OER: Benefits and Challenges

The benefits of OER (courseware) include:

  1. Low or no cost to users, as products are generally free to access and download;
  2. Shorter development cycle due to the collaborative, parallel efforts of developers;
  3. Adaptability to suit own conditions.

Digital libraries are a key technology for developing countries. Many countries have to grapple with human development issues and digital resources can provide a non-commercial mechanism for distributing humanitarian information on topics such as health, agriculture, nutrition, hygiene, sanitation and water supply. In particular, various areas can benefit from open content:

  1. Dissemination of humanitarian information, particularly where traditional publishing and distribution mechanisms have failed;
  2. Preservation and propagation of indigenous cultures by opening the possibilities of flexible and coherent multimedia collections that are searchable and browsable in multiple dimensions, and allow active participation by local and indigenous people in preserving and disseminating their own culture;
  3. Locally-produced collections of information, for example teaching materials, that are easily adaptable to other contexts; and
  4. New opportunities to enter the global marketplace by saving costs.

The challenges that OER face include targeting and maintaining development talent, maintaining code quality, project initiation, code modularity, stability, and standardization.

In addition, a major challenge is to persuade subject matter experts to release their intellectual property for open use. Creative Commons, a non-profit organization, was founded on the notion that some authors may not want to exercise all of the intellectual property rights the law affords them. Creative Commons works to define an alternative to copyrights by filling in the gap between full copyright, where use of resources is not allowed without explicit permission, and public domain, where permission is not required at all. Creative Commons Licenses allow users to copy and distribute their work under specific conditions, general descriptions, and legal clauses. To this end, Creative Commons has developed a set of free public licenses to enable authors to share their work with others. Authors have the flexibility to specify that the use of their resources would require attribution, that it be non-commercial, or that the product be shared under the same license. Thus, while 'open' on the one hand can mean 'without cost', it does not necessarily translate to 'without conditions'.


Top OpenLearn Units

Four popular OpenLearn units:

Start writing fiction

Writing what you know

What is good writing?

The importance of interpersonal skills

More about OER

Click on the links below to get information on:

UKOU's Open Educational Resources

"Creativity and the Law" video by Larry Lessig

A list of OER websites

The 2nd edition of the Theory and Practice of Online Learning available as a free e-book.