Open Education Resources: Content without Context?

Open Education Resources: Content without Context?

Lindy Klein (University of New England,, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7230-7.ch072
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This chapter explores the possibilities for Open Education Resources (OERs) to be developed in ways that allow independent, self-directed adult learners to engage with the resources with the use of their own learning contexts. Using examples of open education resources currently available from some of the better-known OER providers, the author seeks to demonstrate what is currently available. The chapter then explores ways in which open education and OERs can be further developed to support varying and changing learner contexts.
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The Examples

Three examples of OER have been chosen for discussion. These examples were chosen from the options resulting from a search for suitable OERs to be repurposed by faculty making curriculum revisions to their current programs. The emphasis within these units is towards embedding sustainability in the core units of a business degree. Although the examples chosen may not be the best exemplars of the repositories offering them, they are publically and readily available and were among the first results returned in a basic search on the keyword sustainability within each repository site.

Selected Examples of OER Repositories

Three different repositories were chosen to provide contrasting examples of OER. These repositories are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) site (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2002b), the Open University United Kingdom OpenLearn Learning Space (OU Learning Space) site (The Open University, 2006) and the WikiEducator site (WikiEducator, 2006). Each of these sites offers content under the Creative Commons suite of licences (Creative Commons, 2002): MIT OCW using Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike version 3.0 (CC-BY-NC-SA v3.0) in combination with a qualifying Terms of Use policy available on the site (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2002a); OU Learning Space using Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike version 2.0 (CC-BY-NC-SA v2.0) with an acknowledgement of the site being powered by Open Source software; and WikiEducator using Attribution Share-Alike version 3.0 (CC-BY-SA v3.0) and including a notice acknowledging WikiMedia as the base software for the site. The use of the Creative Commons licences allows third-party users to quickly and easily understand the usage rights of the sites.

Each of the clauses listed (Attribution, Non-Commercial and Share-Alike) is clearly defined on the Creative Commons website (Creative Commons, 2002), which is linked to each of the repositories in the footer of each page, included with the reference to the licensing of the site. These licences enable the educational community to reuse the supplied resources in ways that promote open education. The resources are freely offered, provided the conditions of the Creative Commons licences are met. Broadly, these are:

  • Attribution: The original author/s and publisher must be attributed in any usage of the work.

  • Non-Commercial: The work is not able to be used for commercial purposes without the express permission of the copyright holder (MIT OCW further defines this clause in their site Terms of Use).

  • ShareAlike: The work and its derivatives, must be available under the same conditions as the original work.

These repositories were chosen as they are well-known in the field of OER, both for pioneering the ideas of OER creation and for the provision of high-quality materials (Bonk, 2009; Iiyoshi & Kumar, 2008; Klein, 2010). It must be noted that WikiEducator is not backed by a tertiary institution that can provide a ready supply of materials suitable for OER production (such as MIT or OpenUK). As such, all materials are contributed by members of a wider community united by a common goal to contribute to the development of OERs worldwide. Any individual can join this community and in exchange for an OER of their creation (and choice of subject matter), they can learn how to use the site through the Learning4Content program (Randy Fisher (wikirandy) & and other WikiEducator users, 2011).

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