What are the opportunities and dangers of “going open”?

Opportunities and dangers of “going open”

Although the idea of opness is thriving at the moment, it is important also to look at some challenges that might have effect on the development of open resources. According to (Dr. Jan Hylén, ”Open Educational Resources: Opportunities and Challenges”) the challenges can be divided into three main areas.

Lack of awareness of copyright issues

Today it is easy to have access to publishing and production tools, and by licensing access to a digital product rather than a physical object such as a book or print, researchers as well as teachers now have to deal with licensing as never before. Although many academics are willing to share their work, they are often hesitant as how to do this without losing all their rights. Several open content licenses have been developed, like the Creative Commons and the GNU Free Documentation Licence, to accommodate this problem.

Quality assurance

Teachers, students and self-learners looking for resources should not have difficulties finding resources, but still might have problems of judging their quality and relevance.

Some institution-based providers use the reputation of the institution to persuade the user that the materials on the website are of good quality. If not, the prestige of the institution is at risk. Most probably they use internal quality checks before the release of the courses, but these processes are not open in the sense that the user of the resource can follow them.

Another approach is to have the resources reviewed by peers. The peer review process is one of the most used quality assurance processes in academia.

A third quality management approach is not to have a centrally designed process, but rather let individual users decide on whatever ground they like whether a learning resource is of high quality, useful, or good in any other respect. This can be done by letting users rate or comment on the resource or describe how they have used it, or by showing the number of downloads for each resource on the website. This is a kind of low level or bottom-up approach often used on Internet based marketplaces, music sites, etc.

Sustainability of OER initiatives

The fact that so many initiatives for OER, MOOCs and other open initiatives have started has created competition for funding. Although some projects have a strong institutional backing it is most probably start up funding that will cease after a few years. Therefore it is important to seriously consider how the initiatives can be sustained in the long run.

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