The ecology of sharing: synthesizing OER research

Day 26 March 2013, Time: 12:00-12:30 Room: A24

#oer13 #abs67


Prof. Patrick McAndrew, Professor of Open Education, Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University,
Dr. Robert Farrow, Research Associate, Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University,


Arguably, Open Educational Resources (OER) are starting to enter the mainstream, though some fundamental questions about their value and impact remain to be answered or supported with appropriate evidence. Much early OER activity was driven by ideals and interest in finding new ways to release content, with less direct research and reflection on the process. Furthermore, the majority of OER studies are localised, making extrapolation problematic. At the same time there are considerable practical experiences and ideas that it would be valuable to share.  This presentation introduces the 'hub' as metaphor for the kind of networked research that is needed by the OER movement.  The Open University's OER Research Hub project (2012-2014) works across eight primary research collaborations augmented with additional fellowships and connections with organisation to collate and synthesize research into OER across a range of sectors and stakeholders (k12, College Entry, Higher Education, Informal).  The guiding research hypotheses are grounded in preparatory work in discourse analysis and collective intelligence as part of the OLnet project (which was previously presented at OER12).  We then describe the research methodology for OER Research Hub, showing how claims about 'openness' may be validated in different contexts. The argument presented is that through (1) integrating and co-ordinating research methods and (2) developing open data policies it is possible to build an evidence base for the kinds of claims that the OER movement wants to make.

Thus, through an 'ecology of sharing' researchers can build and participate in a research network that is greater than the sum of its parts. We will also show how this is working in practice by highlighting some of the activities that are taking place within some collaborations, showing how harmonizing the questions we ask in surveys and interviews across the different collaborations enhances our ability to make both comparative claims which apply in the broadest range of educational contexts.


De Liddo, AnnaBuckingham Shum, Simon McAndrew, Patrick Farrow, Robert (2012). The open education evidence hub: a collective intelligence tool for evidence based policy. Cambridge 2012: Joint OER12 and OpenCourseWare Consortium Global 2012 Conference, 16 - 18 April 2012, Cambridge, UK.

McAndrew, Patrick Farrow, Robert Law, Patrina, Elliott-Cirigottis, Gary (2012). Learning the Lessons of Openness. Cambridge 2012: Innovation and Impact – Openly Collaborating to Enhance Education, a joint meeting of OER12 and OpenCourseWare Consortium Global 2012, 16-18 April 2012, Cambridge, UK .

Funding acknowledgements

Hewlett Foundation


Recap recording

If you would like to watch the recording of this session please select the link below and fast forward to the time indicated in brackets below. (1 minute 17 seconds)

Please note most sessions included multiple presentations.

Further details

Theme: Evidence

Keywords: OER, evidence, methodology, research, open access, policy, metaresearch, networked learning, open education

Dr Robert Farrow, Research Associate, The Open University twitter: @philosopher1978

The Ecology of Sharing: Synthesizing OER Research

Copyright 2013 OER13 |
Support Centre for Open Resources in Education (SCORE)
The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA

OE Logo
       Call us on: 01908 653772