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OER: is open-practice more trouble than it's worth?

posted Feb 18, 2013, 2:44 AM by Dave White
It should be simple – search a few OER sites/repositories and find a relevant OER for your learning design... It’s not as easy as it first appears though, many of the participants posting to the week 6 ‘Seek and Deploy’ activity have been discovering that often resources are free to use but that they don’t have a proper open licence. This might be ok on a pragmatic level (if perhaps not a legal one?) but it restricts the options to edit or remix the materials as Itana Gimenes notes:

“Agile development is popular but to find OERs was very difficult. We can find many web pages and parts of books but not with proper license.”
The day-to-day reality here is that most people will cite and adapt resources that have been posted online even if they don’t technically have the right to do this. It’s also likely that the author has uploaded their material with the expectation that it will be used and modified as this is the generally accepted ‘culture’ of the web i.e. if you put it online you accept a certain loss of control over the use of your work(?). It’s interesting to reflect on how the inherent principle of the web is based on sharing and how this is in tension with legal issues that are still largely modelled on physical world paradigms.

Beyond licencing issues there is the challenge of pedagogy and more specifically the quality or perhaps the validity of the resources we discover. Tiffany Crosby expresses this well:

“I've learned through other experiences that you do not want to incorporate something that you haven't fully vetted, even if it's including in a source that you respect. You just don't know whether there is alignment between your objectives (or values) and the source's objectives and values.” 

Ultimately this is the OER conundrum – is it quicker and easier to make a resource from scratch rather than to risk the time involved in searching, vetting and possibly modifying somebody else’s work? For many this comes down to their personal skills-set. For example, Tiffany was looking for videos which are generally time-consuming to create and require a range of media skills to produce. Is it the case that as soon as we start to search for resources which are ‘beyond’ text such as images and video that OER becomes much more relevant or are the time and credibility risks still too high?

These are some of the issues that we will be discussing at the week 6 convergence event in Google Hangouts Get involved in the discussion via #oldsmooc_conv or