Activity 7: Exploring OER issues

A blog by @mircwalsh

Activity 7: Exploring OER issues

For this assessment I was required to read JISC report on OER and also explore the OER Research Hub website and based on my reading come up with three key issues in OER and how they are being addressed.

The three key issues I came up with are

1. Access

2. Finance

3. Assessment + Accreditation.


The first issue is definitely access. When using OER you have to decide firstly how you are going to approach the transition. Are you going to use third party resources or are you going to create your own or will you use a mix of both? When making this decision you have to look at your target audience and your learners and what will work for them. For example if you have deaf or hard of hearing students and decide to use third party videos you have to make sure they are captioned or come with transcripts. If not you need to look into whether it is possible to do this yourself. The same applies for students with other learning barriers.

There is also the general barrier of what works and what doesn’t work for your students. For example some classes may be great at project based learning whereas others prefer to read and research from a book. The OER Evidence Report 2014-2015 states that “79.4% of OER users adapt resources to fit their needs” which means that educators and learners need to realise that OER materials may not always do the job and may need substitution or adapting from time to time.

The other side of access is more physical and applies to the access of materials. For example learners may be able to access the course from home which means that it can be provided at a lower cost or free and it cuts out the cost of transport as well as allowing prospective learners to take the course alongside having a job. It can also be an opportunity for learners to try out a course. The same report stated that “31% of learners used OER to try university-level content before signing up for a paid-for course”.


Embarking in OER adventures isn’t always free for the educator and there may be costs involved in setting up but learning costs are significantly decreased for the learner. With books being available online students often don’t have to buy a physical copy of a book. For example back in the early 2000’s Shakespeare’s works would have cost students €10 per play and students would need to study an average of 2-3 in their school years. This would just be one expense but these days all these same plays are available for free download via multiple ebook platforms. As I discovered in Activity 8 there are multiple OER platforms where info can be found if you have time to look and this freely accessible information as well as tutorials on the likes of YouTube EDU or iTunes U can further cut learners costs. All this means that education is more accessible and not just limited to the courses you can afford to do. Students who may have never been able to afford to attend college now have the resources at their finger tips

Assessment + Accreditation. 

Assessment when using OER can be a tricky one. It is often more informal and make take place in the form of online quizzes created through the likes of Socrative or through distance assignments sent in via email or uploaded on the likes of Moodle.

When doing this learners need to self motivate themselves to still complete the assessments as if they are as important as the supervised written assessments of days gone by. When it comes to accreditation students may not always get accreditation. Of course students can study as many courses they like created by big educators such as Stanford or Harvard via iTunes U but at the end of it they have nothing to show for it but the experience. Other MOOCs may offer certificates or mozilla badges upon completion of the course and others go the full way and offer full accredited BA’s or MA’s although these type usually come at a cost. Having a reward such as a certificate or even a badge from Mozilla backpack or similar can be enough to motivate a student to do a course.

To conclude there are many other factors that need to be taken into account when exploring OER and it is not a journey schools or learners should take without exploring all their options
Sources of information 

OER Evidence Report 2014-2015

JISC Report on OER 

OER Research Hub