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Three key issues relating to the development of Open Education Resources (OER)

The following is an activity carried out as part of the Open MOOC #H817open in which participants are asked to based on a selection of three readings to proposed three key issues regarding the developing use of Open Education Resources (OERs).


1) John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Open Course Ware (2009) Kanchanaraksa, Gooding, Klass and Yager.

2) Open education resources: education for the world? (2012) Richter and McPherson

3) Disruptive Pedagogies and Technologies in Universities (2012) Anderson and McGreal

The issues I perceive as key to Open Education Resources (OER) are

  1. having a clear project brief i.e. an identified problem with a goal in mind,
  2. financing
  3. and content that is personalised to the context of potential students anywhere on the globe – not just in the ‘West’.

Other equally important issues include scale, assessment and accreditation.

ISSUE ONE – Having a clear project brief.

The most important issue, that is rarely explicit, is to ask, or rather to know ‘what is the brief? And therefore to answer two simple questions:

  • What is the problem?

  • What is the opportunity?

My concern is where any technology or change is shoehorned in from the top as the ‘solution’. The briefing process requires a good understanding of where the problem lies and what it is. Using if techniques from best business that aim to resolve ‘messy’ problems (Rittel & Weber, 1973; Ackoff, 1979; Ritchey, 2011). The danger is that a platform, tool, package or approach is adopted as a panacea.

Coming through this process institutions need to ask: ‘Is Open Educational Resource (OER) the indicated way forward?’ If not consider the alternatives or incorporate OER as part of a blended approach.

In each of the papers a variety of problems were identified:

  • Only a small portion of the individuals seeking public health knowledge and training can attend appropriate schools each year. i.e disparities of opportunity

  • High cost of HE

  • Inaccessible to millions

and a variety of opportunities:

  • Overcoming challenges to those who want to study at graduate level due to distance, lack of funds, scheduling and a host of other personal and professional hindrances. (Kanchanaraksa et al 2009:40)

  • Creation of a worldwide knowledge society.

  • Disaggregation

  • Discount model


There are many costs involved from inception (planning, software, copyright clearance, learning design etc:), through delivery and analysis of and dealing with the outcomes. Initial funding is necessary, however the goal should be for OER to be self-financing. Anderson and McGreal (2012) suggest that OER can also be a way to reduce costs of the student-teacher interaction through increasing the quality and frequency of student-student interaction. The first universities were funded by students who hired appropriate professors. (McNeely & Wolverton, 2008). This suggests a shift back to the classical format where students rest control. The OER model, with micro-payments and ‘non frills’ beginnings might be the future to enable millions to have the graduate and postgraduate education they desire. This plays into the view that idea of ‘disruptive technologies’ that are delivered at low cost and functionality compared to traditional offerings that improve over time while maintaining low cost or other competitive advantage. (Christensen, 1997). Experience at Stanford University indicates that through Udacity by providing a letter to successful learners, student skills might be monetized (Lolowich, 2012; Whittaker, 2012)

ISSUE THREE – Is the content appropriate for the cultural context where it is taken up?

Clearly OER on networked devices is not a solution to extreme poverty, or where the infrastructure is deficient or political systems would prevent it. Richter & Thomas (2012:202) talk of the ‘Win-win’ in the West for OERs which may not be the result in a fundamentally different context. Historically textbooks and school materials that have little relevant to the user are parachuted in from ‘the West’ and so geographically, and sociopolitically suspect and diminished. I personally recall as geography undergraduate working in Kenya one summer , a country I had never visited before, and falling into a conversation with a secondary school student who was using the same textbook I had used for A’ Levels on the glaciation of the Lake District. It struck me that with the glories of the Rift Valley would have been far more pertinent.

I could continue in this vein for several more issues which may trump those above depending on the planned use for the OER, with assessment of major importance too, having the means to cope with hundreds of thousands of students, managing change, having institutional and external support and so on.


Ackoff, R.L. (1979) The Art of Problem-Solving, New York: Wiley

Anderson, T, & McGreal, R (2012), ‘Disruptive Pedagogies and Technologies in Universities’, Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, 15, 4, pp. 380-389, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 26 March 2013.

Christensen, C. (1997). The innovator’s dilemma – When new technologies cause great firms to fail. Cambridge: Harvard University Press

Kanchanaraksa, S, Gooding, I, Klaas, B, & Yager, J (2009), ‘Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health OpenCourseWare‘, Open Learning, 24, 1, pp. 39-46, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 March 2013.

Lolowich, S. (2012, January 24). Massive courses, sans Stanford. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/25/opinion/the-justice-of-occupation.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

McNeely, I. F., & Wolverton, L. (2008). Reinventing knowledge: from Alexandria to the Internet. New York: WW Norton & Company

Richter, T, & McPherson, M (2012), ‘Open educational resources: education for the world?’, Distance Education, 33, 2, pp. 201-219, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 27 March 2013.

Ritchey, T. (2011) Wicked Problems – Social Messes: Decision support Modelling with Morphological Analysis.Springer.

Rittel.W.J., Webber.M.M. (1973) Dilemmas in a general theory of planning Policy Sciences, June 1973, Volume 4, Issue 1

Whittaker, M. (2012, March 4). Instruction for masses knocks down campus walls. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/05/education/moocs-large-courses-open-to-all-topple-campus-walls.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all


1 Comment

  1. […] Three key issues relating to the development of Open Education Resources (OER) (mymindbursts.com) […]

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