Some Lessons Learned Supporting OER Adoption

The tl;dr:David Wiley in front of a brick wall

  • Supporting effective OER adoption at scale has its problems.
  • Many of these problems have openly licensed solutions.
  • Sometimes it makes sense to deploy these solutions yourself; sometimes it makes more sense to work with a partner.

Background and Some Problems

To put it in a depressingly small nutshell, I spent the first decade or so of my career creating open licenses to make the sharing of OER legally possible, traveling the world talking to people about why they might want to place an open license on their educational materials and other creative works, experimenting with different open pedagogies in my own teaching, and conducting empirical research about the impacts of OER adoption on outcomes for students, faculty, and institutions.

Upon reflection several years ago, I came to see thatdespite all my efforts I was making the classic Field of Dreams mistake (“if we build it, they will come”) by assuming that “if OER exist in a faculty’s discipline and research shows them to be effective in supporting learning, faculty will adopt.” This turned out to be true only for a very narrow range of faculty – generally those who were previously innovation-minded (those same seven or so faculty on each campus that eagerly try every new thing). If OER adoption were to become widespread among the majority of faculty, it became clear that someone would need to do something more than create OER, post it on a website, and give conference talks about it. This is why we started writing grants focused exclusively on supporting OER adoption rather than on funding new OER creation. After all, there are over a billion CC-licensed works now – not everything we need, certainly – but enough that it felt like someone ought to be focused on helping faculty use what is there.

Over the last several years my fellow travelers at Lumen and I have learned a lot of painful lessons about supporting OER adoption among faculty. (In fact, I think it’s safe to say that we know more about ineffective OER adoption techniques than anyone!) However, working through and responding to these early challenges together with amazing collaborators at a wide range of 2-year and 4-year institutions around the country, we’ve learned something about how to support effective OER adoptions, too.