Recently I mused upon the differences between OER and e-learning. I found that many of my colleagues had blurred the lines between the two which can present challenges in motivating and understanding one from the other.
Certainly e-learning has any number of different explicit definitions depending on who you ask. From learning online, to learning with electronic resources, to an online learning pedagogy … e-learning is a term rife with meaning. My understanding of e-learning is learning which is meant to occur while interacting with a computer.
OER should not replace e-learning as a term similarly rife with ambiguity. It is tempting to create electronic resources and label them OER, but in fact OER extends well beyond the realm of simply ‘electronic’ resources. The key components of OER are that they are shareable online and freely available to use, reuse, and adapt. Whereas they must be shareable online, they do not necessarily have to be made use of online. They could be materials that need to be printed out for a class activity.
OER must be made shareable through open licenses such as Creative Commons. This ensures that others will know what can be done with your teaching and learning material (Attribution Always!) E-learning material does not necessarily get licensed in the same way and is therefore definable from OER.
Currently we are seeing a great deal of e-learning material coming at us, which authors want to designate OER. This requires us going back and looking at the material, checking for licensing conflicts. (e.g. copy written pictures used within, etc) This process of vetting the material and replacing copy written material clears the material for sharing as OER.
There are however great similarities between OER and e-learning. Both should be driven by a pedagogical need or driven by the needs of curriculum. We aim to have people design electronic teaching and learning materials with “open” in mind, which will lead to it becoming an OER as well as an e-learning resource in its most basic sense: an electronic learning object which helps a students come to a better understanding of some aspect of our world.