OER Programme Myths

Most JISC Programmes accrue a fair amount of myth and misunderstanding during their lifetime however the OER Programme seems to me garnering myths faster than most. So we at CETIS bring you this handy OER Programme myth busting service!

The OER Programme will produce lots of free courseware.
The programme call states that projects should release:

“…the equivalent of one complete undergraduate course worth of materials (360 credits)…”

It’s likely that the programme will release some “courseware” i.e. complete online courses. However in reality we expect a disparate range of many types of resources from a wide range of subjects and domains.

Open educational resources are just for distance learning.
Resources produced by this programme may be used for distance learning but it is probable that a large proportion will originally have been designed for blended teaching and learning.

The OER Programme will produce lots of free content for students.
A significant portion of the resources released are likely to be aimed at students but some my also be designed for use by staff.

This is just another programme about reusable learning objects.
Hopefully OER programme resources will be reusable, some of them may even be learning objects (See Courseware myth above) however the OER Programme is also attempting to change

“institutional policies and processes, with the aim of making open resources release an expected part of the educational resources creation cycle.”

It’s TLTP all over again.
Hopefully not!

It’s just about copying the OU and MIT.
Both OU and MIT are pioneers in the field of OER and we can learn a lot from their experiences however they have their own unique business models and workflows that are unlikely to be immediately transferable to other institutions. See also Business Models myth below.

It’s not sustainable.
Allocating this degree of funding to OER on an annual basis is unlikely to be sustainable however projects have been specifically asked to:

“demonstrate a long term commitment to the release of OER resources. Projects will work towards the sustainability of long term open resources release via the adoption of appropriate business models to support this. Supporting actions should include modifications to institutional policies and processes, with the aim of making open resources release an expected part of the educational resources creation cycle.”

No thought has been given to business models.
See above. The OER Programme call specifically states:

“Bidders should outline their proposed business model for the sustained release of learning resources from the institution, individual or consortium. This call does not mandate a specific business model, but suggests that bidders refer to a report commissioned by JISC from Intrallect, entitled ‘Good Intentions’ .”

It’s a waste of money.
This is a pilot programme. Whether the OER Programme is successful or not in achieving its primary aims and objectives this should be a learning experience for JISC, HEFCE and the Academy. As long as the OER Programme is appropriately evaluated and lessons are learned that inform future decisions the OER Progamme will not be a waste of money.

The OER Programme will transform HE beyond recognition.
Erm ….probably not in the short term. However we hope that the programme will act as a catalyst for institutional and sectoral change in the longer term (see Reusable Learning Objects myth above)

Anyone, anywhere in the world, will be able to freely use and re-purpose the OER Programme resources.
Sounds incredible but yes, this one is actually true!

11 thoughts on “OER Programme Myths

  1. A couple of additional myths ….

    You’re paying people to create content
    No, we don’t want to do that! The costs of providing open educational
    resources, over and above normal teaching resources that are already
    produced as a matter of course, are in ensuring they are suitably tweaked,
    licensed and hosted. Most of this is about staff time, and that’s what the
    project funding is provided for. Producing content from scratch, not even
    for using with your own students, is probably not in keeping with
    sustainable business models, but we’d be interested to see any examples
    where it is!

    You’re encouraging subject centres to pay institutions for their content!
    We’re prepared to cover the costs of staff identifying and chasing copyright
    permissions. Depending on the internal structures for handling those
    enquiries, it may need some staff time at the contributing institution to
    ensure the content is okay to share. Projects can reimburse the cost of that
    staff time, because this is a pilot and that’s the sort of thing we want to
    find out. We certainly don’t advocate paying money for institutional
    content, that goes against the whole ethos of OER! This is about staff time,
    not about monetarising teaching resources.

  2. We are not monetarising content production but in many cases resources will need to be reworked in format and presentation to open them up for re-use. Academic staff are not all in the habit of planning to build resources for worldwide consumption – when time is tight especially. What we do hope to include in our achievements is a range of resources which can act as seeds i.e. illustrate the potential for an OER approach and change the culture so it plans, prepares and describes resources for re-use and repurposing. They have to be rich enough to include a range of components worth cataloguing separately to be independent LOs and this takes staff time. Bidding only for time only to sort out copyright issues may not produce an attractive and balanced range of resources which can be employed across disciplines and encourage an OER approach to achieve the aim to ‘change the culture’.

  3. Another myth…

    JISC are not mandating the use of content packaging or other standards, or the use of a common metadata framework. Therefore JISC are no longer interested in standards or metadata

    Several misconceptions here. We are mandating the use of suitable standards where these exist (eg IMS CC, SCORM…), and indeed, if we were only interested in the release of materials for online use then we would expect pretty much everything to be standards compliant. But we want to see the release of all kinds of content, for online learning and more traditional forms of learning. There would be little point in wrapping up a reading list or a presentation in IMS CP!

    The metadata approach has surprised a few people – but reflecting on the real “openness” we are trying to achieve we felt that a hefty metadata requirement would serve to stifle the release of a lot of interesting materials and a lot of interesting ways. The pilot-y-ness of the programme means we can be innovative like this, after all people find stuff on the rest of the web all the without epic metadata – can we do it with a single tag, a title and contributor data? There are areas of our work were precise metadata specifications are essential, we felt that a more open approach would make it easier to release content, and easier to use a variety (institutional websites, institutional repositories, web 2.0, Jorum Open) of mechanisms to do so.

  4. Something I very much hope *won’t* be a myth:

    Assessment content will be regarded as just another kind of OER and not something that belongs in a separate box of its own.


  5. Also, David’s comment on standards (‘we are mandating the use of suitable standards where these exist (eg IMS CC, SCORM…)’) made me curious – has anyone discussed QTI in relation to this? Given the uncertainty surrounding the specification at the moment, I’d be really interested in knowing what JISC’s position was on this.

  6. @Rowin Well CETIS are the ones who would be advising programmes how to package interactive and complex learning content… so it’s on a case by case basis. Sorry if that sounds vague and buck-push-y but I’m trying to keep things as fluid as possible given the pilot nature of projects and support.

  7. Regarding assessment content and QTI, at this stage we don’t really know exactly what kind of content the projects are going to produce. However if any projects do plan to release lots of assessment content then I would strongly recommend that they consider using IMS QTI.

  8. Pingback: “Myths” about JISC’s OER Program « Open Education News

  9. I don’t understand what point Rowin is making in her post at 2.58pm on 20 May (http://blogs.cetis.org.uk/lmc/2009/05/20/oer-programme-myths/#comment-1338). FETLAR, the maths subject project, is aiming to deposit assessment content and sees it as “just another kind of OER and not something that belongs in a separate box of its own.” This will be content which relies for its openness, sustainability, … on QTI2.1 extended to support the particular needs of mathematics; for more on this see http://mathassess.ecs.soton.ac.uk/

  10. Pingback: JISC/ Academy OER start up meeting « Li’s work blog