Tuesday, 15 February 2011

OER: open educational resources an UNESCO intitiative #OERU and a critical view

SCoPe is starting an open and free discussion course on Open Educational Resources (OER) in connection with a UNESCO initiative to launch strategic assessment and accreditation for OER. Now, I belief in sharing content, with the idea that sharing will make the world a better place (yes, idealist maybe, but proud of it).

Before giving you more information on the initiative, a philosophical view. Thanks to Stephen Downes' ol'daily, my eye fell on a really wonderful and critical post from Tony Bates with regard to OER's. Tony Bates organizes his thoughts in the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Tony Bates' introduction already points you towards his major issues:
"I increasingly fear that the open educational resources movement is being used as a way of perpetuating inequalities in education while purporting to be democratic. Some components of OERs also smack of hypocrisy, elitism and cultural imperialism (the bad), as well as failure to apply best practices in teaching and learning (the ugly). Despite my support for the idea of sharing in education (the good), these concerns have been gnawing away at me for some time, so after 42 years of working in open learning, I feel it’s time to provide a critique of the open educational resources ‘movement’."
Part of his conclusion also right on the money (in my view):
"The main barrier to education is not lack of cheap content but lack of access to programs leading to credentials, either because such programs are too expensive, or because there are not enough qualified teachers, or both. Making content free is not a waste of time (if it is properly designed for secondary use), but it is still a drop in the bucket. Initiatives such as Health Sciences Online suck up a lot of sponsor funding that could be better used by providing proper educational provision within a developing country. If MIT wants to put its material online to show off the academic quality of its instructors, and their great lecture style (cough, cough) then fine, but don’t pretend you’re saving the world."
OER are at the middle of the educational discussion again, for UNESCO is having a foundation meeting to set up a strategy for assessing and accreditation when using OER's, so this might be interesting to follow. At the same time SCoPE is holding an open and free seminar on the topic. So, if you are interested in OER, feel free to read Tony's great post, and join one or both get togethers on the topic of OER.

The UNESCO initiative foundation meeting
Under the title: Towards an OER University: Free learning for all students worldwide.
Which, let's be honest, does not really excel in its visuals of the roll models, although the initiative might be started for all the right reasons, the front page shows: white, gray-suited men (which is not really excelling the idea of equally open to everyone, but they still can be, they just are not that into balanced visuals and testimonials yet).
You can listen and voice your questions by registering as a virtual student here (you need to login to wikieducator system, and then add your coordinates).
This will be a foundation meeting, and the timing is:
  • Date: Wednesday, 23 February 2011, 9am to 5pm NZDST (world time for meeting start)
  • Venue: Council Room, Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand (map)
  • Streaming: Detail to be announced.
  • Hash tag: #OERU
  • Press release
See also drafting of the logic model for the OER university.
OER Unesco google group;

The SCoPe seminar prior to the foundation meeting can be followed (for free and online) here. To enter the SCoPe seminar, it suffices to register (for free) for SCoPe (SCoPe is a great initiative to follow, the organize wonderful seminars, so this is a good thing). It is nice to get some thoughts going before jumping into the synchronous end.