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More on Open Educational Resources

October 6th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

There is an interesting new discussion recently started on the Open Education Resources discussion list, now being run out of the University of Athabasca. To join the discussion go to

Two  contributions have particularly caught my attention.

The first was from Paul Lefrere talking about the sustainability of Open Educational Resources,. Paul says:

Think of sustainability not in terms of money, but rather in terms of impact that is wholly positive (eg, new forms of wealth creation, compatible with the public-interest). Take action in an integrated way: link OER and OCW to forms of Open Innovation and Open Knowledge Sharing that benefit society as a whole (eg, socially-focused exploitation of publicly-funded intellectual property, to create new sources of wealth for the world) and that can lead to socially-desirable outcomes (eg, creating new types of job, and making students more employable by helping them to apply what they learn via OER and OCW, to bridge the “knowledge-action gap”).

And Paul later agreed with the suggestion from Rory McGreal to change that first line to “not just in terms of money.”

The second was a post from Stephen Carson who identifies multiple visions of OERs:

OER as substitute:  This is the idea that OER can be used to substitute for copywritten materials, generally text books and journal articles.  Here the interest seems to be primarily about cost savings, and the concern about whether the quality of the materials is equivalent to the for-fee versions.

OER as reusable resource:  This is the learning object vision married with open licenses, the idea that we can come up with definitive version of granular learning materials appropriate to wide audiences that can be flexibly localized and recombined.  Interest in this area seems to be focused on gains in efficiency in the creation of course materials, scalability in automated learning and to some extent cost savings.

OER as transparency:  This is the vision that I believe gets the least attention, but the one that is most important to models like OCW and to institutions.  Most of the benefit for schools publishing OCW and other curricular materials is both the quality improvements prompted but the increased scrutiny the materials are subjected to, and in the transparency across curriculum that OER project provide.  In publishing curriculum openly, communities of educators at institutions know more about what they collectively teach and how the subjects are related.  Student sin these communities have more information about what they will learn and how.

I wonder also if we could add to this something like OER as digital creativity. Of course OERs do not have to be digital – but most are. And the idea of OER fits very well with the creative use of technology for developing and sharing digital content in dispersed communities.

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