MOOC vs. OER: has evolution killed the revolution?


Yesterday I attended a mini conference dedicated to Open Educational Resources (OER). I found it to be quite interesting as there aren’t many events completely dedicated to OER these days. In fact, the organizers made it quite clear that the event was exclusively for discussing all matters OER. However, maybe not surprisingly, almost all presentations including the keynotes dedicated a significant amount of time to discuss their takes on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC).

The words ‘Open Educational Resources’ were synonymous with all that is good in the world of education in the past decade or so. However, I think that fortunately or otherwise OER have lost some of its romance as a movement among the community. There may still be ‘die hard’ fanatics who will deny this fact but in actuality many of us who have been doing research on the ground for the past few years have moved on to other things such as MOOC. Does this mean that the OER movement is dead? I guess it depends on who you ask.

Earlier this year I presented some preliminary results of a study which analyzed the public (stakeholder) sentiment towards OER and MOOC on twitter (Abeywardena, 2014). Based on my findings, there is growing interest in MOOC in comparison to OER. However, when considering the public opinion on MOOC, it is apparent that the stakeholders haven’t yet formed strong opinions on MOOC due to it being a relatively recent phenomenon. In contrast, the positivity towards OER is on an upward trend. The neutrality towards OER has also decreased over a time span of 12 months post Paris OER declaration suggesting that the public is slowly but surely forming informed opinions about the use of OER. So… has the MOOC evolution killed the OER revolution? Well maybe not completely; but MOOCs have definitely forced the OER movement to re-evaluate itself in terms of how it fits in to the modern education landscape.

The true culmination of the OER movement, in my opinion at least, was the Paris OER declaration in 2012 (UNESCO, 2012). Although it was made out to be an attempt at promoting the movement, it served the greater good of pointing out for the first time the pitfalls in this ideology. Ten areas emerged which painted OER in a new light forcing many of us to really squint our eyes and look beyond advocacy into practice. As such, since 2012, the use and reuse of OER has been widely debated as quite a challenging agenda.

In the world of MOOC, many OER advocates and practitioners have switched sides to look at educating the masses from a different perspective. Arguably OER are a major part of the MOOC movement but not a defining one. Rather, the OER movement has started a retrospective journey looking at what was deemed to be good about it before the bandwagon started doing its rounds. Among the areas being revisited are pedagogy, actual reuse of resources, licensing, curation and most importantly business models for sustainability.

Due to the fickle nature of any philanthropy, the OER movement has really been forced to look at how it can sustain itself for the years to come. Some pioneers have already taken a page out of the FOSS movement to redefine the word OPEN in OER omitting the monetary connotation and maintaining only the ideological implication. Furthermore, much emphasis has been placed on the actual curation or archiving of these materials in a sensible manner following established metadata standards for more efficient reuse. A good indicator of this is the revision of the four Rs model (Hilton, Wiley, Stein, & Johnson, 2010) to include a 5th R, ‘Retain’, which emphasizes the “the right to make, own, and control copies of the content” (Wiley, 2014).

As I see it, the world now realizes that it has enough open material without a way to effectively classify them according to the actual ‘usefulness’ for teaching and learning purposes. Quite a bit of research is currently underway in this area, surprisingly by computer scientists in contrast to the educationists who gave the movement its initial thrust. Now the terms big data, sentiment analysis, learning analytics and text mining among others dominate most of the research in OER. In this regard the term ‘Linked Open Data’ ( is starting to take prominence promoting the interconnected use of the large volumes of resources available. As time passes, many of these research project will move towards MOOC and beyond which seem to be, at least as it stands, a more practical way of educating the world.


Abeywardena, I.S. (2014). Public Opinion on OER and MOOC: A Sentiment Analysis of Twitter Data. International Conference on Open and Flexible Education (ICOFE 2014).Hong Kong SAR, China: Open University of Hong Kong.

Hilton, J., Wiley, D., Stein, J., & Johnson, A. (2010). The four R‘s of openness and ALMS Analysis: Frameworks for open educational resources. Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 25(1), 37-44.

UNESCO. (2012, June 22). 2012 PARIS OER DECLARATION. Retrieved June 13, 2013, from

Wiley, D. (2014, 03 05). The Access Compromise and the 5th R. Retrieved 06 26, 2014, from


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