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On Remembrance Day 2004, I will be doing my bit for the openCourseWare cause, and giving a hands on workshop to the Western Sydney Institute of TAFE on free and open software (FOS) and Free and Open Courseware (FOC).

In the space of an hour I’ll be showing participants how easy it is to set up a blog, and how great Open Office is for creating PDF, SWF and html. Using those two examples alone I plan to promote further use of free and open source software in public education, and to push the need for FOC production in public education.

Lately, I have been encouraged at the generally positive response I get when I mention FOC production, where as only a year ago I was dismissed as a raving lefty and a hopeless idealist. I may be a raving lefty, and a hopeless idealist – but FOC’s nothing to dismiss.

There are sound financial and ethical incentives for developing FOC, which are generally outlined in the same ways as FOS. By allowing your educational resources to be freely available online you are not only promoting your organisation in a number of ways, you are attracting more students who maybe thankful for being given the opportunity to look into your course before enrolling. TAFE should not be in the business of making money from content (asking students to first pay to enroll and gain access to online courses), instead, TAFE should be opening their content for all, and if they must charge fees, charge for what they have always done – facilitate learning, assess, recognise, and qualify.

There is no sense in locking up learning content, especially if it was public money that produced it.

So, hopefully in the coming years we will see more and more contributions to the Australian free for education resource database.

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