I've been involved in spreading the word about open educational resources for several years now and although I meet many teachers who are enthusiastic about sharing resources very few actually do so. In Sweden there is still a great deal of suspicion about using other teachers' or other university's resources but even in countries where OER have become more accepted this reluctance remains.
This is evident in an invitation to discussion in the Guardian, Talk point: Why don't more academics use open educational resources? It is a reflection after a seminar on OER which demonstrated the richness of resources available today and then raised the issue why they are not being sufficiently exploited.
"So in this talk point, I'd like to explore these claims: why are many so reluctant to share teaching resources? Is it for fear of not being properly credited? Are academics (and management) worried about the time constraints or that, with no mechanism to measure how much your resources are downloaded, amended and used, OER have little benefit in performance review?"
The irony is that whereas most academics are now quite prepared to openly publish articles according to Open Access principles the idea of openly publishing teaching materials is still not fully accepted. It's a complex problem but for me the main reasons behind the reluctance to use OER are the following:
- Tradition. My course, my class, my classroom, my way. Teachers are proudly independent and proud of their courses and teaching methods. Using another teacher's material may feel rather second rate. In the past the teacher's knowledge was central and so course material was exclusive. Today knowledge is everywhere as is good course material. Using OER means a redefinition of the teacher's role and very little will happen unless institutions tackle this question. More incentives for pedagogic innovation rather than focusing on lecture hours would help a lot.
- Concern about openness. Many are worried about digital rights and have been brought up to believe that you must protect your own work from theft. The idea of putting your work on the open web is worrying for many, especially with frequent media scares about identity theft, scams and net harassment. More information about copyright issues, Creative Commons, security and general digital literacy is essential to provide a more secure foundation for a culture of sharing.
- Lack of official approval. Even if many teachers are highly self-sufficient there is still a great respect for authorities. If OER are officially sanctioned from the top with high quality repositories, clear guidelines for use and clear incentives for teachers to share and use the resources then acceptance will take off. This is what open educational practices is all about. Open Access would not have become accepted without an EU directive. Grass roots enthusiasm must be met by approval from above.
- Trust. Linked to all the above but many teachers are uneasy about the trustworthiness of material found on the net. There's a perception that anything that's free on the net can't be very valuable and that printed material with a price tag is automatically more credible. We need quality assurance and some kind of faculty peer review to build trust.