11 Aug 2012

Open Educational Resources: Embracing the Remix

Nothing is original according to Kirby Ferguson, presenter of the Everything is a Remix TED TalkInnovation and creativity is nearly always derived from and built on what has come before, and simply refines and repackages it to suit a new purpose or need. Society benefits from this kind of sharing and 'remixing' as it bypasses needlessly duplicated costs, leading to more efficient transmission and dissemination of ideas.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) provide a useful illustration of Ferguson's idea. The OER space typically includes content such as open textbooks & journals, course materials and learning objects, as well as software applications and tools for teaching and learning. There is no formal, established definition of what constitutes an OER at present, however the OLCOS Roadmap* recommends three intrinsic properties for existing and future resources:
  • Content and metadata should be free to access for educational purposes
  • Resources and content should be liberally licensed to allow for re-use, modification and re-purposing
  • Tools and applications should be open-source with open APIs

These resources are not only free to access, but ideally can potentially save educators time and effort by allowing them to remix existing content without running into copyright or IP roadblocks. However all OERs are not created equal, and finding high quality, accurate resources can take time, particularly within the context of a domain that is growing all the time. Some resources may also need a large amount of local customisation (or localisation) before they can be utilised, but at a macro level these costs are relatively small compared to the potential benefits.

OER portals
Libraries can play a key role by selecting, curating and remixing the most suitable resources for their users. Fortunately there are a number of portals and websites that have completed a substantial portion of this groundwork already.
Ready to Research is a collection of research-related OERs compiled by the Open University in partnership with several other UK institutions. The portal contains around 150 hours of content, including a mixture of more traditional research skills (qualitative & quantitative methods, referencing and avoiding plagiarism) alongside nascent and emerging aspects such as digital literacies, developing an online academic identity, and new technologies in publishing and dissemination.

Rather than creating new content and material from scratch, the site acts as a portal or toolkit by pointing users to a carefully curated set of resources, all of which have been made available by the authors under Creative Commons. Consequently there is a real sense of richness and variety to the material, stemming from the broad range of perspectives on offer - from the incipient reflections of a PhD blogger to the experienced advice of an LSE Professor. It is also great to see the excellent NDLR MyRI content incorporated as part of the Metrics and Data Measurement section. The site is suitable for end-users, but educators may prefer to simplify or streamline the comprehensive bank of resources by selecting (or indeed re-purposing where copyright allows) particular key resources.

Open University MOOC on OERs
For those interested in learning more about curriciulum and instructional design using OERs, the Open University’s Institute of Educational Technology is running a MOOC on the topic in Autumn 2012. More details will be announced soon but you can register your interest here.

*Geser, Guntram (2007-01). "Open Educational Practices and Resources. OLCOS Roadmap 2012". Salzburg, Austria: Salzburg Research, EduMedia Group. p. 20. Retrieved 2010-11-06.


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