OER as a participatory activity

, the Creative Commons blog posted on Active OER: Beyond open licensing policies

This post is right up our open education alley, so we’re recommending it and have pulled a few juicy bits to quote below. After some treatment of “free” vs. “open” and “libre” vs. “gratis”, the author (Alek Tarkowski) gets to some issues even more dear to us at Saylor Academy: what happens to open educational resources once they are released into the wild?

The “5R activities” — retention, reuse, revision, remixing, and redistribution — are widely accepted as partly defining OER. Getting people to use OER is a challenge in itself (although we use it extensively for our online courses):

[W]hile reuse of code is a common practice in computer programming, reuse of educational content remains an elusive phenomenon.

And, in practice, revision and remixing occur less frequently than getting, keeping, using, and giving do. That is, users of OER adopt learning materials rather more often than we adapt them:

[O]rganic reuse is quite rare. Although we lack empirical data, I would assume that less than 5% of users is willing to modify content, remix it, create own versions and mash-ups.

Adoption itself, though, is both driven and improved by a culture of adaptation that helps to create diverse, widely suitable materials.

[W]e need to implement active policies that…could include incentives for teachers to create, reuse and share OER, investing in repositories and other types of infrastructure for discovery and analytics of content, or paying attention to digital literacy of teachers and formulation of new pedagogies. Developing, testing and implementing such active policies in educational systems around the world has to compliment efforts to open resources.

We know how hard it is to get beyond simple reuse and redistribution; in curating and developming materials for our courses, we are fortunate that we can typically get and share what we need for our students by piecing together open learning materials rather than going deep into reivising and remixing content. But Saylor Academy would absolutely benefit from infrastructure that would encourage us, our students, our partners, and members of the wider open community to really create the open content we need from the open content that we have.

Creating new culture from existing culture is one of the most exciting promises of OER — free to re-create is so much more interesting than just free to use. As an organization, we at Saylor Academy still have some distance to go before we cross that frontier, but that seems to be true of the OER movement in general, too.

What do you think? What kind of infrastructure would help instigate a culture of not just reuse but remixing?

Image: Made in GIMP. Incorporates modified icon Alloy (CC0) from Adam Gale via The Noun Project.

Start the discussion at discourse.saylor.org