This question is possibly reflective of a deeply entrenched notion of educational materials as being static publications, the quality of which is controlled by educational publishers. This notion has been – and remains – valid but reflects a partial understanding of the scope and diversity of educational materials used in many teaching and learning contexts. It also reflects a false delegation of responsibility for quality to a third party. This mindset shifts into the OER space in the form of an unstated assumption that one or more dedicated agencies should take full responsibility for ensuring that OER shared in repositories online are of a high quality. In addition to this being practically impossible, it masks the reality that the definition of quality is subjective and contextually dependent.
Responsibility for assuring the quality of OER used in teaching and learning environments ultimately resides with the institution, programme/course coordinators, and individual educators responsible for delivery of education. As they have always done when prescribing textbooks, choosing a video to screen, or using someone else’s lesson plan, these agents are the ones who retain final responsibility for choosing which materials – open and/or proprietary – to use. Thus, the “quality of OER” will depend on which resources they choose to use, whether and how they choose to adapt them to make them contextually relevant, and how they integrate them into the planned teaching and learning activities.
The task of ensuring high quality has been complicated by the explosion of available content (both open and proprietary). This is both a boon, as it reduces the likelihood of needing to develop new content, and a challenge, as it demands more sophisticated skills in order to search for, select, evaluate, and adapt content. As more institutions share even more educational content online, they will want to ensure that this content reflects well on the institution and may invest in improving its quality before making it available in repositories. In the OER environment, quality assurance will be assisted by the development of such repositories, which will provide at least first levels of quality assurance.
Although these investments on the part of institutions will serve to create more opportunities for finding good materials to use, the primary responsibility for finding relevant and high-quality materials, and for using them effectively to support educational activities, still resides with institutions and educators.
OER, quality, publishers, guarantee, responsibility, quality control, quality assurance
Butcher, N. (2015). A basic guide to open educational resources (OER). Commonwealth of Learning, Vancouver and UNESCO. Retrieved from http://oasis.col.org/handle/11599/36