Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pandora's box

The announcement last week that the Brazilian government intends to make all learning resources created by state-employed teachers freely available under Creative Commons licences (see earlier post) was welcome and will hopefully be an inspiration to others. However it did tie in very well with the presentation I made at last week's EDEN conference in Dublin. Together with my colleague, Ebba Ossiannilsson from Lund University, we presented Opening Pandora's box - conclusions from a Swedish OER project (see presentation below). The full paper will hopefully be published in a special issue of EURODL (European Journal of Open, Distance and E-learning) in the near future.

The act of making learning resources freely available on the net and fostering a culture of sharing between institutions and teachers is a necessary step towards opening up education but it is only the beginning of a tough process. I see OER as Pandor's box and by opening the lid you let out a host of "demons" that all need to be addressed.

Using OER means you have to review the role of the teacher; from the traditional sage on the stage to a new and more challenging role of mentor/facilitator/guide/critical sounding board. That alone is a controversial and uncomfortable issue for many and once you accept it you then have to review the student's role and even that of the university/school. The university/school is no longer a silo of knowledge and resources - those are everywhere and ubiquitous. Why should we come to such institutions? Students must take much more responsibility for their own learning and adapt to collaborative learning. How do we assess such learning? How do we integrate informal and formal learning and find ways of assessing the value of all that is larnt outside the formal system?

Maybe one reason so many decision makers seem reluctant to embrace OER is that they realize the dangers of opening the lid. However isn't it better to take control of the process despite all the challenges than to hide behind tradition and risk the box exploding in your face in a few years time?

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