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.

3 thoughts on “OER 101: Theory and Practice”

  1. David, I appreciated slides 18-24. I don’t think anyone (well, not me at least) is arguing FOR licenses that would TAKE AWAY these rights. But instead that the focus over the past 10 years so exclusively on “licenses” and on “resources” has led us, undeniably from where I am standing, to a) re-entrench a content-centric model of learning and relation of learner to teacher to institution that many are trying hard to move *away* from, not toward, and b) does not bake the how into the what, meaning we keep having, year after year, conferences on the “sustainability” of OER because it’s just viewed as a license change that then has to be compensated for and not the actual structural change it needs to be.

    But in the end, you know where I stand on your last point, brother. And I TRULY appreciate the open-hearted way in which you continue to work on this and engage with all of us. Thank you.

  2. Dear David and Scott :
    I am a true believer of ONLINE and dedicated to online eeducation for the last 15 years.
    I am an engineer not an educator. When I saw what technology can do for education I became a dedicated onliner.
    I do not comprehend how OER can be sustainable without any fee. Plus my objection to OER is quality.
    We learners, how we can decide on the quality of OER offerred courses.
    There is a big move in OER .
    I say http://www.academicearth.org model is the best one .
    Let us enlarge that concept.
    Best regards. [email protected] from Turkey

  3. Been thinking about this more and want to take you on about the value of “linking.” (But to be clear, I’m not arguing we shouldn’t have licenses that allow for remixing of content.)

    You seem to characterize linking as “window shopping” – that the linkability of a resource means it is consumed holus bolus. But I think this belies a bias as to what constitutes an “oer” – that is of a certain size and value, a “big OER” in Martin Weller’s term.

    Because for me, linking is what made the web grow. And I don’t mean just “linking as pointing” but “linkability that also leads to *including*.” img src, object embed – these are a direct result of linkability.

    As an example, take my write up of Open Ed – http://www.edtechpost.ca/free-and-learning/. Almost all of the images in this piece and the videos live “openly” (as in “linkably”) on the web, so I included them. Many have a CC license, but not all. Do I wish they all did? Sure! Did that stop me from including them? No! Might I get sued? Meh. Risk aversion was NOT my primary motivation, making art was. By any means necessary.

    We do not need to be at odds, but the reason for this post and the above is that your presentation, that tried to helpfully clear away the chaff in the OER conversation and leave it solely a question of licensing, ultimately does a disservice by downplaying to the *way* we do things, which is ultimately just as important as the *what*. My $0.02.

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