Openness: From Sharing to Adopting

We’ve been sharing open educational resources for over 12 years now. There are literally 10s of 1000s of them out there, many of them structured as OCW (collections of course materials), some of them structured as complete open courses, some of them structured as complete open textbooks, and many of them not really structured at all. The “sharing ball” is rolling. There are more materials that need to be shared, but the eventual sharing of these materials has now become inevitable.

What is anything but inevitable is the adoption of any of these OERs. As a thought experiment, pick your favorite institution you believe is committed to open education. Have they ever adopted an OER produced at another institution for in-class use? If they have an OCW collection, can you find a single third-party OER in the collection? If even the institutions that claim to be committed to OER aren’t reusing OER, who will?

While the mainstream of education will finally begin sharing OER this decade, those leaders who think of themselves as being on the cutting edge of the open education movement need to start walking the walk / becoming living examples / modeling the desired behavior of adopting others’ OERs.

If open education practitioners (both individuals and institutions) cannot move from large-scale sharing to large-scale adopting, the field is dead. I’m reminded of a scripture:

For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.

A sustained program of giving becomes pretty pointless when it’s clear that no one is willing to receive, regardless of how impressive the scale of would-be giving is. And if the givers don’t play the role of receivers every now and then, the field risks a damning perception of arrogance whereby reusing OER becomes something that only second-class programs do. Who will adopt / reuse then?

We need brave adoption leadership now just as badly as we needed brave sharing leadership ten years ago. Who will provide it?

9 thoughts on “Openness: From Sharing to Adopting”

  1. Hi David,
    Yes, we need brave adoption leadership. All well said. I think I have been doing these in small scale, using OER for my students and gradually sharing the ideas of OER through learning.
    It’s a challenging journey, that requires more than individual’s efforts. OER is still limited in the corporate sector, where corporate training requires some OER, but fees for service. That’s reality.

  2. The Open Course Library project in the state of Washington is one such large scale adoption movement. The goal is for 81 high enrollment “gate keeper” courses to make use of open textbooks and other open materials to keep costs down for students and, along with some other initiatives, ultimately improve student retention. These courses (materials and all) will then be made available for adoption (in total or part) to the entire Washington State community college system. The faculty involved in this project are excited and sharing what they are learning with their colleagues.

    While I was always aware there was material on the internet I might make use of, it wasn’t until I started educating myself about OER that I realized the vast wealth available to use and reuse. Educating faculty is part of the awareness to adopt process. However, I also think there is more quiet “adoption” going on than you may realize. When a faculty member Google’s “teaching XYZ” and finds a handout here or podcast there and chooses to incorporate that into his or her class, OER adoption has occurred – even if it is not recorded formally anywhere.

    Perhaps the real question here is figuring out how to track the use of open materials?


  3. Hi David

    I think the point you have raised is a very valid one…it was a challenge that was thrown my way only recently.

    I use resources in a piece-meal sort of way eg YouTube videos, articles etc. The problem with adapting other people’s work on a larger scale, is making the content to suit your own context. At times it is easier to completely re-develop than ‘fiddle around’ adapting things.

    To be honest, I do think there is a mind-set (and have no evidence to back this up) that “my content is best so it’s much better that people take my content to use…” Do you think that is a prevalent attitude or am I barking up the wrong tree?

  4. I know it doesn’t qualify as institutional adoption but check out our prototype chapter for what the next version of the FHSST books could look like:

  5. Change your opening sentence to “We’ve been marketing our institutions by publishing open educational resources for over 12 years now” and you probably have a success story in the making?

  6. Hi David,

    Agreed — in many respects it is easier to give than to receive. I think the challenge (and opportunity) we now face in the OER world is moving from “sharing to LEARN” to “learning to SHARE”. This encompasses both personal learning and organisational learning.

    Let’s make the shift from individuals to organisational adoption 😉

  7. Wrote something similar a bit ago:

    I’m building a class for SP10 right now, and trying to use open resources. It’s really hard, harder than not using them in many ways. They actually address almost nothing of what I actually would spend time on — activities, project design, assessment, sample datasets for students to play with, case studies/simulations.

    So I get a structure — which is a restriction — but without any of the pieces where the learning actually happens designed.

    The reason institutionally produced OER has been a failure in terms of institutional use is because none of these institutions has ever USED OER on a large scale. It’s as if we’ve been building cars now for a decade without ever having driven a car. Is it any wonder then, that institutional use is so low?

  8. I think there is little wholesale adoption because the type of people creating digital resources and happily sharing them are not necessarily the type of people who will adopt someone else’s work. Instead, I think they’ll look through the free resources and get ideas to create their own work. Then share it. 🙂

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