Thursday, April 22, 2010

What Does it Mean to be an OER?

All three of the terms open, educational and resource seem to be difficult to define to anyone's satisfaction. I believe this is because to a certain extent all three of these terms have a different meaning to everyone

What does it mean to be open?

To say something is open might mean that it is freely available or it might mean for a small fee you can use that something and have knowledge about how it was created. Each of the articles we read as well as the video we watched delved into the concept of what it means to be open a great deal and all agreed clarification is needed. In the Tuomi article three levels of social openness were described which leads me to believe that some things can be more open than others. In my mind to be open something must be easily available, freely usable, and customizable.

What does it mean to say something is educational?
This question always leads to the formal verses informal education debate. It is not really fair to say that only things created at an educational institution or with the purpose of education are educational. Informal learning occurs all the time and because it is personally relevant may have more of an impact on the learner. My definition of education is any situation from which a person learns. This is probably way to broad for the purposes of defining an OER, but I do think it is something which is personal and should not be confined to formal learning.

What is a resource?

I don't really want to limit resources to tools or digital assets. I think resources can include people, places (eg. a library) and things. I was wondering if an experience could also be a resource, but I think a resource might need to be more solid. A picture of an experience could be a resource because it is something tangible you could refer to again. My definition of a resource would be an object or asset which can be used for a particular purpose. The resource would not have to be created with learning in mind in order for it to be educational though.

My definition of an OER

According to what I have written above an OER must be an easily available, freely usable and customizable object or asset which can be used formally or informally to learn. I view the open part of the definition to be most crucial however. If something is open on all three of the levels discussed in the Tuomi article it wouldn't matter if it was intended to be educational or a resource. It could still be viewed as an OER by the user as long as they had open access to it.


  1. Glad you mentioned people as a resource. Part of my job is to search out reliable information on the net outside the academic data bases. We might suggest a set of interesting articles on leadership or student blogs for business students at course companion sites and knowing insider jargon or what’s currently hot in a field really narrows the search.
    When I’m stumped the best sources are people in the field. The human brain is still the best all around information retrieval device. It can be linear and then make crazy logic jumps that lead directly to exactly what I want. People are proud of what they know and will help whenever they can.
    I think we often forget this and tend to devalue human resources as being unreliable, prone to misunderstanding or bias. A rock knows geology from personal experience but it takes a human to speak for it. Or at least make up and interesting story about it.

  2. I like your definition of "educational" -- we have very similar feelings on the subject. I also like what you wrote about informal learning, and how if the learning is personally relevant it may have more impact on the learner. I agree and have noticed that the students I see in my library instructional sessions do become more engaged when the information has personal relevance.

  3. The real Open Educational Resource is

    featuring wonderful full video lecture recordings of
    Uni of Michigan

    We have to add more first clss university yo these.

    We do not need garble in garble out courses made by some universities they call themselves university or college.

    We do need only 50 or so first class universities. Rest is useless.

    Each course developed by these reputable univwersities should be shared by 5.000 to 50.000 even more may be 1.000.000 students in USA and in the world. That is the efficiency of ONLINE .
    And these should not be free. They should have a nominal fee of $ 20 per course for the sake sustainability.

    Education is science and also a system. Only system managers can solve the education problem not the educator. Educators just know what to teach . Only few know. Therefore salaries are very low .
    Salvation is PERFECT ONLINE . SHARED by billion and made by Yale Stanford etc.
    This is vision from Turkey

  4. What an excellent post!

    Please see this CoachingOurselves blog article that refers to your post, available at

  5. Thanks for your comments everyone.
    Scott, your job sounds really interesting. I agree that we dismiss people because of unreliability and bias. It's too bad because I love those crazy tangents.
    Jennifer, I often wonder why we like personal relevance so much. Do you think it's a western vs eastern thing or true across cultures?

  6. Took a lot of time to read but I really found this very interesting and informative, thank you buddy for sharing.
    Affordable Online Learning