Tag Archives: open educational resources

OER or OERs? There can be only one…

OER vs. OERs
I trust that the assertion is uninspired enough to warrant no notice and thus no offense, but it wants saying:

The term OER does not take an ‘s’ in the plural.

That is to say that the answer to the age-old question “OER or OERs?” is definitively the first and never the second. Moreover, one can create OER but not an OER; one can have OER but not one or more OER.

How do we know this to be so? We do not. In my case, I have the estimable authority of my own opinion; I have a strong visceral reaction to hearing the term OERs spoken aloud and only a slightly more subdued reaction to seeing it in print.

Other arguments are available.

Often, it seems that OERs is used to describe actual learning objects, whereas OER will be used to describe the concept of OER. That is, OER can be a concrete or abstract noun, and OERs is the plural of the former sort. That could wash if such usage were very strictly consistent. That both versions are often used inconsistently in the same source suggests either that both are correct or either is correct; in such a case, however, good style dictates that we choose one.

The collaboratively-edited Wikipedia page for Open Educational Resources overwhelmingly prefers OER, although this could be a result of one editor simply including more material than another, thus magnifying preferences. Sample sentences include:

  • “OER includes learning content, software tools…”
  • “Since OER are intended to be available for a variety of educational purposes, most organizations using OER neither…”
  • “UNESCO also champions OERs as a means of promoting access…”
  • “WikiEducator was launched to provide a venue for planning education projects built on OER, creating and promoting open education resources (OERs)…” [Note inconsistent use within a single sentence in this and the following sentence.]
  • “OER Commons also provides educators tools to align OER to the Common Core State Standards; to evaluate the quality of OER to OER Rubrics developed by Achieve; and to contribute and share OERs with other teachers and learners worldwide.”

The (possibly) collaboratively-edited Creative Commons wiki page “What is OER?” includes just one use of OERs, in a quote directly from the Wikipedia article.

Wikipedia attributes the creation of the term to UNESCO in 2002. Perhaps we could consider UNESCO the authority, then. The 2012 Paris OER Declaration contains 23 uses of OER and no uses of OERs. Hurray! But wait…

A 2010 message by UNESCO’s own Assistant Director-General for Education uses OER and OERs nine times each, once using both in the same sentence.

There is no easy way out of this mess. The preponderance of evidence seems to favor the authority of OER without clearly suppressing OERs. But if, by fiat, each creator can prefer one term to the other and is consistent in using one term over the other, at least we may hope that one will win out by overwhelming the other.

You know my heart, and if I lose I will try to be gracious but will probably choose to be wrong. Some losing battles are worth fighting, after all.


Image created using Text ASCII Art Generator by patorjk.  More sweet software here.

A Beginner’s Guide to Open Textbooks

I have published a page on open textbooks (which is not to say “open books”); it is available in the blog sidebar and here.

My page is neither the best nor the worst such page you will see, but I do believe it is among the more convenient, dealing briefly with the what/where/why of open textbooks, including:

  • What is an “open textbook”?
  • Where to find open textbooks
  • Problems with open textbooks
  • Tools for remixing and re-authoring open textbooks
  • Resources for learning more about open textbooks
Old pros will not find much new here, while neophytes should find a sufficiently friendly and concise introduction. Indeed, the page was written as an aid to a professional acquaintance and I am sharing in the hopes that it may be more generally useful.
Comments and critiques are certainly welcome.

Achievement Unlocked: HTML and CSS

Today, at long last, I have completed Saylor Academy’s PRDV251: HTML and CSS for Beginners course (CC BY 3.0 wrapper, comprising both open and closed resources).


The course requires some light hacking; in particular, figuring out how to use a text editor and browser to create a cohesive website from local files is largely up to the student, but there is no shortage of help available from the Web. In any case, I regard this friction as a good thing, driving learning and retention.

Rather than take notes in an outline format for this course, which is my wont, I decided to create a website that would serve as both sandbox and documentation for what I learned. The result, written in a series of lightweight text editors and published via Google Drive is this:

PRDV251: HTML and CSS for Beginners | Demonstration Site

Demonstration Site: PRDV251: HTML and CSS for Beginners
Overall, the course is very good and recommended not least for its introduction of other useful resources. Finally, a confession: the code is messy and not really all good HTML5; one develops best practices along the way and earlier work is inferior to the later stuff. So it goes. Some things got fixed, some things got commented out, and some things are there to stay as a permanent reminder of what not to do in the future.

The Dreaded First Post

Image of books arranged to form a tunnel, from a library in Prague
Book Tunnel by Petr Kratochvil | CC0

Best to get it over with, of course, so here it is: the dreaded first post. An introduction is in order.

What is it?

This blog is a response to two distinct, if related needs. The first need is for an outlet to talk about technology, particularly educational technology, and digital culture, particularly that of online learning (to include the wild world of MOOCs). The second need is for a personal learning environment, or PLE — a place to gather the courses, credentials, and activities that relate to my informal, ongoing digital education.

My hope is that by responding to the first need, I will reach an audience interested generally in news and discussion of online learning; by responding to the second need, I will reach an audience interested specifically in how to manage one’s learning to best effect.

Outside of these needs, of course, I will probably deal with all sorts of topics as they occur to me or otherwise suit me. I will ask questions in search of an answer, provide answers in search of a question, and by entertaining myself, maybe — just maybe — entertain others. Any enlightenment will most likely be incidental.

Why ‘OER Educated’

Well, the title is a pun, of course, which might need no explaining (cue explanation): ‘OER’ stands for ‘open educational resources‘, which are free-as-in-beer and free-as-in-speech learning resources available on the web. So the title intends both ‘educated by OER’ as well as ‘over-educated’, which I certainly am not, overall, though I may have too much of some sorts of education and too little of other sorts.

My Expertise

Why should you listen to me? Maybe you shouldn’t. I will try to be entertaining, informative, and compelling, however. Also, I know a good deal about OER and MOOCs and Creative Commons and all kinds of fun stuff — I’ve worked in the open online education world for nearly three years, and I’ve been in education for about eight or nine. Take from that what you will, but I carry at least some small bit of authority, and make up for what I lack with a charming mix of bravado and diffidence.
Finally, the aesthetics of the blog are very much in flux…I didn’t want perfection to be the enemy of posted. So, here we go!