The ecology of sharing: synthesizing OER research

McAndrew, Patrick and Farrow, Robert (2013). The ecology of sharing: synthesizing OER research. In: OER 13: Creating a virtuous circle, 26-27 Mar 2013, Nottingham.



Arguably, Open Educational Resources (OER) are starting to enter the mainstream, though some fundamental questions about their value and impact remain to be answered or supported with appropriate evidence. Much early OER activity was driven by ideals and interest in finding new ways to release content, with less direct research and reflection on the process. Furthermore, the majority of OER studies are localised, making extrapolation problematic. At the same time there are considerable practical experiences and ideas that it would be valuable to share. This presentation introduces the 'hub' as metaphor for the kind of networked research that is needed by the OER movement. The Open University's OER Research Hub project (2012-2014) works across eight primary research collaborations augmented with additional fellowships and connections with organisation to collate and synthesize research into OER across a range of sectors and stakeholders (K12, College Entry, Higher Education, Informal). The guiding research hypotheses are grounded in preparatory work in discourse analysis and collective intelligence as part of the OLnet project (McAndrew et al., 2012). We then describe the research methodology for OER Research Hub, showing how claims about 'openness' may be validated in different contexts. The argument presented is that through (1) integrating and co-ordinating research methods and (2) developing open data policies it is possible to build an evidence base for the kinds of claims that the OER movement wants to make.

Thus, through an 'ecology of sharing' researchers can build and participate in a research network that is greater than the sum of its parts. We will also show how this is working in practice by highlighting some of the activities that are taking place within some collaborations, showing how harmonizing the questions we ask in surveys and interviews across the different collaborations enhances our ability to make normative claims which apply in the broadest range of educational contexts.

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