I’ve spent the week (proper work, not internet randomness) up to my neck in a VLE, coupled with the odd breakout into WordPress. It is hard when dealing with an open source system to want to criticise it, but, hypocritical klaxon alert, the interface on our VLE isn’t exactly easy to use. Everything you’d think possible to do it sort of does, or makes you jump through enough hoops so as to trigger a shortage of hoops. Basically, in a world of beautiful websites, the VLE remains, optimists aside, the ugly duckling. And it may well be an ugly duck as well.
As well as taking all manner of slight of hand to make it shiny, adding resources to the VLE isn’t easy, or kind, or logical. It struck me we see VLEs as these silos where content is hoarded, but this appears to produce an important oversight. It isn’t easy to share a resource on a VLE, and there is no indication of the resources others use. So it isn’t like the grain in the silo knows all the other grains business, or those inside the silo can see the rest of it. Like a babushka, the silo is made of silos.
So while we might want people who’ve never met to happily upload resources into repositories or share with Professors Tom, Dick and Harry – we would struggle using the existing infrastructure to share amongst faculty or the academy. So while we expect OERs to be open for the world, there isn’t tools for sharing locally, internally or along your corridor.
OER has focused on the content themselves, and an “ecosystem” based around repository resources. Towards the asymmetry of the title, this creates lopsided infrastructure in which there is content outside the silo of the VLE, and as the VLEs turn their lecturers and courses into silos, then we end with n-levels of silos to a resource that is begging to be used.
The OER is almost now used not simply but because of a skilled amateur – the symmetry of resources versus systems to use those resources versus the Goliath of the academy versus the David of the lone gunslingman, whose tools (are there OER tools?) are his own, whose skills (OER literacy, OER natives) are self taught. Abandoned by the ecosystem, they instead work as lone individuals, asymmetric against the world. We use the term remix as if it was easy (when perhaps we should say optimise as that seems a better goal) and say reuse as if it was simple. Without meeting users halfway, then the skills and tools discrepancy leaves those keen on OER to struggle.