OER: direction of travel

Block 2, Activity 7 Exploring OER issuesOER Evidence Report 2013-2014

The OER Reserach Hub published a comprehensive report reviewing the impact of open educational resources in terms of eleven hypotheses being researched by the project.

Here I’ve noted three of the key issues that advocates of OERs have to grapple with if OERs are to be further embraced by students, educators and institutions.

One: the report suggests that ‘knowing where to find resources is one of the biggest challenges to using OER’. I think this is key to whether OERs will continue to have an impact amongst the abundance of content available online. Most people might look at YouTube, TED talks or may be the Khan Academy but beyond that where do you go? Moreover, as someone new to a subject how do you know the resources are applicable to your context . Is using a sociology resource authored in South Africa going to be relevant or helpful to a student in India?

Two: Hypothesis C focused on access: ‘Open Education models lead to more equitable access to education, serving a broader base of learners than traditional education’. The results were mixed, with some students using OERs to replace formal study and others using OERs to supplement and support their study. With some institutions, like The Open University, trying to use technology to increase participation in education from under represented groups further investigation is needed to establish and promote equitable access to OERs.

Three: Hypothesis D focused on student retention: ‘Use of OER is an effective method for improving retention of at-risk students’. Here the capable student was found to use OERs to help them in their formal studies and this may aid retention. However, the student with complex needs may not perceive a benefit to using OERs and their needs may not be met by a free educational resource.

So, OERs may not be accessed by some groups of students and some students needs might not met by using OERs. It is legitimate not to expect OERs to fulfil multiple purposes to multiple audiences but there is an issue of who benefits from educational initiatives.

When a development is low or no cost to the end user then surely it should be available and of benefit to at least, but not exclusively, those people who cannot afford the paid for resource.  This is a conundrum that perhaps means we need think more about what, and who, is an OER. I expect others have thought about this but I’m only a few weeks into my course…..!

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