Today, on the first day of Open Education Week, I am happy to say that OER has gained traction in K-12 over the last year.

More and more people are talking about OER. States and funders are putting serious efforts into OER as core curriculum. More high quality OER content is becoming available, and most importantly, more K-12 schools are using and remixing OER.

With that success comes other side effects. One I’ve noticed is that as OER has come into vogue, people are shouting out its availability and often putting the tag “OER” on things that are not in fact OER.


To be clear, OER is “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.” (Hewlett Foundation)

Things that are free but copyrighted “all rights reserved” are not OER.

Now I have no interest in acting as the license police, but I think it’s important to use language correctly. Calling things OER that are not open licensed doesn’t serve the movement’s purpose. More to the point, it confuses people.

Sometimes, this mislabeling is merely lack of knowledge on the part of the speaker. Often, when I ask about something like this, I get a response like “Oh, I really didn’t know exactly what OER was. Thanks for clarifying.” Other times, though, it appears to be a blatant marketing attempt to attract more interest through false advertising.

This week and beyond, I’m asking all of us to be precise with our language and to ask about open licenses on materials labeled OER that are indicated as “all rights reserved.” By doing so, we might help clear up some misconceptions, extend awareness of what “open” means, and possibly even get some new materials open licensed.


(Happy post note: I sent a “This looks great, but we don’t see an open license. Are we missing something?” message to someone a couple days ago, and just heard back that they added a CC license to their site. Yay!)

The consequences of success
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2 thoughts on “The consequences of success

  • March 11, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    Great post on an important topic in open education. Free does not mean open, and there is plenty of openwashing happening in education. And as open continues to catch on, there will be more openwashing opportunists popping up.

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