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?