The Publishers are coming!

I bring you this blog live from the “London Book Fair”, one of the largest gatherings of publishers (of all persuasions) in the world. I’ve been invited to speak about open education – in particular MOOCs and OER, in a mixed panel drawing on publishers and consultants. 

I’m very interested to be invited, and I’m looking forward to presenting to an audience of publishers and other “traditional learning media” specialists.  But a quick stroll around the enormous exhibition space suggests that something very interesting is happening.

Many publishers are moving into digital publication and distribution – there’s a huge area devoted to technology and services around ebooks. And a number of larger publishers are moving directly (via their own ventures or acquisitions) into online learning.

Publishers worked with a number of UKOER projects, most memorably in the amazing Newcastle-based “PublishOER” project, where staff connected to the old LTSN Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine Centre worked with Elsevier. And it is notable that Torie Eva from Pearson will be on our closing panel at OER14.

For all the talk of technology disrupting education, the effect of technology is far, far greater for publishers. So it is unsurprising that the audience at the book fair want to hear about open education, and are involved in education technology. It is a new marketplace – a chance to capitalise on new ways of delivering and using content.

PublishOER investigated new ways of using and sharing paid-for content. This is clearly not “open education”, but it is a step in that direction. Publishers are also investing in platforms, tools and marketplaces – often in surprisingly content-agnostic ways. For example, Pearson (a content publisher, primarily) explicitly encourages the use of OER (alongside commercial resources) as a a component of “Project Blue Sky” – an open content search engine to compete with Solvonauts and Xpert.

The publishing industry is reaching up to meet the Open Education movement, and it will be interesting to see how the interface plays out. There’s so much good stuff at OER14, but the way publishers engage with us -and how we engage with them- will be one of the key things I will be watching out for in Newcastle this April.