David Wiley's 1000-word contribution to the cool Change: Edu, learning & tech course offers a lot of leverage on seminal events in learning technology that took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s:
Many learning objects researchers and funding agencies were pushing to fully automate the selection and assembly of learning objects, essentially driving all human participation in the design of instruction (and all human interaction during learning) out of the educational experience, because humans are too “expensive.”
....Of course, the universal, ambient assumption underlying the reusability paradox is that learning objects must be used “as is” due to their copyright status. This realization allowed me to connect my passion for openness to my academic work on learning objects. From 2004 until today I continue to focus a good portion of my thinking and work on open educational resources – “learning objects with an open license.”
Mr Wiley's smart, committed and compassionate approaches to learning have, incidentally, given him a unique perspective on the history of educational technology in American and worldwide. However, his presentation of this perspective on the past isn't entirely comprehensive, which begs questions about the forces underlying the key issues that educationists are grappling with today.
The learning-objects/learning-automation nexus that Mr Wiley describes was driven, flogged even, by billions of dollars that were injected into education-technology by the US Dept of Defense. DoD was mesmerized by precisely the learning-object problem that Mr Wiley points out: How to design, tag, store and serve LOs that could be re-used to create compelling content cost effectively and on the fly. DOD funded among other things the Advanced Distributed Learning lab, which drove--flogged, even--the development of SCORM (Shareable Courseware Object Reference Model), a specification for making LOs shareable by lots of different Learning Management Systems, and one of the bedrocks of interoperability among today's LMSs, Virtual Learning Environments and other platforms. SCORM was, especially because it provided an early rule-set for XML, the mother of all standards (in online learning).
Well and good. Mr Wiley's and others' work on LOs in the 90s and 00s walked the discussion away from military training and over to K12 and higher education—although the US military's emphasis on automation and cost savings can still be discerned in the configuration of Virtual Learning Environments and their resources.
But we need to perform due diligence in relation to the origins of OERs, by traveling back up the roots of our current discussions of open content to better understand the underlying forces and actors that are driving that conversation as well. Why have OERs emerged at this time as critical, or potentially critical, means of improving education? How is the emergence of OERs similar to the emergence of LOs/automation? How different?