In this module, I found the articles examining Open Educational Resources (OERs) to be difficult; the research is complex, full of acronyms and names that are similar in vocabulary but completely different in concept. What I found to be the most frustrating thing was how the research was centered around higher education. While I realize the forum for OERs is an important, pivotal step in reshaping higher education, the lack of applicability to my own profession was glaring. However, it has occurred to me that maybe this discussion around OERs was perhaps once prominent in my own level of education.

At what point, I wonder, did it become such that public schools would be funded by a government which would do its best to provide and curate resources to the general youth populace in most the most equitable ways possible? Of course, public educational has always been shaped by the will of the general society/culture, but there is now much more of a focus on providing our students will the tools to learn rather than the knowledge to be learned. To accomplish this, the resources we provide our students must be accessible, free, and appropriate to the field (educational)….so at my level of teaching (middle school), aren’t we already using OERs?

Further entertaining this thought, I would point out who finances the OERs at the public school level…and that is the governing body, of course: the provincial government. Elected officials and trained professionals chosen to best curate, examine, and sometimes create resources. If they aren’t made in house, they’re acquired for a price. The government’s coffers are filled using tax dollars from the same populace attending the institutions, accessing the resources.

Strictly speaking in terms of the cycle of funding and rendering of service, public education is somewhat analogous to the higher education reality, I would say. I suppose this is where I start to get cynical about both institutions and the farce about what ‘open’ really means. The bottom line is cash. I don’t understand how something will remain updated, open, accessible to all if there is no sustained monetary backing from the users of the resources. Using the MIT model as an example, it is amazing at what they are offering in their collection of OERs. After visiting the website, I felt MIT’s OERs to be perfect examples of what OERs are meant to be (and they were quite easy to use).

So the OER collection at MIT is good, but I believe MIT is not a good example of the paradigm shift OERs hope to be. MIT has to provide to a niche community (MIT is a big deal, don’t get me wrong) and is an established, ivy equivalent institution. While MIT provides OERs now, it had to build up the capital to do so in the first place. How did it do that, I wonder? After pondering that question, I’d also point out that MIT has acknowledged their ‘Open Courseware’ (OCW) increases recruitment of paying students.

Putting my raised eyebrow aside, I really do get concerned in thinking that perhaps OERs are going to be abused/twisted by institutions in order to continue serving their financial interests. If i were to research the topic, I think I would be seeking answers to the following questions:

Could generalist post secondary institutions implement OCW similar to that of MIT without requiring capital from their students to do so?

Or is this a non-starter as they are hamstrung by both the vastness of their academic spectrum and their (relative) lack of status?