The development and implementation of Open Educational Resources (OER) has continued to grow nationally and internationally, stimulated in part by strategic national initiatives such as in the US (US Department of Labor, 2011) and UK (HEFCE, 2009). This has been matched by the debate over many aspects of OER including ethical issues, purpose and technology (e.g. Cormier, 2009; Browne, 2010). The Open Educational Resources (OER) debate was recently supplemented by the fi nal report of the Online Learning Task Force (OLTF) commissioned by HEFCE ‘Collaborate to compete: Seizing the opportunity of online learning for UK higher education’ (2011).
Gurrell and Wiley (2008) defi ne OER as “educational resources that are freely available for use, reuse, adaption, and sharing”. One of the HEFCE funded OER projects was undertaken by the University of Exeter where the following institutional motivations were
recorded (Browne et. al. 2010):
• Supportive rhetoric in all our core strategies – predicated on active learning.
• University reputation – marketing institutional ‘brand’ across the world.
• Student satisfaction – increasing the quality of learning materials.
Browne et. al. further state that “many institutions are re-examining how appropriate it is to hide their course material behind their institutional authentication, where much of it is regarded as the ‘crown jewels’, a highly prized and protected resource rather than viewing it as merely the precursor to learning”. OLTF comments include:
• “There is no point duplicating effort to create content that is already available and has been proven to work”
• “they can pull in the best content and openly available learning resources from around the world and adapt them for particular courses”
Significant examples include:
Open University OpenLearn units – http://openlearn.kingston.ac.uk
JORUM Open – http://open.jorum.ac.uk/xmlui
Humbox – http://www.humbox.ac.uk/
MIT Opencourseware – http://ocw.mit.edu/
Further resources and tools are discussed in OER in Practice (http://blogs.kingston.ac.uk/adc/2011/03/17/oer-in-practice/ )
The debate over OERs is relevant to issues that emerged from our institutional Learning technologies review concerning module ‘silos’ and associated openness. In this context we have been exploring the spectrum of openness ranging from resources restricted to a specific module group through to public access and engagement with OERs, but also the further complexities when considering learner contributed resources. This has involved examining technical issues such as data feeds, access permissions, institutional metadata schema, federated search (enabling searching and access to VLE resources from external systems) and content package standards.
One aspect of this has been to look at the IMS Common Cartridge standard which allows learning resources to be migrated between different VLES and learning environments. This has been one of the important considerations in the review and has been further developed in the following blog:
Tim Linsey, ADC