Educational publishers need to invest more in the development of online content if they want to compete with open educational resources in the long run, says Artur Dyro from Young Digital Planet, a leading European e-learning publisher. Dyro will join the panel in the Friday morning plenary on December 5th, discussing approaches as to how OER and commercial publishers can coexist.
OEB: What is your opinion on the developments of Open Educational Resources (OER) in recent years?
Artur Dyro: There have been many attempts to stimulate creation of OER, arranged both by governmental organisations and commercial companies, but results are still not yet satisfactory. There was, and still is, a great hope that it will be mainly the teachers’ community that will create the critical mass of the valuable open resources to be shared. This hope was built mostly on the ease of web-based distribution rather than the real need of the community itself, or even in its ability do this. There are still a lot of issues to be solved to make open content successful including, but not limited to, authors’ motivations, availability of tools, aggregation platform and copyright issues.
OEB: Can Open Educational Resources keep up with commercial content – regarding quality and reliability?
Artur Dyro: We can obviously find many proofs and examples where commercial content is rated much higher than open content. However, this comparison might not be so obvious once we take a closer look at the specific categories of the content. It is very much dependent on what content we have in mind and on what aspects of the content we judge. Just to point out one of the important features of the content: granularity. It is very easy to use a single YouTube video in the class, but there are really few examples where teachers are able to use just one commercial video clip for their teaching process and pay just for that one. Such features should also be taken into account when quality is being compared.
OEB: Do you think that OER already pose a threat to commercial e-learning publishers?
Artur Dyro: In some areas, definitely yes! The encyclopaedia market is a good example. However, the majority of the educational publishing market still has not suffered from open content, yet. The only real threat appears when budget allocations are being made. Quite often there is no money left for educational content or software, as it is always possible to have an excuse that the Internet is full of educational resources, so there is no need to spend money on anything commercial. As a result of such a situation, commercial publishers reduce their investments in e-content development, while open content is definitely not able to cover all possible needs in this respect. In this sense, open content, or rather its perception, is a threat for the adoption of new technologies in schools in general.
OEB: Where do you see the role of commercial e-learning publishers in the future?
Artur Dyro: First of all, I believe that all educational publishing houses are already – or they will soon become – e-learning publishers, at least to some extent. There are also some examples of publishing houses that deal only with electronic media. Is there a future for them in relation to OER? Yes, I definitely believe so, assuming they will clearly understand the role and place of the commercial and open content in the future. Publishing businesses, and especially educational ones, should accept the fact that their products are no longer the only source of knowledge and information. Many valuable resources are going to be freely sponsored by commercial providers, and open content will also be created by teachers, students and educators. If the commercial content is able technically and didactically to coexist with other open content, giving users a freedom of choice and customisation, it will definitely remain important due to its quality and reliability.
OEB: How can Open Educational Resources and commercial publishers benefit from each other?
Artur Dyro: As I said, I do very much believe that commercial and open content can coexist fruitfully in the future. We need simply to understand correctly the roles of those two players and the scope of their publishing activities. Any generic content suitable for a large number of end-users that requires specific and high-quality authorship skills or investments to be created will probably be the domain of commercial publishers. Any adaptations or amendments of such content – things that create specific contexts for its usage, aligning it to the local needs of the individual student, class or school – should be the domain of open content. If commercial publishers find a way to prepare their offerings to allow students and teachers to pick and choose, modify, enrich them easily with individualised contexts, and finally to share modified content with others, respecting appropriate licences, both worlds would coexist happily.
OEB: Mr Dyro, many thanks for your time.
Artur Dyro will be speaking in the plenary C on Friday, December 5th, 09:15 – 11:00.
Artur Dyro, born in 1966 in Olsztyn, Poland, graduated from the Technical University of Gdańsk. He was a co-founder of Young Digital Planet – the leader of the e-learning industry in Europe. After 18 years of successful development of the company, he is still a co-owner and a member of the management board. As the Managing Director, Artur Dyro is responsible for all YDP’s international activities, and also holds the position of a Chief of Research and Development department in the field of e-learning.
He has been directly involved in many national- and international-scale e-learning initiatives due to the fact that YDP, employing almost 400 e-learning experts, is a strategic partner for a great number of major educational publishing houses and Ministries of Education.