Today’s MOOC experience is really challenging my reflective brain as so many questions are being raised about open education. As expressed in previous posts I share a core value with the open education community, but today I am struggling to fit Wiley’s (2015) definition of open with my reality. Below is an honest reflection on the open education movement as I consider if I can be on the cutting edge of this movement in Ontario.

Open is not Free

Open Educational Resources (OER) are free, but they are more than free. In fact, David Wiley (2015) suggests that “open is not free.” This statement makes sense when he explains it, but really causes me to think about my own views and experiences of openness in education. When I first learned of the open movement in Ontario this August I immediately knew I would love it. I thought I was already producing open resources, but YouTube videos are not necessarily open. They are freely accessible online but not truly open. This realization is pivotal one for me. What Wiley (2015) defines as open comes with certain permissions for how the resources can be used. In the course they say that:

Open = Free access + Open Licensing

Open educational resources are licensed under creative commons licenses (or something similar) in order to decrease barriers for users to access and use them. David Wiley and George Siemens talk about the 5Rs of open content in a course I am currently taking Introduction to Open Education through edX. Click here for more about the 5 Rs. Below I discuss some of my questions and concerns about moving from free to open.


Content needs to be owned by the user – they need to be able to retain a copy. In order to engage in the rest of the “Rs” of open content the user needs to be able to own content. For textbooks, this ownership means the ability to download a keep a copy of the book. As a textbook writer I have no concerns about this R for my books. Kindle, Amazon, Google Play etc. all allow offline reading of their books. Downloading and owning a copy of a book would not harm the reach of the book from what I can tell. In fact, the more people that download it the better.

For YouTube videos the same would not be true. I have no fears around allowing people to download and keep copies of my videos, but it would hurt my YouTube analytics and therefore my reach. If my goal is to empower as many students as possible I need to play the YouTube game to be found through search. While I do not have a full understanding of the YouTube search algorithm I know that a major consideration is watch time. The higher a video’s watch time the more likely it is that the video will be found in subsequent searches. If people decide to download a video and watch it offline instead of on YouTube that video would be less likely to be found in subsequent searches. If my goal is to reach students allowing downloads seems counter-intuitive. Below is one video that looks at the impact of watch time on a channel’s success.

Reuse / Revise / Remix / Redistribute 

For traditional textbooks to me it makes sense to allow educators to take a verbatim copy of the book and use it (reuse), make changes (revise) or combine it with other OERs (remix). In fact, I am in the process of reviewing one now and hope to adapt it at some point. I would love to take an OER textbook and have students work with me to adapt it to the needs of our class, but for some courses I can’t find one to use as a starting point yet. I have some hope as this course has made me aware of more places to look. Perhaps I will be able to write one but I first need permission and time to do so.

Again, I am uncertain of the implications of allowing YouTube videos to be reused and redistributed. My fear is that it will harm my ability to reach students. I assume that the YouTube Creative Commons option means that people would be free to download the video and upload it to their channel or wherever else. That could be problematic or it could be equivalent to the growth strategy of collaboration that I have used in the past depending on how the videos are presented on the other channel.  I created a video for EmpowerRN that is on her channel and mine. As you can see she introduces the video and credits me for the video.

In the context of YouTube, revise and remix makes sense to me. However, colleagues have suggested it may tarnish my reputation if OER are used without appropriate context. When I collaborate with other YouTubers as above I do have some control over how they are used. Is that necessary?

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Creative Commons licensing would allow me to place restrictions on the types of permissions I grant to users through their website. However, YouTube offers only one Creative Commons licensing option – the CC BY license (YouTube’s description). Maybe I would feel more comfortable with the other options being made available. I like that they say my original video will automatically show up under source videos, but I think I will need to look into how that works. I am not sure how they would know if someone downloaded it and made major edits. In my next video I am going to test out the user end of things to see how YouTube reacts to the uploading of Creative Commons content.

Why to embrace the 5Rs 

Adopting an open approach and the 5Rs could be amazing. The impact of my work on students could be enhanced and built upon by other educators more readily. If we as educators can build upon the work of others more easily we can be more effective in sharing knowledge, which is what education is all about. Some really insightful things to consider are being raised in the #OpenEdMOOC course. I feel like I am at a turning point in my career. Do the potential benefits of going fully open outweigh the risks? To what extent am I able to go open beyond YouTube? Who will go open with me? Am I allowed to go open in aspects of the courses I teach? Thankfully I have some friends at my institution and outside my institution at eCampusOntario that will be able to support me in this journey.

Questions to Explore

What they are proposing is a paradigm shift for education. While there are obvious benefits for openness in education, for many that I have talked to it raises questions and fears about the future of educational institutions. There is this sense that in order to protect what makes a professor or institution unique it is essential to keep things closed and copyrighted. I disagree. Based on my not quite “open” educational experience on YouTube I see the value in sharing everything I create at no cost to students. However, I still struggle with some aspects of openness in education as it applies to real-world experiences. Will being truly “open” hurt me? Evidence seems to suggest quite the opposite. Hopefully by the end of this course I will have figured some of these issues out or identified what needs to be discovered. Since I have been involved in this discussion since August I can tell you that there is no quick solution.

As an innovator it can be challenging to be on the cutting edge of such a movement when systems are not yet in place to facilitate such a movement. Maybe it is because my union and management are still in contract negotiations, but I was held back from trying some open education ideas this semester (by both sides). In a previous blog I expressed some of these frustrations. I can’t wait for the strike to end so I can get back to discussions about what is allowed or not in terms of high impact open education within the context of the courses I teach. Open education should, after all, decrease student costs and increase their success in learning.



Wiley, D. (2015). OER summit at LLC – Dr. David Wiley. Retrieved from



Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit


Terry Greene · October 28, 2017 at 7:59 am

Some great insights and great questions to ask. I wonder now if this course can make people worried and too focused on making sure things fit the 5R description of OERs. And that if things don’t fit, they’re not included in the OER club. I feel like worrying about all these specifications could kill the open spirit of newcomers to open. To get started in open, let’s just be open to sharing our stuff, and be open to going back and making things more open as necessary and when convenient. If allowing your YouTube videos to be downloaded messes with what you’re trying to do and if in not allowing something makes your videos not fit the 5R definition of open… so be it. I still call sharing your ideas and videos and content on the open web on Youtube an act of openness, whether or not they check off all the boxes.
I see too much arguing about whether or not something is truly open. As long as something is not hidden behind a paywall, to me it’s at least a step in the right direction. We can take the other steps when we’re ready.

    NurseKillam · October 28, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Thank you so much for your opinion. I will be experimenting with the CC BY license with my next videos and I will see what happens. I want to be part of the club!

      Terry Greene · October 28, 2017 at 11:57 am

      Everyone who wants to be in the club is in the club as soon as they want to be in the club!

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