Home » MOOCs (massive open on-line courses) » #H817 Open Education » Activity 11 – Big OERs v Little OERs

Activity 11 – Big OERs v Little OERs


image by Dan Bennett

In Wellers’s the openness-creativity cycle in education he talks about the concept of, and the difference between, little and big OERs.

We have been asked to write a blog post of less than 500 words on the benefits and drawbacks of big and little OER approaches.

So what are they and what is the difference? According to Weller;

Big OERs are institutionally generated ones that arise from projects such as Open Courseware and OpenLearn. These are usually of high quality, contain explicit teaching aims, are presented in a uniform style and form part of a time-limited, focused project with portal and associated research and data.
Little OERs are individually produced, low cost resources. They are produced by anyone, not just educators, may not have explicit educational aims, have low production quality and are shared through a range of third party sites and services.

Having looked at a number of OERs I think that both have their place within the world of open learning.

Big OERs obviously have the full weight and backing from a recognised institution and, in theory, will be of better quality and more likely to be accurate. Little OERs are more likely to be created by an individual so less easy to verify and the quality may be affected.

I have used a number of big and little OERs in my time as a MOOCer and find they are interchangeable. In my philosophy course for example I will use the recommended reading (Big OER) but then dip into individual’s blog (Little OER) to get a summary. The recommended reading is usually dense and complicated so it useful to read others thoughts to gain understanding.

Little OERs can be produced by anyone, academic, student or industry expert and take little or no time to produce. They may be considered “extra accessible” compared to big OERs as they are produced by individuals and perhaps less intimidating to people accessing them. Some may argue that big OERs are more academic and accurate but the little OERs are also produced by academics and experts. In addition, something can be just as valid even if it isn’t produced by an academic.

I also find that the individual can be more creative and are not governed by the same constraints as larger institutions. On the other hand larger institutions are able to produce big and little OERs. Professors and departments within an institution may produce a MOOC (big OER) but within this course lots of little OERs are produced i.e. individual blogs, discussion forums and assignments.

The little OER will continue to increase and proliferate as open learning continues to grow. Learners will also become teachers and teachers will become learners. Old lines of stuffy professor and naive student have become blurred. Social media and blogging have played the biggest role in this as it is so easy for anyone to create and “publish”.

Both types of OERs play a role in open learning and we just need to know when and how to use them.


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