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Open Educational Resources, Reuse and Sharing

June 26th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

I participated in a workshop on Open Educational Resources at the EDEN2011 conference in Dublin last week. OER was high on the agenda at the conference, referred to by a number of the keynote speakers and also the subject of several papers and workshops.

the workshop I attended was organised by the OPAL project. OPAL – the Open Education Quality Initiative – funded by the EU and supported by UNESCO – is attempting to develop a guide and benchmarks on open educational practices. It is focused on institutional change and the guideline is designed as a maturity model which allows organisations to position themselves according to the degree of maturity for each of a number o individual dimensions of open educational practices identified by the project.

The discussion at the workshop was lively and interesting. One focus was the language of the guide with participants feeling that more still needed to be done to explain what OERs and open educational practices were.

Grainne Conole in her introduction to the workshop had posed a series of questions including why there appears to be so limited reuse of resources and secondly how we can guarantee quality.

I am not so convinced by the assumptions here. the idea that there is limited reuse of resources is based on the lack of posting of amended resources to OER repositories. But that doesn’t mean they are not being used. I suspect many, many teachers do use OERs and naturally edit and change them to suit their own practice (although the prevalent PDF file format does not make that easy). However it is not part of their culture to repost the changed version to a repository. Does this matter? On the one hand not if OERs are being created and used – although obviously institutions, authors and funders would like to know what impact their work is having. One the other hand one of the ideas behind OERs was to create an ecology of learning materials with use, reuse and sharing playing a key role,. But I suspect benchmarks will not help us in this. The main issue is the culture of sharing. Even here I don’t think there are major obstacles. However we need workflows and spaces which make the sharing as easy and natural as sharing music.

And here is the rub. Whilst I guess most people share music it is often illegal. And one participant in the workshop raised the issue we never dare talk about. The problem, he said, is that teachers constantly download, change and reuse educational resources. they rarely check the license conditions. If it is on the web it is fair gain. And in telling people they should only use resources licensed for free use, we are in danger of being seen as the internet cops – telling people what they cannot do rather than helping them use resources for learning.

That is a big question. I like the approach of OPAL to open educational practices. But I am not so sure about benchmarking and maturity models (what senior manager is going to admit that their organisation lags behind?). Instead I think we need to continue very basic work on making it easier for teachers to produce OERs and share them. It will take time, but even over the last five years there has been massive progress.

And I wonder if we need to open a wider political debate on the efficacy or educational resources which are not open and who benefits form such practices.

4 Responses to “Open Educational Resources, Reuse and Sharing”

  1. dkernohan says:

    YES! Spot on, sir.

  2. Frances Bell says:

    I like this emphasis on use – and if educators and students are reusing stuff within communities they are more likely to attribute. So what we should be concentrating on is community values for OERS – let’s be good sharers and users;)



  1. […] Graham Attwell hat auf der EDEN2011-Konferenz in Dublin an einem Workshop über “Open Educational Resources” teilgenommen. In seiner Zusammenfassung geht er auf einige Tagesordnungspunkte ein. Mit aller notwendigen Skepsis. “But I am not so sure about benchmarking and maturity models (what senior manager is going to admit that their organisation lags behind?). Instead I think we need to continue very basic work on making it easier for teachers to produce OERs and share them. It will take time, but even over the last five years there has been massive progress.” Graham Attwell, Pontydysgu – Bridge to Learning, 26. Juni 2011 […]

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