Debating OER

I’m taking place in a public debate this July about the value and future of Open Educational Resources (OER).  I’ll be taking the ‘anti’ side against Martin Weller, even though we’re both effectively advocates of OER in our day jobs.

So I was quite interested to find that Martin has taken part in similar debates before when doing a bit of searching around today.  Helpfully, there’s a summary of his arguments available.

Even more helpfully, Patrick McAndrew has offered a series of counterarguments on his blog.  Here’s my summary of the two positions.

FOR AGAINST
Sustainability: By making more efficient use of resources, OER increases the use and re-use of educational materials and makes them more affordable. Unsustainability: The production and sharing of OER can be complex and time-demanding, and a convincing account of how the costs will be met is yet to be forthcoming.
Re-use: OER are able to be re-used by future learners and teachers, meaning that there is no need to duplicate resources or preparation time. We need new models for producing, distributing and re-using OER Re-use: There are considerable pedagogical, technical, cultural and linguistic barriers to the re-use of OER.
Innovation: Open approaches encourage involvement from all involved in the process, allowing content to be shared in ways that are appropriate for different audiences. Institutions need to think about how to integrate OER into their core teaching and learning. Innovation: “While education ponders different ways of doing this, comes up with repositories that take years to get built and develops complex usage and metadata processes, other people just get on with it.”
Evaluation: More needs to be done to substantiate the impact of OER on learning and teaching. Evaluation: Apart from anecdotal evidence, there isn’t much evidence to suggest that OER is pedagogically effective at all.
Cultural Change: OER carries a message of openness, diversity and mutual interest. Cultural Change: Dave Cormier – “If the MIT edtech curriculum started being the default curriculum taught in even 10% of chinese universities this gives whatever professor is teaching that course ENORMOUS control over the direction of the industry”
Quality: “OER gives a route to quality and depth by extending the base of content beyond those in the same institution – providing a superset of content beyond that previously available.” Quality: OER resources may not be of adequate quality, range, or pedagogical effectiveness, and the traditional processes of peer review cannot applied to OER creation/synthesis.
Teaching & Learning: Creating, using and even re-using OER can be an effective and rewarding way to learn. Teaching & Learning: Preparatory research and lesson planning are important parts of effective teaching. If OER materials are increasingly used ‘off the peg’ then there are negative implications for the quality and innovation in teaching.

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