Learn.org Interview with Ignatis Labastida on Innovation

Dr. Ignatius Labastida of the University of Barcelona is a board member of the OpenCourseWare (OCW) consortium and a vocal champion of innovations in open education. Learn.org recently spoke with him about his and the university's work in open access, including Creative Commons, knowledge dissemination and efforts to improve teaching through shared resources.

Dr. Ignatius Labastida University of Barcelona UB

Learn.org: What is your educational and professional background and how did you come to work at the University of Barcelona?

Dr. Labastida: I obtained my undergraduate degree and my Ph.D. in physics at the University of Barcelona (UB). When I finished my Ph.D. they offered me the chance to lead a new project, to build the first Unit of Teaching Support dedicated to the science and mathematics schools within the university.

DD.org: You worked in the Program for Innovation and Teaching Improvement at the university. Can you explain what you did there?

IL: I was in charge of developing the support structure to improve teaching and to give tools and resources to the faculty to innovate. Currently I am not in the program and I am dedicated to knowledge dissemination at UB and beyond.

DD.org: What subjects do you teach at the university?

IL: I teach special courses to researchers, teachers, lecturers and Ph.D. students about copyright and openness. The classes cover all the main issues of the law as well as open information projects from open access (OA) to open educational resources (OER).

DD.org: You also lead the Creative Commons (CC) project in Spain. Please explain what Creative Commons is to our readers.

IL: CC is a non-profit corporation based in the U.S. with more than 80 partners around the world. The UB is the host institution in Spain.

CC has different projects, but probably the most well known is the license project, which is a set of tools to indicate the terms of use of a work. Licensing your work with CC allows anyone to reuse it openly with some conditions. You offer your work with 'some rights reserved.'

DD.org: Your work with Creative Commons involves translation and the porting of licenses. What does 'porting a license' mean and what sorts of works are you preparing for legal sharing?

IL: The main work for a CC host institution is the translation and porting license project. The licenses were established in the US and therefore they were created under the terms of the U.S. Copyright Act. When we wanted to adapt them for our needs we had to 'port them,' which means changing details to be in compliance with our own current copyright law. The target is to have the same license with the legal text adapted to our law.

DD.org: You're currently the Director of the Office for Knowledge Dissemination. Please describe the role that this office plays in the university and how that relates to your work with Creative Commons.

IL: The office is behind all 'openness' projects designed to share the knowledge created within our university with society. Since we are a public university, we think we should offer our knowledge as openly as possible. To that end, we try to develop policies within our institution towards openness. We are working on the establishment of an open access mandate, we take care of our OpenCourseWare (OCW) portal and we try to improve the use of the CC licenses in any material created in our university. We are also advocating for the public domain.

DD.org: What is the philosophy that drives your dedication to open learning?

IL: As I noted above, I think we should give something back to society in exchange for the public's investment in our institution. I think it is useless to hide our educational resources. They should be shared with the world.

Openness is also a way to spread our cultural heritage. Many of our materials are made in Catalan and offering them through the OCW portal teaches the world more about our country and our culture.

DD.org: Do you have any other projects in the works that promote innovation or openness (or both!) in higher education?

IL: Apart from OA and OER, I try to improve the use and development of all types of open source materials. I would also like to start working in data. I have collaborate indirectly with some open data projects outside the university and now I would like to start gathering some experimental data from our researchers.

DD.org: How do you envision the future of international open education and what do you think will be the single most important thing that the education community will need to do to achieve that goal?

IL: I think we will see the increase of open educational projects with more and more materials made available because teachers are losing their fears about sharing. Nevertheless, there is a still a problem with language because English is so prominent. Some of the teachers at UB are still reluctant to get involved in these projects because they think they should translate the materials into English.

My advice is not to make OERs just for the sake of being involved in such a project. Make the resources you need for teaching, then open them to the public. The main point is that the resources that are made available are for a learning or teaching process.

DD.org: Finally, I'd like to offer you the opportunity to share anything you'd like about your work with open access, Creative Commons and teaching innovation at the University of Barcelona.

IL: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my experience with your readers and to show you all the things we are developing at our institution.

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