Week 1: Blog Post 2 – On Open Educational Resources: What they are and why do they matter

Reading Ilkka Tuomi’s report Open Educational Resources: What they are and why do they matter made me adjust my thinking regarding what  OER actually are and aroused some thoughts about the importance of defining terms, the consequences of the movement when it comes to economic structures, and the construction of knowledge.

In my context, upper secondary adult education, we have talked about “learning resources” and “learning objects” in reference to complete courses, to what we have called modules and to learning content in our bank of learning resources available non-exclusively on the web. Discussions have centred on types of digital media, accessibility and on content. Expanding the definition of OER to include the initiatives and projects presented in figure 5 created an important shift in my way of thinking which had previously been very narrow. One question that arose was whether or not it is important or relevant or even possible to make a distinction between “educational” and “learning”. The Internet community’s definition of resource mentioned in the report which defines the concept of “resource” as anything, – physical, digital or immaterial – that can be pointed to was useful. Resources do not have to be tangible. One reflection is that a lot has happened in the not so many years that have gone by since we discussed issues around our OER repository. The exciting possibilities to technically-challenged people, myself included, offered by web 2.0 tools is driving the movement forward at an even faster pace. The focus in the discourse about OER seems to be on “open”, which is where it should be.

This brings me to the subject of the levels of openness described in the report. The distinctions made between the three levels: access and accessibility to a resource (read the code); right and capability to enjoy the services generated by the resource (use the code); and the right and capability to modify, repackage, and add value to the resource (modify the code); are useful. However, I find it hard to understand the reasoning behind the following:

“If a learner has access to a resource that is open at this second level, one should get full benefits out of its use. For example, if an educational resource is used for acquiring formal educational degrees, if the resource is open at level II, the users should be able to gain formal degrees if they so choose.” (page 26)

If the interpretation of “enjoying the services” talked about in level II is that which is presented in the report one should talk about categories of openness instead of a hierarchy as there seems to be a qualitative difference.  A textbook is given as an example of a level II resource that can be used to pass a course. There seems to be a problem with logic. No one requires that “users should be able to gain formal degrees if they so choose” if they are using a textbook. Why should that be considered a “service” when it comes to digitial resources.    On the other hand if one interprets service in another way then the model works. I can’t help thinking that these level distinctions refer primarily to the technology.

The intimate relationship between the technology and content is another interesting issue and how these function in an economic world. It does indeed seem ironic that a proliferation of intellectual property rights is tending to inhibit access to information in areas where new knowledge has previously remained in the public domain. The larger issue of commercial and non-commercial products existing in the same market is also interesting.

UNESCO OER Presentation

Open Educational Resources: The Way Forward


One Response to “Week 1: Blog Post 2 – On Open Educational Resources: What they are and why do they matter”

  1. Keith Bryant Says:

    I also found the question of hierarchical levels unclear in the report. I think the analogy with the open source software movement is being overused here and a clearer picture could be gained with another description.

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