Open Educational Resources - Opportunities and Challenges for Higher Education

Posted by Michael Paskevicius | 2 Apr, 2009

Having read the Yuan, Macneill and Kraan article titled "Open Educational Resources - Opportunities and Challenges for Higher Education" this morning I identified the following interesting extracts.

Initially I considered OER resources to only include lecture material such as powerpoint presentations, articles, links, etc.  However the OECD definition includes a much broader range of material and could probably increase even more in scope with time depending on the mode of delivery.

In terms of OER, with regard to this working definition, it is important to note that “resources” are not limited to content but comprise three areas (OECD, 2007):

Learning content: Full courses, courseware, content modules, learning objects, collections and journals.

Tools: Software to support the development, use, reuse and delivery of learning content, including searching and organisation of content, content and learning management systems, content development tools, and online learning communities.
 
Implementation resources: Intellectual property licenses to promote open publishing of materials, design principles of best practice and localise content. (OECD, 2007)


Some of the strategies proposed by the OECD to increase the effectiveness and reach of OER.  These certainly come with a range of concerns and challenges:

Encourage educators and learners to actively participate in the emerging open education movement. Creating and using open resources should be considered integral to education and should be supported and rewarded accordingly;

Open educational resources should be freely shared through open licences which facilitate use, revision, translation, improvement and sharing by anyone. Resources should be published in formats that facilitate both use and editing, and that accommodate a diversity of technical platforms.


Governments, school boards, colleges and universities should make open education a high priority. Ideally, taxpayer-funded educational resources should be open educational resources. Accreditation and adoption processes should give preference to open educational resources.

And certainly I foundmost interesting the drivers and inablers, especially in the context of short and long term.  

Drivers vs. Inhibitors

Short-medium term (to 2009)
Drivers/enablers:

  • International organisations’ promotion and funding available
  • Competition among leading institutions in providing free access to educational resources as a way to attract new students
  • Success of open access initiatives and repository projects;
  • Rapid development and wide use of Social Software tools and services and emergence of personal learning environment;
  • Licensing open content will become easier as plug-ins for widely used authoring software packages become available.

Inhibitors:
  • Growing competition for scarce funding resources
  • Difficulty in finding a balanced approach to open and commercial educational offerings;
  • Copyright issues
  • Fears of low recognition for OA publications, particularly among young researchers
  • Lack of policies for the development and use of repository at institutional level
  • Lack of communication and cooperation between system and tool developers and educators;

Long-term (to 2012)
Drivers/enablers
  • Policies emphasise educational innovation and organisational change in educational institutions
  • ICT-based lifelong learning and personalised learning needs
  • Opportunities for co-operation and collaboration between institutions around the world
  • Global competition in Higher Education and decline in student numbers in Europe due to demographic trends;
  • Creative Commons licensing is firmly established and is being used increasingly.
  • New systems for creating and handling group-based Learning Designs may become more widely used;
  • Semantic applications will provide new ways to access knowledge resources.

Inhibitors
  • Business models in OER will remain tricky
  • Lack of institutional policies and incentives for educators to excel in OER
  • Models that build on teachers in the creation and sharing of OER will need to invest considerable effort in training and support;
  • Creation of educational metadata will remain costly
  • Need more advanced tools and services for educational repository;


Motivations for the use of OER

OECD motivations for institutions in using OER
  • The altruistic argument that sharing knowledge is in line with academic traditions and a good thing to do.
  • Educational institutions should leverage taxpayers’ money by allowing free sharing and reuse of resources.
  • Quality can be improved and the cost of content development reduced by sharing and reusing.
  • It is good for the institution’s public relations to have an OER project as a showcase for attracting new students.
  • There is a need to look for new cost recovery models as institutions experience growing competition.
  • Open sharing will speed up the development of new learning resources, stimulate internal improvement, innovation and reuse and help the institution to keep good records of materials and their internal and external use.

OECD motivations for individuals in contributing to OER
  • The altruistic motivation of sharing (as for institutions), which again is supported by traditional academic values.
  • Personal non-monetary gain, such as publicity, reputation within the open community (egoboost).
  • Free sharing can be good for economic or commercial reasons, as a way of getting publicity, reaching the market more quickly, gaining the first-mover advantage, etc.
  • Sometimes it is not worth the effort to keep the resource closed. If it can be of value to other people one might just as well share it for free the most commonly reported motive for lecturers was to gain access to the best possible resources and to have more flexible materials
References: Kraan, W, MacNeill, S, Yuan, L (2008) Open Educational Resources - opportunities and Challenges for Higher Education. Educational Cybernetics: Reports University of Bolton 2008

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