There was much discussion in our class lately regarding Open Educational Resources (OER) and their quality or lack thereof. Tony Bates argued that “the materials available to date are terrible…” in response to OER available at GlobalUni’s site (a free university), though he was arguing about that as but one example of the poor quality of general OER (Bates, 2011, The Bad, para. 4). David Wiley, in the attached link above, argues for the opposing view – that just because it is OER doesn’t mean that it is poor quality. In fact, he offers evidence that quality (in terms of accuracy) is little different between an OER like Wikipedia and an encyclopedia produced through traditional means, like the Encyclopedia Britannica. Further, he questions how quality really should be defined, settling on a definition that refers to whether students learn using the resource and not whether the resource has a lot of glossy photos.
In the quality argument, I think that Wiley is closer to the mark, but that there is room to include a bit of both views in the definition. It isn’t that I think that glossy pictures are more important than whether the resources are effective learning tools. Rather, I wonder if more people will persist in the learning process if they are attracted to the resources. While I suspect that Bates was being deliberately provocative, it is an unfair indictment – as Wiley’s evidence shows, Ultimately I think it is just important to encourage the OER movement to improve educational access for all. Market mechanisms, for those who have determined how to make money using OER, and people voting with their clicks, may determine the highest quality materials and provide the drive to improve that quality.
Bates, T., (2011, February 6). OERs: the good, the bad and the ugly. Available from:http://www.tonybates.ca/2011/02/06/oers-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/