Are OERs Sustainable?

Martin Poulter, OPENEDSIG Archives, May 22, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This is an excellent posts looking at five key questions regarding the sustainability of open educational resources (OERs), backed with examples and references. Here they are

  1. "Is the production of OERs sustainable?" After the end of the UKOER funding stream, there was "a dramatic decline in the number of resources added to JORUM." But a "huge amount" of content is being produced on other platforms. "I see this not as a petering out of OER production, but a shift in its context."
  2. "Are OER platforms sustainable?" We don't know yet. "Entire platforms can disappear. In the non-open world, the closing of a platform means the loss of its content. We don’t have that problem in the OER world."
  3. "Are communities of open practice sustainable?" There are examples both ways, but "the continuation of the OER conference itself suggests a positive answer to the question about communities."
  4. "Are the OERs themselves sustainable: are they being updated so as not to lose relevance?" A tiny number of resources get remixed, but is that bad? Most academic publications aren't cited, but a small number get a huge number of citations. "To decide whether too much or too little adaptation is happening, we need to know the distribution that “'should' exist, and it’s not clear how to do this." 
  5. "Do OERs promote an awareness of sustainability across all subjects?" We don't know.

Great stuff. I read this as argumentation in support for the community-based approach to OERs, rather than institutionally funded and supported. But having said that, I would be loathe to withdraw all funding from the field: what's needed are the tools, supports and scaffolds to help communities build and share their own OERs.

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