Suddenly it seems as if everybody is waking up to the potential of open educational resources. People have been sharing digital teaching materials for years, but now creative commons licensing, increased familiarity with the web and increased attention from policy makers have created a surge of activity. The question was recently posed [don't more academics use open educational resources] on the Guardian which has made me reflect on some of the core issues.
First, a question: how much are resources re-used? The Value of Reuse report pictures our knowledge of re-use as an iceberg where much use is invisible.
That suggests that a better question might be: why so little visible reuse of educational resources? I think it stems from how we measure re-use. The e-learning world has been so focused on repurposing that we are expecting to see the content being copied/changed. But reading is use too. Interestingly, there is a strange discomfort with talking about tracking/measuring the use of open content, which I’ve started to explore. Perhaps it stems from an anxiety that measurement means metrics, and that metrics are at odds with the “long tail” nature of academic work. But I have a lot still to understand about how to provide meaningful evidence of digital impact that supports individual and institutional drivers. So perhaps the right question to ask is around what reuse might look like in different contexts.
To encourage reuse, we need to be clear on what might motivate people to share their resources. Attention is reward, as is intrinsic motivation. People who share blog posts, tweets, slides, images on the web know it is rewarding in its own right.
Should that translate into official recognition by the employer of the academic? I guess there are different ways of carrying out the role of an academic. We see that variation in openness in the research process: different attitudes in different discipline areas and different points in their career, and probably different personalities. So I agree that no-one should be forced. It should be choice, and at the moment, most institutional reward structures are neutral on OER: the reward is individual and social.
However, the HE sector is changing. Maybe academics do need to do more of their thinking in the open. Researchers are being encouraged to think about impact and engagement. Then there are the economic and ethical arguments for open access for research, which are perhaps starting to raise expectations about opening up other academic outputs.
My biggest interest at the moment is how technology can support the changes in practice of the early majority, which I think is happening, even if it’s off the radar. Making use visible is important, connecting content and people. Of course to make use of this, as others have commented, we need to support digital literacies.
We’d love feedback on how services like Jorum and innovation programmes like the joint HEAcademy/JISC OER Programme can help keep moving open academic practices forward. And if you’re new to the concept, visit the OER Infokit to get started.
You can participate in the discussion on the oer-discuss list which we run with the UK OU: please join in!