Friday, 29 March 2013

Issues surrounding OER


Open Education Resources and open education have become more popularised over the last decade and offer the potential to bring education and participation to a much wider audience. However, issues have and continue to surround OER.


The implementation of suitable pedagogies for online learning has always been problematic, not just for OER but also for online learning in general. In a study by Price and Kirkwood (2010, p.772) it is revealed that there is often too much focus on technological considerations leading to the ‘omission of pedagogical considerations.’ This has severe implications for the development of OER as without effective learning, this can lead to learners with a ‘passive, un-engaging experience leading to surface learning.’ (Stiles, 2000, p.1)

More recent developments now exist to aid in addressing problems with implementing suitable pedagogies within OER. For example, activity theory developed by Engestrom (1987, cited in Attwell and Pumilia, 2007, p.215) provides an Activity Triangle Model that could be useful for educators in understanding the concepts behind Open Content and OER as well as content creation.


The design, development, implementation and maintenance of OER can be a costly and time consuming process. According to Downes (2001) this can involve having to utilise a variety of resources including, for example, subject matter experts, technical specialists and graphic/interface designers. Other costs may be incurred through having to resolve copyright and intellectual property difficulties. This seems to cause tension within institutions as they ‘cannot afford to invest significant amounts of time and money in giving away their resources for free.’ (Albright, 2005, p.6)

To address these issues it would perhaps be worth looking to development models used by the open source movement. This sees ‘communities’ of developers sharing workload, and in turn improving the scalability and transferability of the development process. As well as faculty members being involved in the development process, academics across different institutions could also be involved, for example. Often with this type of open development model, projects meet their goals without individuals receiving payment; ‘in place of money, people will find other incentives to merit involvement in projects.’ (Wiley, 2007, p.6)


Quality lies at the heart of the educational process, regardless of context. Most educational establishments define their own policies when setting out quality standards. This however is also driven by governing bodies like the Quality Assurance Agency for higher education and Education Scotland.

Issues start to arise when trying to define quality within OER, given its ever changing open nature and the context within which OER are being utilised. Some also argue that by applying formal quality processes, this would constrain the development and use of OER. 

To address these issues, initiatives have emerged that employ peer review and reputation management strategies that provide users with a guide to the quality of materials. Other ideas have included providing a ‘star rating’ system - not unlike that of Amazon. A report from 2011 from the European Foundation for Quality in eLearning (EFQUEL, 2011) in Mainstreaming Open Educational Practice recognises that there are problems associated with quality in OER. This report defines an Open Education Policy, which ‘allows for quality improvement in education through external validation, as all resources and also practices are shared and possibility for feedback is opened.’


OER has become very popular over the past decade; however issues continue to surround OER. This document has identified specific areas in OER such as pedagogy, sustainability and quality and has suggested what can be done to help address issues in these areas.


Albright, P. (2005) UNESCO (IIEP): Final forum report. 2008-09-01. [Online] Available at: (Accessed 25 Mar 2013).

Attwell, G. Pumilia, P. M. (2007) The New Pedagogy of Open Content: Bringing Together Production, Knowledge, Development, and Learning. [Online] Available at: (Accessed 25 Mar 2013).

Camilleri, A. F. Ehlers, U.D. (2011) The European Foundation for Quality in eLearning: Mainstreaming Open Educational Practice: Recommendations for Policy. [Online] Available at: (Accessed 27 Mar 2013).

Downes, S. (2001) Learning Objects: Resources for distance education worldwide. [Online] Available at: (Accessed 26 Mar 2013).

Price, L. Kirkwood, A. (2010). Technology enhanced learning – where’s the evidence? In: Curriculum, technology & transformation for an unknown future. Proceedings ascilite Sydney 2010, 5-8 December 2010, Sydney, Australia. [Online] Available at: (Accessed 24 Mar 2013).

Stiles, M. J. (2000) Effective Learning and the Virtual Learning Environment. [Online] Available at: (Accessed 24 Mar 2013).

Wiley, D. (2007) On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resource Initiatives in Higher Education. [Online] Available at: (Accessed 26 Mar 2013).

1 comment:

  1. A scholarly consideration of three important issues around OER. I agree that pedagogy is an issue and that it links to your third, quality. It would be unfortunate if "open learning" became synonymous with "no learning" as a result of the passive and unvalidated experience it provides.