Who’s playing piggy back with English Out There?

This is a story of my confusion.

I have many questions but no answers. My online colleagues have varying opinions on the value of open source sharing online, then there’s the offering of premium educational products…………and then…..none of it matters ………….if you are a heavy weight ELT giant and just sell it for ten times more in bookshops…

sell what?

The idea….

Whose idea??

Why would Oxford University Press need a piggy back from Jason West?

Why would the public pay ten times more for something ‘created’ by giants, especially if it wasn’t…


..by them


What if this piggy-back riding has taken a sinister twist in the bowels pseudo-professionalism?

The term piggy back riding refers to riding on someone else’s idea. In general terms this is acceptable, especially in the online world of open source, sharing and creative commons ideologies. However, with piggy-back riding, we acknowledge who is carrying us. We don’t need advice from attorneys if we are just playing piggy back.

Jason West created English Out There at least ten years ago. It was the FIRST social media English language course ever to incorporate use of social media to get students talking to native speakers as part of their course.

Now, OUP has launched a course with the same design, claiming it to be the first. They researched the subject very well indeed before putting printers to work. Top level officials in OUP questioned Jason all about English Out There twice in official meetings in the last two years. Jason shared everything as he believed that he was about to make a deal with the publishers of OUP.

He was later informed by email that they had no use for his ideas.

For those of you new to EOT, here’s a description of English Out There and Jason West, compliments of the WiZiQ blog, introducing ‘conversations with Nellie Deutsch‘, an exclusive interview to be held on November 17th.

“At the age of 25, Jason West co-founded an English language school in 1992 and within two and half years the school had achieved British Council accreditation. A long-standing interest in the psychology of learning lead Jason to feel that something could be done to improve the way his students acquired English.

As a result he created the Out There course concept, whereby classroom time is restricted and students engage directly with fluent or native speakers at every stage of their language development.

After 250,000 hours of teaching and editing Out There published their unique course materials which can be used both offline and online. The online element came out of a fascination with social media and free internet telephony such as Facebook and Skype. It has resulted in ‘before and after’ audio case studies of students that Professor Stephen Krashen, one of the world’s most famous experts on language acquisition, called “Remarkable…a major contribution to what we know works”.

Over the years Jason has worked tirelessly bringing EOT to the world at large via internet marketing and social networking, fuelled by inspiration, determination and vision.

Recently, Jason has seen his digital footprint being surreptitiously usurped by giants from the old establishment. If OUP is guilty, it is a kick in the guts to entrepreneurialism, and a cruel awakening to those of us who know Jason’s work, and those of us involved in e-publishing.

If, as OUP, are likely to say (if they make an offical statement), IDEAS are open source, and Jason West’s intricately designed courses are insignificant in the larger scheme of things, we’ve got to start asking what intellectual property means in this new cyber age.

How far does the sharing and open source ideology go?

Jason West is the first to admit that anyone has a right to set up a social media course, even if influenced by his first one. Influence is normal and healthy in all creative endeavours. What worries him is the extent to which the OUP courses mirror EOT down to specific details.

When I started teaching online in 2010, my research for great online materials brought me to English Out There via a great interview between Jason West and Kirsten Winkler. Anyone who has studied and worked with the materials can see how they are unique in many ways.

One way or another, it must be legally determined ‘whether’ OUP ‘copied’ EOT.

I think it’s very easy for the publishing giants to the usurp rights of small entrepreneurs, as they must know that independent educators etc. do not have to funds to challenge them. However, social media is becoming the new equalizer – raising awareness is something we CAN do.

Whoever is really interested in the case will have to study Jason’s materials, recordings etc. to get the wormhole view and well as big picture. EOT has a huge, impeccable digital footprint. Alex at tefltastic has suggested setting up a TEFL legal fund.

This is about all edupreneurs, ELT writers and small businesses.

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Sylvia is is an online teacher & writer with a background in English Literature, history and education. She is also an award winning blogger featured by The British Council, online teacher, official blogger for WiziQ, professional development organiser, and passionate researcher into creative learning via Educational Technology @Eslbrain. She is currently focusing on ELT publishing and children’s publishing. Her personal projects for 2014 include writing ELT books through story-telling, comics, poetry, and social and emotional learning, while continually creating and sharing brain-friendly learning materials and ideas online. Her other main interests are art, writing, poetry, and psychology, which which help her to create fun quality time with her children and add colour to her language lessons. When she's not teaching online, she's writing course books, blogging or running her English language Facebook groups.
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