The first of the oped12 readings that I was able to access on my tablet was – Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources (chapter 2) so these notes are on that. This reading helped to explain why I had felt unable to get a clear sense of what was meant by OERs. The concept seems to be vague and broad, including not just the ‘learning objects’ I had most closely associated with the term but also the museum and library based digital resources like the ones colleagues have been working on and even software like Moodle and things like licenses. To say, as the authors do that ‘The definition of “open educational resources” needs further refinement’ seems something of an understatement!
Although much of the technical detail about systems is beyond me (and/or of little interest to me) it is clear that even an ‘OER’ like Moodle can be used to create learning resources that are not open because they are within the ‘walled garden’ of a VLE that is restricted to people formally subscribed to a particular course. I was a little surprised, however, that by some definitions (Downes 2006) the MOOC we are engaged in could not be called ‘open’ because it required registration and login. I accept that these are barriers of a sort, but I think they are the least of the challenges that might limit participation which may be more around accessibility, digital literacy/skills and time resources. The reading goes on to discuss this ‘social before concluding that ‘the Mako Hill and Möller definition of freedom goes beyond all the levels of openness described by Tuomi (2006) and would view most existing OER as not free. The OECD Secretariat therefore adheres to Tuomi’s definition of openness’ (page 35-36).
One aspect of the definition of OER that particularly interested me but which received little discussion by the OECD (for perfectly understandable and practical reasons) was the question of whether we should speak of educational or learning resources. These are related but distinct concepts which are very close to my practice as an education developer in a teaching (there’s another one) and learning development unit. Education seems to line up on the teaching side of the apparent divide and seems to me to carry connotations of something ‘done to’ learners by institutions and professionals, whereas learning is something that every human being (and probably other living creatures) does all the time. Some of the learning we do is unintentional, even unhelpful (what I ‘learn’ from watching reality TV for example) but however purposeful or not, it is learning and is to a considerable degree within my control. So I would argue that what we are calling open educational resources should really be called learning resources, if they are truly open. If, however, these resources are still going to be mediated by educational institutions and teachers then are they really open?
The last thing I want to say today (it’s getting late here and I am supposed to be on holiday) is in relation to the view that for OERs ‘the value of the resource should be enlarged when used’ (page 38). This assumes not just consumption or use of resources but the creation, augmentation, embellishment or development of the resource. Digital media facilitates this in a way that print media is unable to (marginalia in a library book is an example of print media being augmented for future readers but the accessibility is not good!) and I look forward to seeing how we can all enlarge the value of the OERs encountered in this MOOC.