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Why aren’t we using open education resources?

Open Educational Resources Logo

The Open Educational Resources logo, courtesy wikimedia commons

The answer is two-fold, I think. But let me back up for those who may not know: an open education resource is a textbook or learning object (website, video, simulation, etc.) that has been created for anyone to use freely. Some are even open to modification and integration into other projects for free. These are sometimes created through grants from large foundations or institutions.

So why aren’t we using them?

Well, in some cases, we are. I know of professors who use youtube videos in their courses; these are free to use, but for the actual open textbooks and such, I think the problem is that there is very little marketing done by the companies that create or aggregate the open education resources. Why don’t they do marketing? Because they use their funds to create the resources and don’t have a giant budget to market these things. If they really wanted to market these things, they’d probably need a full-time employee to

  1. research the “right” people at colleges and universities
      By right people, I mean

    • department chairs
    • early adopters
    • profs with academic/social clout
  2. contact them and arrange to meet with them, most likely virtually
  3. convince them that their free resources are better and easier for faculty to use than their current course materials and worth the additional time it would take to implement them

This’d be an uphill climb and these organizations would need to fight thousands or millions of publisher marketing dollars.

A recent Wired Campus blog post on The Chronicle talks about one such company that is working with a community college to create a textbook-free associate’s degree. One commenter says that the problem is really developing good testing materials, which is a different topic, though a good point. It does take a considerable amount of time to create front-to-back education that includes assessment.

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