Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Open Educational Resources Declaration and info


Mark Surman got me focussed on Open Educational Resources (OER) again with his great post on the Cape Town Declaration. The Cape Town Open Education Declaration is document that will be posted on the WWW in the beginning of 2008 and which builds upon other Open Education evolutions such as Free & Open Source Software Portal from Unesco who put their ideas into open education from as early as 1984 onwards.

There are a lot of OER out there, just to list a few:
OER commons;
the European initiative SELF
the olcos project;
The MIT open courseware which I like a lot :-)
a great open source resource for software engineeering: AVOIR;

A great and more international initiative is RAFT, a Swiss initiative that provides distance continual medical education courses from French speaking developing countries to whoever wants to follow them. It is a really huge initiative that has been growing since 2003. The English paper on their research mention the great lessons learned. They also have a blog that keeps everyone updated on coming courses. I like this initiative because it is low resource, supported by a lot of developing countries and there specialists. It feels more grass roots because it comes straight out of the belly of the specialists, so ... I like this approach a lot!

To come back to the Cape Town declaration: I signed it although I have some remarks. I signed it because any idea that strengthens open courses appeals to me and will benefit all.

Nevertheless I hope that a lot of people will respond to the initiative and ask to open it up to more diversity and that they will act upon what the declaration preaches.

Remarks I had while reading the declaration
(what I send to them as well with a few alterations):
Where is the diversity? I was surprised that the initiative did not include more diversity in the platform of people? Change only happens by the people, through the people. Why not use diversity as your trust in developing countries and as trust in the outcomes of true integrated exchange of knowledge. In my opinion you should have over 31% (threshold percentage) of people in the Cape Town Declaration committee from educators from different developing countries to ensure their demands and remarks and needs on Open Educational Courses get heard. For in my opinion especially developing countries will be able to benefit from this kind of approach, so their voice should at least be heard on a scale that has impact (more than 30%).

A second remark: why not open up the declaration to learners around the world to add their remarks to make it stronger? The fact that feedback is possible is already great, it would be nice if this feedback would be open as a public discussion forum.
This way the cape town declaration will act upon the very words they are writing down. Actions not words make a difference and offer trust to the people that are willing to stand behind those very principles.
Of course it will be difficult to sift through all the responses, but as the Swarm theory shows, the group is right so it is worth giving this a try.

And there is one thing that always makes me a bit uncomfortable: if there is a good idea that would benefit a lot of people, than why are names linked to that initiative in the same page as the initiative? You could add names, but not in the declaration itself, this just looks kind of ego-loving. Why not add knowledge to initiatives that are already addressing this issue.

Well, these are my reservations, but if you want more reservations you can read them here. After which one of the people who worked on the declaration replied on his blog. In both statements I found things I agreed and disagreed with. The fact that the discussion is going on emphasizes the strong need to make open educational resources a fact.

I hope more people will react upon this declaration and if you do, please let me know I love to think, discuss and learn.