Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Blue skies ahead?

CC BY Some rights reserved by Dennis Wong
Open Educational Resources (OER) have been long viewed with extreme suspicion by textbook publishers as a major threat to their business. maybe we can celebrate OER's coming of age this week as publishing giant Pearson launch their ambitious and innovative project Blue Sky. If you're a teacher looking for good online resources for a new course you simply enter your key search words and Blue Sky provides you with relevant OER from the main repositories and sources. The novel approach here is that Blue Sky will also find relevant resources from Pearson's vast range of for-profit educational resources. So when you search you will be presented with both free resources and those with a price tag.

The thinking behind this move is that teachers will be tempted to buy Pearson's resources in combination with the best OER and that the price tags on the Pearson material will be suficiently tempting. By providing a one-stop search for OER Pearson hope to attract income from teachers who might otherwise never search the publisher's catalogue. According to Don Kilburn, vice chairman of Pearson’s higher education division, in an article in Inside Higher Ed, Pearson's open book:

Pearson says it is confident that facilitating OER discovery will not undermine the company’s own products. “We clearly believe our content is superior to OER content… but we recognize there is a place for OER in the current environment. If we can’t compete effectively there, we have a bigger problem,”

The article even speculates that Pearson may consider opening up Blue Sky to rival publishers and let educators choose between open and proprietary resources in the same mix.
As open learning gains momentum we're seeing more and more examples of major companies mixing commercial and open practice. We've seen The world's high status universities offering MOOCs for free, Instructure and Blackboard offering open LMS solutions for MOOCs and now the publishers are helping us search for OER. Never a dull moment!

Here's Pearson's introduction film for Blue Sky:

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