In the UK there has already been a wave of funding to encourage the launch of repositories of open educational resources (OER). Our own OTTER project was funded during that initial wave. Now, attention has turned to ‘cascading,’ sharing practice, and evaluating impact of OER. Our current OSTRICH and TIGER projects are working in these areas. For the project I am working on, SPIDER (Sharing Practice with iTunes U Digital Educational Resources), I am gathering evidence of individual use of iTunes U-distributed material. So far, I have discovered quite a bit of such evidence. I find occasional evidence of someone using this material in teaching, and so far no evidence of anyone adapting or repurposing. From a technological viewpoint, iTunes U material does not lend itself easily at all to repurposing, and some universities do not even release iTunes U material under Creative Commons license anyway.
But even amongst true OER repositories, where much effort may have been put into making files editable and easy-to-repurpose, it is not clear that these qualities are being exploited. In my own recent discussions with educators interested in and working with OER, this point has come up again and again.
On 10 December 2010, Amber Thomas wrote in her blog post ‘Rethinking the O in OER’: “There’s a spectrum of use, reuse and repurposing, as it applies to academics and other sorts of users. We shouldn’t overweight the use case of academic repurposing. Maybe use is good enough for the majority of people.” In other words, perhaps ‘the repurposing and reuse of OER by those using it in teaching ‘ is somewhat overrated.
I could agree with Amber except in one respect. At a seminar at the Open University this past December (read my blog post about it here), I heard from a group of educators from Ghana that it is often very important to adjust OER to fit a new cultural context. Pedagogically-sound material can be rendered nearly useless by differences in cultural context. The projects mentioned above, along with those being done at the Open University, MIT, and many other institutions, have much yet to discover in the area of reuse and repurposing of OER.
Learning Technologist, Assistant Keeper of the Media Zoo, and SPIDER PI