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Open educational resources
Havemann, Leo and Peters, Michael A. [secondary]

PublishedDecember 2016
PeriodicalPages 1 - 7
PublisherEncyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory, Springer Singapore
EditorPeters, M A.


For many in education, the term Open Educational Resources or OER probably translates functionally as ‘free resources on the internet’. But this shorthand provides only a partial definition which obscures some of the key features and questions of interest that drive the ‘OER movement’, as the community of practitioners and scholars who are engaged with OER are often described. For example, how can educational resources be ‘free’? What is
the significance of their ‘openness’? How do they get on the internet? Also, what should we make of the fact that there is a ‘prehistory’ of openness in education which predates current digital versions?

Along with their parent category, Open Education, OER belong to a pantheon of technology enabled ‘opening’ movements, including Open Source Software and Open Access, that act as drivers for openness, collaboration and transparency, yet tend to operate as ‘silos’, with each aiming to act upon a specific domain of knowledge and practice. Adoption of open approaches can make an enormous contribution in education, but challenges, barriers and
threats abound. While the sharing and reuse of open resources is widely accepted as a ‘good idea’ (and promoted by prominent international organisations such as UNESCO and the OECD), this has not yet led to widespread adoption. Education rests upon the communication, exchange and critique of ideas, so to advocate for ‘openness’ in this space
is, in a sense, rather uncontroversial. Yet, although few would say they are against openness in principle, specific forms of openness can struggle to gain traction, and OER has arguably been one of these.

Research into the use of OER by educators and their students also suggests engagement can be hampered in various ways, for instance by inequitable access to connectivity and bandwidth; technical and skills barriers; restrictive or unclear institutional policies; and lack of time or reward (Atenas, Havemann, & Priego, 2014; Browne, Holding, Howell, & RodwayDyer,
2010; Havemann, Stroud, & Atenas, 2014; Rolfe, 2012; Schuwer, Kreijns, &
Vermeulen, 2014; Windle, Wharrad, McCormick, Laverty, & Taylor, 2010). While awareness of these issues and concerns is important, they are not the focus of this entry. Instead my aim is to contextualise and then closely examine OER, so as to provide an overview both of what they are and why educators should take an interest in them.

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