Friday, 5 April 2013

Moving Beyond OER Activities

Activity 9

Choosing a Creative Commons Licence

The most essential part of any Open Educational Resource (OER) is the openness of the resources that have been created. As David Willey (2007) puts it there are degrees of being open. A door that is slightly ajar is open but a door that is fully wide open is clearly more open.

Willey states that there are 4Rs of Reuse for OERs. The more of these 'Rs' an OER allows then the more open it is.

Many OERs use the Creative Commons Licence as a way of telling users what level of "openness" they have. See here for the different levels that Creative Commons suggests.

Looking at the digital projects that I have been involved in it is clear that many of them have worked on less than 4 of the 4Rs of Reuse. There are sound commercial and copyright reasons for this as many of the organisations I work with a cash-strapped non-profit bodies. 

This is especially true for the digital collections of museums and other areas of the heritage sector. This page explores how museums and galleries use Creative Commons for their digital collections. 

Very few of them appear to use Attribution CC BY 

Attribution CC BY
This allows for full reuse of the contents of an OER, even for commercial purposes.

Many of them are happy for extensive reuse but with the commercial use excluded. This can be either Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA or Attribution Non-Commercial CC BY-NC

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA
Attribution Non-Commercial CC BY-NC

Of course many museum staff see themselves as 'custodians' of the collections in their care and may feel that their job is to protect both physical and digital collections for what they may regard as abuse by users.

Although I have never made it explicit on any of my blogs or any little OERs that I have created. my instinct would be for Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA. 

I would take a great deal of pleasure in seeing people repurposing and distributing any materials they find on my OERs. However, the idea that there would be some commercial aspect to this and that somebody might make money out of something that I created for free would act as a discouragement for me to create free things in the future. Anybody with an understanding of Game Theory will understand why.

Activity 10

Applying Sustainability Models

The purpose of this activity is to read through Willey's "On the Sustainability of Open Educational Resources Initiatives in Higher Education" (2007) and then to apply the models of sustainability to a series of OER initiatives.

Although I feel confident that everybody reading this blog is familiar with this paper here are the three models as outlined by Willey.

The MIT Model
This OER model is a massive one in which every course in a university is published freely online. Current courses are updated if necessary and old courses are archived. This requires a large buget, lots of staff and the active support of the entire university.

The USU Model
The USU Model is still very large but is more informal than the MIT Model. The goal is to have as many courses online as possible but that much depends on the relationships with faculties and faculty members. Staffing is kept to a minimum and any staffing shortfalls are filled by volunteers. The budget for this is consequently much smaller.

The Rice Model
This OER model has the loosest and most informal of structures. There are no target number of courses from the host university and it accepts educational materials from scholars around the world. The site is self-organising, it employs no staff and funding is very low.

OER Initiatives and Models of Sustainability

Change MOOC
This particular OER seems closest to the USU Model. There appears to be only one university course available at the moment and a quick look through the calender appears to show nothing coming up in the near future.

This well-known OER is clearly far closer to the Rice Model insofar as it acts as a portal for MOOCs being offered by universities around the world. However, there are some significant differences in that Coursera does not offer any OERs itself and it employs about 40 members of staff. You can see them here. They offer technical and pedagogical support which is closer to the MIT or USU Models.

Jorum seems to share many characteristics with Coursera but is much closer to the Rice Model. It acts as a portal for OERs being offered by British universities and colleges of further education. It is funded by JISC. This is a public body that is jointly funded by British further and higher education establishments which supports digital technologies. 

OpenLearn hosts OERs created from courses offered by the Open University. Having searched through site it seems to offer only part of what the Open University offers as a whole. There is no way of telling if every course offered by the Open University is represented on OpenLearn and only offers what might be called 'tasters' in order to encourage potential students to enrol on a full course. From this perspective it is closest to the USU Model.

Some Thoughts on Activity
Although it is difficult to extrapolate out from this small sample. there are some conclusions that I can draw:

  • The MIT Model seems to be unique to the OpenCourseWare offered by MIT. It is difficult to see something unique as a 'model'. There may be other OERs that are like the MIT Model but they would require a lot in terms of resources and would have to be actively accepted by the whole university.

  • The USU Model is probably most common within most higher educational establishments. However, it would be interesting to see how many universities would prefer to move towards the MIT Model or are content with this model.

  • From a users' point of view the Rice Model is probably the most useful. There is no necessity to find OERs created by individual universities and it is also possible to 'pick and mix' learning opportunities from different institutions. 

  • Wiley's models only partially cover what Jorum, Coursera and other OER/MOOC portals such as EdX and FutureLearn. The Rice Model presupposes little or no technological or pedagogic support yet these examples clearly have them. The MIT and USU Models are also of limited usage as they rely on the creation of OERs from one institution.

Activity 11

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Big and Little OERs

For an understanding of big and little OERs read Weller (2012).

A discussion about the comparative advantages and disadvantages of big and little OERs from the perspective of users seems to me to be a little bit like comparing a cruise liner with a small yacht. 


The cruise liner offers virtually everything that you need out at sea. There is the comfort of knowing that the sheer size of the boat will protect you in choppy waters; all of your needs are provided for you by staff; you have the company of lots of fellow travellers (this may or may not be a good thing); and there are plenty of high-quality resources available for you to choose from. However, there is little in the way creating your own timetable.n You can choose what to do from a set menu of activities but less choice about when to do it. The cruise liner will also sets off from a particular port at a particular time and will arrive at a set destination and will only stay for a predesignated period before moving on.  

The yacht offers the ultimate in flexibility. You can choose to sail (within reason) to anywhere that you want to go, stay as long as you wish and leave at a time that suits you. You have more control over what happens whilst the dinghy is sailing. You can choose when and what you eat along with any other resources that you care to have. The disadvantages are obvious. This all requires far more effort on your part both before, during and after the journey. There is also the lack of other people (whether that is crew or other travellers) to provide support if it is needed. You may be able to choose what resources you take but the size of the boat will limit what resources you can take with you - just try getting a dance floor and swimming pool onto a yacht.

Which one would you choose?


  1. Hi Norfolk
    Great comparison between the boats and the small / big OERs.

    You ask wich one I would choose. It depends. As a teacher I prefer the small ones. Easy to change and built into my didactic design. As a learner I like the big OERs, if they are using the multi modality and not just heavy texts. I really loved the EDC mooc, because creativity was an important part of the course.

  2. Thanks for your comments Gitte.

    My name isn't really Norfolk - that's just my tribute to the part of England that I live in. 'Rambling' refers to either walking slowly or talking without any particular purpose.