Wednesday, March 7, 2012

From resources to practices

The concept of open educational resources (OER) has been around for ten years or so and has gained a foothold in most countries' educational systems. However the abundance of free educational resources available today has not resulted in  mainstream acceptance by schools and universities who are tightly bound to closed, proprietary publishing traditions. Principles of open access (free access to research articles) and the sharing and reworking of teachers' content threaten established and profitable business models as well as challenging the fundamental traditions of the academic world. So it's no surprise that the OER movement meets with resistance and skepticism.

It's not enough to simply amass vast silos of resources; we need strategies and policies for how they can be accessed, assessed and used. After years of grassroots enthusiasm and creativity it's time to address the decision makers and find a top-down approach to match the bottom-up creativity. We are now moving from open educational resources to open educational practices (OEP) and that's the focus of an important new publication Mainstreaming Open Educational Practice - Recommendations for Policy by my colleagues from EFQUEL, Anthony Camilleri and Ulf Daniel Ehlers as part of the OPAL Initiative.

This short publication (only 10 pages so you've no excuse for not having a quick look) identifies a number of challenges facing the mainstream implementation of OER/OEP and makes recommendations as to how these challenges might be resolved. The main challenges are in the following fields:

  • Enabling legislation to facilitate OEP - changes needed in copyright legislation to facilitate sharing of educational resources as well as incentives to teachers/authors to make their work freely available (with some rights reserved)
  • Empowering learners to take up OEP - making it easier to find and access resources and establishing ways of recognizing informal learning.
  • Strengthening the evidence base of OEP - studying the effects of OER/OEP to find scientific evidence that the concepts are sustainable.
  • Culturing innovation through networks - creating a European lead-organisation for "openness" and encouraging collaboration between all educational levels.
  • Improving trust in OEP - Moving from pilots to operational activities, demonstrating that community peer review and open citation can challenge the established closed systems for academic performance.

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