JISC (McGill et al.,2013) reports that a substantial volume of open educational resources (OER) were produced following funding by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and that OER are increasingly being used to build recognition for an institution and attract students to study formally. Thus they are marketing tools as well as a means to bridge informal and formal learning, both of which drive the need to evaluate and develop them beyond the values and expectations of the community of staff and students, and towards creating global brands. However, reductions in funding have placed a strain on key areas such as the development of OER and essential staff expertise. Furthermore, a lack of data regarding possible cost efficiencies and returns on technology investment present challenges for the efficient use of limited funding going forward. Thus, it is reasonable to question the long term sustainability of OER in the current UK situation.
Open Educational Practices (OEP)
The report also notes numerous changes in OEP, drawing attention to the increase in collaboration in several areas, especially involving students as co-creators of OER. Changes in OEP are changing attitudes regarding sharing and openness and this is driving collaboration beyond subject and institutional boundaries, and also changing relationships, most notably between learners and academics. This has posed numerous challenges to staff who have reported benefits in various aspects of teaching development, but also raised an important issue regarding digital literacy and attitudes to open elearning. A specific solution to this has been to exploit community models for academics, wherein a safe space offers the opportunity of development with support in a community of practice. These experiences have in turn refocused OER away from content and towards improving models of open participation, thus encouraging the development of open elearning as an integration of OER and OEP. Despite this, the report also shows the need to improve digital literacy of individuals due to a lack of institutional support, and to overcome embedded attitudes.
The OER Research Hub (de los Arcos et al., 2014) noted that the opportunity to study at no cost was a significant factor for the vast majority of respondents engaged in open elearning. Roughly half were using it to support their formal higher educational studies, and a quarter to study a subject of interest they could not afford with an institution. It also noted that the greatest use of OER is in English speaking countries and that the vast majority of respondents had already achieved an associate degree or higher through formal education. Thus, the argument that OER lead to more equitable access to education and serve a broader base of learners seems to be confined to a narrow demographic, and does not support the claims by exponents of open elearning such as Wiley (2010). Access thus becomes an issue for those outside this narrow demographic and who are unable to afford or commit to full-time formal education and for whom flexible open learning could offer opportunities for personal and career development.
de los Arcos, B., Farrow, R., Perryman, L.-A., Pitt, R. and Weller, M. (2014), OER Evidence Report 2013–2014, OER Research Hub [online]. Available from(last accessed 16 November 2015).
McGill, L., Falconer, I., Dempster, J.A., Littlejohn, A. and Beetham, H. (2013) Journeys to Open Educational Practice: UKOER/SCORE Review Final Report, London, JISC. Also available online at https://oersynth.pbworks.com/ w/ page/ 60338879/ HEFCE-OER-Review-Final-Report (last accessed 8 October 2015).
Wiley, D. (2010) ‘Open education and the future’, TEDxNYED 2010. Available at http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=Rb0syrgsH6M (last accessed 7 October 2015).