Thursday, April 28, 2016

Pearson's OER Plea

Curtiss Barnes, Managing Director, Global Product Management & Design at Pearson uses the 1st person personal plural pronoun, we, in suggesting  that  ‘We’ll just have to be careful that we’re not sacrificing the quality of the learning experience in the pursuit of lower cost.’ in the final sentence of his observations about OER. I think he really means ‘you’ better be careful if ‘you’ use OER because ‘you’ might be sacrificing quality if ‘you’ don’t keep paying us the exorbitant amount that ‘you’  have been spending on proprietary content.

Barnes is asking us to believe that the people he pays create ‘scaffolding that connects concepts and practice together, guiding students through the content in a way that maximizes learning’ better than the people he doesn’t pay to do that. But he doesn’t offer us any evidence.

Barnes also suggests that OER are ‘unlikely to deliver substantial savings over proprietary digital solutions in the long run’ because the people he pays make ‘core instructional content presented systematically and updated regularly,’ and implies that the people who aren’t on his payroll aren’t able or willing to present content systematically and update it regularly. Again he provides no evidence.

Barnes also suggests that people who use OER don’t understand that “open” doesn’t mean “free.” Barnes implies that proprietary content might be better at ensuring ADA compliance, and that it might integrate better with LMSs, and be easier to support technically. Since he isn’t bothering to provide evidence for any of those claims, it’s fair for me to say that just the opposite is true which is what my experience tells me.

Barnes admits that “When it comes to revising and remixing content, OER hold some advantages over the traditional textbook revision cycle. The ability to customize for a specific region or update to reflect recent world events is very academically appealing and can yield more relevant, up-to-the minute content.” But, Barnes suggests that doing all of the collaborating and creative work involved in doing that might be just too much for many faculty to handle. Maybe, but the teachers I know are more than willing to share and collaborate. The reason they haven’t been doing it in the past is because proprietary content made it too difficult to do. I might simply have a better opinion of most faculty than does Barnes.

In the absence of any evidence I’m inclined to give the OER buzz that Barnes is hearing the benefit of the doubt. The buzz is saying that OER offers more possibilities for good teaching and learning than Pearson’s proprietary content.

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