Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Open Educational Resources – anonymity vs. specificity

via OLDaily

The term "OER" may be new, the concept is nothing but new. Teachers use resources everyday, in every lesson, under every situation. Some of the resources used are specifically developed for educational use, but many are just resources that are conveniently available at the time. The former is called "educational resource" and the latter are also "educational resource" because they are used educationally! [Photo caption: Yesteryear, we have blackboard and chalk (educational resources), ages ago, Chinese mother taught her children using stick to write on sand!]

Under most copyright regime, educational use of resources are covered by exceptions (fair use in most countries, and exceptions in Australia).

The paper correctly points out a commonly known problem to educational resource:

the specificity of educational resources, which are usually made to fit into a specific teaching/learning context

By comparing to OSS (Open Source Software development), the author identified the inherent difference between OSS and OER:
OpenSource initiatives show a very centralistic attitude regarding the communication between the contributing 'hackers'. Responsibility for the coordination of one project is clearly given to one person and so called forking, i.e. looking for different solutions to the same problem, is held as an exception and needs very good reasons to be accepted by the community (Raymond 1998).

With such centric structures of communication the medial conditions of the Internet foster the production of common goods....

In contrast, the production of OER though based on the same Internet-technologies is highly dispersed....

I may also add that the learning context of every learner is unique and hence "common goods" is not necessarily good for learners as there is just no such learner called "common learner".

I like the author's conclusion:
The main resistance to the flow of OER is rather to be found in their dispersedness and the need for adaptation to a new local context. Both in the field of their production and usage OER have to counterbalance this 'disadvantage' in relation to existing and successful open networks, because as long as the effort for finding suitable resources is expected to be higher than the expected effort to create them oneself, the network will not gain critical mass and the potential of OER for global learning is not used optimally. Neither institutional backing nor strong community attitudes will gain sustainable success otherwise.

So what is the future of OER, I wonder?

[Photo from flickr. If this post has helped anyone understands a bit more about the use of resources in educational circumstances, this post may be considered an educational resource. My use of this photo is just because it was conveniently available to remotely illustrate a point.]

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