Open Educational Resources (OER)
The research curated on this site is all about the impact of Open Educational Resources. The precise definition of OER is sometimes disputed, but generally speaking these are educational materials that are either in the public domain or are free and openly licensed, meaning they can be copied, shared, adapted, amended and remixed. They are based on the idea that information and education are public goods and that contemporary technologies make it possible to share more widely than ever before. OER have emerged against a background of increasing costs in education and financial austerity, and the benefits of OER are often thought of in terms of reducing the marginal costs of education. But many other claims have been made about OER.
Some people think it makes their teaching better since they have to think a bit more about how they put together their materials. OER might support better collaboration between academics who collectively write a curriculum or textbook. Some people think that OER are encouraging a whole new generation of informal learners who are using resources like Wikipedia. Our hypotheses look at a specific set of claims that people have made about OER and their potential. If you want to learn more about OER, try our playlist Understanding OER in 10 Videos.
Our research project is primarily interested in evidence for and against a set of key hypotheses about open education. Evidence presented on the site is categorised according to whether it supports or detracts from a particular hypothesis.
Each data entry is also assigned a geographical location, which lets us map evidence. We don’t weight evidence – we just try to capture as much as possible – and each entry has a nominal ‘weighting’ of 1. While this does risk overlooking important nuances when making comparisons, it makes it possible to see at a glance what the overall pattern of available evidence is for a particular query, and then provides direct links to the information we find. All the relevant evidence can be shown together and then examined more carefully to identify issues and support more rounded judgements on the hypotheses.
We’re exploring a number of different ways to visualise the data we have collected, including maps. While on a map page, click on the coloured evidence nodes to bring up the full entry. The full record contains more information, the citation (or URL) and any associated media that we have stored. We currently have maps for OER Evidence, OER Projects, OER Policies – and an OER Impact Map which combines all three.
For more on the technical development of the site, see the following blog posts:
- Using WordPress for research data collection and visualization
- Building an evidence hub plugin for WordPress
- OER Impact Map: Rankings and recommendations are open
We welcome your feedback on using this site, which is still undergoing development and being populated with research findings. The lead for this work is Rob Farrow, Research Associate on the OER Research Hub project. You can email him via rob.farrow [at] open.ac.uk or find him on Twitter.