What’s wrong with Open Educational Resources? Barriers and Solutions.

Feb 04, 2014
Henri Pirkkalainen

Open Educational Resources (OER) have received increasing attention from educators, policy makers and researchers. However, the uptake of OER has not yet reached the expected level. Several barriers still keep people away from (re-)using OER.

Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely available and re-usable resources for educational purposes. Amongst them are different types of learning materials such as learning objects, slide sets, simulations and educational games. Also other educational materials are part of OER in a broad sense, for example learning scenarios, syllabi or experiences and practices. The concept sounds promising and has received wide attention – the current EU Initiative on Opening Up Education  shows the increasing importance for educators.

However, the uptake us still low. What is the reason that the idea has not yet achieved acceptance in most educators’ communities? Several recent studies have looked into OER barriers and uptake. Clements and Pawlowski (2012)[1] have identified main barriers


This study gives already an overview of issues why OER have not been used widely yet. Another recent study by Pirkkalainen, Jokinen & Pawlowski (2014)[2] shows further barriers, amongst them several personal and motivational aspects:

  • Lack of motivation to share resources or information around those resources
  • Lack of time for production and localization of OER
  • Need for Rewards and Acknowledgement
  • Lack of contextual information for the resources – how can be used or modified
  • Open content do not fit the scope of the course / Curriculum
  • Lack of trust towards unknown authors or systems where resources retrieved from
  • “Not invented here” notion. Hesitation to receiving knowledge someone else has created
  • Hard to assess the quality and relevance

The key barriers are on the individual level, in particular motivational aspects: Users tend not to re-use as they have not created it themselves – or as one user states in the above study: “we look at the materials and then we re-build the resource ourselves”. What is clearly lacking is a feeling that learning opportunities have to be created by educators themselves. We call this concept emotional ownership which describes what kind of emotional / affective relation an educator has towards certain resources. Thus, the not-invented-here syndrome seems to be even more relevant in the educational domain.

We can state that previous projects and initiatives have not been successful to create broad usage and uptake of OER. Therefore, new solutions need to be explored to utilize the full potential of OER. The main consequences are:

  1. Innovative and high quality OER and OEP are available, but educators still do not use them regularly
  2. The benefits of OER (cost savings, collaborations, quality improvement, cross-border teaching) can only be fully utilized when more educators make use of them
  3. OER uptake can only be solved by overcoming motivational and individual barriers
  4. OER and OEP do not cover the full process of Open Education – it is necessary to start collaborating at an earlier stage: in the idea development process
  5. Emotional ownership is one concept to increase OER acceptance and uptake
  6. Collaborations and mobility can be used for creating common courses and development processes

The project OEI will explore solutions to overcome the main challenges and develop new ways for collaborative idea generation.

[1] Clements, K. I., & Pawlowski, J. M. (2012). User‐oriented quality for OER: understanding teachers’ views on re‐use, quality, and trust. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(1), 4-14.

[2] Pirkkalainen, H., Jokinen, J., Pawlowski, J.M. (2014):  Understanding Social OER Environments – a Quantitative Study of Influencing Factors on Motivation to Share and Collaborate, IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies, 2014

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