This is an interesting post to read, not least because I sat next to the author at the conference he describes last week, and we had a discussion about related issues. Michael Shaw, who’s a great guy and I’ve known for a few years, is in charge of Tes Resources.
I wondered if I would feel like an interloper at the first conference I’ve ever attended on Open Educational Resources (OERs).
It wasn’t a dress code issue (though in hindsight I should have worn trainers) but that most of the attendees at #OER18 were from universities, while only a few of us there worked for education businesses.
Shaw notes he was wary in attending the conference, not only because it’s a fairly tight-knit community:
I work for a commercial company, one that makes money from advertising and recruitment services, plus — even more controversially in this context — by letting teachers sell resources to each other, and taking a percentage on transactions.
However, he found the hosts and participants “incredibly welcoming” and the debates “more open than [he’d] expected on how commercial organisations could play a part” in the ecosystem.
Shaw is keen to point out that the Tes Resources site that he manages is “a potential space for OER-sharing”. He goes on to talk about how he’s an ‘OER pragmatist’ rather than an ‘OER purist’. As a former journalist, Shaw is a great writer. However, I want to tease apart some things I think he conflates.
In his March 2018 post announcing the next phase of development for Tes Resources, Shaw announced that the goal was to create “a community of authors providing high-quality resources for educators”. He conflates that in this post with educators sharing Open Educational Resources. I don’t think the two things are the same, and that’s not because I’m an ‘OER purist’.
The concern that I, and others in the Open Education community, have around commercial players in ecosystem is the tendency to embrace, extend, and extinguish:
- Embrace: Development of software substantially compatible with a competing product, or implementing a public standard.
- Extend: Addition and promotion of features not supported by the competing product or part of the standard, creating interoperability problems for customers who try to use the ‘simple’ standard.
- Extinguish: When extensions become a de facto standard because of their dominant market share, they marginalize competitors that do not or cannot support the new extensions.
So, think of Twitter before they closed their API: a thousand Twitter clients bloomed, and innovations such as pull-to-refresh were invented. Then Twitter decided to ‘own the experience’ of users and changed their API so that those third-party clients withered.
Tes Resources, Shaw admitted to me, doesn’t even have an API. It’s a bit like Medium, the place he chose to publish this post. If he’d written the post in something like WordPress, he’d be notified of my reply via web standard technologies. Medium doesn’t adhere to those standards. Nor does Tes Resources. It’s a walled garden.
My call, then, would be for Tes Resources to develop an API so that services such as the MoodleNet project I’m leading, can query and access it. Up until then, it’s not a repository. It’s just another silo.
Source: Michael Shaw
Image: CC BY Jess