Sunday, January 29, 2012

Open Educational Resources

This part of the 2012 Introduction to Openness in Education course discusses Open Educational Resources. A video presentation and a variety of readings are used to introduce this topic. This blog summarises some of my learnings from and reflections about them. 

David Wiley, in a 2010 TEDx presentation discusses openness in education. 
He defines open (in this context of education) as referring to resources that are freely shared, and come with permissions to reuse, redistribute, revise and remix. 
Openness is about sharing and generosity, it is about giving. 
Successful educators are those who share the most thoroughly with the most students. Luckily, expertise is non-rivalrous, not competitive; an educator can give something away, without loosing it him- or herself. Wiley calls this a good thing, else 
"[..] teachers would all be like honey bees, who can sting one time and then die."
Where knowledge in books generally can be shared with one person at the time, in the digital world, hundreds/thousands of people can access the same materials at the same time. 

Looking back to the time of the invention of the printing press, David sees a comparison with the advancement of new technology now. There is a collision between the huge demand for this new technology and outdated thinking reinforced by law. 
In the 16th century, this led to the 'Reformation'. Now, education is on the brink of its own Reformation. Openness is what is missing. New media and technology increase the capacity to be open. Through giving feedback, sharing materials, and getting into discourse and collaboration. The more we give, the more education will be open. 

Common Wisdom
Yochai Benkler, in his 2005 paper 'Common wisdom: Peer production of educational materials,' gives two reasons why peer production makes sense: 
  1. Quality of education everywhere; and
  2. Access to educational materials in poorer countries. 
Internet enables educators to quickly create collections of existing discrete learning objects into new meaningful educational experiences. He paints a picture how billions of people with a little spare time can produce so much more than a group of professionals working 40 hours a week on similar things. And the new technologies, and their applications come with their own new mechanisms for quality control. 

Challenges and opportunities
A 2006 OECD report by Jan Hylén, discusses challenges and opportunities of OER.

  • Awareness of copyright issues (lack thereof)
  • Quality assurance
  • Sustainability of initiatives 
Why institutional participation? 
  • Altruistic: Sharing is a good thing and in line with academic r=traditions
  • Institutions should leverage on taxpayers’ money by allowing free sharing and reuse of resources
  • Cost-cutting
  • Showcasing thus attracting new students
  • New business models
Motivation for individuals?
  • To gain access to the best possible resources
  • To have more flexible materials
  • Assisting developing countries and disadvantaged communities
  • Bring down costs for students. 
A year later, the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation of that same OECD, in a flashy report titled 'Giving knowledge for free. The emergence of open educational resources,' discusses sustainable cost/benefit models, copyrights, incentives and barriers, and access and usefulness of open educational resources. 
Note: Where Jan Hylén's report is licensed under a Creative Commons License, this report has a firm and strict © statement in it. Probably even illegal to link to it in the course (unless you got permission #DavidWiley?) I will not go through the trouble of asking permission, go look for it yourself in the OECD database... (where it states you can download the report for free ... .) ;) 
 This report is a more detailed report based on Jan Hylén's data. And discusses the money side more. 

Roadmap 2012
The Open e-Learning Content Observatory Services (OLCOS) project that ran from 2006 to 2007 published their results in the form of a roadmap. While not obviously explained, the title Roadmap 2012 might suggest a five-year outlook. Given it is not 2012, did their map help us?
The work was conducted to provide decision makers with an overview of current and likely future developments in OER and recommendations on how various challenges in OER could be addressed. It covered the following areas:
  • Policies, institutional frameworks and business models;
  • Open Access and open content repositories;
  • Laboratories of open educational practices and resources. 
For each of these area enablers and inhibitors are identified and described. Some of the (solutions to) most important inhibitors that the researchers felt that needed to be addressed are: 
  • Appropriate systems for recognition and rewards for researchers and educators working on OERs; 
  • The right mix of income streams; and 
  • Support to communities of practice. 
And the most important enablers: 
  • The urgency of the lifelong learning agenda; 
  • New generations of Web tools providing more effective OER; and
  • The Creative Commons License as an international standard. 
Based on the results, the project provided comprehensive recommendations for a variety of target audiences. 

Other resources
Similar enablers and inhibitors are described by other authors, for example the 2007 article by the Hewlett Foundation (working link:
On the other hand resources to tackle some of these inhibitors start to emerge. 
  • Gurell & Wiley's 2008 OER Handbook for Educators, is an open resource providing information on how to find, compose, adapt, use, share and license OERs. 
  • Plotkin's Free to Learn Guide focusses on higher education governance officials and leaders, to support policy development. 
  • UNESCO comes with a comprehensive guide in 2011. 
  • Finally, there's the FAQ Section of the Open Education Week Web-site. 
A lot has been researched and written about Open Educational Resources. Earlier works have laid out the challenges and opportunities. More recently the community has started to tackle the challenges, in general by providing support and information for educators, academic, policy makers, and other target audiences. The handbooks and guides will make it easier for educators who just now start getting into OERs to get a jumpstart. 
I do wonder how users of OERs are experiencing these support mechanisms ... 

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