Big v Little OER

Weller’s Openness-Creativity Cycle and the chapter Public Engagement as Collateral Damage,  present a strong argument for little OER, and I have to say that is my preference too.  In part, because of the range of creativity Little OER can show.   That’s not to say that Big Brother is boring or uninspiring, but rather that Big OER, by its nature, requires some form of standardisation of presentation.

For my kittenssins, I have decided to enrol on a Future Learn course.  How will this goes with a Master’s, work and family, will no doubt be the subject of a blog at some point.  But I was curious to see what it was like.  How could I discuss OERs if my only experience was with Little ones?

But almost immediately I had a problem.  My Big OER looks like work.  Yes, it is pretty and cleanly laid out, but it isn’t as fun as mindlessly scanning Pinterest for teaching ideas or infograms, following feeds on Facebook, or reading an article on an RSS feed.  My Big OER is scary:

tiger.jpgAnd it is possible to fail!  And that possibility of failure is not just for the user.

Weller (2011) talks about Ego, and there are certainly enough producers of OERs out there with the ego to produce material and share it.  But what of the introverts – the excellent teachers who don’t have the confidence to produce their own material, who don’t want to see themselves on camera, who don’t want to be the next Brian Cox?

Can we engage these teachers as Wiley (2007) recommends; by encouraging participation through formalising OER as part of professional development requirements, the complete opposite of Weller’s bottom-up approach, or will this have the exact opposite effect. Working with teachers using new technologies,  I have to agree with Weller – if OER is to become part of the expected norm for universities and other academic institutes, then the institutes themselves need to provide the necessary conditions to foster this creativity.   And this is not just a passing reference to a ‘sandbox’ where teachers can try out institute-dictated technology, but rather in actively supporting, “empowering” and respecting teachers to explore and engage with new tools.

Something between a standard IT course and the Google 20% time would be lovely, but in the field of education this is not as easy as some imagine. Teachers are often freelancers or on limited hour contracts.  There is no 9-5 paycheck with time allowed for experimentation.  Budgets are allocated on a year-by-year basis, often dependent on the number of students for that year.  Large-scale, expensive projects such as new hardware or facilities are often easier to quantify and justify (especially in the increasingly commercial and competitive world of academia).  So I will close with Weller’s words:  The benefits of an open, digital, networked approach to research, public engagement and teaching need to be recognised by both senior management and colleagues and not dismissed as merely ‘playing’.


One thought on “Big v Little OER

  1. erithacusrubecula says:

    Yep, I agree with your comments, particularly about time to spend getting the hang of it. I think if it’s going to be adopted (producing Little OER content) it has to be shown to be either of no consequence to resources (normally time) OR even better it actually saves time. Like all these things though, often one has to take a leap of faith before one realises whether the initial investment in learning the new approach, is worth it.


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