Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Scott Leslie -
Number of replies: 18
Thanks one and all for a great opening week. It was a pleasure to read all your introductions, see the different perspectives and backgrounds, and start unpacking some questions around finding and using OER. I encourage all of you to keep going in any of the existing threads if you have questions that remain unanswered or issues you wish to explore further.

But this week I'd like to change the perspective slightly to questions around 'Creating OERs' and the first one seems simple, but I'd warrant deceptively so.

Why? Why create and share Open Educational Resources? I am interested first off to hear your own personal reasons.

But just as important, I am extremely interested to hear good arguments that can be put forward to the institutional powers-that-be or funding bodies by people trying to start new OER initiatives. What do you think are some convincing reasons why? How about the uncoventional or not obvious ones.

For instance (but then, maybe this *is* obvious, to others - I know it wasn't always to me), I remember when I last cast around for good arguments for openness, a few folks from the Open University helped me understand that open educational resources actually helped increase the size of the institutional 'footprint' in different search engines. Sure, I had always understood that there was a potentially 'promotional' aspect to OER projects, in showcasing an institutions' best online resources, but have never really thought of it in these literal 'search engine optimization' terms (indeed had very much seen the term 'SEO' in only a perjorative sense). And by using various webmaster/web marketing style anayltics they could show a direct benefit to the overall institution from referrals from the OER site.

I cringe to think that we are reduced to appealing to only rationales such as these to support sharing, but I do think coming up with them is pragmattic and important. So what others can you think of?
In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Gina Bennett -
Reasons for sharing OER's...

Well, the first reason (& I think this needs to be explicitly stated) is because it's The Right Thing to Do. Seriously. Education -- at least basic education -- is a RIGHT, not a consumer item. How on earth did we all get talked into the notion that "education is [strictly] a business"????

Here is a true story to illustrate this reason. A couple of years ago our institution donated some basic educational curriculum (math & english) to WikiEducator. I had developed the materials a number of years ago to support an online GED program. The program had changed somewhat so the materials were no longer being actively used. So with our CEO's support, we licensed them openly & donated them. It didn't seem like such a big deal... But the WikiEducator folks suggested a news release. We also released it locally (it's not difficult to get press space in a little place like Cranbrook!) But the story got noticed & picked it up by others. Next thing I knew, I was being interviewed by CBC radio & people heard about College of the Rockies all across Canada! Wow, talk about good publicity. The point is, though: the reason this was of interest, the reason why the press followed up, was because this was the right thing to do. The public wants more of this.

Another reason for those of us in the public education system is 'accountability'. In most cases, we get paid with public funds to develop educational materials. Shouldn't the public then benefit from these materials? If we are sharing them with our fellow provincial citizens, why not share them more widely? Honestly: do we really believe that by locking our educational resources within the province (as if this could be done), that we will increase our competitive advantage?

Obviously you can see this is an issue of some passion for me approve

In reply to Gina Bennett

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Scott Leslie -
...and all I can say to this is 'Amen!' I am with you on this Gina, this should be all that needs saying. Unfortunately, in my experience, it's not, either with individual educators or with institutions. But I agree, let's never loose this thread; it is important not to simply accept the premise that "education is [strictly] a business" and allow that to become the only frame for this kinds of discussions.
In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Doug Symington -
Scott and Gina,

Late to the party, but really enjoying following the threads to this point. I've long been interested in "open educational resources" and have licensed most of what I've contributed online under a Creative Commons, Attribution, Share-alike license. I agree that there is a real opportunity to provide "pro bono publico" curriculum across all subject areas and grade levels.

This becomes especially true when learners become engaged and expected to leverage and improve what students in previous sections in a particular course, as an example, have contributed in the way of knowledge-building activities.

I also think that it's critical for individual contributors to NOT apply "non-commercial" licensing to artifacts produced, and especially as it related to the production of "open educational resources." While an argument can be made that the k-12 public educational use of these "resources" isn't in and of itself "commercial" the effect of "non-commercial" licensing of material is to present a "chilling effect" regarding its use. Individual instructors and institutions are unlikely to subject themselves to even the threat of potential litigation, and will look elsewhere.

I struggle with how best to protect one's work from misappropriation, especially without a "non-commercial" component to the license; however, I believe the "share-alike" aspect of the license on a particular artifact will ultimately protect it from inclusion by a "for profit" enterprise in that they are unlikely to release their curriculum with a comparable license. I also believe that the "search engine optimization" aspect of OER Scott referred to last week also works on an individual basis. One's reputation as a contributor to OER repositories and projects will result in the building of one's brand that ultimately supercedes indivual artifacts or contributions.

I also have to say that I find it remarkable (and as a taxpayer, disturbing) that so much money is being spent--from coast to coast to coast in Canada--on proprietary learning management, and learning content management systems when SO MANY free and open-source software are available.

In reply to Gina Bennett

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Gerry Paille -
I really like what you are saying Gina, and I am with you on it.

I like to try and be a "yes, and" fellow rather than a "yes, but" fellow, but here goes:

As I see it, one of the major barriers has been funding for the production of educational resources. A large part of my experience has come in the K-12 distance education area, and yes, public money has been used to create a lot of educational materials. The available funding is typically insufficient. The result has been a model that requires innovative ways to provide some cost recovery so that the process can continue and often involves charging users for the materials. Customers want the materials for free.

Another model involves writing proposals for funding to create these materials — what happens when your proposal is not accepted? The competition seems to be fierce and the willingness to share, unless part of the contract, seems to be minimal. Just my observation from the outside — maybe I am wrong.

When you take a look at the Open University's initiative you will find a lot of great resources that have been produced by professors for their own teaching needs. Don't get me wrong, I think this is fabulous, but what you don't see in their database are the amazing materials they have that cost thousands of pounds to develop by the organization. You will need to talk to them about licensing those.

I am also wondering if these times of economic restraint might be a deterrent to open and freely available content? What are people seeing happening to their budgets for creating and revising materials/courses?
In reply to Gerry Paille

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Gina Bennett -
I don't know, Gerry. At the risk (or promise?) of being provocative, I'd like to respond to your concerns about funding OERs. For one thing, one of the main reasons why educational resources are so darn expensive to create is because we must start from scratch almost every single time we create them. And if we don't start from scratch to author every word, draw every illustration of our educational resource, we must pay the copyright cost for the materials we borrow. Sometimes these have to be paid & paid again for every single student who uses them, every single time they are used. Doesn't this seem a little crazy to you? Wouldn't it be FAR more efficient, making better use of taxpayers' money, if we were legally allowed & institutionally encouraged to build on existing resources, using our precious time to update, contextualize, & even translate if necessary? In fact, this is what I understand that BCcampus has done by insisting that all curriculum developed with provincial monies must be made freely available to other partners in the system.

Another question for discussion (maybe a different discussion, I'm not sure): what is our primary role as educators? Put another way: what is it that only we can do best? The answer (I postulate) is teach/educate/add value to the learning process. The answer is not 'author learning resources'. I listen to a number of faculty who are concerned that if they open up their learning resources, they will be out of a job. I think this is a rather sad devaluation of the concept of teaching.

In reply to Gina Bennett

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Scott Leslie -
I'll jump in here too and suggest that if we approach the issues of how we create and deliver our online courses, how we then share our online courses, and how we then sustain our sharing efforts as separate issues, then I think we are doomed from the start. In my mind, this is, for better or worse, the situation the field as a whole largely finds itself in now, but over the past 3 or 4 years people have been thinking this through and coming up with some interesting alternatives.

If instead we broaden our frame as educators (especially those educating in publicly funded systems) and start to identify benefits of openness and sharing not as subsidiary acts, but as a core part of both the teaching and learning process, then I believe what will emerge are sustainable solutions that do not need to go looking for the next grant or start the next big insitutional project to help sharing to occur.

So, just for instance, if we start to identify the benefits back to the educator, the learners and the institution of having learning materials under constant public scrutiny, open to improvements by many (the 'all bugs are shallow with enough eyeballs' phenomenon of open source); if we start to identify the benefits to learners, the institution and instructors of learning taking place out in the open so that serendipitous interactions with real world experts can occur; if we (insert your arguments here)...then not only will our own students and faculty benefit, but our efforts at openness will by default become sustainable.

I will take up this strand of how to create educational content in more sustainably ways in another thread, as I believe it is a full topic on its own. But I'll just leave off here saying that what the last 6 years of wrestling with the OER issue has taught me is that the what, how and why of OER are intimately connected. Far from being an insurmountable, unsustainable challenge, OERs have the potential to help us re-invent our educational practices and our institutions in ways that will not just benefit everyone involved, but will ultimately become understood as the transformations our institutions needed to adapt to the 21st Century's demands. Heady claims, I know, but they really do seem a part of a bigger picture to me.
In reply to Gina Bennett

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Gerry Paille -
I don't find what you are saying that provocative at all Gina as I agree for the most part. I think what you are saying in the second paragraph really rings true. I am a teacher and have done some writing. I have hired exemplary teachers to author learning resources. I know that the results have been disappointing at times.

I like what you are saying too Scott - I think we are currently at the point where a certain number of individuals are recognizing the value of opening up their efforts, but organizations, especially those who have departments with the role of hiring authors and creating online content lag behind. I know that in my current situation that I make everything I create for workshops freely available for whomever to use, which is similar to what you do. I am careful to use original material and material that is licensed as reusable, and I give credit where credit is due. In my role with the Instructional Development and Research Group at Thompson Rivers, nothing I have worked on as an author, manager, or instructional designer has been made publicly available for reuse at this point. As Gina has pointed out, a big part of the problem is that we give our authors the leeway to find and suggest materials for use in our courses and then procure a usage agreement with the copyright holder. Those agreements, for the most part, prohibits sharing and reuse. I personally think that we can work towards eliminating this big issue by giving our authors specific instructions as to what kind of materials they can use.

Things are changing though. The latest project I am working on at TRU involves the creation of five online courses with a new development model that has openness and reuse forefront. The process involves subject experts as paid authors and includes instructors in authoring, adapting and updating on an ongoing basis. The use of OERs in the process is encouraged and the delivery system (WordPress) will facilitate sharing and reuse. We'll see how it all goes in the coming months.

In reply to Gina Bennett

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Jeffrey Keefer -


I find your pushing the boundaries of ownership and the role of education to be very refreshing, especially when we hegemonically work within systems where we often find challenging the dominant paradigms to be fraught with other issues. I digress . . .

One of the items you mentioned I especially found interesting,

"Wouldn't it be FAR more efficient, making better use of taxpayers' money, if we were legally allowed & institutionally encouraged to build on existing resources, using our precious time to update, contextualize, & even translate if necessary? In fact, this is what I understand that BCcampus has done by insisting that all curriculum developed with provincial monies must be made freely available to other partners in the system."

In many ways, this makes sense. Public funds that support public education should ultimately benefit the public. Along the same lines, I have never been paid to develop my content (the tradititional adjunct experience in the US), so my content is my content. Universities hire me to teach my content, and they do not own that content themselves. When I create content at my full-time employer, this is a different situation.

Regardless, I do choose to share my own content at times because I am beginning to see more of a value in getting the feedback from others who use and or comment on it. Perhaps this is more the issue--it may be easier to share if there is a sense that others appreciate the efforts and thus the benefits then get spread around (somewhat like karma)?


In reply to Gina Bennett

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by ABC Given -


I see and struggle with two valid and real life situations as Gina and Gerry pointed out: one is the enthusiasm to create and share educational resources and the other side is the reality of scarce funding, grant proposal requirements. Costs escalate with the sub-licensing/copyright permissions with payment for re-use of components used in an Learning Object.

I don’ t have an answer, as both views are real world examples. Ultimately, the re-use of copyrighted materials is dictated by the copyright holder, so there will always be variations in Creative Commons/Open Source licenses.

Public domain is scarce and only when a large govt. initiative can guarantee it or when a generous foundation steps in, or when copyright ceases.

Anyhow, creativity based on inspiration from various resources and different fields is achieved when one has access to many materials that are under the Creative Commons license. Copyright prohibits copying (or re-formatting) but does not prohibit creativity and knowledge to generate a new work.

Requesting permission to re-use a materials is also possible, therefore it’s important to use all venues, as needed: create new content, reuse content when permitted and get permission for re-use if the license does not allow.


In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by bronwyn hegarty -
Hello all I am late joining the discussion and am finding the posts so far very interesting. It is good to hear about the beneficial flow-on effects following your contributions to WikiEducator Gina. We have had similar experiences at Otago Polytechnic and academic staff and managers are at last "seeing the light".

As some of you may know we have a blanket IP policy whereby all our educational materials by default have Creative Commons by attribution copyright to promote collaboration and sharing in line with an OER philosophy. If staff, for some reason want a different copyright statement, they have to apply to Leadership Team with their rationale. This has caused a bit of a flurry.

It is a slow process and I am still not convinced which is the best way to change attitudes. I don't believe that many people really understand yet or know about the new IP policy so there is work to be done this year. In my role as an educational developer, I am able to help people with the philosophies and principles of OER. For some they can accept a small part of OER such as sharing some materials and not others. Other people are ok if they get resources for free but are not as willing to share their stuff. And of course there are others who embrace the idea wholeheartedly when they understand the benefits. For example, a colleague (Dr Ruth Lawson) has created an open textbook for a vet nursing course using Wikibooks (http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Anatomy_and_Physiology_of_Animals), and managed to convince her manager that it would help promote the course, dept and programmes - it has - and bring in revenue via Lulu.com (http://www.lulu.com/content/1920743) - it has - and she is now sold on the idea. Additionally, other organisations are asking for the resource - to buy - as people still like hard copy, and they are seeking expertise from our organisation - and paying for it!

Perhaps the best way to convince people, Scott, is to share success stories. MIT in USA is certainly one and WikiEducator and the many others happening all over the place.

I wonder, how do people believe they can convince their colleagues to make a switch to creating open resources and what sort of issues do they see with managers in their organisations?
In reply to bronwyn hegarty

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Scott Leslie -
Bronwyn, I know I would LOVE to hear more about how CC-Attribution became the default license for the entire institution. Is this something you (or Leigh? He's at Otago too, no?) has written up already on the web?

As you clearly indicate, such a move is only a small part of the process, but what a small part! That is one success story I would love to hear more about.
In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Sylvia Currie -
Bron has all the first hand information but I thought I'd pop in quickly with a couple resources I have at my fingertips:

This article is written by Leigh Blackall and covers the transition at Otago. Leigh also did an interesting talk at the Future of Education online conference organized through the Learning Tecnologies Centre at University of Manitoba. Here is the Camtasia recording and MP3 recordings for all presentations. There are some real gems in that archive.approve
In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Nicola Avery -

Hi, I will participate more fully a bit later this week, but just wanted to throw in the below which I'm including in an email out to various bits of the university today - found it via one of the blogs mentioned last week, so thanks for that.

The OECD (2007) conducted a study with institutions with OER projects and found the following reasons
  • The altruistic argument that sharing knowledge is in line with with academic traditions and a good thing to do
  • Educational institutions should leverage taxpayers' money by allowing free sharing and reuse of resources
  • Quality can be improved and the cost of content development reduced by sharing and reusing
  • It is good for the institution's public relations to have an OER project as a showcase for attracting new students
  • There is a need to look for new cost recovery models as institutions experience growing competition
  • Open sharing will speed up the development of new learning resources, stimulate internal improvement, innovation and reuse and help the institution to keep good records of materials and their internal / external use
OECD (2007), Giving Knowledge for Free: the Emergence of Open Educational Resources, available at: http://tinyurl.com/62hjx6
At the moment, this is just an intro email intended to start conversations so will come back with responses etc I had a meeting with our Research & Enteprise support team last week and even though this is open educational resources - they are happy to support any activity we do from this and start talking about because they feel that the same issues around openness, collaboration, who is doing what and how can we find out who is doing what, in addition to what is the value of open publication as opposed to specific journal publishing which may not be. I am finding this seminar and the conversations so helpful and timely - thank you very much.
In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Sylvia Riessner -

Personal reasons for sharing OERs:

  • because it makes me feel good - I love to share and see that something I value is valued by others too
  • I agree with Gina (in part)
    "...because it's The Right Thing to Do. Seriously. Education -- at least basic education -- is a RIGHT, not a consumer item. How on earth did we all get talked into the notion that "education is [strictly] a business"????"
  • in a broader sense (i.e., not just talking about OERs I might create or repurpose), OERs have the potential to provide tools that help people help themselves
  • and, most importantly to me, users of OERs choose the learning they want and need and CAN make it fit their local context

Potential reasons to put forward to to the institutional powers-that-be or funding bodies

  • The potential to improve the quality of each individual contribution is a definite plus - many teachers currently create learning materials and courses that are shared to a relatively limited audience (and rarely with their peers). Teachers who create OERs have the opportunity to not only receive feedback from a much wider audience, but they can see what others do with their work. This may not always be an improvement but it has the potential to spark new ideas to the original creator.
  • Recognition is a big part of the reward for initiating OER efforts. With the growth of public awareness of OpenCourseWare and OERs, new OER initiatives create a fair amount of media attention (most of it positive as far as I can see) and, to steal Scott's colleague's phrse, it must be increasing the organisational "footprint" in the public's mind (mmmm, can the public have a mind, probably not?)
  • MIT's comprehensive evaluation of their efforts contains the statement that MIT (the organisation)  believe that OpenCourseWare "...contributes to the 'shared intellectual commons' in academia, which fosters cooperation and synergy acrossMIT and among scholars everywhere." (p.37, MIT OpenCourseWare Program Evaluation Findings Report)
  • You could argue that having educators be part of the future Open Participatory Learning Infrastructure described in the Review of the OER Movement (a report commissioned by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation) will only benefit the institutions they work for and the students they teach. If we are all expected to work more collaboratively and efficiently, being an active part of an open learning environment can only improve the requisite skills.

That's all I can come up with for now. I'll keep thinking though cuz I think it will be critical to prove the value of OERs, not only to encourage greater participation, but to ensure that they continue to receive the funding and support required.

In reply to Sylvia Riessner

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Scott Leslie -
Sylvia, these are really good, thanks. Some more stuff from OCW/MIT along the lines of the value proposition of OER - this presentation lists the following as potential benefits:

  • fulfilling your insitutional mission
  • institutional reputation
  • faculty reputation
  • recruitment
  • retention
  • advising
  • evaluating for tenure
  • service learning
  • international engagement (expanding connections and reach)
  • create a lifelong connection with students
  • improvements in teaching materials and transparency of teaching methods
Many, but not all, of these are 'institutionally' focused, but some of them seem pretty compelling (improving advising, recruitment and retention, in measurable ways).

Am really enjoying this thread. I will try, when time permits, to go through and see if I can't pull out (and myabe put in the wiki) all the different "why's" of sharing OERs that we've managed to come up with so far. Do people have others, especially ones that could be directed to the individual faculty member? I like the idea someone suggested of 'examples' and 'success stories' as I think these can work - people have other ones they can share, either their own or ones they've heard?

In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Paul Stacey -
I really like the suggestions people are coming up with regarding benefits of OER. I spent some time throughout 2008 trying to amass a comprehensive list of OER benefits, partly to substantiate the OER initiative we have at BCcampus and partly in the hope that making explicit the motivators will encourage participation.

Here is what I came up with:
Benefits associated with Open Educational Resources are:

1. Social benefits
Higher education sharing knowledge for the benefit of all is an altruistic public service. Sharing boosts human capital through better education and skills by providing access to resources that encourage participation in higher education. Open resources accessible to all bridge the gap between informal and formal learning, and promote lifelong learning. Open resources widen access and provide supply where there is shortage.

2. Economical benefits
By sharing and reusing, the costs for content development can be cut, thereby making better use of available resources. Leverage taxpayers’ money by allowing free sharing and reuse of resources developed by publicly funded institutions. Eliminates the weeks and months of time it can take to seek permission to use existing digital materials. Educators can use the asset immediately without having to go through a permission seeking process. Leverages a unique aspect of digital assets - the marginal cost and effort in making copies and distributing online learning resources over a network.

3. Quality improvements
Quality improves over time, compared to a situation in which everyone always has to start anew. Creates a web-based, viewable, useable record of quality educational materials. Allowing others to reuse and modify original work provides a means for continuous improvement of online learning resources by a collective of professional peers. Shifts emphasis from content to teaching and learning process and services involved with using content.

4. Collaboration and Partnerships
Creates opportunity for faculty to see, collaborate on, and reuse each others work. Provides a reputation boost to faculty whose materials are widely used.

5. Academic Planning
Helps students make academic plans, be better prepared, and pursue learning of personal interest.

6. Public Relations and Advertising
Good for public relations and functions as a showcase to attract new students. Acts as advertisement for the institution, and as a way of lowering the threshold for new students, who may be more likely to enroll – and therefore pay for tutoring and accreditation – when they have had a taste of the learning on offer through open content. Increased contact with alumni.

I'll be revising these based on all your posts and look forward to seeing how these morph over time.

In reply to Paul Stacey

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Gina Bennett -
What a great summary, Paul! I can see your six points above, illustrated perhaps with examples for each, becoming a PowerPoint presentation that would speak convincingly to boards of directors and senior management.
In reply to Scott Leslie

Re: Week 2 - 'Creating OERs' - so...why?

by Scott Leslie -
While the following is related more to "open access" publishing (a subset of the 'open' movement but arguably not the same as OER) I think it still really important - http://jisc.ac.uk/news/stories/2009/01/houghton.aspx is reporting that a study in the UK finds that in addition to the benefits to the public of having open access to knowledge,

"When considering costs per journal article, Houghton et al. believe that the UK higher education sector could have saved around £80 million a year by shifting from toll access to open access publishing. They also claim that £115 million could be saved by moving from toll access to open access self-archiving."

Now those are the kinds of numbers to get people's attention. So while the playing field is slightly different, I'd warrant the effect would be similar with OERs.