Activity 11: David and Goliath – little and big OER

In activity 11, we’re asked to write a blog post on the benefits and drawbacks of big and little OER approaches. This has reminded me of a Danish saying which goes “Hellere lille og vågen end stor og doven”, which can be translated into “It’s better to be little and alert than big and lazy”. This seems not only to apply to people but also to OER.

littleoerThe alertness of little OER refers to the often low production time and costs and the easy publication and sharing via social media services. Furthermore, little OER are alert in the sense that they can often be used and reused across a wide variety of contexts since they do not contain any, or very few, contextual cues themselves. So little OER get out and about and can fit into many different settings. At the same time, it can be a lot easier to get started producing little OER because you can often handle the planning, production and sharing yourself. One of the drawbacks of little OER, however, is that you may have doubts about their origin and feel insecure about whether it is ok to reuse and perhaps remix a little OER that you have come across. There might also be quality issues. Little OER may be good entertainment, but will they do for serious teaching and learning activities?

largeroer2Big OER are “lazy” in the sense that it takes time to plan, produce and publicise these. There are standards that you need to familiarise yourself with and abide by. Perhaps you need technical and other types of support to produce and publicise the OER. Costs are high. Furthermore, big OER are often very context-intensive, carrying a lot of cues that make them fit perfectly into some settings. This is also one of the worst drawbacks, however. The many contextual cues make it difficult to reuse big OER, so therefore they don’t get out and about so much as little OER. However, the advantages are often that big OER are clearly labelled, so you know whether you can reuse, remix etc. The quality of big OER are often very high.

It’s not a battle between the Davids and Goliaths of OER, however. Weller suggests that learners make use of both types of OER to “feel the reassurance of the quality brand material for core content” and to get “a mixture of the more social, participatory media that encourages them to contribute as well” (Weller, 2012:8).

Weller, M. (2011a) Academic Output as Collateral Damage [online], slidecast. Available at

Weller, M. (2011b) ‘Public engagement as collateral damage’ in The Digital Scholar, London, Bloomsbury Academic. Available at

Weller, M. (2012) ‘The openness–creativity cycle in education’, Special issue on Open Educational Resources, JIME, Spring 2012 [online]. Available at


4 thoughts on “Activity 11: David and Goliath – little and big OER

  1. Inger-Marie, it seems to me that an individual enthusiast could create a small OER more or less whenever they feel like it, but I imagine that for an institution to create an OER would involve more time, bureaucracy and agreement. Are you tempted?

    • Hi John
      Yes, that is certainly the impression that I get too. I am tempted to produce OER, but I’m even more tempted to continue my search for relevant OER, both little and small that I can reuse and I’ve started telling my colleagues about the possibility as well.

  2. Hi Inger-Marie, i like the creative way how you present the benefits and drawbacks of big and little OER relating to the danish saying. Reading your post made me think further on the aspect of context, and i agree with you that this is one of a main key point that makes an OER more reusable. That was one of my general problem i have experienced when trying to find resources for an OER course (activity 8), i just wanted to use some parts or pages. Maybe creators should try to make big OERs more usable by splitting them into smaller and whenever possible stand-alone pieces. Think this could help.

    • Hi Cinzia
      Thanks for your kind comment. I think you’re right, a more modular approach would be helpful when it comes to the reuse of OER. It seems like the Connexions platform lets authors both share modules and full courses. The latter bundles modules into what’s called collections. So you can then decide whether you only want a part of it or the whole package. I encountered one of these collections when doing activity 8 and it was great to be able to pick and choose only the elements that fitted in with my imaginary course.

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