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Hylén – Open educational resources

Spiderman comic panel - power & responsibility

Hylén, J., 2006,  ‘Open Educational Resources: Opportunities and Challenges’, Open Education, pp. 49-63

Hylén examines the Open Educational Resources movement and it’s implications. OER refers not just to open source textbooks, but other open resources as well. Many of the issues and implications are however, applicable to open source textbooks. Although Hylén comments on many aspects of OER, I will use this text for it’s analysis of quality assurance.

Hylén’s brief overview of this complex issue states that the volume of material that exists makes it easy for users to find resources, but they may have problems assessing the quality. Several approaches to the problem are explored:

  • Reputation – Large (traditional) publishers or education -institutions who are providers of content use their strong, positive reputations to convince users that content is of a high quality.
  • Centralised peer review – This mirrors current best practice in academia.
  • Decentralised peer/user review – As opposed to a centralised system (reviewers appointed by an editorial board or the like), users rate or comment on the quality and utility of the resources.

Of the models proposed above, I can see great strength a user review system and how it could be extended to much more. As Hylén states, ‘quality is not an inherent part of a learning resource, but rather a contextual phenomenon‘, and his argument continues, as such, users are the only reputable judges. I believe this statement however, is more powerful in that such a user review forum could be used for teachers to share ideas on how they used a resource effectively. In this sense, such a system would provide another powerful community based tool for knowledge sharing (in this case, pedagogical).

Despite the obvious appeal of this approach, some form of editorial or academic peer review would be of great utility, ensuring that in their first iteration, materials were of high quality. Arguments against such a review system is that they would likely be a closed process, and as such, clash with the open ideology.

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