Three Key Issues in Open Educational Resources (OER)

Studies that have evaluated the impact of open educational resources (OER) have found that these type of resources, according to formal students and educators, supports students throughout their course, improve their satisfaction and scores. In other words, OER enhance the student learning experience. Nonetheless, students do not seem to put enough emphasis on OER despite the fact that they use them for formal and informal learning.

From the point of view of educators, OER seem to help them reflect on their own practice by offering them an opportunity to find new ideas and inspiration. Despite the fact that finding OER is one of the biggest challenges and the fact that general awareness of where to find well-established OER is low, the more educators that make use of OER the more they are willing to continue using and sharing them. The ‘viral’ effect’ of openness is meant to have had some influence on this. It seems when educators are exposed to OER it makes them want to continue relying on them and spreading into a larger open practice environment.

There are as many definitions of OER as researchers who have attempted to define the term. David Wiley provides us with an alternative definition of OER as learning objects: ‘’any digital resource that can be reused for learning’’. This definition narrows the understanding of learning objects to three unique fields: the digital, learning and reusable one. By this it is meant that an OER can only exist in the digital world and for a learning purpose, also that its purpose is to be reused not just to be used one time.

This takes us back to David Wiley and its theory of ‘dark reuse’ and to other studies that conclude that OER are being used in a different way to other resources. The benefits found in OER come from the fact that they are either free or accessible at a low cost and that thanks to the Creative Commons they can be adapted, re-use and re-purposed, by educators and learners to suit any needs and context.

According to the UKOER/SCORE Review, OER and open educational practice (OEP) have transformed the practice of academics, members of staff within educational institutions, which has, at the same time, raised awareness of their impact among the wider community and stakeholders. These open practices are changing the relationship between academic and learners and academics and organisations at a national and global level. The practice of academics have been transformed by having to work with people who they may not even know anywhere in the world; by having to attain a global reach and by having to work across sectors not just their own

One of the main barriers to sustain and widen the use of OER face by individuals, institutions and the UK HE community is, in essence, the lack of awareness of the potential benefits of OER. Moreover, the UKOER/SCORE Review continue saying that some see OEP as a threat that undervalues the traditional balance between teaching and learning, and believe it invites an institutional model in which staff in less needed. This could mean that some prefer more familiar paths or, maybe, gradual ones, which do not challenging the established doctrine of practices and processes. Other tensions have been identified to be related to the sustainability of OEP in the long term and to lack of institutional strategy and workload planning.  Legal issues, digital literacy, usability and technical problems within institutions have also been identified as barriers to the impact of OER and OEP but the most highlighted were: the time to adapt and re-purpose, legal aspects of licenses and staff incapability to adapt OEP to their current practice style.  

Photograph by Alex Holyoake on Unsplash

  1. McGill, L., Falconer, I., Dempster, J.A., Littlejohn, A. and Beetham, H (2013) Journeys to Open Educational Practice:  UKOER/SCORE Review Final Report. JISC [Online] Available at:   https://oersynth.pbworks.com/w/page/60338879/HEFCE-OER-Review-Final-Report (Accessed 16 <arch 2020).
  2. OER Evidence Report 2013-2014. Building Understanding of Open Education (2014) OER Research Hub [Online] Available at: https://oerresearchhub.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/oerrh-evidence-report-2014.pdf (Accessed 16 March 2020)
  3. Parrish, P. E. (2004) ‘The Trouble with Learning Objects*’, ETR&D, vol. 52, no. 1, pp. 49–67 [Online]. Available at https://link-springer-com.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/ content/ pdf/ 10.1007%2FBF02504772.pdf (Accessed 21 October 2019).

Published by M.M.Pérez

Learning tech advocate and researcher, teacher and member of the Open University's MAODE team

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