“The definition of OER currently most often used is “digitised materials offered freely and openly for educators, students and self-learners to use and reuse for teaching, learning and research”. OER includes learning content, software tools to develop, use and distribute content, and implementation resources such as open licences.”  OER “ offers the prospect of a radically new approach to the sharing of knowledge, at a time when effective use of knowledge is seen more and more as the key to economic success, for both individuals and nations.”  But what does all of this hype mean to the teacher in the trenches or the student seeking to further his or her education?
For the teacher, it means that there should be a collection of educational resources often called “learning objects” available on the web and that we should be engaged in helping to create and distribute these resources. But are those resources really useful to our everyday practice? According to Wiley, “The more context a learning object has, the more (and the more easily) a learner can learn from it.”  That is something we as teachers know. That to build knowledge we need to “scaffold” onto some context that the student already knows and that should make his or her learning more effective. But paradoxically, “To make learning objects maximally reusable, learning objects should contain as little context as possible.”  So if the learning objects have no context, how are they really useful in our teaching practice? Aren’t they then the same as any other piece of information that we can access already on the internet?
Other considerations for the teacher are: How readily searchable is the OER content? There have been many types of classifications, but a universal metadata repository classification system has not been agreed upon. Therefore the supposedly large repository of images, texts, templates, modules and full courses are not at the fingertips of the average teacher. What is the reputation of the person who created the OER? How do I know whether the content that is available is reliable and fits the standards of my institution? How easy is it to use and how accessible? How is it modifiable for use in my classroom setting? A search on Google and Google Scholar led me to many discussions of OER but little content that I could use in my classroom. I also found many generalized discussions of producing OER, but no concrete ways to help me participate in the creation of OER resources.
For the student, aside from the previous concerns ( which s/he shares with the course instructor) there is the ongoing problem that many online courses are either not recognized or not accredited by universities. Now in Canada students can go through a accreditation process using PLAR courses. But not all countries have this option.
I still like to see the Open Education system with the eyes of someone who someone who views it as a way to bring education to the people who cannot afford or for some other reason do not have time to attend a regular university. My views can probably be best summed up by Cathy Casserly, CEO of Creative Commons, who said “We haven’t come close to tapping the full potential of OER. We need to help more people understand that these materials are not just free, they can also create communities of teachers and learners who collaborate on their continuous improvement, and that’s the real magic—in the actual reuse and remix.” Cathy Casserly, CEO of Creative Commons