Critical Review – “OER adoption: a continuum for practice”

Stagg, A. (2014). OER adoption: a continuum for practice. RUSC. Universities and Knowledge Society Journal, 11(3), 151-164.

This is part of my current portfolio for my Master of Education in Distance Education at Athabasca University.

Article Summary

In this article, the author talks about the challenges and barriers facing Open Educational Resources (OER) adoption and provides a framework for OER adoption that practitioners can follow.  He begins the article by discussing how Open Educational Practice (OEP) is a relatively new concept that doesn’t have enough research-based evidence to support it at the practitioner level.  Because of this, OER use is hindered due to lack of knowledge, as many course resources are commercially published.  The author explains that OER presents itself as a self-proclaimed social good, but again, does not have enough awareness or research-led evidence to support itself.  There is not enough coverage on how to properly implement it at an institutional level, nor are the difficulties that practitioners have at using and reusing open resources well known.

The author talks about OEP initiatives around the world, specifically in Asia, where open education is viewed as a way to address unequal access to education.  He also talks about studies done on OER, one study in particular where OER initiative leaders where surveyed on OER use.  Those surveyed identified awareness of OER as a major challenge, as well as other related challenges including lack of investment, lack of human resources, lack of IP knowledge, digital literacy, and the need to fit within current practices and open practices.

The author discusses three processes as examples for implementing adoption, but the author makes it clear that there are weaknesses and disadvantages to each one.  This allows him to discuss his own process, which he calls an adoption continuum.  There are five stages to his continuum, which he notes is not a linear journey, as each stage is “not co- or pre-dependent on the previous one.” (Stagg, 2014, p. 156) He talks about each stage of the continuum with a brief description of what it is as well as what the practitioner’s behavior is at each stage:

  1. Awareness/Access – the practitioner is aware of OER and includes open materials in course by replacing material (swap in/swap out). It is a challenge for many institutions to reach this stage and it is important to have working knowledge of creative commons or have access to someone who does.
  2. Original Sharing – the practitioner is willing to openly license and share own work, and provide open access to their work rather than using other peoples work.  Institutional support can be barrier or an enabler to sharing work, depending on what it looks like.
  3. Passive Remix – the practitioner finds something that someone else has done that aligns, but not completely, to what they need, so they localize it – taking what the other person has done and reusing it to fit specific local needs. This becomes context-driven reuse rather than sharing.  It is expected that practitioner understands how to locate, reuse, attribute and release repurposed OER properly.
  4. Active Remix – the practitioner takes multiple open sources and blends them together into a new resource – either for a new pedagogical approach or for aesthetic reasons. This becomes complex because applied knowledge is needed on license compatibility as resources may have different licensing requirements.  Resources need to be able to be remixed and may need expertise of others to make it work, including looking at learning design needs.
  5. Developing (Student Co-Creation) – students are involved in discovery, use and reuse of OER, which empowers learners as co-producers. The practitioner is confident enough in skills and network to introduce students into OER, and allow for open collaboration and community engagement.  Students are actively applying discipline knowledge to create resources that fit their learning needs.

The author closes by saying the OER movement faces many challenges in moving into mainstream adoption, which is largely due to a lack of engagement with the concept of openness.  His hope is that his proposed model “seeks to make explicit some of these support and development opportunities for institutions seeking to progress an open agenda.” (Stagg, 2014, p. 161)

The importance of the topic or issue

The title of the article is “OER adoption”, but the author clearly states that the article is trying to address “the issue of ‘OEP adoption’” (Stagg, 2014, p. 153).  He claims that the term is widely used, which I find interesting.  As someone who works within the realm of open and distance education, I have heard the term ‘OER’ used on numerous occasions.  My institution, TRU Open Learning, is a founding member of the OERu, an organization that works to offer opportunities for learners “to study independently, from home, with access to world-class courses from recognized institutions.”[1]  Before reading this article, the term OEP wasn’t something I recognized.  It seems to me that the author used OER to attract more attention to the article, as it is more well-known than OEP.  In doing so, he able to present the issues he has pointed out in the article about OEP adoption to a larger audience.

As stated in the article, one of the key challenges for OEP adoption is a lack of engagement.  The author has used a more well-known term to engage more people and potentially get a conversation going, not just about OER usage, but about implementing OEP within institutions.  It’s one thing to replace commercially published textbooks in a course with open textbooks.  It’s another thing to completely redesign how learning is done with an open perspective.  It’s a culture shift, and one that does not happen overnight.

Topic relevance to the field of distance education

The topic of OER and OEP matters to distance education because of the way that distance education has grown, especially over the last 10 years.  Distance education is where student and teacher are separated by time and location, and it allows those who cannot be in the same time and location as an institution to still achieve their desired level of education.  OER and OEP takes that a step further, by allowing those who are separated by social status and income to have the chance to gain their desired level of education.  I believe the purpose of both is to make education more available to anyone who wants it, therefore their paths are aligned and are moving towards a point where they are going to be (and in some cases, already are) intertwined.

The supportive evidence

I think that the author presented the issues and challenges of OER adoption well, but did not do well in explaining why the adoption continuum he is presenting is the best option for such adoption.  The author does a good job of explaining the challenges that OER and OEP face in becoming mainstream.  He also provides detail on how OER is currently being used and the research that has been done on it.  The background information is thorough and sets a strong platform for why there needs to be some sort of framework for adoption.

However, he does not clearly explain his reasoning for the framework he has presented in the article.  He first presented three different processes and explained why they were not the best options.  He then went straight into explaining his process, and made it appear that it was the process to follow because “all stages of the continuum inherently feature OER use.” (Stagg, 2014, p. 160)  He explains at the end of the article that it is part of his PhD work, so it can be considered a work-in-progress.  The question I am left with is how he determined these stages, what was his methodology for choosing these stages and what defined them.  The reasoning for his process is unclear.


Overall, it was a very interesting and informative article.  It shed light on the current state of OER and provided insight into how it is viewed and how it is being used around the world.  The author explained why adoption is challenging, and explained some processes that could have or have been used for OER adoption, and why they don’t or can’t work.  He did present an interesting continuum process that could have potential.  However, he did not explain his reasoning for the process and why it appears to be the solution.  The methodology is unclear, or rather, not there.  The benefit of this article is that is shines light on the current situation so that people can become more aware and more engaged in OEP and OER.



Works Cited

OERu. (2017). Home | OERu. Retrieved May 17, 2017, from OERu:

Stagg, A. (2014). OER adoption: a continuum for practice. RUSC. Universities and Knowledge Society Journal, 11(3), 151-164.

[1] (OERu, 2017)


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