I have looked into the mechanics of forming what I will, for the moment, call the Open CourseWare SIGMAA (OCWSIG). If there is interest in taking this further we can discuss what the name should actually be.
The Application ProcedureTo apply to form a new SIGMAA is very easy. The precise details can be found at http://www.maa.org/community/sigmaas/forming-a-sigmaa, but in a nutshell they are as follows. We would need:
- A charter. The MAA provides a model charter at
http://www.maa.org/community/sigmaas/model-charter, and the charters
of existing SIGMAAs are also available for review. The charter would
detail ". . . the common mathematical interest shared by the group of
MAA members that founded the SIGMAA and also describe the goals,
objectives, and activities of the organization."
- A list of "charter members." Basically, this is a list of MAA
members who would be the founding members of OCWSIG.
- A list of initial officers for the OCWSIG. That is, people who
have expressed a willingness to commit to a first term as one of the
Is a SIGMAA the right structure for us?I think there is definite potential here. One possible objection is that to be a full member you must be a member of the MAA and I don't know how many of us are. This is mitigated a bit by the provision for unofficial members of the SIGMAA, who needn't be members of the MAA.
However, it is not entirely clear to me that the SIGMAA structure under the auspices of the MAA is necessarily the right venue. There might already be a better mechanism for organizing a community with common interests within the AMS, SIAM, AIM or possibly other organizations. I've let my membership in all three lapse so I don't know. I know that AIM is a bit ahead of the curve on this since they have already begun organizing reviews of openly published textbooks. Could someone else, more knowledgeable than me, comment on the possibility of organizing the open courseware community under the auspices of one or more of these?
Also, it might just be too early to be thinking of any kind of formal organization. I invite discussion.
My Comments and OpinionEverything that follows is predicated on the assumption that an MAA SIGMAA is the right structure under which to organize ourselves. If that is not true there is no need to read further.
I believe many of us would be willing to be part of an existing open courseware organization, but I'm not so sure that very many would be interested in taking on the task of starting one up from nothing. This is a pretty large undertaking, not to be taken on lightly. The officer structure of a SIGMAA would consist -- at a minimum, I think -- of a Chair, a Director of Programs, and a Secretary/Treasurer. So just to get started we would need at least 3 people willing to fill those offices. Since this is my idea I feel compelled to volunteer to serve either as the initial Chair or Director of Programs, even though I don't feel particularly well qualified for either position and would be happy to step back in favor of anyone more qualified. (I won't serve as Secretary/Treasurer because putting me in charge of keeping records is a very bad idea.)
There are at least three questions that need to be addressed: (1) What would OCWSIG do for us?, (2) What would the MAA require of the OCWSIG? (3) Is it worth the effort?
The easiest question to answer is (2): OCWSIG would be required to hold regular meetings, report our activities and expenses to the MAA, hold elections for officers and conduct the activities we define for ourselves in our charter.
The first question is harder to answer, but a few things come to mind immediately. We would have funding for programs and activates. These would come primarily from dues (most SIGMAAs charge $10 per year, per member), but also we could apply for additional funding through the MAA, and we would have a platform from which to apply for other grant funding. Membership in the OCWSIG would also qualify as a credible professional service activity with our respective local administrations, something we don't get now.
More tenuously, the organization would exist to serve the needs and desires of this community, so we could conceivably organize the repository Jim Hefferon and others have discussed on other threads in this blog. In Baltimore someone mentioned that by publishing without a commercial publisher we lose some of the valuable services that commercial publishers provide, like editing and promotion. The OCWSIG might be able to fill that gap, at least in part. I confess this is only an idea and that I have no specific plan for how this might be accomplished. I mention it only as a possibility for further discussion at the appropriate time.
Finally, I can not answer the third question: Is it worth the effort? That will have to be answered by all of us as a community. Again, I invite discussion.
Any comments including but not limited to criticisms, suggestions, or even ridicule, are welcome. (Well ok, ridicule would not be welcome. But if this is an entirely ridiculous idea I hope someone can find a polite way to tell me, so I can stop wasting my time on it.)
Penn State, Harrisburg campus