Saturday, June 18, 2011

Brazil shows the way for open educational resources

IMG_0309 by reanetbr, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  reanetbr 
OER seminar at the Sao Paulo Legislative Assembly by reanetbr / CC BY

Although grassroots initiatives to encourage the development of open educational resources are essential they can only have limited impact unless there are clear policies and strategies from the top to nurture them. That is the main conclusion from a Swedish OER project that I have led over the past year (read an article on the project). There are plenty of resources, repositories and good examples from many universities and schools but unless there is an overall national strategy there will only ever be islands of innovation and no mainstream impact.

I've just been pleasantly surprised by an article on the Creative Commons website, Brazil introduces OER into federal legislation and adopts local government policy. The Brazilian government has just passed legislation requiring government funded educational resources to be made freely available under Creative Commons licenses. Furthermore, work produced by state employees (ie teachers at all levels) in their official capacity must be made freely available as OER.

This seems to be common sense to me and it’s amazing that this move even creates media interest. If we are paid with taxpayers’ money our work should be available to those who pay for it; the general public. Instead, most of a university’s production is locked away from public view and there is far too little cooperation to minimize the weekly reinvention of the wheel. If we really wanted to find more money to invest in better teaching and research we need to encourage the open sharing of resources. Good ideas must be shared and spread, teachers encouraged to network and collaborate on course development and institutions discouraged from all producing their own slight variations on the same course.

The Brazilian legislation will probably not have much impact on the government here in Sweden or in many other European countries but I am convinced that we must take this step.

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