OER 101: Theory and Practice

This presentation includes a significant amount of new thinking, so I share it here.

First, this presentation presents a strengthened and clarified definition of OER that includes (1) free, (2) 4Rs permissions, and (3) technology and media choices that do not interfere with users exercising 4R permissions. This is the “theory” in the title.

Second, the presentation recognizes that in “practice” people play extremely fast and loose with the term “open.” For many people, open means nothing more than Linkable and Free. That is, (1) if you can link to it, and (2) you don’t have to pay to access it, then many people will call it open.

Third, the presentation compares the LAF (Linkable and Free) way of thinking about OER with window shopping. This metaphor seems important to me as it highlights the fact that the LAF model implies a “look, but don’t touch” or “hands-off” way of thinking about educational resources.

Fourth, the presentation points out that there are a number of concrete, practical benefits that come from adopting the theoretical definition of open instead of playing fast and loose. For example, if you can’t make and distribute your own copies of educational materials, you’re always at the mercy of vendor or provider’s whims. If they decide to take materials down / forget to renew their domain name / let the credit card on record with their hosting provider expire / etc., you have no access to the resource you were counting on. So one set of concrete benefits has to do with local control and empowerment. As another example, if you can’t make revisions to educational materials when necessary , you’re limited in your ability to get better at what you do over time. So another example has to do with continuous quality improvement. Etc.

Fifth, the presentation recognizes that the theoretical definition of open is an ideal. As an ideal, it is something that many continuously strive for but few ever achieve. For a variety of (often good) reasons, each individual or project approximates the ideal to varying levels.

Sixth, and very importantly, we should respect and appreciate any and all attempts at being open, regardless of where a project or individual is on their journey toward the ideal. In other words, we should be open-minded about openness.

This represents my current best thinking about openness and open educational resources.