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This selective literature review evaluates open educational resources (OER) efficacy studies through the lens of critical pedagogy. OER have radical potential as transformative tools for critical pedagogy or they can serve as a cost-free version of the status quo, inclined toward propagating austerity. This review analyzes studies published since 2008 with regard to cost, access, pedagogy, commercialization, and labor. These criteria are used to make explicit subjects indirectly addressed, if not ignored completely, in the existing literature. Typically, ample attention is paid to a study’s design and methodology but the underlying institutional infrastructure and decision-making process is unexamined. What emerges is an incomplete picture of how OER are adopted, developed, and sustained in higher education. Measurables like student outcomes, while important, are too often foregrounded to appeal to administrators and funding organizations. The review concludes with suggestions for how to utilize critical pedagogy for future studies and grassroots OER initiatives.


McDermott, Ian. "Open To What? A Critical Evaluation of OER Efficacy Studies." In the Library with the Lead Pipe, Feb. 2020,

Published under a CC Attribution 4.0 License.



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