Pros and Cons of Big and Small OER

In terms of granularity as Wellers states in his study ‘The openness–creativity cycle in education’ (2012), The benefits of Small OER like blog posts, articles and presentations is that they are produced by a single individual and tend to be what it’s called ‘Friction less’ in design. This doesn’t make reference to a minimalist design but to a design which any user will find easy to explore and discover.

Small OER are generally either free or low cost but on the other hand they tend to be low quality too. We can’t underestimate what a monthly subscription can achieve compared to the free version of any software. They demand creativity from the author and support participation, however it takes much effort on the author’s part to produce them and this effort may not never be paid off since there is no guaranty of having an audience or for what the item may be used in the future.

Accessible OER can support sharing and staff development. They can also encourage participation and they are easily transferable to a different context. On the contrary, they may not have an evident aim or a framework for dissemination.

On the other hand we have Big OER, which are generated usually by universities or other organisations. Wiley presents us with the models of three universities in his work ‘On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Initiatives in Higher Education‘ (2007). These models are; The MIT, The USU and The Rice Model.

The MIT model: to publish every course on the 1 800 University catalogue within a period of time. To archive old course and make new ones immediately available.

The USU: to publish as many courses as possible in the  USU university catalogue.

The Rice Model: this mode’s goal is to enable the collaboration of authors from all over the world to the production of modules and courses. This way, these authors contribute material to the site.

These organisation can afford high quality delivery of objectives and OER since they are well established and sustainable projects whether they require relatively large or modest budgets to continue meeting their goals. Big OER initiatives have very clear objectives , very well structured and uniformed but they also face inconveniences. Even if some of the initiatives we have mentioned can be sustain with smaller budgets and their model easily reproduce by other institutions as a result, they still rely on a budget and on employing the members of staff that will run and manage the projects. The OER these big initiative produce are not usually made available for repurposing and its systematic nature tend more often than not to discourage innovation and social connectivity in many cases.

Even if there are no policies that demand these big open initiatives from educational organisations, education providers see them as a way of marketise their institutions and compete. As Wiley states in his study, hopefully the public will take for granted these services and universities will continue finding the ways to source them. For this to happen universities have to successfully sustain these open initiatives against all odds.

Weller, M. (2012) ‘The openness–creativity cycle in education’, Special issue on Open Educational Resources, JIME, Spring 2012 [Online]. Available at article/ view/ 2012-02 (Accessed 21 October 2019).

Wiley, D. (2007) On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Initiatives in Higher Education [Online], Paris, OECD. Available at edu/ ceri/ 38645447.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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