Posted by: MandyS | February 10, 2014

Are OER both open and innovative?

An Open Future for Higher Education  (McAndrew et al., 2010), identifies that Open Education is the ‘catalyst for different forms of learning’. Learning is no longer associated with simply acquiring knowledge; instead Brown (2000) and Wenger (1998) advocate that learning is all about ‘doing’, preferably within a ‘community’ of like-minded learners/practitioners. The vast array of Open Educational Resources (OER), coupled with the advent of social networking, allow learners to ‘personalise’ their education to suite their own situation. Arguably, the depth and breadth of ones learning in this way can far outreach that which even the most assiduous learning institution can provide.

OpenLearn clearly promotes the ‘social learning’ envisaged by Brown and Adler (2008) and evidences a variety of advantages both from the learner and institutional perspective e.g. widening participation, enhancing reputation, recruitment, use of new technology. It comes at a price, making it prohibitive for some institutions but ‘mainstreaming’ the production of ‘open content’ would appear to be the way forward for a practice which is arguably becoming an institutional necessity.

And so to the task in hand…

How would you judge OpenLearn in terms of your definition of innovation?

OpenLearn fits with the definition of innovation on the basis that it is a ‘new development’ and a good example of the innovation being as a result of both the ‘technology’ (availability via the internet) and the teaching (through the introduction of ‘casual’ learning).

How open did you find OpenLearn?

Materials are available for a multitude of modules so if I want to learn the basics of law and the English legal system, I can do. Arguably, I can obtain the same information from a book, but the materials are interactive and guide the reader in the process of thinking (doing) as well as simply acquiring knowledge.

How does OpenLearn challenge conventional assumptions about paying for higher education modules?

As I say, I can learn the basics but if I actually want a career in law then I need to follow the conventional route of university to obtain a degree. For me, this is the beauty of OER; it’s essentially ‘try before you buy’. One can dabble with a variety of resources to elicit interest in both topic and learning. In that respect, there is no challenge. Most careers demand qualifications in some form and until Open Education delivers on all fronts, then the institutions are safe.



  1. It’s interesting that ‘law’ along with many other professions have professional bodies who ensure that their qualifications meet with rigorous standards. Is it likely that OER could ensure that these demands are met or does that contradict the ethos of OER’s drive towards collaborative learning?

    • I suppose its how the learner demonstrates meeting the rigorous requirements. At the moment would-be lawyers have to study for a qualifying law degree to be eligible to study towards a professional qualification i.e. study certain subjects in a manner approved by the SRA. I doubt OER could provide for this as the learning would not necessarily be in accordance with what is accepted.

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