Big OER and Little OER
Weller (2011) The Digital Scholar - How technology is transforming scholarly practice
(Chapters 7 & 9)
Big OERs are based on major projects, often HEIs, with explicit aims to achieve specific educational outcomes. They are of high quality and are delivered in planned, consistent ways, for example through a portal which is designed for this purpose.
Little OERs originate from the activities of individuals or groups who are creating and distributing materials which may not have specific educational aims. There is no consistency in their production and quality may be low.
There may be an 80:20 relationship between these types of OER and their usage bases - traffic to many big OERs is "impressive" (page 109) and they represent a small proportion of OERs in terms of units but provide a very large volume of content to a large number of learners and reusers. Little OERs will account for a high proportion of units but may serve a smaller part of the market (though it must be hard to tell as there is no definitive record by the nature of what little OERs are).
Some ways in which they differ in terms of value/offer:
Sustainability - Big OERs face major issues over their longevity, with all their attendant issues with the costs of development and distribution. Little OERs are generated through passion, spare time and the need or desire to do something else (like air ideas or research) and will continue to emerge over time because they just can
Quality - where an OER is being delivered by a well known branded institution, its reputation acts as an incentive to ensure the educational quality and integrity of the product and the resources behind the project enable higher production values to be applied. Little OERs may be of very high quality; some user-generators have access to very sophisticated equipment and software, have excellent production skills and are committed to the educational quality of their output - but this is never guaranteed. My personal view of low quality web material is that I want to use it less than material with higher production values regardless of the content because the medium, is something I don't want to notice - with good production I see the message and ignore the medium, with poor production I am distracted by things such as sound quality, poor images, bad use of language etc.
Reuse - if reuse is built into the design of an OER in terms of what the licence and the format allow, reuse is more likely to happen. Weller states that Big OERs aim more for adaptation - large amounts of content are localised in some way, whereas little OERs tend to be aggregated for reuse - disparate items are pulled together and included in some bigger educational package (page 107).
Meeting needs - users may be more inclined to go directly to a Big OER that was designed for the purpose which they are seeking to achieve; little OERs may be more likely to be stumbled across although the searchability of the web might negate this assumption somewhat. A fundamental difference is in the intent - Big OERs have clear and declared aims behind them which are coherent and which guide the creation of resources to meet these aims and therefore the needs of the users they were designed for. Little OERs might also be designed for particular purposes but there is no coherence across the broad and diverse base of resources.