Last week the OER2011 Conference took place in Manchester and on Thursday I went to the keynote speech by Bob Strunz, Chief Technical Architect of NDLR (National Digital Learning Resources). The NDLR supports the collaboration and sharing of learning and teaching resources in Irish universities and institutes of technology. He provided a fascinating insight into the adoption of OERs in a relatively small educational system of Ireland. One of the advantages of this set up has been the large degree of communication between institutions and the NDLR.
Strunz suggested that most academics were happy to share materials but still felt a need for an OER information campaign which involved bring academics over from the U.S. to promote the use of OERs. The idea of promoting OERs in this personal way is interesting. I don’t know if equivalent information campaigns have taken place in this country and the difference in scale also has to be taken into account. But the personal approach described by Strunz seems positive.
For me the most striking aspect of working on this project has been the gulf that exists between advocates of OERs and other academics. Both our survey and focus group suggest that licensing is simply not seen as an issue for most academics; the assumption remains that if the resource is used for educational purposes, copyright does not apply.
However the positive effect of personal communication was apparent even in the context of our small focus group. Although aimed at gathering information rather than promoting OERs, over the course of the day the participants gradually became more receptive to certain aspects of OERs through the process of discussion.
The talk also made me wonder whether research has been done on current attitudes towards sharing materials and OERs in higher education. Knowing what the cultural and attitudinal barriers are in addition to institutional ones might suggest strategies to encourage a more widespread adoption of OERs.