3 OER issues and F.E.

by John Baglow

For me, the 3 main issues with OER revolve around what is meant by openness, how open programmes can be sustained and what quality control is possible.


 The OECD talks about materials being “offered freely”? That might mean:

  • no restrictions on who could participate
  • without charge
  • the user, whether a learner or practitioner, would be free to use and reuse the materials as they wished including making changes.
  • there would be no technical barriers to access

George Siemens argued in his online presentation (25 03 12) that the success of OER hinges not so much on the placing of resources online but of making them more-widely accessible.

Issues for my FE college: would we want to make resources available to users? Would that enhance our reputation? Could we then encourage them to join fee-paying courses? Should we share our teaching resources with other practitioners? How useful are shared resources without sharing our experiences of how we use them?

Sustainability   The obvious question about OER is what would sustain the OER over time? It seems to me that Stephen Downes (2007) is right when he says

“the sustainability of OERs – in a fashion that makes them affordable and usable – requires that we think of OERs as only part of a larger picture, one that includes volunteers and incentives, community and partnerships, coproduction and sharing, distributed management and control.”

In other words, OERs are not just materials deposited online by an institution. To be successful they need to be part of an organic network which capitalises on the way that people interact and collaborate online. Jan Hylen (2006) suggests that OER should be provided via user communities. This would enable users to form strong relations with the website. Crucially, the institution can then learn from the community about what works and what doesn’t. He argues that building up such a community would encourage users to return to it.

There may not even be an institution involved. The OER may be

“more of a grass roots activity where individuals contribute with their time, knowledge and resources on a voluntary basis. In this model, production, use and distribution is decentralised, compared to the institutional model where at least production and distribution are centralised“.

Issues for my FE college: If we are not to adopt the status quo option scathingly dismissed by George Siemens, we should explore ways of forming and joining user communities in appropriate subject areas. 

Quality Assurance  

It is hardly surprising that ideas about quality assurance of OER seem to have a lot in common with quality assurance of any product offered online.

  • It may be that the institution’s brand alone is strong enough to reassure users of the materials’ quality.
  • there could be a system of user reviews such as on hotel booking sites
  • or a more integrated peer review system which gives recognition to creators and helps disseminate the materials.

Issues for my FE college: the college has a strong brand regionally, based on its face-to-face teaching. We should pilot the use of OERs which include user reviews and peer review.

Downes, S. (2007). Models for sustainable open educational resources.

EDUCERI  “Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources” 2007  http://www.oecd.org/document41/0,3343,en_2649_35845581_38659497_1_1_1_1,00.html

Hylén, J. (2006). Open educational resources: Opportunities and challenges. Proceedings of Open Education, 49-63.

Siemens, G., “Openness and the future of higher education in the age of MOOCs” Webinar, Mon March 25 2013



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