Discussion thread: Why OERs?
I am not sure that "these times" are any different from any other times. The world has always benefited when communities of scholars have shared their insights and have built on each others thinking. For example, scholars on both sides of the Atlantic benefited from sharing the wisdom of the Enlightenment resulting in both the American and French revolutions. Social movements have always benefited from each others wisdom as evidenced in the US by 19th century links between abolition and the first women's movement in the US. My research has shown that in the early to mid twentieth century such diverse people as Jane Addams,Gandhi,King,Rheinhold Nieburh,Myles Horton, Saul Alinsky and many other change agents were linked by mutual acquaintances with shared values. The main difference today is that we can make such connections more quickly and easily and are perhaps more aware of our actions.
Scholars,activists, and scholar-activists have always shared our knowledge and wisdom because it is part of who we are and what we believe, that all the world's bounty including all the world's knowledge belongs to all the world's people and that it grows not by keeping it to oneself but by sharing freely. --Joyce McKnight 15:46, 28 November 2009 (UTC)
Who benefits from an OER textbook?
I would hope that the main beneficiaries of an OER textbook would be students who cannot afford the high costs of textbooks provided in the conventional way. One concern I have is the distribution of such texts. One of the main advantages of a conventional publisher is that they provide marketing services which to a certain extent includes their reputation for legitimacy as a source of valid information. Two concerns I have about OER texts is that they may become buried in a flood of OER materials so that those who need them may not be aware of their existence and secondly, that potential users may doubt their validity because they come from an open source. I have worked for many years over a textbook and do not want to see it somehow "lost" although I have little interest in profiting from it financially. --Joyce McKnight 15:52, 28 November 2009 (UTC)
Why higher education institutions like MIT, Tufts University, and others place open courses online?
I think there are probably several reasons that institutions put open courses online. First, all universities have at least three missions: teaching, research,and service. OER has components of all three. It serves the teaching mission by enabling students to obtain information that would otherwise be denied them. It supports the research mission through its use of new technologies and the opportunity to perfect their use. It fulfills their service obligations by assisting in economic development across the world. From a less altruistic point of view, it brings resources into the university in terms of foundation grants, provides favorable publicity, and may even aid in student recruitment as it showcases the quality of the institution's offerings. It really costs the university very little because the courses are still offered to tuition paying students in return for certification including grades and eventually degrees. Just because one has "taken" an OER MIT course online doesn't mean that one can claim to be "an MIT student" much less an "MIT graduate". This is not to denigrate the value of their courses, but to point out the reality of "credentialism" in our world. --Joyce McKnight 16:01, 28 November 2009 (UTC)
Does sustainability have something to do with this?
I am not sure. To me sustainability means the ability of any system to constantly renew itself. From an institutional point of view I think that OER courses may relate to sustainability in that they enable institutions to remain on the "cutting edge" of instructional delivery and, therefore, support continuing viability in the uncertain 21st century environment.
From the point of view of global sustainability, I think that the more knowledge, information, and wisdom can be shared among us, the more likely we are to be able to not only survive as a species but improve the quality of life for everyone. --Joyce McKnight 16:05, 28 November 2009 (UTC)