The Oak National Academy will throw open the copyright for most of its lessons – allowing them to be adapted and developed for free, including by private companies.
The government quango said the move would allow schools to share and modify its 14,000-odd resources to suit their needs, and share them freely outside their organisation too.
It also means private companies will be able to do similar, such as publishers using resources to create textbooks. This is despite Oak committing to ensure nobody makes profit from its lessons.
Oak said putting its resources on an open government licence (OGL) would not interfere with its no-profit commitment. The online platform’s founding body, the Reach Foundation, has also given its blessing to the plans.
Matt Hood, Oak’s interim chief executive, said: “With the public investment in Oak, we want to make sure all organisations have equal and free access to our content.
“Our open approach means they can innovate and create exciting new offers to support teachers and pupils, including through emerging AI technologies.”
OGLs are the default licence for public services to allow easy sharing of content for the public benefit, Oak said.
They are used with other government-funded education schemes including the National Centre for Excellence, the National Centre for Computing Education and music hubs.
Any third-party copyrighted content, though, would be exempt from OGL.
Oak also said the move would provide a “significant boost” to the potential use of AI in schools, as well as a “guardrail on reliability”.
The quango has open-sourced its platform code too.
Hood added the moves “show our commitment to enabling others to benefit from our work…We hope it can help put the UK at the forefront of supporting AI in education.”
Oak lesson geo-lock U-turn ‘will damage publishers’
However the online academy has U-turned on its pledge to geo-restrict lessons so they would only be accessible in the UK, a concession made amid legal threats from the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA).
Oak said the change was to safeguard against other organisations replicating its platform and content internationally and charging for access.
“Oak will continue to focus exclusively on supporting UK schools and teachers and will conduct no overseas work or promotion,” a press release today added.
But Caroline Wright, BESA director general, said rolling-back on the pledge was “hugely disappointing and will inflict yet more damage on UK-based curriculum publishers, further hamper investment in the UK’s edtech sector, and subsequently reduce the range and variety of resources available to teachers and pupils”.
She said a survey of members showed 96 per cent felt that waiving geo-restrictions would have a damaging impact on the UK’s curriculum export market.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the total value of exports of education-related publishing was just over £1 billion in 2020.
“Today’s decision to throw away IP protection and the competitive advantage of the UK edtech and digital curriculum publishers is a direct result of the DfE’s botched business planning and a woefully under-par market impact analysis of the UK and international curriculum economy,” Wright added.