Two theories on how OER work
From an e-mail I wrote this morning:
I think right now there is evidence for two divergent theories on the way OER work: the standard view that reuse of OER results in cost savings and iterative quality improvement, and the view that in many cases OER are disposable rather than reusable. And the case may be that both views are correct, depending on circumstance.
I think the first view is pretty clear and so I’ll skip to an explanation of the second. As production and distribution of a wider and wider range of media become cheaper and more widely available on a standard PC, it’s often easier to draw inspiration from the teaching materials of others but create the actual materials you use from scratch. I interviewed a professor here in the States whose work illustrated just this (http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/ocw-benefits-3.html). Video production, too, illustrates this concept. With a laptop camera, it’s far easier to create a new video from scratch than to edit or even translate and subtitle one that’s been previously produced.
Obviously there are caveats about unequal access to technology and appropriate accessibility provisions, but in general, by privileging adaption over direct creation, we may be encouraging faculty and schools to undertake processes that inadvertently end up costing more and producing lower quality materials. What is clear to me at this point is that by sharing materials openly, we are allowing educators to learn from one another through the transparency OER provide, regardless of whether the OER are actually reused. And many materials are so cheap to produce that it’s fine if they end up as openly shared educational “compost” that is the fertile ground for the growth of new materials rather than the “pulp” that gets recycled directly.