Exploring OER Issues: The three (3) Concerns!

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Open Education Resources popularly referred to as OERs can be considered to be a branch of Open Education. The other branch takes a form of Open Education Practices(OEP). In this write-up, three (3) elements (sustainability, Pedagogy, and Barrier to Uptake) that affect OERs/OEP are reviewed from existing discourses and discussed.

Sustainability

One of the main tasks for any innovation project is the question of sustainability-How do we go from the point of exciting development to meeting the daily needs of the users? Sustainability, in this case, looks at the robustness, including the cost of availing and accessing Open Education Resources (OER). This element has been addressed in different ways such as the formation of communities and collaborations as (Lamb 2009) mentions in a WCET 2009 conference. Brian Lamb complemented repositories with communities of practice and collaboration in a way that I suppose [unknowingly] was promoting OERs. In addition, in the report, Journeys to Open Educational Practice: UKOER/SCORE Review, the author notes that ‘To achieve sustainability educational institutions tend to journey to familiar destinations, building on what they are already doing’ (JISC, 2013). It is important to work with what is familiar and gradually build on that as the practice in theory of change to social transformation.

Sustainability can as well be considered in terms of the applied model during the development and dissemination of OER teaching and learning content. Wiley (2007) looked at three (3) popular models in a paper commissioned by the OECD’s Center for Education Research and Innovation (CERI). These majorly focused on institutional development and nothing much was discussed on individual initiatives to OERs development.

Pedagogy

So much-contested is the subject of pedagogy in OER development. As highlighted by David Wiley, the sharing of OERs requires some degree of freedom from context. However, David notes that ‘the more context a learning object has, the more (and the more easily) a learner can learn from it’ (Wiley, 2013). Pedagogy is a construct of many ‘atoms’ that appeals to not only the way the educational content is designed and delivered but also critically considers describing the learner and their environment. In the (ISC, 2013) report the authors make mention of the survey where staff participating in projects indicated pedagogy to be among the most significant areas to consider to transform engagement with OERs. With no doubt, there are a couple of issues to negotiate to achieve on a universal pedagogy for any given course development.

Barriers to Uptake

This can be considered to affect both learners and educators. When repositories are licensed to the authoring institutions, a barrier to access is already in place for other institutions. When there are no communication, teaching and learning bridges, there is a barrier. Such bridges can be communities of practice, social learning, and collaboration. When the learning object is clearly defined by context a barrier is defined. I once asked a learner to take a free course that I thought should serve them right in their career. I had curated the course from a popular repository. My student’s feedback for not completing the course was the course had content with scenarios far from what they can relate. David Wiley asserts that ‘to make learning objects maximally reusable, learning objects should contain as little context as possible'(Willey, 2013). Lack of awareness of existing OERs, digital literacy legal concerns, and quality issues are noted in the (JISC, 2013) report as a barrier to OER uptake.

In conclusion, the OER movement is challenged not only by the three elements discussed here but majorly I consider the three critical to the lifetime of the OERs industry where both learners(all) and educators are equally benefiting from a pool of resources. The ultimate objective for Open Education/OERs/OEP is to support educators and learners (all learners) to access teaching and learning resources with minimal or no barriers.

References:

Lambs B. (2009) ‘WCET Conference’ [Online]. Available at https://barrydahl.com/2009/10/26/who-the-hell-is-brian-lamb/ (Accessed 29 March 2020).

JSIC, (2013) ‘Journeys to Open Educational Practice:  UKOER/SCORE Review Final Report’ [Online]. Available at  https://oersynth.pbworks.com/w/page/60338879/HEFCE-OER-Review-Final-Report (Accessed 29 March 2020).

Wiley, D. (2013) ‘The Reusability Paradox’ [Online]. Available at https://cnx.org/contents/2tQZVsKy@19/The-Reusability-Paradox (Accessed 30 March 2020).

Wiley, D. (2007) ‘On the Sustainability of Open Educational ResourceInitiatives in Higher Education’ [Online]. http://www.oecd.org/education/ceri/38645447.pdf (Accessed 05 April 2020).

Image (Infographics) by Moses Mwebaze

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