The stuff ain’t enough

Fireside Chat#2

UNESCO have a call out for responses to their Draft OER Recommendations. I will post something there, but when I was considering it, the recommendations touched on a bigger problem that I feel is repeatedly overlooked in OER, which is that the resources are a necessary starting point, but they are not an end point. Particularly if your goal is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education
and promote lifelong opportunities for all”, then it is the learner support that goes around the content that is vital.

And on this, the recommendations are largely silent. There is a recommendation to develop “supportive policy” but this is focused on supporting the creation of OER, not the learners. Similarly the “Sustainability models for OER” are aimed at finding ways to fund the creation of OER. I think we need to move beyond this now. Obviously having the resources is important, and I’d rather have OER than nothing, but unless we start recognising, and promoting, the need for models that will support learners, then there is a danger of perpetuating a false narrative around OER – that content is all you need to ensure equity. It’s not, because people are starting from different places. The sorts of learners you might envisage using OER in an equitable, lifelong learning scenario often lack the confidence or necessary learning skills to make effective use of them. I’ve blogged about costs in relation to MOOCs, but it bears repeating for OER – supporting students is by far the most expensive part of open education. But it is also the most impactful. So, if UNESCO really want to realise their aim of equitable education, they should foreground the need for support to accompany OER, otherwise it’s more of the ‘build it and they will learn’ fallacy.

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