If there is a recognized problem out there you can bet that someone is working on a solution. Often people dismiss new technologies or solutions because of their initial shortcomings compared to traditional products. However, over time those solutions can build market share and momentum as various problems or challenges get addressed.
This seems to be case for the OER movement. For example, initially there was no way to gauge how good OER materials were, and variability in quality was a challenge. To address this challenge we see innovations like the Connexions peer review model, or the OER Evaluation Tool released by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME) last November. As these and related innovations take hold, a key challenge to OER viability decreases.
Another barier to OER adoption is that the search and discovery process for OER materials is timing consuming and confusing. Initiatives like MERLOT have attempted to address this problem in the past. Now, there is another solution for this problem. Search engine Gooru has organized OER resources into easy-to-locate categories and collections to helps educators and students more easily find materials online, according to this article in eClassroom News.
“Anyone can now easily search for resources, collections, or quizzes; study individual resources or entire collections; practice with an adaptive assessment system; interact with peers or teachers; and save and customize their favorite learning materials,” the article states.
The story says that more than 5,000 invited students and teachers currently use the resource, and all schools, students, and teachers will have access to it beginning in June.
Right now, these tools are mostly used in K-12 education and have not gained a lot of momentum on college campuses, at least not yet. It is only a matter of time, however, before these and other innovations reduce barriers to OER adoption in higher education.
For the OER movement, as a piece of advice, remember that value is not determined by price alone. There are barriers to OER adoption, and just making more content available for free does not effectively address some of the underlying fundamental challenges to the adoption of this approach. Perhaps more emphasis should be placed on the long-term sustainability of OER approaches, improving quality, ensuring accessibility compliance, and other barriers to adoption. If those problems can be solved effectively, then it might make more sense to continue expanding content offerings. The OER movement weakens its own effectiveness by failing to resolve key barriers to adoption.
For stores, expect that developments like Gooru, Connexions, and others will change the presence and "adoptibility" of OER content for course use. While OER may not be having a significant effect on adoption now, it is important to track the evolution of these tools, become familiar with OER terminology and resources, and engage with the OER community where we can.