OER14 homeApplication › Prof Patrick McAndrew

Taking advantage of openness: understanding the variety of perspectives on open and their impact

Monday 11:30-13:00 (1), Grainger Suite

Type: Short paper

Theme: Open policy, research, scholarship and access

http://oerresearchhub.org/ #oer14 #abs83


Professor Patrick McAndrew, Professor of Open Education, The Open University, [email protected]
Professor Martin Weller, Professor of Educational Technology, The Open University, [email protected]



There has been considerable coverage of the growth of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that give free access to courses that have familiar structures. However, there are many other ways in which Open Educational Resources are being used and influencing education. In the OER Research Hub we have worked across educational sectors looking at ways that OER are being adopted and used. In this paper we step back from some of the detailed work with collaborating projects to consider their different motivations and shared challenges.


The methods that we have applied to research OER are focussed on the use of a set of Hypotheses (McAndrew and Farrow, 2013). These guide collaborative studies, desk research, surveys, interviews and work with external sources. A shared basis is being achieved through surveys with a common core of questions. The methodology considers evidence of impact (positive and negative) and builds on earlier research that on collective intelligence (de Liddo et al., 2013) but refines the approach with a new toolset (Farrow & Perryman, 2013) and greater attention to addressing the hypotheses. The approach allows incremental refinement of an overall position, while also including detailed case studies and summarised views that help communicate results. Within the project we have also adopted an agile approach to research that is helping share findings from the different collaborations.


Working with collaborations across schools (K-12), community colleges, higher education and informal learning has enabled us to identify commonalities and also spot ideas that have the scope to transfer. It is clear that there is much more to openness than has been highlighted through the recent interest in MOOCs. The collaborative studies illustrate the variety and diversity of ways that OER can be used. These include teachers whose interest in in changing practice rather than in the resources themselves, that are changing the balance between in-classroom and home by flipping the learning experience; citizen science experiments that enhance lessons and leisure through shared information while gathering data of genuine concern; large-scale shared free text books for core community college subjects; OER repositories that are quietly being used by independent learners; and, projects that are taking an open approach to help innovate teacher education in Africa and Asia.


The case studies show how openness acts as inspiration, however the impact of openness can be harder to see. Our survey data is showing how open aspects can seem less important as projects seek to build to broad engagement, and that aims of widening access are challenged by findings that open education appeals to those who already have existing confidence and experience. The actions of the collaborating partners seek to address these issues for example through courses that help develop understanding of openness and by understanding the groups that they serve who have special needs. A fuller presentation will review the approach and examine negative as well as positive findings to consider how openness continues to be a factor in supporting innovation.


De Liddo, A., Buckingham Shum, S., McAndrew, P. and Farrow, R. (2012). The open education evidence hub: a collective intelligence tool for evidence based policy. In Cambridge 2012: Joint OER12 and OpenCourseWare Consortium Global 2012 Conference, [online] Available from: http://oro.open.ac.uk/33253/. [Accessed 20 November 2013].
Farrow, R. and Perryman, L. (2013). OER impact: towards an evidence based. In OpenED 2013, 6-8 Nov 2013.
McAndrew, P. and Farrow, R. (2013). The ecology of sharing: synthesizing OER research. In OER13: Creating a Virtuous Circle, 26-27 March 2013, Nottingham, UK, [online] Available from: http://www.medev.ac.uk/oer13/67/view/. [Accessed 20 November 2013].

Funding acknowledgements

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation


Recap recording

A recording of this presentation is available to view at https://campus.recap.ncl.ac.uk/Panopto/Pages/Viewer/Default.aspx?id=6f251f3c-1193-4248-8233-24111357dbe8 ┬ęThe Open University 2014 Martin Weller and Rob Farrow cc-by 4.0. Used with consent of the authors.

Further details

Keywords: OER, Research, Hypotheses, Evidence

Website: http://oerresearchhub.org/

Prof Patrick McAndrew, Professor of Open Education/Acting Director, Open University

Twitter: @openpad

Twitter abstract: There is more to OER than MOOCs. Openness means diversity and flexibility as well as the chance for study for free.