Tagged: W2A5

Week 2 – Activity 5: Are OER both open and innovative?

Timing: 6 hours

  • Read McAndrew and Farrow (2013), Open education research: from the practical to the theoretical.
  • Keeping in mind what you have just read, consider the following questions:
    1. How would you judge OpenLearn in terms of your definition of innovation?
    2. What key challenges facing the OER movement can be dealt with more quickly than others?
    3. How do open educational resources challenge conventional assumptions about paying for higher education modules?
  • Post your thoughts to the appropriate thread in your tutor group forum and then discuss with other members of your group.
  • Now select one from the following list of projects, visit its website and again reflect on how you would judge the project in terms of innovation.
  • Use your learning journal/blog to record your thoughts and post a synopsis to the appropriate thread in your tutor group forum.


  1. OpenLearn, being one of the first major OER ‘hubs’ is considered innovative for the following reasons:
    • Their building on and adoption of Creative Commons, which has now become the standard legal framework for OER. This led to the “establishment [of] the identity and expectation of access to openly licensed material.” (pg.66)
    • By creating (customising) their own tools to assist in providing OER in an “embedded” and “supporting” site. As appose to directing students to resources elsewhere. This is innovative, not so much by doing something new, but by providing their own supporting tools to go along with the materials they released. They created a whole mini uni structure. (pg. 67)
    • The OU realised that a different model for OER was needed from traditional university infrastructure and delivery. – “It was recognised, however, that these  [OER] could not necessarily be made available in the form that was already provided to registered Open University students, but rather be made to act as “Learning Objects”.” (pg. 67)
    • OpenLearn sought “further funding to projects that need to disseminate and share their materials, attracting new learners and bringing in new content for existing courses.” As such, they were innovative in recognising that OER and traditional course and structure could work together, to support each other. They were also looking outward to other projects rather than just their own. By the very nature of OER, this sharing and coming together is key. (pg. 67)
    • The development of their economic model and testing could help define how future OER are handled by institutions financially. “However, it also has a basis in a straightforward financial position, that the additional costs, once processors can be embedded in existing practice, can be justified by the financial return through increased economic activity.” (pg. 67)
    • “While it needs to be considered alongside other economic and structural factors, openness has offered a way to respond constructively in a period of change and so has a reasonable claim to have been transformative.” – The OU and OpenLearn used OER in a positive manner, to enhance their reaching ability and transformation during a difficult, changing, educational climate. (pg.68)
  2. The areas where I feel we can provide solutions, not necessarily to the whole concern, but certainly in taking steps, is in copyright, technology, and access. These are expanded to:
    • What Technologies and Infrastructure are needed/in place to help the OER movement?
      • Dealing not only with broader infrastructure, such as broadband access, technologies and infrastructure also refer to structures within organisations. The OU’s use of Moodle as a backbone for their LMS was significant as Moodle itself is an open tool. Given than OER is desired to be free and open, the development of further user-end developments is needed. It was noted in the reading that these tools need to “support distribution and use of digital resources through workflow and course management, provide tools for dealing with copyright and re-use of materials, and inspire to ensure pedagogical quality.”
      • As is so often the case with technology, compatibility is very important (can my materials easily be transferred to your system). The biggest challenge however, is in maintaining a level of quality and usability in the resources. For example, can a resource really be considered open if it is directing you to copyright material that requires subscription or payment? (see pg. 72 Atkins et al. extract).
      • With every new system, these issues become more complex, but also show more signs of being solved. As such, the more infrastructure and resources that are developed, the easier it is to begin tying quality OER together in a more meaningful way, as appose to ‘picking up scrapes’ as is often the case.
    • What are the issues surrounding Copyright and Licensing, and how can they be overcome?
      • The creation of Creative Commons has provided a means for OER publishers to license their content in an open manner. It is debatable whether or not a license is really needed at all, as “Wiley suggests that, irrespective of copyright circumstance, something being the public domain is itself enough for a rescue o be considered “open”.” However, the signalling of ‘this is an open resources’ assists in encouraging the type of use the material was aimed for, including variations such as ‘can be remixed’ or ‘cannot be shared for profit.’
    • How can we improve Access to OER?
      • There are frequently small to medium sized projects that are attempting to fix this more ‘easy to reach’ concern. Such as the recently announced Amazon Inspire project, aiming to create a marketplace for OER. Governmental support, new projects aimed at community upliftment (such as Siyavula in South Africa), and university initiatives (see OpenLearn, numerous MOOCs), broaden the access to OER in a large way. On the hardware front; smartphone technology, improved broadband access, cheaper computers, all assist in providing ways for the public to access OER materials.
  3. Due to OER being both a tool for normal and informal learning, their use use varies depending on circumstance. Is it formal, or informal, intentional, or non-intentional, institutional, or social? This criss-cross of uses blurs the boundaries of what we consider quality resources, as those same resources are being used in numerous manners and circumstances. As noted:

Open resources are an enabler for all these forms of learning because they provide resources that can transfer into formal contexts. It si their direct availability to learners that is their more distinct contribution. In the examples of OER in action, we can see both intention learning taking place…and less directed, probably unintentional, learning taking place from the large numbers who land from Internet searches on individual OER pages or follow the distraction paths that lead from one online resource to another. (pg. 75)

As education is fundamentally about the transfer of knowledge. Simply put, an increase in communication, driven by tech and OER, could assist with widening the scope of said communication. Hence, “the need to make connection in learning has influenced educational thinkers in recent times to go beyond individual teaching to the impact of culture and collective behaviour.” (pg. 76).

Furthermore, the opening up of education due to technology and OER will remove many of the institutional constrains to learning. Leaving both liberation and abandonment.

The multiple paths they can follow mean that the expectations of the originator of the education material and the users can no longer be seen as matched, and this has to be accepted as an increasingly common experience in the process of learning. (pg.74)


Select one from the following list of projects, visit its website and again reflect on how you would judge the project in terms of innovation.


Project: iSpot


This projects builds on one of the cornerstones of Web 2.o, that being the collaborative nature of the project – the project gets stronger the more hubs that connect with it. The use of such an approach, to broaden not only peoples knowledge, but also their participation in a field that was previously rather exclusive (in universities, biodiversity interest groups, and so on) has expanded the potential for learning in the field drastically.

The project also ties in to what McAndrew and Farrow (2013) discussed:

The principle of Vykotslky’s “Zone of Proximal Development” is that by woking alongside those of similar or slightly advanced skills, individuals are able to improve their own performance. This is called up in the open: limitations on finding peer learners are now unrestricted by location and geography. (pg.75)

This approach has also been referred to as Communities of Practice, or Communities of Interest (I think Wenger). This has allowed those at a younger age or lower knowledge in the discipline to participate alongside experts, and get a real insight into who the world of biodiversity works.