scholar-led Open Access: Manifesto for fair publishing in German-speaking countries

Scholar-led.network points out problematic issues in the current publishing system and wants to initiate a debate on the role of scholar-led Open Access

In its scholar-led.network manifesto, the focus group scholar-led.network, which was established within the framework of the open-access.network project, criticises the current scholarly publishing system in the German-speaking world and, at the same time, provides fields of action for the development of a fair, planned and bibliodiverse publishing culture.

The authors of the text identify a journal crisis in the course of the Open Access transformation. This is reflected, among other things, in the monopoly position of major publishers who demand high publication fees from authors – so-called APCs (Article Processing Charges) and BPCs (Book Processing Charges). According to the Manifesto, this leads to new inequalities and exclusions. In order to make the Open Access transformation fairer and more diverse, scholar-led publishing models that do not charge such fees can be strengthened (Diamond Open Access). However, the current situation of scholar-led projects is deficient, partly due to a lack of funding.

Based on its critique, the focus group formulates concrete fields of action in which scholars, research institutions, libraries, research funding institutions, professional societies and other parts of the scholarly community must jointly get involved in to strengthen a diverse, independent and fair publication ecosystem. The fields of action are:

Networking, collaboration and strategic frameworks.
Sustainable funding structures for Diamond Open Access
Promotion of bibliodiversity in academia

You can access the scholar-led.network manifesto via this link: https://graphite.page/scholar-led-manifest/

MIT and Harvard Have Sold Higher Education’s Future

“Last week Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sold their edX platform to a for-profit company for $800 million. Founded by the two institutions nearly a decade ago, edX was higher education’s answer to the venture-backed start-ups jostling for an online-course windfall. With the sale to one of those firms, Maryland-based 2U, Harvard and MIT have surrendered. Their decision to fold is a major, and potentially fateful, act of betrayal.

Alan Garber, Harvard’s provost, adopted the language of edX’s profit-maximizing rivals in conceding defeat. “Taking full advantage of [online learning’s] potential,” he told The Harvard Gazette, “will require capital investments at greater scale than is readily attainable for a nonprofit entity like edX.” The decision to sell comes as investor interest in higher education has swelled during the pandemic. Coursera, the Silicon Valley online-course provider, went public in March, and Instructure — the maker of the popular learning-management software Canvas — filed for an IPO last week. The Covid Zoom boom has brought the inevitable wave of start-ups hoping to cash in on the virtual college classroom. So it’s no surprise that the market value of 2U, after the edX announcement, surged past $3 billion.

Before the sale, edX was academe’s public option — a mission-aligned satellite of the brick-and-mortar campus. Now all the major players in the sector are profiteers, legally obligated to maximize shareholder return….

By the turn of the millennium, most societies had handed over their journals to be published by the big commercial players, in exchange for a share of profit. Now most scholarship is published by an oligopolist quintet of information conglomerates that, in turn, charge their college customers usurious fees.

That industry is among the most profitable in the world, in part because academics write and review for free. As the historian Aileen Fyfe has shown, there was nothing inevitable about the joint custody — nonprofit colleges and for-profit publishers — we’ve ended up with. We owe our current predicament, in part, to the decisions of learned societies who chose short-term cash over their scholar-members’ long-term interests. Harvard and MIT have just made the same disastrous miscalculation….

2U’s mission is fundamentally misaligned with the university tradition. 2U, Coursera, and their venture-funded competitors are built to squeeze profit from our students, using our faculty and course offerings. Harvard and MIT had no right, in the meaningful sense, to sell us off. None of us — not faculty members, not students — signed up for edX to increase Silicon Valley’s wallet share. We will look back on this careless abrogation of stewardship as the tragic squandering that it is.”

Open Access in Indonesia

Abstract:  Despite the absence of funding pressures that explicitly mandate a shift toopen access (OA), Indonesia is a leader in OA publishing. Indonesia subscribes to a non-pro?t model of OA, which differs from that promoted by Plan S. The penetration of bibliometric systems of academic performance assessment is pushing Indonesian scholars away from a local non-pro?t model of OA to a model based on high publication charges. This article consider swhether Plan S promotes or undermines the ability of Indonesian scholars to develop systems of OA adapted to local resource constraints and research needs.

Harvard and MIT to Sell edX for $800 million | Harvard Magazine

“HARVARD, MIT, AND EDX ANNOUNCED TODAY that edX, the two institutions’ 2012 joint venture into online education, would be sold to leading educational technology company 2U for $800 million. 2U, a publicly traded company listed on the NASDAQ, with revenues expected to approach $1 billion in 2021, is an online program manager. The company provides digital platforms and marketing and logistical support that allows colleges and universities to offer online instruction but does not itself provide degrees. 

As part of the agreement, which is subject to approval by Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey ’92, 2U will own and plans to operate edX as a public benefit entity, which means that in addition to creating value for shareholders, edX will also provide a specific public benefit—in this case, online courses, some of which can be audited for free. Currently, edX offers more than 3,000 online programs. “With the acquisition,” according to a University statement, “2U’s network will expand to include more than 230 partners, including over 185 nonprofit colleges and universities and 19 of the top 20 ranked universities globally.”

 

 

Harvard University provost Alan M. Garber said in an interview that the most important aspect of the match with 2U is that the company will continue edX’s mission. “They have committed to continuing to provide free audit tracks—in other words, free courses—in a wide range of subjects. And there are other provisions of the agreement,” said Garber, “that give us a great deal of comfort” that they will continue to make “great courses available at low or no cost to learners throughout the world.” …”

Three Charts That Help Explain the 2U / edX Acquisition – PhilOnEdTech

“I won’t describe the announcement here but instead list preliminary media coverage and then share three charts that I think help explain why 2U would acquire the edX assets for $800 million. I’ll add some additional analysis on what this deal means for online education in a second post….”

 

2U, Inc. and edX Agree to Industry-Redefining Combination in Higher Education.

“2U will acquire substantially all of the assets of edX—a leading nonprofit online learning platform and marketplace—for $800M in cash. Together, 2U and edX will reach over 50 million learners globally, serve more than 230 partners, and offer over 3,500 digital programs on the world’s most comprehensive free-to-degree online education marketplace. The combined scale, reach, capabilities, marketing efficiency, and relationships of 2U and edX will unlock unprecedented opportunity for learners, universities, and employers worldwide….”

 

The big deal this week in online ed.

“The announcement on Tuesday that 2U will buy the assets of the nonprofit MOOC company edX for $800 million is shaking up the world of online higher ed. It also means I’ll riff on that news for you this week instead of giving you an annotated reading list, per The Edge’s summer programming (back to that next week).

This deal has ramifications in many directions. For starters, it will realign the commercial marketplace for online education, where colleges now pay billions annually to companies known as online-program managers, or OPMs, to help develop, market, and deliver online courses and degrees. The $800 million now headed to a successor nonprofit to edX could also have a huge impact on the future of open-source online options — and maybe breathe new life into the original mission of the nonprofit, which began in 2012 with the goal of democratizing education around the world.

I say “could” because, at this point, we know precious little about what the new nonprofit plans to do with this gargantuan infusion of cash. A joint news release says the money will be “dedicated to reimagining the future of learning for people at all stages of life, addressing educational inequalities, and continuing to advance next-generation learning experiences and platforms.” Lofty, ambitious language to be sure. But $800 million is a lotta clams, and I’m sure the hundreds of colleges and thousands of professors whose own financial and in-kind contributions over the last nine years have helped bring edX to this point would love to know some specifics — perhaps even more than I would….”

2U Buys edX for $800M, In Surprise End to Nonprofit MOOC Provider Started by MIT and Harvard | EdSurge News

“When MIT and Harvard University started edX nearly a decade ago, it was touted as a nonprofit alternative to for-profit online course providers. Today, the universities announced that they are selling edX to one of those for-profit providers for $800 million.

edX had fallen behind rivals like Coursera, a similar platform founded by Stanford University professors, in fundraising and reach, though it still boasts 35 million users and more than 3,000 courses….

What happens now is a bit complicated….

In the end, 2U officials said in a statement that they have pledged to:

Guarantee affordability through the continuation of a free version of online courses
Protect the intellectual property rights of faculty and universities that contribute courses
Protect the privacy of individual data for all learners who use the edX platform
And contribute to the ongoing development of the open-source Open edX platform that the universities will continue to oversee. …”

Three big ed tech projects: cashing out or historic investments?

Over the past few days three big ed tech entities made major financial moves. I was struck by that coincidence and wanted to explore what the combination might means.

ITEM: To start with, major online program manager (OPM2U purchased much of online class provider edX for $800 million. As part of the deal Harvard and MIT will launch a new and so far unnamed education nonprofit.

For more information, here are the official announcements from 2UMITHarvard, and what seems to be the nonprofit’s placeholder, “Transforming Digital Education.”  There is also some good, early commentary and analysis from EdSurge and Trace Urdan.

ITEM: Language learning app Duolingo, founded by Luis von Ahn, filed an IPO.  As  TechCrunch and others have noted, the market values Duolingo above $2 billion.  Its user base and earnings are rising.

ITEM: major learning management system/virtual learning environment provider Instructure, maker of Canvas, also  filed for an IPO. They tried this before, so now it’s a  second attempt.  Instructure is, unlike Duolingo, losing money.

So what does this big money trifecta tell us?

It may be a huge boost for 2U. They now have access to tens of millions of potentially new students.  According to a slidestack for investors, 2U stands to gain:

Increases TAM through combined 50M+ global learner base, 1,200+ Enterprise clients, 230+ university and corporate partners, and comprehensive suite of 3,500+ offerings ranging from free-to-degree

Combined entity will have massive global audience and strong consumer brand, top five education website with traffic of 120M+

They can also trade on the elite reputation of campuses associated with edX, namely MIT and Harvard.

Eddie Maloney and Joshua Kim go further, seeing the 2U+edX combination as a challenger to the much larger Coursera. What we see now are OPMs on steroids.  As Paul Fain put it, “MOOCs have become OPMs.”

Well-placed source on 2U’s acquisition of edX for $800M — “It simply formalizes what we knew: MOOCs have become OPMs.” https://t.co/bLMQC7Au0z

— Paul Fain (@paulfain) June 29, 2021

 

I’m not sure what to make of the new MIT-Harvard nonprofit since there’s so little information available. I do like Goldie Blumenstyk’s comments:

It’s hard to even fathom the potential impact of an $800-million nonprofit devoted to the future of online learning and eliminating educational disparities around the world. Add to that the academic muscle undergirding the nonprofit, overseen by edX’s founders, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the societal, technological, and pedagogical potential here feels enormous. But what actually will be realized? Harvard and MIT promise that the new nonprofit’s mission, name, research, and other activities will be developed more fully in the coming months. [emphases in original]

Even more from Phil Hill here.

Duolingo: much depends on how the sale goes and what happens to its value over the next few months, but a successful infusion of cash could drive the owl into expanding or adding offerings.  New languages are a clear development, but what about adding conversations with native speakers, or even branching out into new curricula beyond language?

Note that criticisms of Duolingo – for not being good on spoken languages, for not doing much on culture and language – don’t seem to have dimmed its prospects so far.

Instructure: Phil Hill does good work in showing the complexity of the offering, based on the structure of Instructure and its holding.  I don’t have a good sense of its odds for a successful IPO.

Overall, these three stories remind us that serious money is interested in ed tech.  COVID-19 may have increased investments as so much of higher ed moved online.  Perhaps that’s a long-lasting change… unless people flee the pandemic’s online experience and rush to embrace in-person life, in which case June 2021 might represent a peak before a financial fall.

What do you think about these three ed tech financial stories?

2U, Inc. and edX to Join Together in Industry-Redefining Combination

“2U, Inc. (Nasdaq: TWOU), a global leader in education technology, and edX, a leading online learning platform and education marketplace, today announced they have entered into a definitive agreement to join together in an industry-redefining combination that will help power the digital transformation of higher education, expand access and affordability, and usher in a new era of online learning. 

2U will acquire substantially all of edX’s assets for $800M in cash. Together, 2U and edX will reach over 50 million learners globally, serve more than 230 partners, and offer over 3,500 digital programs on the world’s most comprehensive free-to-degree online education marketplace.

Proceeds of the transaction will flow to the nonprofit that will continue under the leadership of edX founders Harvard and MIT and will be dedicated to reimagining the future of learning for people at all stages of life, addressing educational inequalities, and continuing to advance next generation learning experiences and platforms. Drawing on insights gained at Harvard, MIT, and other institutions, this organization will develop strategies and partnerships to help close the learning gap. …”

edX acquired by education technology company 2U – Harvard Gazette

“Today, Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and edX announced a joint effort with education technology company 2U to further the reach and impact of online learning across the world.

Under the agreement, edX will be converted to a public benefit entity that is fully owned and operated by 2U. 2U will use its resources to grow the online learning platform with the speed, and at the scale, that learners need today.

The proceeds of the acquisition will be used by a nonprofit led by Harvard and MIT that will focus on closing the learning and opportunity gap through the development of new partnerships, digital tools, and strategies. The nonprofit will devote significant resources to forging partnerships with institutions of higher education, particularly community colleges and other educational institutions that serve under-resourced communities. It will also seek to partner with other nonprofit organizations to tackle longstanding inequities in education, and with enterprises and governments to address workforce reskilling needs, while advancing learning experience platforms and research in all these areas….”

Coyle’s InFormation: Digitization Wars, Redux

“From 2004 to 2016 the book world (authors, publishers, libraries, and booksellers) was involved in the complex and legally fraught activities around Google’s book digitization project. Once known as “Google Book Search,” the company claimed that it was digitizing books to be able to provide search services across the print corpus, much as it provides search capabilities over texts and other media that are hosted throughout the Internet. 

Both the US Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers sued Google (both separately and together) for violation of copyright. These suits took a number of turns including proposals for settlements that were arcane in their complexity and that ultimately failed. Finally, in 2016 the legal question was decided: digitizing to create an index is fair use as long as only minor portions of the original text are shown to users in the form of context-specific snippets. 

We now have another question about book digitization: can books be digitized for the purpose of substituting remote lending in the place of the lending of a physical copy? This has been referred to as “Controlled Digital Lending (CDL),” a term developed by the Internet Archive for its online book lending services. The Archive has considerable experience with both digitization and providing online access to materials in various formats, and its Open Library site has been providing digital downloads of out of copyright books for more than a decade. Controlled digital lending applies solely to works that are presumed to be in copyright. …”

Guest Post – Scaffolding a Shift to a Values-driven Open Books Ecosystem – The Scholarly Kitchen

“Pressure from all sides of the ecosystem has propelled growth, experimentation, and commitment to making more scholarship accessible to more people. There is increased awareness, too, that making research open does not resolve all issues of equity and access to knowledge, that more critical engagement with the moral economy of open access is still to come. Living in a pandemic has accelerated the momentum and heightened the sense of urgency, not only in discourse, but in concrete steps being taken and strategies developed by institutions and publishers alike. Libraries, scholars, students, and readers of all kinds have had to move rapidly to adopt and adapt digital resources and tools. Open access books offer increased access to knowledge for the reader, but they also present an opportunity to remake a fragmented ecosystem, and to increase channels of communication about the processes involved in researching, writing, shepherding, financing, publishing, acquiring, and reading research….

Digital books, open or not, require infrastructure. Disintermediating hosting, distribution, and sales helps simplify cost structures. Non-profit presses are developing their own infrastructure to support greater strategic choice. Fulcrum, from Michigan Publishing, and Manifold, from the University of Minnesota Press, are two such developments that expand the new universe of values-aligned platforms. The MIT Press Direct platform launched in 2019 in an effort to disintermediate the relationship between the press and libraries. The platform aligns ebook distribution with the university press mission and opens space for dialogue with libraries. The greater connection with libraries has confirmed a gap in knowledge sharing between librarians, editors, library sales, and authors that, when filled, could make the monograph publication process clearer. Each stakeholder, internal and external to a press, holds valuable information about open access book development, funding, hosting, and discovery. Creating channels to share this information, and doing so through new, collective models, has the potential to benefit the system as a whole….”

African Minds – African Minds is an open access, not-for-profit publisher of scholarly books.

“African Minds is a not-for-profit, open access publisher based in Cape Town, South Africa. We publish predominantly in the social sciences and our authors are typically African academics and thinkers, as well as international academics who have a close affinity with the continent. We offer a new publishing channel to authors frustrated by a lack of support from traditional book publishers as well as with publishing’s anachronistic and lengthy approach to making knowledge available. African Minds is therefore not a traditional, commercial publisher. Our emphasis is less on the commercial viability of our publications than on fostering access, openness and debate in the pursuit of growing and deepening the African knowledge base.”