Big and little OER

benefits and drawbacks explored


Attribution share alike Kim ‘Big and little’ flickr

Weller (2011) differentiates between big and little OER, big being institutional led OER initiatives and projects and little being OER produced at an individual level. Weller suggests this may be another way to address sustainability of OER initiatives.

Drawing on Weller’s book chapter ‘Public Engagement as Collateral Damage’ I have attempted to identify the benefits and drawbacks of both big and little OER approaches.



The potential reach of big OER is significant e.g. MIT OpenCourseWare receives 200,000 monthly visitors, thus big OER can reach large audiences which can support widening participation in education and can act as a vehicle to recruit students. The online presence can enhance an institution’s reputation and can allow diversification of curriculum offerings.


The high cost of large scale projects means there needs to be funding in place, facilitated through a clear budget process, objectives, outcomes and KPIs, this inhibits opportunities for agility and being responsive to the unpredictability of the internet. These initiatives are usually top down with a small number of academics inputting and have low reuse potential.

Little OER


Bottom up internet innovation tends to be low cost (other than an individual’s time) and are organic, with high potential for reuse. Individual’s contributions can be aggregated and translated into different contexts. The innovative nature of little OER allows new formats and ideas to be explored outside the process flows of institutions and affords the opportunity to take advantage of any internet development. As an individual academic, little OER allows the opportunity to reach a broader audience, collaborate with a global network of experts, explore what you enjoy and engage fully with an online community.


For little OER to be sustainable it needs to become a ‘bi product of standard practice’, the element of sharing freely can carry risk and attitudinally some people may be wedded to habitual ‘traditional’ practice. There is an individual time cost and there may be a perception that money and time is lacking to digitise existing learning objects. Little OER may be seen as an additional activity and not worth these costs to the individual given its smaller reach and ‘viewing figures’. There is a need to have a robust network through which to disseminate learning objects and so developing and nurturing networks becomes an essential skill for the individual, a potential distraction from creating learning objects and yet another additional activity.


Week 9 activity 11


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