There is Power in Permissions

By David Wiley, Chief Academic Officer

Back in May 2017, Boundless announced that its OER course materials and platform would go offline in September 2017. Motivated by that announcement, Lumen Learning collaborated with the Boundless team and Boundless’ parent company, Follett, to create an archive of Boundless’ open course materials. When the Boundless website went offline earlier this week, Lumen’s archive became publicly available at and Follett redirected the Boundless domain ( to the Lumen archive.

The domain redirect has led some to speculate that Lumen acquired Boundless. As I’ve explained above, that’s not what happened. Boundless decided to cease operations. Lumen worked together with Boundless to ensure that the education community would have ongoing access to the open content they had created and aggregated. Boundless’ parent company redirected the domain to Lumen’s archive.

It’s depressing to see a project or organization exit the OER space. Over the years we’ve seen dozens of university initiatives, companies, and other projects leave. Sometimes leaving means they stop creating educational materials altogether, as the retired university OpenCourseWare initiatives have done. Sometimes leaving means they pivot to creating educational materials that are fully copyrighted, like Flat World Knowledge did. However they happen, these events demonstrate the myriad difficulties associated with sustaining open education initiatives.

According to the SBA, only about half of all new businesses survive five years or more and only about one-third survive 10 years or more. Think about that. These are organizations that actually sell the products they make – imagine how much more difficult it is to keep the lights on when you give away your product for free under open licenses! In the open education space it doesn’t appear to matter whether you’re a university-based project, a stand-alone non-profit, or a for-profit company: finding a way to sustain your work over the long term – particularly after the grants run out (and they don’t last forever) – is really tough.

Be that as it may, the amazing thing about the shuttering of OER initiatives and organizations is the way the community comes together to ensure that the progress made by those projects isn’t lost – like the way the Saylor Foundation archived a huge collection of open textbooks right at the end of 2012 before they were about to disappear, and others created similar archives. Lumen’s archive of the Boundless content is created in this same spirit – ensuring that we don’t lose the progress the field has made to date and that we can each continue to build on, improve, and move it forward in pursuit of our own specific open education goals.

While the content, platforms, and assets of traditional organizations frequently disappear when the organization closes its doors, open licensing allows these contributions to live on and provide leverage for later work. Open licenses allow the community to continue to stand on the shoulders of those who came before – even after they’re gone – building on and extending that work. There is power in permissions, and Lumen’s archive of Boundless content is just one more example of that power in action.

Read Lumen’s full announcement about hosting the Boundless OER Course Archive.

September 20th, 2017|In the News|