Big OER, Little OER #h817open

“Day 97 / 365: Big meets small” by Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND
“Day 97 / 365: Big meets small” by Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND

In Martin Weller’s 2012 paper, he explores the nature of open education resources (OERs) and suggests that there currently exists two “flavours” of OERs. The first he calls “big OERs” which are the “large-scale, externally funded  projects”, like MIT’s OpenCourseWare and the Open University’s OpenLearn (ibid, p. 7), who have developed large repositories containing a huge catalogue of learning materials, great and small. Non-departmental public bodies in the UK like Joint Information Systems Committee  (JISC), Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Higher Education Academy (HEA) have, in the past, required funded projects to submit their outputs, resources and materials into Jorum, a free online repository service for the collection and sharing of learning and teaching materials, thus allowing for their reuse and repurposing.

The second “flavour”, which Weller calls “little OERs”, encompasses all those resources created by individuals and “shared on sites outside the formal education portals” (ibid, p. 7), which would include the likes of YouTube, SlideShare, and Flickr to name but a few.  Though I can see that TED Ed could potentially be a “game changer” as I think it sits somewhere between the “big” and “little” OER concept.

The table below considers the benefits and drawbacks of “big” and “little” OERs.

Big OERs Little OERs
Benefits Granular
Explicit learning aims
Uniformed-style (can be institutionally branded)
Reputable knowledge domain expertise
Creativity focused upon structure and guidance
Predictable use
More choice
Clear copyright and licensing advice
Greater scholarly outputs
Enhances institutional reputation and prestige
Formally recognised
Low-cost to free
Shared through third-party sites / services
Creativity focused upon production and aggregation
Open filter – anyone can publish
Sites facilitate social interaction / connection between user and producer
Greater user hits / traffic to site
Unconstrained creativity of material
Unconstrained playfulness of material
Enhances personal reputation and prestige
Greater open access
High reuse potential
High searchability – can be found via public search engines like Google or Bing
Drawbacks High-cost
Closed filter – specialists can publish
Less social interaction / connection between user and producer
Less user hits / traffic to site
Restrained creativity of material
Restrained playfulness of material
Variances in open access
Low reuse potential
Low searchability – locked into a repository search engine
Variances in granularity
Variances in quality
Variances in explicit learning aims
Variances in knowledge domain expertise
Variances in taxonomy / folksonomy
Unpredictable use
Limited choice
Variances in copyright and licensing advice
Variances in interoperability
Variances in accessibility
Variances in scholarly outputs
Variances in formal recognition


Weller, M. (2011). The Digital Scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Available at: [Accessed 12.3.2013].

Weller, M. (2012). “The openness–creativity cycle in education”. Special Issue on Open Educational Resources, Journal of Interactive Media in Education, Spring 2012. Available at: [Accessed 12.3.2013].

Wiley, D. (2007). “Defining the “Open” in Open Content”. Available at: [Accessed 12.3.2013].

2 thoughts on “Big OER, Little OER #h817open

  1. Great blog post. The presentation in list form enabled the reader to rapidly absorb a huge block of high value information. I think this type of conciseness is really crucial in presenting either ‘bigOERs” or “little OERs.” The globe is swimming in high quality information. The one thing that limits all humans is the number of minutes in a day or time. I think those content creators that get the most consumption will be those that are concise and engaging simultaneously. It does not dilute the value of the content, but rather enhances it.

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