Open Educational Resources (OER)
Definition and Aims
The internet provides access to an ever growing amount of knowledge resources. A lot of it is available for free and can be shared and put to use in an educational context. Whereas traditional textbooks are expensive and not readily available everywhere, this situation raises hopes for improved educational environment.
However, the use of such online materials for training or education purposes raises copyright issues, the resources are not necessarily free to use or "open". The term ‘Open Educational Resources’ (OER) was first adopted at a UNESCO "Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries" in 2002. UNESCO, a lead agency in raising awareness on the potential of OER, provides the following definition:
"Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation."
The OECD in 2007 published a study on OER and the challenges it poses for higher education: "Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources".
In 2009, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger launched a digital textbooks initiative with the goal of giving students access to high-quality education while cutting costs.
In 2011, the US Department of Labor and the Department of Education announced an education fund that would grant $2 billion to create OER materials for career training programs in community colleges in a 4-year program. All resources created using these funds must be released under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.
In June 2012 UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) organized in full partnership the World OER Congress which was attended by over 400 experts and government representatives. They adopted the ‘Paris OER Declaration’ that includes a clear definition of open licenses and encourages governments to support the principle that the products of publicly funded work should carry such licenses.
4R's of Open-ness
The Open Education Quality Initiative (OPAL) is a partnership between seven organizations including ICDE, UNESCO, European Foundation for Quality, the Open University UK, Aalto University and the Catholic University Portugal. It is led by the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany and partly funded by the European Commissionhttp://www.oer-quality.org/the-opal-initiative/ The OPAL Initiative]
- Re-use: Right to copy and use verbatim copies.
- Revise: Right to adapt, rework and improve.
- Remix: Right to combine into new OERs (open educational resources).
- Redistribute: Right to share copies.
- Wikipedia entry on OER
- UNESCO on Open Educational Resources
- Commonwealth of Learning on Open Educational Resources COL sees OER as an important element of its mission of Learning for Development.
- Open Educational Resources, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation Education Program supports the development of OER as a funding organization
- Wikiversity entry on OER
OER and other free education web links
Many resources available online are labeled OER, many of them related to higher education. Some of the content is relevant in the context of Technical and Vocational Education. While excellent learning resources are available online, it is a major challenge to find the right quality content. In order to fully and legally edit and re-use resources should be licensed "CC BY-SA" (Attribution-ShareAlike). A whole lot more resources are what may be called "informal OER": They are useful in educational contexts and they can be freely accessed, but they are not formally licensed as OER or may not even have been created for educational use.
- Creative Commons Search tool
- Google OCW/OER search
- WikiEducator is an online community project for working collaboratively towards a free version of the education curriculum
- Open Courseware finder provides access to Open educational content of high quality provided by 6 institutions, among them MIT.
- California Learning Resource Network, Digital Textbook Initiative
- Jorum gives access to learning and teaching resources shared by the UK further and higher education community
- UNESCO Open Training Platform
- Australian Flexible Learning Framework
- Saylor.org - "Harnessing Technology to make education free". A free comprehensive collection of texts drawn from all manners of sources — whatever is useful and to hand. Most courses end with exams.
- Connexions, more than 15,000 reusable modules woven into 1,000 collections
- Academic Earth Video Lectures
- Khan Academy provides excellent free education, mostly via video (in English only).
- Coursera is a social entrepreneurship company that partners with top universities to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free (with graded homework assignments and certificates of completion), courses mostly in English, some in French or Spanish
- EduNorth Learning Resources
- OER Africa is initiative established by the South African Institute for Distance Education (Saide) to play a leading role in driving the development and use of OER across all education sectors on the African continent.
- Teacher Education in South-Saharan Africa: This website offers OER in four languages to support school based teacher education and training on primary and secondary level.
- Open Educational Resources For Secondary Schools. NDLA is a project to offer free digital learning resources for secondary schools in Norway. It features some excellent TVET-related content.
- Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) Access to 750+ free and open college textbooks
- YouTube claims to be the largest host of videos licensed under creative commons  Many YouTube videos are devoted to advocating OERs and explaining how they can be created. YouTube and other video platforms like Vimeo hosts many video clips of educational and "How To" nature (Build, Fix, Make...) that are not licensed CC, but can be watched for free.
- iTunesU features an iTunes U Course Manager and allows teachers to design free online courses: "Your iTunes U courses can include all the items you would use in a traditional course: a syllabus, handouts, quizzes, and so on. And they can include your own video and audio lectures as well as interactive elements such as content and links from the Internet, iBookstore, App Store, and iTunes Store. You can also add materials from among the 500,000-plus free public resources in the iTunes U catalog, including audio and video content from museums, universities, cultural institutions, and more."
- OER Knowledge Cloud The intention of the UNESCO/COL OER Knowledge Cloud is to enhance research opportunities and access to knowledge and research on Open Educational Resources.
Articles and Publications
- Atkins, D., Seely Brown, J., Hammond, A. (2007) A review of the the Open Educational Resources movement: Achievements, challenges and new opportunities.
- COL, UNESCO (2011), A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER)
- COL, UNESCO (2012), Survey on Governments’ Open Educational Resources (OER) Policies
- Dhanarajan, G., and Porter, D. (Eds.) (2013), Open Educational Resources: An Asian Perspective
- Owens, S., USNews.com (2013), The Growing Adoption of Creative Commons Textbooks
- ‘Open Courseware’ (OCW): publicly available materials that are either a part of, or a complete course from an educational institution such as a university or college.
- ‘Open educational practices’ (OEP) is defined as use of OER to raise the quality of education and training and innovate educational practices on an institutional, professional and individual level.
- ‘Creative Commons’ (CC) is a US non-profit organization. A Creative Commons license is one of several public copyright licenses that allow the distribution of copyrighted works. It can be used when authors want to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work they have created.
- ‘open source’ refers to a program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design.
- ‘Free and open source software’ (F/OSS, FOSS) or free/libre/open source software (FLOSS) is software that is both free software and open source.
- ‘Massive open online courses’ (MOOCs) are online courses aiming at large-scale participation and open access. They use OER delivered via the web for distance education.
- Copyleft is a play on the word copyright to describe the practice of using copyright law to offer the right to distribute copies and modified versions of a work and requiring that the same rights be preserved in modified versions of the work.
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