An infographic on the history of open educational resources (OER) recently published by Course Hero has been making rounds on the intertubes. It’s an interesting overview of some key developments and milestones regarding OER but misses many major points. Want to help compile a real history of OER? Add your missing milestones in the comments!
To start us off, here are two glaring omissions:
1. The defining of “learning objects” and related standardization efforts in the mid- to late 1990s. These efforts promoted, and raised considerable interest in, sharing of educational materials, both digital and non-digital. Around the turn of the century, I was aware of several efforts to construct databases around the standardization of learning objects (ex. IMS, LOM, SCORM) that were intended to make educational materials freely available to broad audiences. There is no doubt that, although the term “open educational resources” was not used, these were major steps in proving the concept of openly shared educational resources and raising awareness and interest in the possibilities of such endeavors.
2. The creation of the Creative Commons licensing schemes in the early 2000s. Many of the efforts to openly share educational resources using the standards formulated in the late 1990s were not the raging success that had been envisioned, i.e. vast amounts of high-quality educational material easily and freely accessible online. In many cases, this was largely due to disagreements and confusion about authors’ rights. In some projects that I was closely affiliated with or knew very well, teachers rightly questioned why they should make the products of their hard work freely available with no assurances about how they would be used and no assurances that they would even receive minimal credit for creating them. Creative Commons changed all of that by providing licensing schemes that are, simple, recognizable, well-known, well understood, and enforceable.
Course Hero’s infographic is interesting in that it might get people to think about significant milestones in the development of OER, but as a useful history, it falls short. If it’s useful at all, it is perhaps as a starting point for constructing a real history of OER. I suspect that the point of the infographic is more to advertise Course Hero’s recently launched online courses (the last “milestone”) than providing a concise history of OER.