This presentation takes as its starting point a case study of teacher engagement with OER from a specific OER collection, LORO (Languages Open Resources Online, www.loro.open.ac.uk). The study investigated whether teachers followed the steps in the OER lifecycle (find, compose, adapt, use and share – Gurell 2008), as it has been argued that engagement with Open Educational Practices might enhance the quality of teaching. The study found that although teachers engage in the repurposing and sharing of OER, much of this is invisible, as it is not shared again openly. The assumption behind most of the OER cycles seems to be that the resources will be shared again publicly – Gurell (2008), for instance, refers to sharing as making a resource ‘available for the open education community to re-use and begin the life cycle again’. Santally’s (2011) acknowledges that the publishing and delivery phase need not occur exclusively in an open platform, and that OER might be made available through a closed VLE, for instance. This is indeed what happens in the practices of the teachers in my study: it seems that the OER cycle is a much more complex ecosystem than that indicated in Gurell’s 2008 model, or perhaps that the OER cycle interacts with other ecosystems, such as those of the teaching contexts in which teachers operate (institutional systems, such as the VLE forums, or the communities they feel part of, or not, within the institution, for instance). So it might be that we need to re-evaluate the notion of sharing, and accept that it does not necessarily have to occur in the same place where the resources are found.
These findings have implications for policy and research, and the paper examines the tensions between the drive for using quantitative data provided by analytics in the evaluation of OER projects (as advocated by the Hewlett 2013 white paper, for instance), and qualitative research that seeks to understand the practices of users and provide a more nuanced understanding of the OER ecosystem. The paper also suggests that much of the literature about lack of engagement in OER is that the lack of engagement is often mediated through the lens of a deficit model: if teachers do not engage in OER reuse, adaptation and sharing, it is due to a lack, a deficiency that can be addressed through further development, whether it be staff development activities to improve the teachers’ understanding of OER, or through the development of better technical solutions (such as better metadata, easier uploading mechanisms to enable sharing, or more social media features in the OER repositories). The paper concludes with the suggestion that a capabilities approach might enable us to better understand why teachers do not share their reversioned OER through public repositories, and help us to engage with the practices they have reason to value.