Some downside to OER?

As part of my non-CETIS work I occasionally go out to evaluate teaching practice in Engineering for the HE Academy Engineering Subject Centre. This involves me going to some University and talking to an Engineering lecturer and some students about an approach they are using for teaching and learning. I especially enjoy this because it brings me close to the point of education and helps keeps me in touch with what is really happening in universities around the UK. During a recent evaluation the following observations came up which are incidental to what I was actually evaluating but relevant, I think, to UKOER. They concern a couple of points raised, one by the lecturer and one by the students, that reflect genuine problems people might have to OER release.

Part of the lecturer’s approach involves a sequence of giving students some problems to solve each week, and then providing online and face-to-face support for these problems. The online support is good stuff; it’s video screen captures of worked model solutions with pretty good production values. Something like the Khan academy but less rough. It would be great if the this were released as OER, however doing so would compromise the pedagogic strategy that the tutor has adopted. I don’t want to go into the specifics of why this lecturer has adopted this strategy but it in general it may be important that the students try the problems before they look at the support, and this is an interesting example of how OER release isn’t pedagogically neutral.

The point raised by the students concerned to reuse of OERs rather than their release. They really liked what their lecturer had done, and part of what they liked about it was that it was personal. This was important to them not just because it meant that there was an exact fit between the resources and their course but because they took it as showing that the lecturer had taken a deal of time and made a real effort in preparing their course. They were right in that, but they also went on to say that if the lecturer had taken resources from elsewhere, that they themselves could have found, they would have drawn the opposite inference. We may think that the students would be wrong in this, or that their expectations are unrealistic, but what’s important is that they felt that they would have been demotivated had the lecturer reused resources created elsewhere. I think this fits into a wider picture of how reuse of materials affects the relationship between teacher and student.

I’m not claiming that either of these observations are conclusive or in any way compelling arguments against the release of OER, and I will object to anyone claiming that a couple of data points is ever conclusive or compelling, but I did find them interesting.

6 thoughts on “Some downside to OER?

  1. Hi Phil

    Thanks for raising this. It nicely illustrates the wider cultural/practice issues involved with using any kind of content in teaching and learning. Changing the licence /license (see what I did there;-) ) doesn’t change the fundamental issues around use/re-use.


  2. Interesting points…

    On pedagogy, the OER approach would have to trust the learners to recognise that it is in their interests not to look at the support. Is this very different from a textbook with the answers at the back?

    On the other point, I think of greetings cards. While it is special to get hand-made cards, most people can also appreciate the personal choice of cards as something meaningful. I’d say that might make sense in the OER field as well.


  3. Interesting. I always hated it when I was teaching that some lecturers only used other people’s material (lazy I thought) so I am happy that some students are recognising the care that their lecturer is taking. However, I still think that OER is good because the more material that is out there the more choice the lecturer has on what he/she presents to their students, and this can only be a good thing. How the lecturer makes this choice and how he/she uses the material pedagogically will show whether or not he/she is taking the same degree of care.

Comments are closed.