An OER manifesto in twenty minutes

A brief rapid response to @Tore ‘s request for a ten point manifesto on OER (& ok it was 25 minutes)

Andy Powell makes the key point: “@tore open, open, open, open, open, open, open, open, open, open – no need to mention ‘e’ or ‘r’ #nordlet” RE

But if I was writing a manifesto on OER it would start with/ cover some of this:

  1. openness is a way of working / state of mind not a legal distinction
  2. openness needs to be integrated into your way of working retrofitting is too expensive
  3. value of open is potentially greater than the value of closed
  4. open content affords new forms of scholarship and enterprise
  5. stop having to ask permission: remove barriers with open licensing
  6. use a common open license or don’t bother (lawyers read licences, users and machines don’t)
  7. you need a good reason to keep publicly funded work closed
  8. open content should allow you to build commercial services if you want
  9. open content shifts the $ focus onto what is really valuable: expertise, support, and ‘accreditation’ [for various dftns]
  10. open content has the potential to improve access to education (and consequently benefit society)

I’d also want to say something about

  1. openness does have costs – budget for them [edit (for clarity): costs here are not just £$ costs]
  2. you don’t have to be open all the time with everything – mixed economies may be practical
  3. the transition to openness is unsettling
  4. the (re)development of new business models, organisations, and practices challenges existing business models, organisations, and practices

The above is written without appropriate sources and without consulting existing manifestos but as an exercise in trying to quickly capture what I’ve absorbed and thought working in the OER community. If I’ve reproduced your work without realising it please comment ;-)  Doubtless a more considered version would look a bit different but as a discussion point in this amount of time that’s what I’d throw into the ring.

Open Education and OER is like …?

One of the interesting things about CETIS10 and OpenEd10 was seeing and hearing the different models and metaphors around Open Education and OER Initiatives. After a while though, it became clear that not only are there an abundance of metaphors and models – some of which inspire seemingly unquestioning adherence while others appear to have become clichéd already – but they are also applied a little haphazardly and there is rarely any consideration of how they do not apply, or what the limits and drawbacks of a given model or metaphor are. [edit: for a sample discussion please see Lorna’s post from CETIS10]

As the list of examples below indicates there is a great deal of confusion around the use of models and metaphors and it is often not clear if a particular model is intended to offer an business case, an analogy, or simply be inspirational. In what follows I’d like to offer some caricatures of these models and metaphors as a starting point for discussion. No criticism or critique of the potential relevancy of these models and metaphors themselves is intended – I’d like to provoke a little thought about their use… [and try to add relevant comments into the discussion and images if i get a chance (or any are suggested); i’ll note that i’ve been OSS development has a fair few issues highlighted – it’s probably one of the more developed and therefore easiest to question ]

Some models and metaphors:

  • The Music Industry
    • usually this seems to be talking about the free/ cheap music model with profits being made on concerts and swag.
    • model benefits: make money from related stuff give content away for free
    • model drawbacks: will the swag pay for the content? will they want your swag?
    • metaphor benefits: educators want to be rockstars – right?
    • metaphor drawbacks: established successful bands and internet-found wonder children only?
  • Open Source Software Development
    • via @scottbw “2 different models: for individuals as contributor to OSS (e.g. CLAs) -> little oer; open development process -> big OER” [there was a much wider discussion of this at the Open Innovation session at CETIS10 ] See also Andreas Meiszner “The Emergence of Free / Open Courses – Lessons from the Open Source
      ” [which i’ve not read yet]
    • model benefits: some highly successful software developed in this way, motivates lots of volunteer effort, community recognition and reward possible, added value services, highly distributed
    • model drawbacks: failure rate? (what this means may vary); often those who contribute time are well paid by related jobs so they’ve got the time (and time investment may help job) – this is not true for education outside of this domain; student participation may rapidly veer towards survival of the fittest; possibly intense competition and elitism?
    • metaphor benefits: appeals to ed tech developers, easy to point to success
    • metaphor drawbacks: very geeky; not obviously about education/ students
  • Open Access Initiatives
    • Open access is a relatively established way to share open content (research articles) in a university context
    • model benefits: about sharing open content, involves academics and librarians, increasingly backed by institutions
    • model drawbacks: research articles and learning materials are very different; articles have a known longevity and value to university; the systems and procedures for open access have a link to citation rates, research funding and by extension the RAE and related metrics. Success of Open Access is patchy& not yet a given.
    • metaphor benefits: supports clear message – ‘it’s good to share’ & ‘open licenses promote use/reuse’
    • metaphor drawbacks: the danger of implication that tools, process, and related issues are sufficiently similar that what has worked for OA should/ will work for OER
  • The Shop Window/ Loss Leader
    • Display and/or give away some of your content to entice students to study at your university
    • model benefits: showcase the learning experience offered through free samples; can attract more students and may support retention of them
    • model drawbacks: others might use your content or your content may put students off.
    • metaphor benefits: the ideal of public display and loss leader is demonstrably effective in other contexts so it’s may appeal
    • metaphor drawbacks: implicit focus on stuff/content not process. Commodifies education?
  • The Free Market
    • Used in a couple of ways: either in a similar manner to the ‘loss leader’ i.e.  OER provides a competitive advantage or OER providers compete and the best open content rises to the top
    • model benefits: will appeal to some institutions and organisations. reflects state of competition between  institutions
    • model drawbacks: will put many academics off. unclear if there is a OER market, and the impact of OER on wider HE market likely to only be a factor within certain limits/ in certain sections of the ‘market’
    • metaphor benefits: may be seen as realistic
    • metaphor drawbacks: may be seen as negative view; commodifies education?
  • The Commune
    • Academics would do what they do anyway; a sustainable cooperative (local or distributed) is a possibility
    • model benefits: offers sustainability through changing paradigms
    • model drawbacks: does it offer much by way of job security or the ability to get a mortgage?
    • metaphor benefits: appeals to some classic ideals about teaching and/or political structure
    • metaphor drawbacks: may be treated with suspicion; may implicitly raise questions about individual academic recognition
  • The Charity
    • A benefactor pays for the release of OER or the running of programme / institution
    • model benefits: an approach that has kickstarted a lot of OER initiatives; there are numbers of foundations interested in the area
    • model drawbacks: many funders want to move beyond the model of paying for content release; ongoing funding unreliable and only for some
    • metaphor benefits: easily understood, one approach to education should be free
    • metaphor drawbacks: underlying question is it really free/ open/ unbiased?
  • The Lifetime Members’ Plan
    • Students/ alumni pay an annual fee to an institution; get degree and ongoing access to courses/ credit/ CPD)
    • model benefits: ongoing income; fits with promotion of  lifelong learning and university involvement in professional training
    • model drawbacks: does it create enough revenue to pay for courses; does it interfere with running more lucrative professional training opportunities
    • metaphor benefits: clear, fits with alumni relations, comparable services already offered (sports club or library access etc.)
    • metaphor drawbacks: perhaps quite culturally specific, unclear value to student
  • The Cute Kitten
    • OER are like cute kittens everyone likes them
    • model benefits: makes point about costs of free
    • model drawbacks: for OER costs are before not after realease; for Open Ed is the kitten too transactional?
    • metaphor benefits: internet friendly, easy to see appeal and costs associated
    • metaphor drawbacks: they’re not, costs also likely to be more start up than ongoing
  • The Reformation
    • OER is revolutionising education like the reformation changed the church/ western society
    • model benefits: clear picture of systemic radical change with unintended consequences sparked by  a few individuals.
    • model drawbacks: not exactly clear or uncontentious outcomes; parallel somewhat arbitrary (? ok I was a church historian and it makes me grimace).
    • metaphor benefits: many people will have some familiarity with it and it conveys systemic change
    • metaphor drawbacks: will put some people off, agreement about what metaphor means unlikely (see previous comment)
    • [as an aside I think there are some interesting questions around what models of distributed education arose around in this historical context but that’s another post]
  • The Internet
    • The internet has revolutionised the world and made lots of new things possible it can revolutionise education
    • model benefits: lots of things can happen at scale and in a distributed manner, freemium possibilities, volunteerism
    • model drawbacks: danger of reducing education to content; do interaction opportunities favour the ‘strong’ and those who know what they want to do?
    • metaphor benefits: everyone know the internet has changed many of the day to day processes of life, ‘internet’ting education seems like the next logical step
    • metaphor drawbacks: the metaphor is perhaps too vague to be useful.
  • The Home Brew (ok I made this one up for DIYU)
    • a lot of talk around the DIYU type of idea, self-regualted self-taught learners picking up content, support, and assessment as they need and can afford
    • model benefits: lots of pieces loosely joined if one piece drops out it can be substituted; can be customised for specific contexts
    • model drawbacks: accreditation and assessment parts of the model are uninvented/ untried; unclear why OER would continue to be released and questions around commercial use.
    • metaphor benefits: flexible, free, independent
    • metaphor drawbacks: value unknown, what benefit to OER creator?

This really only a first pass at thinking this through and it’s not really meant to be too serious, but there’s something about how we throw models and metaphors around that’s worth thinking about.

opened10: brief thoughts

Highlight thoughts

(all of these deserve posts in their own right):

  • what is the difference ‘open’ makes? (D Wiley)
  • when we meet – when are we going to do and not just talk? (unattributed)
  • how do you respond as an individual? (and why do you care about OpenEd/OER)? (Gourley; but equally could have been if i’d been in their sessions: Winn, Hall, Neary – though they’ve quite a different perspective)
  • if you have rubrics and marks as semantic data can you analyse for ‘soft skills’ across a programme of study?
  • how do i articulate what HE does that P2PU can’t, what can i learn from P2PU and what should i stop doing cause they do it better? (drumbeat)
  • why don’t HE courses create badges too? (drumbeat)

I’ll need to go back through the programme and remind myself of some of the sessions but as a first pass of some of the stuff that caught my attention emerging from opened10. not yet adequately linked or marked up and doubtless will grow a bit over time as different parts of my brain kick in.

All the conference papers are available in the UOC repository .

with apologies to those i know or have heard recently (Brian Lamb, Scott Leslie, Suzanne Hardy, Jane Williams, Simon Thomson, Jakki Sheridan-Ross, all the wonderful folk from the Open University, and  my colleague Li Yuan) – i’m too familiar with your work for it to make this first pass but i do think it’s great!

things to use now

some of the stuff that was presented is out there now to use: website website

fantastic opened site for art history – working towards being a viable alternative to OER – two art history teachers making stuff as they go to help students offset the massive cost of introductory art history textbooks for foundation courses.

Twhistory website

Twhistory website

historical recreations on twitter: Gettysburg, 1847 pioneer trek, the sinking of the Titanic, the American revolution, possibly about to start working with UK national archives to cabinet war room twitter account of world war 2. Tom Caswell’s presentation.


a feedreader for running open courses – a tutor sets up a blog-based course and edufeedr aggregates content from across blogging platforms designed to gather together student feedback based from wherever they blog it.

information and stats

we’re finally at get to the point were we can make or not make business cases and informed decisions. (links will follow)

OER use and attitudes surveys Joseph Hardin Mujo Research present survey results from instructors at University of Michigan and University of Valencia – surveying their willingness to use and to publish OER.

OER use and attitudes iNacol (online schools, K-12) surveyed their members about awareness around OER – the data and paper aren’t published yet unfortunately

Rory McGreal – examining differences Open Access makes for a university press comparing Amazon rank of Abathasca University’s press which is OA with three other Canadian university presses. results didn’t indicate any significant difference for bought physical copies but only one metric and doesn’t account for greater access provided by OA downloads.

David Wiley offered some figures around Brigham Young University Independent Study Unit looking at sustainabilty of making content open – if content made open – can costs be covered by sustained or increased enrollment. the short answer- yes -just.

under development

Open Rubrics and the semantic web – Megan Kohler (Penn State) and Brian Panulla – well i’d call them feedback or assessment criteria but wither way they’ve developed an OWL ontology and reference implementations for sharing and storing marking rubrics (and associated marks) – in terms of technical developments i think this is potentially the most important thing from the conference.

stuff to think about more

building courses with OER: Griff Richards presented about a project he’d worked on create course syllabi for a master’s course in instructional design. one to follow up after the final report and syllabi are out. [personally it brings me back to thinking about course syllabi around OER for librarians – but that’s another post in a month or so]. His metaphor of clothes shopping for looking for learning materials is also worth keeping around (Tailored: expensive, perfect , emperor’s new clothes; Off the Shelf: not quite fit, but do the job, reasonable price; Charity Shop: nearly free, hard to find what you want, might just find something perfect).

David Wiley the difference of Openness. the challenge is what does ‘open’ allow us to do pedagogically that we can’t otherwise do [open specifically not all the good stuff that often is triggered by open]? Identifying Concrete Pedagogical Benefits of OER

David Wiley: Why do we need 'open'?

David Wiley: Why do we need 'open'?

Dublin City University – took the OER as marketing angle and did some extensive work on how to best brand OERs using product placement and advertising methodology – this presentation made me profoundly uncomfortable but it is the logical extension of some of the advice and case for OER that many of us (including me) have made. i’m going to have to read their paper and think about this.

Erik Duval said a lot of things but there’s something fundamentally important about not being afraid to disrupt learning – oers probably have more quality assurance than the rest of course delivery.

Erik Duval you can afford to disrupt learning

Erik Duval you can afford to disrupt learning

I can’t help but finish with the work of those I presented in the same session as: Julià Minguillón (UOC), Pieter Kleymeer and Molly Kleinman from University of Michigan- we all raised questions, limits and possibilities around the role of libraries in OER. It was great to find other people asking similar questions.

Notes from the web: badges, governance, and opentextbooks

I’ll be honest and admit that these are the things I planned on blogging about last week, but time got away from me and I had a few days of vacation this week so this is perhaps a brief reminder of some of the interesting things other people pointed out to me last week.

Free to Learn Guide by Hal Plotkin

I heard Hal Plotkin speak at OCWC10 and it was clear that he was passionately involved in promoting the uptake of OER and was seeking to do so through shaping policy as well as practice. It’s great to see him create and release this guide to to OER for those involved in the governance side of education (it’s US-focused but certainly a useful point of reference in other contexts).


At the fringe event Matt Jukes organised before UKOER, a presentation from P2PU led to fragments of interesting discussion around badges and peer assessment and the thornier issue of accreditation. It’s great to see that P2PU are looking at badges some more part 1 and part 2 and it’ll be interesting to hear a bit more about that work at the Drumbeat Festival.

OpenCourseLibrary and Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER)

I’ve been thinking a little about open textbooks as one approach to reuse some of the content released under UKOER – although funded development of open textbooks is something that seem to have largely passed the UK by thus far (in perhaps a striking parallel to the relative lack of Open Access journals started in the UK). It was encouraging to come across two US initiatives and a related global one: Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources the OpenCourseLibrary initiative in Washington State. I’ve not looked into the projects in too much detail but open textbooks do present one compelling use for granular OER content typically produced by UKOER projects.


Over on the Open Nottingham blogs, Pat Lockley (XPERT/ XERTE) has been outlining his emerging approach to metadata There’s some of this I want to say has been tried before but knowing Pat I suspect that his plans may involve more of a skilled hack that might work well enough rather than more careful precision that won’t scale – so I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.

Other stuff I need to read soon:

Libraries and OERs: Survey results and preprint

Thank you to all of you who replied to the survey. The results were interesting and, although the initial analysis is done and the paper submitted, I’m aware that there’s a lot of analysis that I’ve not done – hopefully not, yet, done.

Here are a few of the outputs from the survey:

  • The preprint of my paper for Open Ed is available in Strathclyde’s repository and (as an experiment) on Slideshare.
  • The annonymised survey data is available as a Google spreadsheet
  • Some expressions of interest in taking the work further – I’ll contact those who have expressed interest to figure out a way to take this forward that will allow us to coordinate our respective work in this area.

A few highlights…

Library involvement in OER release

Library involvement in OER release

Library involvement in OER use

Library involvement in OER use

Involvement of librarians in OER use

Involvement of librarians in OER use

Reported current involvement of libraries in OER initiatives

Reported current involvement of libraries in OER initiatives