A number of myths perpetuate about open educational resources. This section aims to explain and dispel some of them. CETIS have a resource around OER myths for the Jisc/Academy pilot: OER release.
The sharing myth
Jisc has commissioned a number of studies into the ‘sharing’ of learning and teaching resources (Community Dimensions of Learning Object Repositories CD LOR, Trust in Digital Repositories TRUST DR, WM-Share, RepoMMan, Rights and Rewards survey, Sharing e-learning content, Good Intentions report) and also funded a series of projects focussed on ‘exchange’ of learning resources (Exchange for Learning Programme (X4L). These two terms are often used in relation to OERs but it is useful to clarify what we mean by some of these terms in this context.
When we use the word sharing we usually imply an intent – where someone, or some organisation, chooses to share something of value with either a specific audience or more widely. This is different to ‘exchanging‘ where both/all parties want, and agree to, share for some mutual benefit. Whilst often overlooked, the difference between these two actions is significant, particularly in relation to business models and benefits. It could be argued that sharing implies an open model (sharing with all) and exchange a community based model which relies on mutual benefits within a specific community.
Some community models (such as International Virtual Medical School – IVIMEDS) began with an exchange model between subscribing institutions but have had to adapt the model to recognise that not all partners can contribute equally in terms of content. The value of having a strong community of practice makes membership attractive with the content not always being the primary consideration.
Terms such as reuse and re-purposing may imply an underlying principle of sharing (sometimes enforced as a condition of funding), but people may not necessarily be consciously intending to share. Some take, some give and some do both, for a range of reasons. It can be useful to consider sharing and exchange as processes relating to OER Release (either conscious or not) but it is the intent behind the various initiatives, activities and services that is important to the resulting approaches that individuals, communities or institutions adopt.
Whilst there may be reluctance on the part of teachers to engage with business terminology, (Sustainability and Revenue Models for Online Academic Resources: an Ithaka report) thinking about the stakeholders in the OER movement in relation to a producer/consumer model can help people to look at things a little differently.
An interesting OER metaphor
This is not intended to compare OERs with commercial products but was developed to illustrate the value in considering the different roles that exist in the production and use/re-use of OERs and to highlight the importance of considering end users (by Lou McGill for Good Intentions: improving the evidence base in support of sharing learning materials Open Educational Repositories: Share, Improve, Reuse | Edinburgh 25-26 March 2009. Keynote )
This table uses the example of cows milk and attempts to liken these to roles within OER release (third column):
|Calf||Primary consumer||Enrolled student|
|Farmer||Secondary producer/repurposer||Learning technologist/Course leader|
|Milk bottlers||Primary supplier||Learning technologist|
|Shop||Secondary supplier||deposit in institutional repository or open deposit|
|Human family||Secondary consumer||Teacher within or outside institution|
|Human family and pets||Sharers and re-users||Enrolled students of that teacher|
|Person with milk, Person with cocoa powder, Person with sugar – can make chocolate||Exchange and repurposers||other teachers within or outside institution|
|Chocolate in shop fridge||repository||deposit in different open repositories|
|Chocolate eaten||re-users/maybe sharing; )||potentially global learners|
|Chocolate added to cake mixture||further re-purposing||potentially global teachers|
One way of visually representing this analogy: