Last week I flicked through the (most recent) 2012 Horizon Report (a report which 'predicts' the latest technologies and their 'time to mainstream adoption'), and recall Open Content featuring in the 2010 report (that's 2 years ago) as a movement to reach mainstream adoption within a year or less i.e. last year. With my sceptic hat on, I questioned the Twitterverse if OER had indeed become mainstream. A resulting discussion/debate is what led me to writing this.
There will always be societal influences in education - sharing locally amongst academic colleagues, has, is, and probably always will take place. Viv Rolfe (from DMU) and myself are both interested in the current awareness and attitudes towards OER; both my article (submitted to Research in Learning Technology) and Viv's 2012 article (in the same journal) demonstrate that teaching staff are sharing content on an informal scale with colleagues within department/faculty, but they are not applying (creative commons) licences or sharing via repositories.
Without doubt, this needs to change if the movement is to scale and have a significant impact, and for me, one of the major challenges to the Open Content Movement is in embedding 'open practice' as 'standard practice' amongst academic staff, if it is to continue beyond funding activity.
But what counts as 'significant impact'? Well, it's probably a subjective metric - one might see the movement's influence on an individual teacher/lecturer as being significant, whilst others may want more 'bang for their buck'. I'm of the latter, and whilst the big players such as MIT OCW and the OU OpenLearn demonstrate significant access/download/sign-up figures, the OpenLearn Research Report (McAndrew. et. al, 2006-2008) - all be it a few years old now - highlighted that we don't know how much 'reuse' is actually happening.
Instead, I see the success of such movements when they become mainstream.
Aha, another word of subjectivity - Mainstream!
"Mainstream is, generally, the common current thought of the majority" (Wikipedia article on 'mainstream')Whilst many HEIs in the UK have some OER activity, to me, OER becoming mainstream means that not only are a select group of people within institutions engaging (and probably as a result of funding), but the majority of staff engaging from the majority of institutions.
And by engaging, I don't mean letting my friend use my powerpoint slides, I mean formally licensing and sharing via a repository - Schaffert & Geser (2008) suggest if something is to be open, it must subscribe to 4 elements: Open Licensing, Openly Access, Open Software and Open Format. This is quite a strict viewpoint, whereas Hilton et. al. (2010) suggest;
"Openness is not like a light switch that is either ‘on’ or ‘off’. Rather, it is like a dimmer switch, with varying degrees of openness” (Hilton et. al, 2010)Either way, both Viv's and my own research highlights that the current informal sharing isn't really 'open' (in the strict sense of the word), or even if we consider varying degrees of openness, it demonstrates such a dim view the light switch may as well be off.
This takes me on to my second point - sustainability.
For as long as it requires extra workload and/or time, the chances of mass sharing of resources will be slim, especially in a era where wanting 'more for less' is prevalent. And sharing content is often more time consuming - not just the process of uploading a file to a repository, but inevitably (and rightly or wrongly) the stakes related to QA increase. Staff might be willing to use their own materials in class, but the thought of sharing those materials 'as is', can be daunting.
So whilst there are resources, workflows and development tools available, I just don't see mass engagement when funding ceases. Many authors suggest barriers that must be overcome, such as reward mechanisms and licensing - I agree that until HEIs strategically focus on OER for OER-sake, which will come at a cost, it can't reach mainstream, after all, would the breadth of institutions currently engaging with OER be the same if JISC/HEA funding wasn't so plentiful?
With these questions out in the air, I must once again repeat my 'allegiance' to the 'Movement' (no this isn't a Star Wars film), but in doing so, I must also critically reflect on my academic activities, and in an era of openness, share my questions. I am not so dogmatic to believe I am 100% correct on these points, and accept that my views could be a 'glass-half-empty' stance, but I only hope they spark a debate.
- Johnson, L., Levine, A., Smith, R., & Stone, S. (2010). The 2010 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.
- McAndrew, P. et al. (2006-2008) OpenLearn Research Report.Milton Keynes, England: The Open University.
- Rolfe, V. (2012). Open educational resources: staff attitudes and awareness. Research in Learning Technology, 20(1063519), 1-13. doi:10.3402/rlt.v20i0/14395
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.