Open education research: from the practical to the theoretical – Activity 5 Part 1 H817

oerpeopleatinstitutionThese are my notes and answers for the activity based around the book chapter “Open education research: from the practical to the theoretical” by Patrick McAndrew and Robert Farrow (2013) (Permalink)

Rough notes

OER remove restrictions from learners and educators. Free of direct cost and openly accessible online. Expanding formal education and informal learning.
Breaks normal cycles of sign up in cohorts and retake in failure. Supporting informal social learning i.e. OpenStudy, which is social based learning around content and questions posed to create dialogue.
Six Stages of OER (OpenLearn Model)
1- Legal: release copyright
2 – Practical: Provide access to content
3 – Technical: Platform for open access
4 – Pedagogic: Ensure designed that work
5 – Economic: Devise model for sustainable operation
6 – Transformative: Change ways of working & learning
Sages 1 & 2: Creative Commons licence and functioning platforms provided starting point/
Stages 3 & 4: Moodle and OU materials converted to “learning objects”.
Stage 5 – Self sustaining finance not a requirement (Note: Pretty  amazing really in the 21st century). Developers attentive to economic opportunities (Note: figure it out later)
Stage 6- Transformation was beyond scope pf OpenLearn. although it is an agent for change.
The OU via OpenLearn’s parties has developed a better understanding of business models. Grants connected to OER provision.
12 Key challenges of OER (OLnetframework – OlNet established in 2009 to support OL development)
1 – Development of appropriate assessment / evaluation models
2 -Technologies / infrastructure required for future
3 – Institutional policies required to promote OER
4 – Use and re-use – evidence of
5 – Sustainability in OER (green?)
6 – Copyright / licensing (support issues)
7 – Teaching in OER – costs / benefits defined
8 – Promote and advocate OER – methods to
9 – Quality – ensure that it is high
10 –  Adoption – creation of cultures  (teaching and learning)
11 – Research – Improve value of in OER
12 – Access – improve in OER
The create four categories:
1 – Persistant (Copyright, Technology, Access)
2 – Underlying challenges (cost/benefit, impact, Policy)
3 – Sticking points (Quality, Sustainability, Re-use)
4 – Emerging challenges (Advocacy,Culture,Open Assessment)
Some key areas:
  • OER platform via Creative Commons, other ways of licensing exist. Scale of access and amenability of re-use
  •  Open Educational Practices – OER challenges the norm and is in continuous development
  •  Assessment & Evaluation – assessment can be a catalyst for effective learning (provides structure / motivation. No clear viable assessment model. Each have pros and cons i.e. digital badges
  •  Technological infrastructure – Generally set on parallel systems (this creates tension). No ideal solution exists. Weller (2012) “Big Oer vs “Litlle OER”based around origin i.e OU scale institutions pr small i.e. personal turorinh, homework help etc.
  •  Research & scholarship – Print publication bias creates culture that does not rewards openness. Certain areas more open i.e. public health> being open is not opposite of commercial use of IP. OEP – Open Educational Practises (OEP) support OER value flow/chain.
OER as supporter of Educational Theory – OER just one of many changing schools of thought about education in 20th / 21st century. Education and culture in general have progressed.
Typology of learnings – OER is an enabler of many ways of educating / learning
 Typology of informal learning (Vavoula 2004).
Open is a principle and there are now mechanisms to support and creating future approaches to learning.

Activity Questions:

1 – How would you judge OpenLearn in terms of your definition of innovation

In my works as a facilitator and a trainer of creativity and innovation I have fallen to using the fallowing as a definition: “Innovation is the creation of substantial new value for customers and the firm by creatively changing one or more dimensions of the business system.” —“The 12 Different Ways for Companies to Innovate” (Permalink) by Sawhney, Mohanbir ; Wolcott, Robert ; Arroniz, Inigo . If I swap out learners for customers and business for institution, then I think there is a clear case to say that for the Open University OpenLearn provides a significant shift in terms of innovation. This is innovation for the OU in the sense that OER already existed. The creation of OpenLearn has created a seismic shift for the OU in many areas. The 12 ways of innovation are:

Areas of innovation

Areas of innovation

The OU has shifted in many of these
Operational: processes & networking.
Business model: organisation, value capture and presence.
Strategic: offering, platforms, solutions, customers, customer experience and brands.
The only insignificant shift is supply chain and even this will have had some adaptations.
Whilst the definition is not my own, in the spirit of OER and Creative Commons and “remixing” I would probably define innovation as “adapting previous ideas or creating new ones to provide value to someone in a way they have not considered previously”.

2 – What key challenges facing the OER movement can be dealt with more quickly then others:

Things in academia, do not move fast at the best of the time, so there may be fairly big variations between “BigOER” and “LittleOER” in terms of times to implementation. Also for each of the challenges, the scope can be pretty broad.

Quicker fixes i.e. < 18 months

4 – Use and re-use – evidence of
I imagine the search, contacting developer and other Web 2.0 tools can support the capturing of what is being used and by whom.
5 – Sustainability in OER (green?)
Most “western” institutions should be conscienscious about the impact their activities have on the environment. OER is just an extension of “business as usual”.
6 – Copyright / licensing (support issues)
There will be ongoing issues with this, but with agreed legal formats such as Creative Commons it seems fairly manageable.
8 – Promote and advocate OER – methods to
Ongoing from creators and users of OER. The bigger picture will require more tie and effort in terms of impacting government and institutions to take up and support OER.
12 – Access – improve in OER
 I would imagine this is work in progress.

Medium term i.e. 1.5 to 3 years.

1 – Development of appropriate assessment / evaluation models
Processes are already in use.
2 -Technologies / infrastructure required for future
Many existing platforms already work with and support OER, as OER methodologies and tools expand so will the scale and scope of supporting technologies i.e. virtual reality is accelerating in terms of acceptance.
3 – Institutional policies required to promote OER
Already work in progress.
9 – Quality – ensure that it is high.
Already work in progress.

Longer term i.e. 3 years out or more

7 – Teaching in OER – costs / benefits defined
Finding appropriate business models seems to be tricky. I have been unable to find any clear “BigOER” operations that have found a clear way of monetising OER. Perhaps there will never be.
10 –  Adoption – creation of cultures  (teaching and learning)
Probably one of the slower of the challenges
11 – Research – Improve value of in OER
Along with 10, a very slow process.

 3 – How do open educational resources challenge conventional assumptions about paying for higher education modules?

In general OERs are generally not neceserily complete higher education modules, rather learning objects or sub sections of modules. The OECD define OER as “digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning and research”. (Hylén, 2007).
With OERs, learner are able to bypass the institution and go direct to source materials the have been offered for free and study piecemeal the elements that make up a course:
This ensures institutions have to consider their business model. Fundamental to this are the questions:
What value over and above those available as OERs do institutions provide AND how will they capture and retain fee paying students in the future?
Some of the reasons (value), I myself am prepared to pay for a course, rather than stitch together a path of OER resources include:
  • Formal qualification at the end of the process.
  • Access to learning support.
  • Access to peers with similar interests (also found in MOOCs, but in a formal course the communication is more focused).
  • Access to academic library
  • An expectation that materials are up to date (not always true, due to often lengthy development cycles).

With that said, I am a consumer of MOOC courses and have taken courses on different platforms around topics of interest. There will always be a place for formal, paid education, but OERs may start to cannibalise formal paid courses.

Part 2 of this activity, to evaluate an OER, I will carry out as a separate blog article.


Hylén, J. (2007) ‘Giving Knowledge for Free – THE EMERGENCE OF OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES’, OECD – Centre for Educatin Research and Innovation, [online] Available from:
McAndrew, P. and Farrow, R. (2013) ‘Open education research: from the practical to the theoretical’ in McGreal, R., Kinuthia, W. and Marshall, S. (eds) Open Educational Resources: Innovation, Research and Practice, Vancouver, Commonwealth of Learning and Athabasca University, pp. 65–78; also available online at 37756/ 1/ OER-IRP-mcandrew-farrow.pdf (last accessed 4 November 2015).

Mohanbir Sawhney, Robert C. Wolcott, Inigo Arroniz.(2006) ‘The 12 Different Ways for Companies to Innovate – ProQuest’, [online] Available from: (Accessed 21 January 2016).

Image Credit: –  Margan Zajdowicz

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