Block 2 – Activity 7 Exploring OER Issues

oer_logo_EN_2_RGBThis activity required me to read one of two reports about Open Education and to write about what I see as the three key issues in OER and how they are being addressed.

I have chosen the OER Research Hub Evidence Report 2013-2014.

Firstly I would like to say that OER in itself is huge and has enormous potential for moving us forward to openness of learning for everyone whether informal or formal learners, educationalists, researchers or institutions.

The report investigates 11 hypotheses covering Performance, Openness, Access, Retention, Reflection, Finance, Indicators, Support, Transition, Policy and Assessment. I have related these back to the key questions from Activity 4 – Sustainability, Pedagogy, Barriers to uptake, Learner Support, Technology, Quality and Rights. I have found that all 11 hypotheses relate or interlink with each other and therefore need each other to sustain the use of OER.

Learners need access to quality resources which can be achieved through educators reflecting on their use of OER to enrich their lectures and supporting materials.  These OER are free, supportive and learning can be assessed and accredited if policy drawn up by governments and institutions are involved in setting  and sharing the criteria for accreditation.  Accreditation can motivate student performance and satisfaction and provide motivation to undertake formal education (eg Open education acts as bridge).


Learners are using OER in ways that can be interpreted as leading to greater access to education thus removing or reducing ‘Barriers to Uptake’.  Evidence showed that OER supported formal learners who were already studying or for trialling out a subject before committing to formal study. This was backed up by The Open University who reported at 10% conversion rate of learners who signed up for a formal course after using OpenLearn OER materials. Some learners are using OER to replace formal education(Saylor users) ,  and others use it because of the financial costs of HE, they may have a disability, there may be language barriers or they might not have the necessary standard of education to apply for formal courses.  OER provides access to materials such as Open Textbooks and access to study at no cost. OER also users an opportunity to try out course content which supports choice and diversity.  The effect of this trialling of formal content  and its effect on student retention is being researched by the Open University.  However this is an aspect of OER that needs further longitudinal studies to support this hypothesis.


The hypothesis – informal assessments motivate learners using OER

The report indicates that there is little evidence to address this hypothesis. At the time of the report (2013/14) the most commonly experienced informal means of assessment are ‘Being given  automated feedback on submitted work’ (52.4%), ‘Being allowed) to talk to other learners on the course about my experiences’ (50%) and ‘Being allowed to look back and review my progress through the course’ (47.6%) and the most motivating means of assessment is ‘Having an educator/instructor available to provide support’ (38.1%).

Quizzes and the use of video are popular OER resources used for assessment.  Possible accreditation seems to be motivating OER users as they see links with transferrable skills, college credits (Saylor), completion certificates and accreditation which can be used to apply for degree courses.  The use of online Badges for participation, skills or knowledge has been investigated and shown to be a motivational factor. The educator/instructor providing the support could be the provider/issuer of the badges (such as found through sites such as Credly or Mozilla badges) which could be tailored to the specific skills and knowledge gained through the use of specified OER materials. Badges can be built up to digital badge 2gain accreditation.  These of course, if being used as accreditation, would need to be developed through the use of appropriate supportive institutional Open Learning policies.  If going down the route of accreditation it needs to be free (badges) or of low cost such as charged by Saylor Academy to cover costs of exams or certification offered after completing a FutureLearn module.

Some work undertaken by Peer 2 Peer University has indicated motivational factors coming through courses which offered self-review of progress, checking of answers and being given automated feedback on submitted work.  P2PU are now looking at including peer learning (study groups) and community through learning circles for specific topics and interests. This is an area that would sit nicely within/across learning communities of teachers.

Technology – digital literacy and availability of mobile devices

This report is based on OER materials which are accessed through use of the Web.  Without access to a computer, laptop, tablets etc these OER materials would not be available. The question arises too about developing digital literacy and transforming digital immigrants to allow them to work and learn alongside digital natives (Helsper and Enyon 2010, and Prensky 2001)).  I believe that without some form of digital literacy we immediately create barriers to learning.  Effective use of technology within OER can improve sustainability, pedagogy, remove barriers to uptake, support learners through provision of clear and concise indicators for selecting relevant OER materials and help them develop their own forms of study methods.  Technology can also support motivational informative assessment resources such as badges, access to peer support groups through social media and provide opportunities to access HE course content.  The Openness of OER materials becomes possible through technology, however with technology comes ethical usage of resources.  Open licencing and creative commons awareness is paramount when using digitalcommons technologies to share, use and adapt resources.  Analytical tools could be put to use to provide indicators that lead users to find OER materials relevant to their interests with as few links as possible.  OER materials need to be developed for use over a range of formats to allow access across all digital devices.


I found this a very interesting and thought provoking report which took me a long time to get my head around.  Mind maps needed to keep thoughts joined.  I also found new OER links which I have added to my OER toolbox.



Thomas Richter Thomas Kretschmer Christian M. Stracke TELIT@University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany Alan Bruce Universal Learning Systems, Ireland Tore Hoel Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Norway Elina Megalou Computer Technology Institute & Press Diophantus, Greece Ildiko Mazar EDEN – European Distance and E-Learning Network Sofoklis Sotirou Ellinogermaniki Agogi Scholi Panagea Savva, Greece (2013) Open educational resources in the context of school education: Barriers and Possible solutions. Available through

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 on 16 November 2015).

Helsper, E. J. & Enyon, R. (2010) Digital Natives: where is the evidence? British Educational Research Journal Vol 36, No. 3, June, 2010, pp. 503-520 (downloaded by the Open University on 19 January 2015).

Prensky, M (2001a) Digital natives, digital immigrants. Part 1, On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-6, in:  Helsper, E. J. & Enyon, R. (2010) Digital Natives: where is the evidence? British Educational Research Journal Vol 36, No. 3, June, 2010, pp. 503-520 (downloaded by the Open University on 19 January 2015).




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