Open Fellow Sara Frank Bristow (4th from right) with members of OERRH team

Open Fellow Sara Frank Bristow (4th from right) with members of OERRH team

I arrived at the OER Research Hub on 7 October 2013, intent on diving immediately into a study examining the Hub’s Hypothesis J: that Participation in OER pilots and programs leads to policy change at the institutional level. I dramatically underestimated how overstimulating an environment I’d find the Open University (and how little time I’d find for that pesky initial literature review!).

There’s positively nothing like the OU as a research environment for someone with my background: an online education researcher and analyst since 2002, first in the UK, then Canada, then my native US, my interests cover nearly every intersection between education and technology – so you could basically call me a kid in a candy shop on the Milton Keynes campus. Everything is about e-learning! And it’s quiet, empty, and clean, because – get this – that distance learning thing means that there are no students (a joke which never seems to get old).

In between fascinating meetings across each of the Research Hub’s four sectors (K-12, college, university and informal), I met with representatives from The Institute of Educational Technology, the Computers and Learning Research Group (CALRG), the Open Media Unit, the OpenLearn repository and more. I left two weeks later having barely scratched the surface of my own study (drat!), but carrying a solid overview of the OU’s longstanding (and ongoing) work in this and related areas – plus a renewed sense of urgency to make a valuable contribution to the Evidence Hub.

I leave today for the Open Education conference in Utah, and where I will continue my quest for evidence in support of, or in contrast to, the Hub’s hypothesis concerning the interplay between policy and practice. I’d encourage fellow conference attendees to approach the Hub’s team members with their own their own stories about the use of OER. We’re at a critical juncture in the trajectory of open education, and I believe that developing this evidence base for the benefit of educators, technologists, policymakers and others is critical to this movement’s success. We’re all in this ship together, after all!

Now back to that study…

Feel free to share your musings on the interactions between OER policy and practice with me directly: sara at