Posted by: MandyS | April 27, 2013

“OER will reduce the digital divide”

Block 2, Week 11, Activity 2c

This is obviously the hope, but I am not convinced that this is in fact anywhere near a reality at the moment. Search as I might, I have been unable to come up with any evidence that there has been a reduction so far which is directly attributable to OER. I will be interested to see what others come up with here though.

What I did come up with is an interesting article by Andy Lane who suggests that OER is more capable of widening the gap than reducing it. He basically argues that even if technology is available to access OER, it still relies on a user’s technical competence as well a desire to learn. OER is subject to the same social and cultural barriers as the availability of technology itself. The ‘socially excluded groups and communities’ that OER is aimed at are more likely to have the greatest ‘lack of confidence in their competence to succeed’ and it may be ‘difficult for less sophisticated learners to make good use of OER without direct support from intermediaries’.

I found another interesting slant in an article by Justin Reich . He suggests that whilst OER is envisaged as a means of learning for poorer communities, everyone in fact benefits and the wealthy perhaps disproportionately so. A perhaps unintended capability of OER is to bring about further educational inequality, on the basis that the wealthy are better able to use these resources to promote greater educational success.

They are interesting arguments which, to me, have some merit and my conclusion would be that accessibility of technology to promote OER does not necessarily reduce the divide.

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