Look at the capital letter R. Just snap off the front leg, and now you are a P.

In the world of Open Educational Resources, the five Rs are like chapter/verse of the induction, repeat after me:

The right to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute…

Pick your source https://www.google.com/search?q=oer+5+rs

Apparently things get a bit more murky in businesses built upon OER… or maybe not, you tell me.

C’mon Alan, just the facts, man.

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Ironically, with Dragnet being a show I watched regularly on TV as a kid, my memory is wrong– Sgt Friday never said on Dragnet “Just the facts, ma’am”

Again, another internet rabbit hole adventure with twitter flame offs that was accidental in the way it started. About a week ago on browsing the discussions on the CCCOER email list I came across a post from around May 25 from Naomi

Hi OER Friends! 

Our Art faculty alerted me to her Lumen Learning Art courses now being redirected to Course Hero. LL doesn’t list any Art courses anymore… (The SUNY version is still active, so that’s our current solution). 

Did Course Hero buy LL’s Art content? 

What the heck?


I can’t say why I decided to poke around. Lumen Learning is of course a big player in the OER space especially built on the reputation of the co-founder, one of the legends in open education. I’ve used many of their resources. Course Hero I know much less about except that it’s some kind of site built on students uploading course materials to share and some twitter scuttlebut months back when a digital pedagogy figurehead took a position there.

So I did a web search on “Lumen Learning Art Course” and found one SUNY course indeed hosted at Lumen. But then found a few more courses with lumenlearning.com urls that are re-directed to Course Hero.

From my reply

Alan Levine

It seems random. I got really curious.

SUNY Art History 1 Course is still on Lumen https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-arthistory1/

SAC ART 100 Apperciation redirects to Course Hero https://courses.lumenlearning.com/sac-artappreciation/

as does a few math courses https://courses.lumenlearning.com/sanjacinto-collegemath-1

and intro to Psychology https://courses.lumenlearning.com/wmopen-psychology/chapter/introduction-9/


Alan’s CCCOER Response

Quite a few responses came in with people sharing similar experiences, and being at unease that course materials their faculty used from Lumen were now on Course Hero (because of it’s reputation the latter’s domain is often blocked on campuses).

I hesitated some about tweeting. I am really moving somewhat away from giving so much attention to twitter, but heck, there I went:

It seemed very odd that course URLs would be redirected without any kind of announcement from either company. Is there a right to redirect at whim?

More responses on the CCCOER thread included what Lumen was telling faculty who were asking questions:

Lumen has partnered with Course Hero to host the content of our community created course, that includes our all of our Art courses .From here on out, Course Hero will be hosting the courses you were linking to. You are welcome to continue linking to it. 

So the only R left is the right to link to content? Nice. Others reported:

We were told that Lumen sold all their content/courses to Course Hero. If you pay them for Waymaker, the assessments are not available on Course Hero.

Oh. Another response indicated a rep for Lumen suggested to a faculty that the “port the content from Course Hero into Blackboard”?

This would be the right to do the nearly impossible, as Course Hero provides no kind of content export. Are there any R’s left?

Now Course Hero provides the course content in tact, what is wrong with that, one might ask the grumpy old blogger. Well, you need to visit one of these “community OER course” try the link, like the San Jacinto math course (you can guess from the URLs that these were created by a institution that has no access to their own course materials?)

Yes, scroll past the table of contents and click on the “More Study Resources for You”. So the course content is just clickbait to get learners to either pay for access or to toss more documents into the Course Hero vat. What they are doing and why they might buy content is pretty visible:

Steel Wagstaff provided maybe the most clear explanation which says these “community OER courses” they hosted for a long term they could no longer support so a “business arrangement” was made to send them to Course Hero. I don’t have any knowledge on who created their “community OER courses” but someone did, and that person/group has 0 of the 5 Rs in place.

More than that, if Lumen has a collection of “community OER courses” they needed help hosting, why did they not reach out to the Open Education community? Was Course Hero really the only viable option to sustain this content? Is there no kind of internet archive or skilled course archivists out there?

Delmar Larsen at Libretexts jumped right in the fray and shared they had already gotten content from a heft of these courses and was likely able to get them all made available on that platform. If the originals were from Pressbooks, I’d bet a loonie or even a toonie that Pressbooks would have stepped up (maybe).

A lot of people seemed to be scrambling to find an alternative source, but I would wait to see what Libretexts comes up with. If I had me druthers, all those Course hero links would just wither from neglect.

So all we have is some speculation, and already this is passing news. It just seems weird, but Delmar assures me that this is business as usual.

We can tell who the Course Heroes are and are not.

And with irony as bitter sour as it is, the iming aligns with Audrey Watters understandable exit

as well as Jim Groom’s take on Capitalized (in all ways) EdTech.

So yeah, out with the Rights to R*5 and we start now with the Right to Profit from OER content. It’s just P’s all the way down. Given the public silence of the two players here, all we have is guesswork. The information I know of are within the CCCOER email thread.

If anything is a call to detach from profit oriented platforms and reclaim the web for your own, well this call has been screaming for a long time. It might be louder now, but shrug goes most of the world as they keep clicking the Like/Retweet buttons to keep the Ad Matrix humming.

Keep on Reclaiming, Hippies!



Non Updates

It took almost a month for someone to publish a news story on this– and what Edsurge managed to tell is a non-story.

And the “big” follow-up story on Edsurge has a headline of What a Homework Help Site’s Move to Host Open Educational Resources Could Mean that in 1100+ words never even gets close to answering. It’s mostly quotes from not even the significant players in the story (and not even a mention or a followup with the CCCOER group where this all started) or as the reporter who asked me about it– “takes”. Is that what passes for journalism? If so, it’s quite dead.

At least parody is alive.

Featured Image: Text created with Vintage Punk font at Font-Generator.com superimposed on Cadmium telluride solar cell flickr photo by oakridgelabnews shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license (for some reason the latter came up on a search for “switcheroo” go figure).

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as @cogdog@cosocial.ca


  1. “More than that, if Lumen has a collection of “community OER courses” they needed help hosting, why did they not reach out to the Open Education community? “

    My guess is that it was tied up in an NDA, or they see themselves above the community and therefore do not answer to it.

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