UNESCO OER community

Global Access to OER – A report by UNESCO

Jane Park, October 26th, 2009

The UNESCO OER Community attempts to put OER in light of not one, but many cultural contexts around the world. Connecting 900 individuals in 109 countries, the community runs on a wiki platform and communicates centrally via its listserv. Earlier this year in February and March, they held a discussion on the various barriers to accessing OER in different jurisdictions, with one of its ultimate aims to develop concrete proposals in this area. The outcomes of the discussion are now compiled into a report in both PDF and wiki versions.

From the announcement by Bjoern Hassler,

“The first proposal is about “Introducing digital Open Educational
Resources into Zambian primary schools through school-based
professional development”. Through this project we seek to overcome
access barriers, and engage with OER for Zambian primary/secondary
school mathematics teaching. The barriers are manifold, including
infrastructural, awareness, appropriateness of materials, etc, but we
hope that we’ll be able to draw on the various experiences and
solutions to make this successful… Further information is available here

http://www.educ.cam.ac.uk/centres/cce/projects/ictzambia/index.html

The second outcome is continued engagement through the UK National
Commission for UNESCO. Within the Information Society Working Group,
OER has been a long-standing theme. However, based on the experience
of the discussion, we are now focussing on issues around OER access
and collaboration. The aims for this are concrete: We are running a
series of meetings to further focus on feasible projects in this area.
The first meeting will take place on 25th/26th in conjunction with the
Nottingham Open Learning Conference (
http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/olc/ ) and in conjunction with OER Africa
( http://www.oerafrica.org ).”

The report, as all content on the UNESCO OER wiki, is available via CC BY-SA.

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UNESCO OER Toolkit

Jane Park, October 15th, 2009

Last October, I mentioned that the UNESCO OER Community was developing an OER Toolkit “aimed at individual academics and decision-makers in higher education institutions interested in becoming active participants in the OER world, as publishers and users of OER.” Today, the draft version (1.1) has been released with an announcement by Philipp Schmidt of the University of the Western Cape, South Africa:

“15 October 2009 — Today the UNESCO OER Toolkit (with support from the UNESCO Communications and Information Sector) was released as a resource for academics and institutions — with a special focus on developing countries — who are interested in participating in open education projects.

OVERVIEW — Most of the Toolkit is designed for academics who are interested in finding and using OER in the courses they teach, or who wish to publish OER that they have developed. Some sections are aimed at institutional decision-makers and academics that [are] interested in setting up a more formal OER project. These projects may start with just a few interested academics but, as they grow, institutional policies, funding and legal constraints become more relevant. Individuals who are not aiming to set up a institutional project may nonetheless be interested to read the whole document. Likewise, institutional planners, IT staff or librarians who are interested in setting up an OER project would benefit from understanding the academic’s perspective.”

The toolkit, like the all content on the UNESCO OER Community site, is available via CC BY-SA.

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Access to OER Discussion Launched

Jane Park, February 9th, 2009

by the UNESCO Open Educational Resources Community today. For those of you who don’t know, the UNESCO OER Community is an international online community “[connecting] over 700 individuals in 105 countries to share information and discuss issues surrounding the production and use of Open Educational Resources – web-based materials offered freely and openly for use and reuse in teaching, learning and research.” (We blogged about them last October.) The new discussion will run for three weeks and is open to all. From their community’s wiki:

OER is seen as having the potential to extend access to knowledge worldwide, but there exist certain barriers to its achieving this objective. Access is one potential barrier – and a crucial challenge.

Although our initial interaction on the issue started with the consideration of limited or no connectivity, lack of electricity was identified as an even more basic barrier to access to OER. However, there are many other potential barriers or constraints and it will be useful to identify the range of them, for there are emerging solutions or approaches that would mitigate the problems. Developers of OER will benefit from having these in mind – donors and other agencies may be able to contribute to addressing them.

This week the discussion will focus on “Identification and description of the main problems associated with access, and an initial development of a classification scheme.” The discussion is already underway, moderated by Bjoern Hassler, a senior research associate at the University of Cambridge, so if you have something to say, go join it now!

All content on the UNESCO OER Community wiki is licensed CC BY-SA. Like ccLearn, UNESCO’s work on open educational resources is generously supported by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

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International OER Community Update

Jane Park, October 1st, 2008

The Open Educational Resources (OER) movement is a global movement. Education is an issue that crosses borders and spans continents; open education—the creation and distribution of OER—empowers people in a global dialogue. However, the mere promotion of OER is not sufficient for the success of this international effort, as many issues and barriers to open education are country- and culture-specific. In this sense, the international OER community has some significant differences to bridge, and we must somehow synthesize the diverse range of projects and perspectives into clear and tangible objectives.

The UNESCO OER Community exemplifies progress made on this front, with currently 700+ members from 105 countries. Although North America and Western Europe account for about half of the participants, the community is still represented by 72 developing countries. One of the most compelling components of the community is its case studies project, “stories – of how institutions and individuals have developed or used OER,” based in various countries. These case studies—including those from Canada, Rwanda, Italy, South Africa, New Zealand, the Netherlands and more—explore OER against the background of their heterogeneous contexts. What works? What doesn’t work? What did the organization or persons involved do or must they now do in order to overcome obstacles—either due to institutional bureaucracy, lack of resources, or otherwise? These stories are windows of insight into different ways of progressing globally.

In addition to case studies, the international community is developing an OER toolkit, templates for ease of sharing more stories (from community members, academics creating and using OER, and learners using OER), and discussion surrounding such issues as access to technology, copyright, best practices, learning psychology of OER, and more. The OER toolkit will prove especially useful in addressing the issues raised by case studies, as it targets any persons interested in becoming involved with OER, either as creators or users, and those wishing to integrate OER into their institutions or organizations.

eLearning Papers, a journal that “promotes the use of ICT for lifelong learning in Europe,” recently examined similar issues surrounding OER and the international community in its September installment, “Open Educational Resources.” From the editorial,

This issue of eLearning Papers is dedicated to the thriving work around Open Educational Resources (OER) by committed individuals, institutions and user communities. Five selected papers by the guest editors investigate the organisational, social, cultural, pedagogical and technical aspects of implementing OER…

We have two papers that investigate how higher education institutions work OER into their policies and practices. “Open Educational Resources for Management Education: Lessons from experience” elaborates on a French faculty which created a digital distribution place to share and disseminate university courses. The initial resistance of the faculty members evaporated as they started receiving positive feedback on their courses, as well as international interest in their French content. On the other hand, “Reflections on sustaining Open Educational Resources: an institutional case study” shows how first gaining high level policy support within the institution for the initiative of OER was turned into a sustainable institutional practice.

The journal is licensed CC BY-NC-ND, while the UNESCO OER Community site is open for re-use and adaptation under CC BY-SA. It is also hosted on a wiki which means anyone is free to contribute to the OER case studies and OER toolkit. The UNESCO OER Community has been funded by one of our avid supporters, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, since its inception in 2005.

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