The one about Open Educational Resources or the so called OER, is a topic of particular interest for us, and for those who believe in Open Education.
OER are learning resources freely created, re-created and shared by students and/or teachers in order to increase access to education for everyone and to reduce costs of textbooks.
The term was first coined in 2002 by UNESCO, but the free material was already available at that time, although to a lesser extent.
Institutions like Educause in the US have discussed and promoted their use extensively, but they are not the only active organization involved in this field. Any institution, especially an Higher Education one, who intends to reduce the cost of textbooks, tends to embrace the use of OER in their curricula. OERs can belong to the Creative Common (CC) License, hence whoever would like to use an already existing OER has the right to do so for free and can re-create/re-adapt it for educational purposes, while providing credits to the primary source. OER Commons is for example the project that connects OER and CC.
Another main objective in the use of OER is to support an Open Pedagogy where students become autonomous actors of their own learning process and where they can build their own learning pathways. They can actively engage with content and tools in their learning process. In the same way teachers can revise their teaching practice in alignment with the idea of providing a more active role for students.
Examples of use of OER
Cases of use of OERs in Higher Education contexts are many: The Open Pedagogy Handbook reports several different tools and examples on how to create and use OER in practice. The Open Course Library is instead a free collection of courses ranging from statistics to logic, that can be used for teaching purposes.
State University of New York (SUNY) is another good example of an institution who promotes the effective use of OER. We have deepened their practice in the use of OER in the Podcast published in our September Newsletter, but we can shortly say that they have a very active group promoting the use of OER in the institution through a series of interesting initiatives.
With one of this initiative they make at students and teachers disposal a wide variety of free resources and courses that could be used in different type of curricula, from Accounting to Writing skills Labs for example.
We are proud to say that there are also example of best practice in using OER for Open Educational purpose also among Italian Universities. University of Genova for example through the EduOpen project created some MOOCs (Free Access Online Courses) on topics such as “Internet and Networking” and “Medical English”.
In addition, METID from Politecnico University in Milan promoted a very big initiative on MOOCs called POK, offering a wide variety of open courses ranging from finance to employability skills to students.
We also believe in an Open Education Pedagogy and what we have done so far in relation to the use of OER, is to include selected resources of this type into our Edulai library.
This can provide everyone with a chance to become more market-ready while developing the needed skills.
Disadvantages in using OER
There are however some challenges in embracing the use of OER that need to be taken into consideration. Faculty may find the process of adapting their teaching practice to an Open Pedagogy model quite time-consuming. Moreover, some faculty perceive a loss of control when students are invited to co-create and contribute to course content; on the other side students accustomed to a more traditional teacher led approach, may find it difficult to adapt to an Open Education Pedagogy. In addition the quality of the OER content has been questioned as the resources are not produced by sector specific publishers.
Open Education Pedagogy and the connected use of OER are continuing to gain acceptance in the academy. Practitioners and researchers foreseen a near evolution from a relatively narrow emphasis on development and distribution of OER to further growth of related practices and policies. In fact, practitioners have considerable interest in “moving beyond the textbook” in light to develop, practice and test new ways of thinking about learning and pedagogy while becoming less dependent from current course publishers or more traditional textbooks providers. Despite the uncertainity about the future of OER, the impact that thay have had in education up until now is undeniable and there is still room for improvement.
We are very happy to have embraced this philosophy into Edulai and to have made it at disposal of Universities for everyone’s education and professional development.