Free to Learn Guide/Why So Little Attention from Higher Education Officials?
Three main factors appear to account for most of the current lack of higher education governance attention to OER: cultural, chronological and systemic.
On the cultural side, OER have not been a part of pre-existing educational practices within the often tradition-bound higher education enterprise; on occasion, the reliance on sound, proven and reliable past practices can sometimes make it difficult for promising new teaching methods to gain momentum. Constrained by past practices, many instructors operate in environments that leave little room for innovations, except at the individual classroom level, and provide even less support for any attempts to expand successful classroom innovations to a larger scale. The brightest and most dazzling teachers can light up a classroom but, unpreserved, that illumination is then usually lost forever, except in the minds and memories of a few fortunate student witnesses.
On the chronological side, it is fair to note that a majority of collegiate board members and senior academic officers holding positions of authority today, those who could lend material support to these activities, assumed those leadership posts well before the relatively recent advent of the opportunities associated with OER. Like many Internet-related skills, knowledge and expertise about OER within higher education institutions today is often inversely proportional to rank. In this case, higher education's foot soldiers, teachers and learners, frequently know much more about OER than the generals who command the system.
Finally, the initial lack of OER that met the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Federal Rehabilitation Act (FRA) also slowed down adoption of OER by higher education institutions, in particular, public schools such as community colleges that lacked the resources needed to remedy violations of these laws as required when challenged. This systemic obstacle is being removed, however, thanks to more recent efforts focused on the creation and use of OER that meets the requirements of these laws, which in turn permits the use and continuous improvement of these materials within public educational institutions without fear of costly legal challenges related to the rights of disabled students.
Optimum progress, however, depends on more rapid appreciation of OER-related opportunities by collegiate governance officials. Faculty, students and educational institutions will all benefit by developing a shared understanding of the possibilities and promise associated with OER. That shared knowledge will accelerate adoption and creation of new content.
This Guide strives to encourage and enable collegiate governance officials to more rapidly comprehend and capitalize on this dramatic new opportunity to modernize and improve the educational institutions they govern, to better serve faculty and students, and through them to enhance our society, culture and economy, whose future prospects depend largely on the success of our national educational enterprise.