OER4Adults: researching practices around Open Educational Resources

Posted by on Sep 17, 2012 in Higher Education, Professional Learning, Sustainable Learning | 0 comments

On Sept 4th 2012 Lou McGillIsobel Falconer and I met with Yves Punie and Stefania Bocconi at the European Commission’s Institute for Prospective Technological Studies in Seville. We launched an exciting new study that has the potential to shift the dialogue around the creation and use of Open Educational Resources (OERs): OER4Adults (http://oer4adults.org)

A unique aspect of the project is that, while encompassing well-recognised technological and legal barriers, we move from discussing access to materials, focussing on how to foster practices around OER that seize their full potential for learning.

This project is timely because the our understanding of what is encompassed by practices around open educational resources is changing from a narrow view of educational practice which centres on the production of content, to a broader definition of learning practice that would encompass all activities that open up access to opportunities for learning, in a context where freely available online content and services (whether ‘open’, ‘educational’ or not) are taken as the norm.

This study follows on from research we have carried out over the past three years examining the largescale JISC-funded UKOER programme,  An output from that study was  the JISC Open Practices briefing paper, in which we visualised OERs as the conjunction of open content practices with open educational practices more broadly. In relation to open content, we questioned what is special about educational content and how it is made openly available, licensed and distributed or shared. In relation to open practices, we asked how educational practices around content contribute to or are supported by other open practices (not specific to education) across the sphere of educational activity.

In the OER4adults project, we are building on this understanding of the mutual relations between open content practices and open learning practices using the social focus of the OER impact model that we developed during UKOER evaluation and synthesis, continuing to highlight aspects of open practice for different sectors and perspectives and consider ways in which open practices impact individuals, institutions, and organisations.

Educational practices around OER are situated within the wider educational context of adult education and lifelong learning. Within this broad context individual and social educational practices influence the nature of OER initiatives, and the initiatives, in turn, affect the institutionally based practices associated with them[1]. Further, we recognise that these practices and resources exist within a wider societal context in which open educational practices and resources are evolving rapidly. Such practices can be considered individually (i.e. the practices of an individual learner or teacher releasing or reusing resources) or socially (i.e. the practices of groups or collectives releasing or reusing resources). These aspects of OER practices are integrated in the UKOER Impact Model, as illustrated below:

The UKOER Impact Model


Individual impact (the left hand side of the model) has been explored by the JISC OER Impact Study and Open Resources: Impact on Learners and Educators (ORIOLE), led by the UK Open University with input from this team). Through our evaluation of the whole of the UKOER programme during the period 2009-2012, we have examined the right hand side of the model, taking a social focus.

OER4Adults provides an in-depth understanding of the bottlenecks and barriers to mainstreaming the use of OER and to implementing open educational practices in Europe.  Investigation and pre-planning of OER activity has never been realised at this level before. Given the hundreds of millions of euros or dollars that are funding OER activity worldwide, we anticipate this study will be significant.


[1] Lou McGill, Helen Beetham, Isobel Falconer, Allison Littlejohn (2011)  JISC UKOER Programme:   Phase 2 Synthesis and Evaluation Report https://oersynth.pbworks.com/w/page/46324015/UKOER%20Phase%202%20final%20report



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