Educational Development at Otago Polytechnic

Module by: Ken Udas. E-mail the author

Summary: Leigh Blackall's contribution to the OSS and OER in Education Series. In this post, he discusses Otago Polytechnic’s adoption of a Creative Commons Attribution copyright license and its use of the Wikieducator platform - along with many of the popular media sharing services, to develop and publish Open Educational Resources.


Author - Leigh Blackall, "Educational Development at Otago Polytechnic". Originally submitted November 29th, 2007 to the OSS and OER in Education Series, Terra Incognita blog (Penn State World Campus), edited by Ken Udas.

Otago Polytechnic has adopted a Creative Commons Attribution copyright license and has been using the Wikieducator platform with other popular media sharing services to develop and publish Open Educational Resources and Practices. This article outlines some of the steps that the Polytechnic has taken, as well as some of the challenges being faced, and a vision for the future. It should be noted that this article has been written from the perspective of the author, and not necessarily from Otago Polytechnic as a whole.

This article has been written on the request of Ken Udas, editor of Terra Incognita a web journal by Penn State University.

A wiki version of this article is available here.


  1. About Otago Polytechnic
  2. The Educational Development Centre
  3. Staff development, weblogging, digital literacy
  4. Vision for staff blogging
  5. A change in the Organisation’s Intellectual Property Policy and Practices
  6. Working with Wikieducator
  7. A Wikieducator development structure, page templates and staff development
  8. Vision for content developed on Wikieducator
  9. Risks and foreseeable issues
  10. Conclusion

About Otago Polytechnic

The Otago Polytechnic is a public New Zealand tertiary education institute that graduates around 4500 students per year. It is centred in the city of Dunedin with campuses throughout the Southern (mostly rural) region of Otago including Cromwell, Wanaka and Queenstown, and supports a small number of Community Learning Centres in various regional towns.

Otago Polytechnic focuses on skills based, technical education and occupational training, offering a range of New Zealand accredited degrees, diplomas and certificates. (Wikipedia 24 Nov 2007)

The Educational Development Centre

In 2006 Otago Polytechnic established an Educational Development Centre for staff development, online and flexible learning development, and research into educational development.

By mid 2006 the Polytechnic established a contestable fund for Departments and staff to apply for assistance in developing flexible learning opportunities in their courses, including skills and knowledge in teaching and/or facilitating flexible opportunities for learning and formal recognition. This fund is called the Flexible Learning Development Fund and is mediated by the Educational Development Centre (EDC).

By the end of 2006, 3 EDC Programme Developers were helping to manage around 20 course and programme development projects initiated by staff through the fund, as well as through research grants. The following article is an individual account of progress in this effort by one of the Programme Developers.

Staff development, weblogging, digital literacy

Through 2006 and 2007 the EDC ran a range of professional development activities for staff, including 2 instances of the teacher training course Designing for Flexible Learning Practice (which is part of a larger teaching qualification now required by teaching staff at the Polytechnic) and 1 instance of Facilitating Online Learning Communities. These courses, along with numerous informal workshops and professional networks, have helped to develop critical digital and network literacy’s as well as general awareness of the popular Internet amongst staff - particularly blogs, wikis, social bookmarking and RSS.

Currently there are a number of Polytechnic staff actively documenting their work and progress on individual weblogs. By subscribing to the RSS feeds from these blogs, it is easy for colleagues and EDC to assess and keep up to date with experiments, new ideas and methods, issues and concerns, and, of course, the development of digital literacy and networked communication skills. We can also observe the progress of specific projects, and in some instances, educational courses being run through a weblog. With this level of access we can enter into discussions, offer timely advice as well as point to best practices when needed. By comparison, obtaining this level of access and overview through traditional communication channels (such as face-to-face meetings, email or formal reporting) is not only inefficient but typically lacks accurate and authentic insight or opportunities for wider consultation.

As an example of the level of access and insight that can be obtained through staff blogging, and the extent to which some project documentation is being done, the following list points to some of the more active bloggers in the Polytechnic. These blogs should be considered as personal documentations beyond the formal job descriptions of the authors and so, authentic accounts of their work so far.

  1. Bronwyn Hegarty – Education
  2. Kim Thomas – Horticulture
  3. Hillary Jenkins – Tourism
  4. Leigh Blackall – Education
  5. Helen Lindsay - Learning support
  6. Sam Mann - Software Engineering
  7. David McQuillin - Massage Therapy
  8. Rachel Gillies - Visual Arts Photography
  9. Carolyn Mcintosh – Midwifery
  10. Sarah Stewart – Midwifery
  11. Merrolee Penman - Occupational Therapy
  12. Graeme Dixon - Occupational Therapy
  13. William Lucas - Languages and learning support
  14. Matt Thompson – Building
  15. Jacquie Hayes - Community Learning Centre
  16. Wendy Ritson Jones - Librarian (on leave)
  17. Pam McKinlay - Visual Arts Historian

And there are a few who are using blogs to channel communication and information relating to courses.

  1. Tour Guiding - Soon to migrate to along with several other course blogs for the Applied Travel and Tourism Programme.
  2. Cookery - a video blog presenting videos recorded in class.
  3. Learning English - with reguler posting of what is to be done in class.
  4. Participation in Occupation - Access to lecture slides, notes and supporting material.
  5. Peer Tutoring - Short course for people interested in becoming tutors.
  6. Designing for Flexible Learning Practice - announcements, updates and related links for a teacher training course.
  7. Facilitating Online Learning Communities - cross institutional course blog with announcements, updates and related links for a online facilitator training course.

Some staff see little value in documenting their work with weblogs, but are non-the-less interested in activities and initiatives to do with flexible and online learning, open education, and socially networked media. The Networked Learning email forum was set up in mid 2006 as a channel for informal learning and to support staff development through more widely used email communication. Formal learning opportunities are also provided through courses like Designing for Flexible Learning Practice and Facilitating Online Learning Communities already mentioned.

Vision for staff blogging

Primarily weblogs are being used as a simple device for developing digital literacy and critical awareness of online networking and communications. EDC encourage as many staff as possible to use a blog to document projects and professional development, with a view that the regularity of writing online inevitably leads people to use hyperlink referencing, optimise and embed images and media, change blog style sheets, and add or create their own media. All this helps a person to develop digital literacy and improve communication skills, as well as critical awareness of what it means to have a professional presence within a network on the Internet.

In terms of networking through blogs, on a local scale it is observable in those who are blogging and using an RSS reader to track other blogs, that there is a gradual increase in awareness of what their colleagues are doing, what advances they are making, and what issues they are facing. Through this local networking, bonds are developing online that are helping to support informal learning and development. Over time it is hoped that this local awareness and communication will strengthen and develop into a more national and international network for each of the staff members. It is envisioned that some will come to see the value this approach has to maintaining a professional profile online, and encourage their colleagues to do the same.

While all this is helping to improve digital literacy and critical awareness, ultimately it is hoped that these skills will transfer into better services to potential and existing students. Extended thinking around this vision is expressed further in the following posts:

A change in the Organisation’s Intellectual Property Policy and Practices

Toward the end of 2006 Flexible Learning Developments started to engage in content creation. Many staff did not have the Internet research skills to first search for existing content with copyrights that could enable reuse. Nor did many have experience in producing media other than text documents and slide presentations. EDC started building awareness on how to search for Creative Commons licensed content and other free content, as well as techniques for searching popular media sharing sites for reusable content. As awareness grew of the quantity and quality of existing and developing free content, so did staff willingness to consider reusing existing content before developing entirely new content. It became apparent that the organisation’s Intellectual Property Policy needed to be written in such a way as to enable the legitimate reuse of such open educational resources, as well as to encourage staff to participate and contribute to the pool of resources and help establish a stronger online presence for the Polytechnic.

By mid 2007 a new IP policy was agreed on that acknowledges staff and student’s individual ownership over their IP, but encourages the use of a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license as the preferred copyright statement on works published with the Polytechnic’s name. Individual owners of IP who wish to publish with restrictions beyond attribution are required to notify the Polytechnic so that an appropriate restrictive statement can be added. In short, the All Rights Reserved default over content from the Polytechnic has been replaced by a Some Rights Reserved - Attribution default with an option for individuals to restrict. This is a simple inversion to what is common in most other educational institutions.

The new IP Policy is a strong mechanism for dispelling staff uncertainties about engaging with the Internet, and sends a clear message that it is appropriate to use publishing services like blogs, media sharing services, and to contribute to international wiki projects individually and/or in the name of the Polytechnic. Such activity is beneficial to the Polytechnic as it more widely distributes the name and the courses and services it offers, not to mention the expertise of its employees. EDC plays a role in helping to maintain quality.

Unfortunately an issue remains in the sampling and reuse of Commons based works with restrictions beyond Attribution - such as Non Commercial and Share Alike, or similar copyleft mechanisms like GPL that require derivatives to use the same or equal license. If a staff member samples and remixes a work with such a restriction, the license on the original work requires specific restrictions be included on the derivative work. This may not be desirable or even possible in some situations for the Polytechnic and so, as a matter of simplicity and to ensure maximum flexibility in the resources, staff are encouraged to preference sampling CC BY, Crown of Public Domain works where possible, and to avoid using resources that have restrictions like Share Alike, Non Commercial or even more restrictive conditions.

Working with Wikieducator

In mid 2007, following the agreement for a new IP Policy, many of the Flexible Learning Development projects began using the Wikieducator platform to develop educational resources. To date there are at least 15 full time Otago Polytechnic lecturing staff and 5 part time designers regularly using the Wikieducator platform to develop their courses. This number is certain to increase as the teacher training schedules used by Otago Polytechnic include orientation and skills development in the use of Wikieducator as well as a number of other publishing platforms and media sharing services.

Benefits of using Wikieducator from the perspective of the Polytech include:

  • Free content hosting
  • Free and supported access to MediaWiki software
  • Exposure, promotion and networking with other educational organisations
  • Internationalisation and dialog with the Commonwealth of Learning
  • Collaborative development opportunities and resource sharing
  • Open access to learning resources
  • Staff development of MediaWiki editing skills that are transferable to more popular MediaWiki based projects like Wikipedia, as well as the Polyech’s own hosted MediaWiki.

Issues with using Wikieducator:

  • Copyright issues - Wikieducator uses a site wide Share Alike copyright restriction without an option to mark a full project or individual resource with the Polytechnic’s preferred CC BY license. This limitation in copyright potentially complicates the Polytechnic’s developments on the platform, but work continues on a good will basis. To manage the risks in this, the Polytechnic’s main page on Wikieducator links to a copy of the Polytech’s IP policy which points out the use of CC BY that applies to all pages that are category tagged Otago Polytechnic. This position has not become a concern to the Wikieducator hosting organisation but clarification on the issue is needed. This issue is argued in detail in the article Open educational resources and practices.

A Wikieducator development structure, page templates and staff development

The Polytech’s EDC encourages people who develop educational resources on Wikieducator to use a structure which aims to make resources on the wiki as reusable and open for collaboration as possible. Inspired by Steven Parker and his ideas about activity sheets, as well as David Wiley’s significant 2001 paper The Reusability Paradox, this development structure revolves around the creation of Learning Objective Pages. Learning Objective pages express a set of learning objectives related to a particular skill or knowledge attribute. Two subpages attach to the Learning Objective pages: one being Library of Resources and the other being Learning Activities.

As developers and support librarians encounter information and media relating to the learning objectives in a Learning Objective page, the link for those resources is added to the Library of Resources subpage. As learning activities are devised, they are added to the list on the Learning Activities subpage.

Course Pages are developed separately from the Learning Objective Pages but are what bring a selection of Learning Objective Pages and their Library and Activities subpages together. The Course Pages are free to be contextualised to whatever the expressive needs of the course may be. Because the Learning Objective Pages are simply linked to the Course Page and not subpages, they are effectively independent to the course, and so can be reused in other courses or for other purposes without the need for editing and renaming (for the most part anyway).

For this reason it is important that the Learning Objective pages are worded in such a way so as to be as reusable in as many different contexts as possible, and to leave contextualisation to the Course Page or to the various Activities listed in the subpage to the Learning Objective.

As Learning Objective Pages are picked up by different Courses then its list of Learning Activities will grow to reflect the reuse without affecting the reusability of the Learning Objective itself. A video explaining this structure is available on the Otago Polytechnic Category page on Wikieducator.

In November 2007 Brent Simpson developed the Otago Template Generator, which aims to simplify the process of creating Learning Objective Pages and their Library and Activities subpages. Other work includes hacks for embedding media from popular media sharing services like Youtube and Slideshare, which is another outstanding issue with Wikieducator as we wait for the administrators to consider whether or not to support the functionality of embedded 3rd party media.

Vision for content developed on Wikieducator

Ironically, through developing curriculum and content on the Wikieducator platform, we are discovering more opportunities for local collaboration before realising benefits of international collaboration. Because of the open nature of the content, some of our teaching staff are discovering each other’s work. This is in contrast to teachers working on a closed Learning Management System with a working environment that is isolated from other projects, and so staff in these environments are unaware of similar content being developed elsewhere on the platform, or are developing in such a way that makes it very difficult to collaborate and reuse in other areas.

Because of its open and accessible nature, development on the Wikieducator must also ensure quality controls such as copyright. The Wikieducator project requires that all content be cleared of restrictive copyrights and so has rendered the works very flexible and reusable. Again, this is in contrast to the closed development environment of the LMS where we find that there is very little quality control on copyright, and that a large amount of very restricted content is being used, which ultimately limits the flexibility and reusability of the resources being developed. In this sense, development on the Wikieducator is arguably more sustainable and is achieving more with the investment.

At the moment, developments on the Wikieducator are largely limited to basic text and images. The Commonwealth of Learning is investing in the development of functional enhancements to the Wikieducator that will gradually see more engaging formats being developed on the platform.

If the Commonwealth of Learning manages to encourage and coordinate investments from other participating institutions such as the Polytechnic, we will likely see rapid and well funded development that will build on the free text and image content that is currently being built. Such development would include software to enhance the Wiki environment as well as the creation of multi media educational resources.

The content on the Wiki is flexible and reusable enough to be used in a wide variety of contexts such as in an LMS, a face to face class, course blogs, email forums, mobile phones and PDAs, and other portable media such as print, CDs and cassettes. These types of further developments are made possible by the nonrestrictive copyrights, the consolidation of human and IP resources and the facilitation efforts of the Commonwealth of Learning.

Risks and foreseeable issues

Weblog based communication is still foreign and new to the majority of staff at the Polytechnic, and many struggle to see the value to them personally and professionally, or how they may begin to develop strategies to manage the time it takes to reading and/or writing weblogs.

It would be reasonable to accept that the majority of staff will not want to keep a weblog or will not actively monitor the blogging efforts of their colleagues. While there are demonstrated benefits to those that do, a communication disconnect may emerge between those that do and those that do not, which could prove counter productive to the organisation as a whole.

While it is possible to compare this development to that of the uptake of email some 10 years ago, weblogging (both reading and writing) could just as easily not be following the same path as email. The Polytechnic will need to continue thinking about and developing communication strategies that are effective and useful to all staff, and carefully consider ways to scale the benefits of blog reading and writing so as to avoid any disconnection. Suggestions aimed at bridging different communication channels and reaching a wider range of readers include:

  • Public press releases on a blog as well as their normal email and static webpage broadcasts.
  • Staff updates on a blog as well as the normal staff wide email broadcast.
  • Meeting minutes on a blog (or a wiki) as well as in archived text documents.
  • Service department updates on a blog as well as the PDF attachments broadcast through email.

There are methods with which these additional communication channels can be utilised without double handling the message.

At present the EDC’s leadership in the use of Weblogs, popular media and Wikieducator is occurring without close and regular consultation with the Polytech’s IT support unit, the web publishing unit, the marketing unit, or the human resources unit. While this enables rapid development, it of course posses a significant risk to all those units should some aspect prove counter productive to the brief of one of those units.

The solution relates in part to the need for a better communication strategy, and one that includes participation by all who are affected. How to achieve this breadth of dialogue is an important issue that needs research and consideration, but at present EDC makes an effort to attend and update as many cross unit meetings and forums as practical.

Working to develop digital literacy and online networking skills with teachers instead of or before students may be less productive than working with students directly. This is an interesting proposition made by Russell Butson of the Higher Education Department of the Otago University working in similar areas to the EDC.

It is possible that a large proportion of the teaching staff will feel that they have more to lose by participating in this effort. It may therefore be productive to work with students who arguably have more to gain in developing digital literacy and online networking skills given the relative early stages in their career paths.

By working directly with students it may help to benefit their learning objectives and career aspirations sooner, while helping teachers to observe more objectively the benefits and pitfalls to these new literacy and communication skills. Discussions continue with Russell Butson regarding his research into this approach to Educational Development.


Otago Polytechnic has taken rapid and significant steps in the direction of open educational resources and practices. In the space of less than 2 years it has positioned itself as a leader in New Zealand and Australia by being the first to develop and adopt an intellectual policy that encourages the use of Creative Commons licensing, and is proactively encouraging staff to experiment with and use popular publishing services in their professional work and learning.

So far the Polytechnic has chosen not to duplicate the features on these popular media services ‘in house’ and is seeking to maximise the benefits of using external services. In so doing, the Polytechnic is developing a strong and authentic online presence that is distributed widely. Staff are also developing important literacies, transferable skills, and critical awareness of online communications that are relevant to life outside the Polytechnic, and to the Otago Community more generally.

The speed at which this change has taken effect in the Polytechnic has left some service areas unprepared, and is having both positive and negative effects on internal communication. So far the benefits are outweighing the disadvantages, and through continued staff development activities we expect that these disadvantages will diminish.


1. Wayne Mackintosh - November 29th, 2007 at 12:06 pm

Hi Leigh, Otago Polytechnic has established a global leadership role in the OER community and I’m very pleased to see your story receiving international recognition through sites lite Terra Incognita. Well done Otago Poly! You are providing us with the models we should replicate.

It’s a significant case study because it encompasses both “top-down” executive support through a new institution wide IP policy and “bottom-up” innovation involving at least 20 FTE staff working tirelessly in providing students with a rich learning experience using OERs.

A little feedback on the CC-BY and CC-BY-SA licensing on WikiEducator. As you know, your “good will” is well placed in the WikiEducator community.

There has been open discussion about the dual licensing topic. I’m happy to report that there is a consensus opinion among active WikiEducators, that as members of the free knowledge community, we should respect and support authors who use less restrictive licenses, including contributors who wish to dedicate their work to the public domain. Its now up to the Interim Advisory Board to implement practical ways to protect the choices of the CC-BY authors - this wouldn’t be too hard. This incorporation of CC-BY materials is a valuable addition to WikiEducator’s generic share-alike license.

Onto more important issues. Otago Poly has firsthand experience of institutional transformation and adoption of OERs incorporating peer-production technologies (as opposed to producer-consumer models) . Next year, the Commonwealth of Learning would like to start a FTEs4WikiEducator initiative, whereby we challenge educational institutions to allocate two full-time equivalent staff to OER content development in WIkiEd.

Based on your experience - what advice can you offer institutions who are going to go down this path? What are the lessons learned? If anything, what would you have done differently?

Otago Poly’s model is an important one and I’d like to figure out how we can replicate this model throughout the Commonwealth and further afield.

Great post Leigh. I’m off to post a front page news item over at WikiEd that an esteemed WikiEducator is over at Terra Incognito chatting about the Poly’s experiences.

2. Leigh Blackall - November 29th, 2007 at 5:01 pm

Hi Wayne, thanks for the quick response and great news about the clarification on the copyright.

Regarding the FTEs4WikiEducator.. if such a thing was to become a reality, clearly it would have significant impacts on the development of free to reuse content and maybe even on professional networking and the like.. my first feeling was that such an effort may be too early (in NZ at least) as I don’t get a sense that other institutions are aware of wiki development models and the like, and so may not give the proposal the due consideration. But in saying that, I am very impatient for more progress in terms of cross institutional collaboration and commitment to the development of OER.

Perhaps if we could have a range of highly presentable resources first. There are quite a few the the Commonwealth of Learning have funded, but more would be good. This would help those who are still in that “producer consumer” way of thinking to recognise worth in the wiki that will attract them to look deeper. And after looking deeper, we can expect they will develop more sympathy for the “work in progress” model and the very text and image format that is prevalent across the wiki. In my experience here at the Poly, the most difficult thing has been to get people to look beyond the ‘text heavy’ look and feel of the resources, and to recognise the networking, and development efficiencies that can lead to the high production qualities that many are looking for.

Also, I think the Wikied could do more to placate the common worries of people who question the use of external services. Wikied has done well in trying to bridge the copyright divides.. but we need some sort of guarantee of service. So far, in the 12 months I have been using Wikied I have experienced only one short (a few hours) period of no access.. that was early on and since then it has had no issue. Something that guarantees service, outlines types of support, and some work in how to store data locally as well as on Wikied’s international servers would be helpful.. local and offshore storage would go someway towards ideas for other concerns relating to over centralisation and putting all eggs in one basket.

What would we do differently? I’m not sure, I think it is still too early to say. One thing we need is better communication between our separate areas. Don’t we all!! The problem of silos are certainly not as huge here at the Poly compared to some of the bigger institutions I have worked at, and I don’t really have many ideas on how to bridge these problems accept to encourage more open communication and less invite only face to face meetings.. for this though, a fair bit of skills development would be needed - and this relates to the communication disconnect I mention in the article.

3. Wayne Mackintosh - November 29th, 2007 at 5:42 pm

Hi Leigh, Solid well founded advice as always. Quality is equally important for both open and closed models of production. However, its typically a harder sell when using peer-production models. We’ve started some work on the Learning Design processes and QA procedures in WikiEducator and it seems to me that we should encourage international participation in refining these processes.

You’re absolutely right - academics find the work-in-progress a difficult concept yet its OK to have a work in progress model behind closed doors! Looks like an education task for us.

A very good point about guarantees of service. COL, of course, does everything it reasonably can to ensure this quality of service. That said, hardware does fail and the network can go down.

I’ve worked for Universities where the LMS was regularly out of service or shut down for regular maintenance - and folk used to accept this. However, when it’s an external free service - the expectations on service delivery seem to be far higher — go figure!

As you’ve pointed out - WikiEducator’s downtime has been far lower than industry standards for a comparable service of its size. I don’t have the figures with me - but in the last 18 mnths we’ve had about 8 - 10 hours total downtime including software upgrades. We run a LAMP configuration and these machines just chug away . Two of these downtime instances were out of our control. In one case hardware failure and another where problem with the German ISP network. Most CIO’s dream of this level of uptime! That said - it doesn’t remove the perception of the perceived risk of external free services.

mmmm this has got me thinking - I wonder whether a model of shared financial responsibility for infrastructure services might be the way to go?

This way local institutions can then take shared responsibility and ownership of the services they support on campus - almost a Web 2.0 model of financing ICT services.

COL is like any business we do a proper cost-benefit and corresponding risk analysis in the way we configure our WikiEducator service. Its conceivable to provide guarantees for 24/7 support with synchronized mirrors all over the world - but current traffic levels wouldn’t warrant the cost. Consequently shared decision-making over technical infrastructure — when folk are contributing real dollars to ensure their wish-list — may be the way to go here.

Great reflections and appreciate the candid reflections.

4. wikirandy - December 1st, 2007 at 2:36 am

Hi Leigh, I’m impressed by the breadth and depth of your contribution here, and your leadership within Otago, and the WikiEducator community.

Some observations:

  1. This is a great case study to kickstart a dialogue among and within educational institutions as to the merits of pursuing an open educational content strategy, and by extension using WikiEducator as a development platform. I really like what you’ve listed as the benefits of working with WikiEducator. There might be one other benefit worth listing, and that is the “inside track / being part of a community of opinion leaders related to discovering / playing with new models for educational organisations to cut costs, improve productivity, discover new markets - you get the drift….
  2. In the Vision for content developed on WikiEducator you mention….“Ironically, through developing curriculum and content on the Wikieducator platform, we are discovering more opportunities for local collaboration before realising benefits of international collaboration”…this is worthy of considerable exploration…another benefit to add to the list - breaking down of silos internally..increasing dialogue….maybe there’s an opportunity for a panel discussion here…bringing in some diverse viewpoints for consideration….even from other fields.
  3. Regarding who first - teachers or students…I’m of the view that you create a range of access points for people to become involved…and have each perspective inform the other - kind of like participatory action research…
  4. Otago as a leader in NZ and Australia - you forgot to mention: “The World” - Your leadership, in your institution, and within WikiEducator has helped catapult both you and Otago to significant prominence in many quarters. As a fellow WikEducator, I value your insights, dedication and active involvement, commitment to the open educational content march, and clarity vision!

WikiEducators of the World Unite! :-) Randy

5. Ken Udas - December 2nd, 2007 at 10:51 am

Leigh, First, thank you for this very nice contribution! I am wondering if you could speak a bit to the nature of the decision and decision-making processes within Otago Polytechnic that led to adopting an open IP policy? We are currently poking around the edges here at Penn State and it would be great to get some insights from your experience. In addition, anybody else who has such experience (no matter what resulted), please feel free to contribute as well.

Cheers, Ken

6. wikirandy - December 2nd, 2007 at 1:57 pm

Hi Leigh, Adding to Ken’s comments, if in describing the “decision and decision-making processes within Otago…”, you could map it to an actual timeline, that would also be helpful. Might make a nice graphic! (However, the point is, that these things DO take time to evolve within institutions, and it would be useful to see the timeline.) - Randy

7. Leigh Blackall - December 2nd, 2007 at 11:08 pm

Hi Ken, Randy.

One key thing was that the old IP Policy here was long over due for a rewrite. We have an energetic CEO who had it pegged for a while now, and an upcoming audit that required it done.

The next thing was me addressing the leadership team and presenting an argument that said we needed an IP Policy that enabled us to sample copyleft content. My argument was that our copyright statement was too restrictive (all rights reserved) and that it effectively prevented us from being able to copy and reuse content from the likes of FlickCC, Wikipedia et al… We needed a Policy that would enable staff to sample media from these sources and then have the flexibility to mark their remixes with the license required by the copyleft material. I think I even put an estimate on the amount of money this might save the Poly. This raised interest and got me on the IP Policy team where I pushed for the adoption of CC BY.

In the IP Policy meetings it was evident that the main players in the rewrite saw the sense in CC BY and the benefits of enabling copy and reuse with attribution of Polytech materials. Thanks to their intuition for CC BY we were able to discuss more novel treatment of the Policy, rather than getting bogged down with should we/shouldn’t we kind of debates. It was a very encouraging team to work with. Interestingly, they had not heard of CreativeCommons before, but intuitively understood its benefits! Haven’t met too many bosses like that before!

They also saw that it helped to solve a number of concerns such as if a staff member was to pick up and leave a big hole in the content we rely on, the Polytech would be able to refill that hole because the material would have been CC BY, meaning the Poly could reuse it. In the past, this risk of a staff member leaving and taking their files with them was managed by a rather draconian statement along the lines of, “you work for the Poly, we own your IP..” - which needless to say was a big concern to staff. Using CC BY was a way to say to staff that they own their IP, but the Poly encourages the use of CC BY, and if restrictions are needed then come and talk about it.

It took about 5 months to get the Policy agreed on by broader staff, with the draft being redone about 3 or 4 times. Interestingly, staff input was very positive and constructive, and to my knowledge no staff had concerns with the CC BY clause. It seemed that most of the concern was to do with making sure that the Poly did not claim ownership over staff or student IP, but that it would be there if staff or students needed backup from the Poly if copyrights were breached outside the Poly. To that effect the Poly is a custodian of staff and student IP, but does not claim ownership.

So it would seem that the Poly was more than ready for such a Policy and that all I had to do was introduce the CC licenses which are more than ready for adoption, and make a lot of sense to anyone willing to think about it.

Hope that helps to answer the questions. In all it was about an 8 month process, with many things falling into place without too much issue. I was expecting a far greater fight. So full credit to the foresight and leadership from the CEO and dep CEO for their support, and to the Otago Poly staff who helped to make is clear and meaningful on all points of concern.

8. cormaggio - December 5th, 2007 at 1:13 pm

Thanks for this great piece Leigh. I think what you’ve just written about Otago’s licencing policy reflects very well on Otago Polytechnic, its leadership, and your role within this process - however, I’m not sure if it would be as positive a process in all institutions! But it’s very nice to hear of positive case studies (even though you outline a number of challenges too). Of course, I’m also interested in this from the perspective of what Wiki*versity* can lean from your and your colleagues’ experiences with using WikiEducator - and how we can similarly facilitate educators to create, manage and remix content. You’ve certainly given me much to think about… :-)

9. Ken Udas - December 5th, 2007 at 3:54 pm

We are going to try something new. Leigh Blackall has suggested that we do a synchronous web-conference to discuss aspects of the Otago Polytechnic experience, OER, and other aspects of his posting. The conference time is set for Friday, December 7, 2007 at 12:00 noon Eastern Standard Time, which would be December 7th at 17:00 Greenwich Mean Time, and December 8th at 6:00 (AM) New Zealand Daylight Time. We are planning on an hour-long session. The event will be recorded and made openly available. Special thanks to Leigh for getting up early Saturday morning!!!!

(A recording of the conference is available)

Hope to see you there!

10. wikirandy - December 10th, 2007 at 10:06 am

Hi Leigh, I am breaking up my response in several posts, based on several themes:

  1. Your Comment: “So full credit to the foresight and leadership from the CEO and dep CEO”

Great! Now, how have you sought to reinforce to them that they have made the right decision? Does this come in the form of summaries, progress briefs, or other communication? Is there some regular frequency to this? Are you continuing to add a dollar value to the savings generated by the migration to WikiEducator? Are there other things to communicate to the CEO, dep CEO? I’m thinking increased flexibility, easier access to partnerships, etc.

What I’m trying to say here, is that it’s important to keep priming the pump….keep people energized, caring and involved…and feel that they’ve made the right decision….Here’s an example: Do you know that in the spring, the US car companies put on a big push to sell cars….yet, in the fall, there are more car commercials than ever? The reason is, is that the car companies want to make sure that the people who buy their cars are actually happy with their purchase. They know, that the average person buys 5-7 cars during their lifetime…which means big bucks to them…when you leave one car company for another, you’re likely NEVER to come back….so these car companies put a lot of effort into making sure you’re happy with your purchase…and being reminded of the worthiness of YOUR DECISION is an essential ingredient in the mix!

- Randy Fisher aka Wikirandy

11. wikirandy - December 10th, 2007 at 1:18 pm

Hi Leigh, An estimate of the amount of money is important, yes. It’s important also to keep a running tally of the Total Lifecycle Cost of doing one thing over another…This is a great way to ‘reframe’ a discussion, into the parameters that executives are measured…(i.e., how much money did you save us, or make us, AND variations on the theme.

Regarding your comments on “the benefits of enabling copy and re-use with attribution” – if there is some way that you can quantify this in terms of monetary savings or gains, that is helpful. Then, also note the other benefits, such as increased institutional flexibility, educator skilling, scheduling freedom, etc.

Regarding the ‘readiness’ of such a policy, it would be useful to dig into what ‘readiness’ actually means to the decision-makers. What I’m getting at here, is if they are provided with supporting data – particularly in terms of how much MONEY they can make or save, this has a very strong hand in moving along “readiness” even accelerating it. Throw in the other “benefits”, and trusted people – yep, that’s you Leigh and your visionary, yet grounded colleagues – to get it underway – and it’s a done deal!

- Randy Fisher aka Wikirandy

12. Ken Udas - December 11th, 2007 at 5:46 am

Hello, I have a more or less general question, perhaps too broad, but open to anybody who has thoughts, based in practice or otherwise. It seems that the effort at the Otago Polytechnic is focused on use, reuse, and sharing. This is a bit different than a lot of other OER efforts that seem more focused on publishing free content for others to use. First, is this observation accurate, and if so, how do you see organizational policy developing that promotes faculty using open content generated or modified by others in addition to faculty developing and sharing content intended for the use of others?

Cheers, Ken

13. Leigh Blackall - December 11th, 2007 at 4:33 pm

Hi Ken, you are right! Well seen. I have been critical of the likes of MIT Open Courseware as in fact not being open. Restrictions like Non Commercial, and even development processes not being open say to me that they are not open courseware but simply free courseware. I even think that sooner than later they will simply be courseware, when all this copyright fog finally lifts from education and the idea of common good…

Yes, Otago is focused on open educational resources AND practices which covers the three areas you site, and the same three areas of freedom defined in OER and software. So, here there is a big emphasis on staff development and building informal but professional support networks and communities of practice. Anyone that looks at our work on Wikieducator will see that it is very much a work in progress and always will be. It is not the most important aspect to us. It is developing the capacity and culture in our staff that is arguably the most important.

Randy, to answer your question regarding how we keep the feedback loop alive with the bosses. It seems that the attention from outside is what keeps that happening. Every time the Commonwealth of Learning publish a report about our work, or Penn State, or the local paper, or the Student’s Association.. that reaches the bosses here. At the same time we keep them informed via the traditional communication channels that are in place.. but increasingly we are using the newer communication channels and there is the potential for a communication disconnect that I mention in the article. Again, it comes down to developing better communication skills with staff, so it may mean our bosses have to join in on the staff development activities or risk the disconnection, or pull it back.. its a potentially large problem. At the moment, the outside interest is helping. It also helps to have outsiders interview and then report on our work. It offers a fresh perspective and critical feedback that we need. Especially for us being so regional, even in our own country.

14. Rakhi - December 18th, 2008 at 3:57 am

You can also try another issue tracking software, it is open source off-the-shelf application called Eventum.

Eventum is written in PHP programming language and uses MySQL database and is available under GPL and developed by MySQL AB Team. Know about eventum features and advantages; just visit our website:

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