Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Free book on Open Educational Resources #OER

While writing up a first workable draft for my probation report (to pass from MPhil to PhD student ... like a first exam, with a defence in front of a small jury), I came across this wonderful free book on Open Educational Resources. The book is a collaboration between UNESCO, Athabasca Uni, Commonwealth of Learning. It might be of interest to everyone looking into online learning, MOOC or simply looking for resources that can be embedded in your own course. OER are used around the world at this point, which gives the concept an added perspective, because an OER can be as local or as global as you make them, fitting the content and the goal of your own or any course. Where I must say I would love to see more local OER.

A short description of what you can expect by words of the editors of the book:

The development and exchange of OER continues to be a technologically intensive process. Technological considerations in OER are not limited to authoring or remixing tools. Collaborative production of OER requires welldesigned and robust online spaces and infrastructure (Wikiwijs) and repositories. The latter can also be used to combine OER to create lesson plans online (Open Science Education Resources in Europe). Unless OER are consistently and adequately described, they cannot easily be located in online searches. The chapter on GLOBE considers these challenges and offers solutions. COL’s earlier publications on OER offered insights and advice on good institutional practices, business models and policy matters.

However, the social dimension emerges as an important factor from a number of chapters in this book. The study on OpenLearn shows that when OER are taken directly from formal courses, the biggest impact is on the formation of  communities of learners around the OER. This is similar to the conclusion of the chapter on OER for Lifelong Learning, both reflecting the experience of the UK’s Open University. The African Virtual University (AVU) chapter reveals the importance of the formation of a consortium of OER producers across institutions and countries. This process requires subtle yet intensive facilitation for its sustenance and is important for the quality assurance of OER. The detailed analysis of the experience of the African Health OER Network also points to the viability of viewing OER as a social practice.

In two different chapters that focus on MOOCs (contributed by the global pioneers of MOOCs), what emerges is that even if the teachers do not use OER, the learners draw upon OER through their own social space and networks. The chapter based on COL’s experience reveals that the existing hierarchies and power relationships in many developing country institutions do not allow for the decentralisation that fosters and encourages the use of OER. The experience of the Open University in the Netherlands reveals the significant role of trust in encouraging the increased use and sharing of OER.