Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

You Raise Me Up, #OER

In March of this year, Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) published a document “Guide to the Use of Open Educational Resources in K-12 and Postsecondary Education”. Although the content looks reasonable at the first time of reading, but actually there is a traditional perspective throughout the report. Comparing Open Educational Resource(OER) with traditional textbook model is actually kind of like comparing apples with oranges. Why so? A different perspective about learning content is needed as decision makers are looking into what institutions and learners really need in digital age. UNESCO already pointed this out early….

OER = Economic Value + Educational Transformation

Only licensed digitized content can be shared via the internet so that it has the potential to unleash the full power of resource-based learning without bankrupting educational systems.

Its implications are first and foremost economic.

Primary economic proposition #1: Educational institutions and educators will need to create different services (given the rapidly transforming market for traditional educational content).

Primary economic proposition #2: Abandon a free-market approach to education in favour of collaborating to build and share knowledge. OER offers an opportunity to reconsider the economic value proposition of education.

Good education cannot be created or sustained without spending properly on it. Investment in education can only ever be meaningfully justified in terms of the
long-term social and economic benefits that it will bring societies, not in terms of how those investments will help to enroll more students at progressively declining
unit costs. If OER is understood as just another mechanism to cut costs, this time by providing free content, its potential to contribute to improving education will be lost and it will be consigned to the long list of faddish jargon… If such a path were to  be pursued, OER might well flood educational systems with cheaply available content – some good, some relevant, but much not – without doing anything to developing institutional capacity to deliver cost-effective, high quality educational programmes and courses.

Harnessed strategically, however, the concept of OER has tremendous potential to contribute to improving the quality and effectiveness of education. This potential revolves around three linked possibilities:

  • Increased availability of high quality, relevant, need-targeted learning materials can contribute to more productive students and educators. Because OER removes restrictions around copying resources, it holds potential for reducing the cost of accessing educational materials. In many systems, royalty payments for textbooks and other educational materials constitute a significant proportion of the overall cost, while processes of procuring permission to use copyrighted material can also be very time-consuming and expensive (although some commentators have tended to overestimate the extent to which content is a cost driver in education by assuming that free content is almost synonymous with free education).
  • The principle of allowing adaptation of materials provides one mechanism among many for constructing roles for students as active participants in educational processes who learn best by doing and creating, not by passively reading and absorbing. Content licences that encourage activity and creation by students through reuse and adaptation of that content can make a significant contribution to creating more effective learning environments.
  • OER has the potential to build capacity by providing institutions and educators with access, at low or no cost, to the means of production with regard to high quality materials. This includes building institutions’ and educators’ competence in producing educational materials and completing the necessary instructional design to integrate such materials into high quality programmes of learning. Many educational systems are foundering because their employees have become so overwhelmed by administrative tasks that they have lost the time and space to exercise this critical creative capacity, and it will take time and investment to rebuild it. The concept of OER has potential to facilitate this if the process of developing educational materials is seen as being just as important as – and maybe more important than – the final product.

Problematically, though, many people in the ‘OER movement’ seem to assume that simply making content freely available for use and adaptation will improve
educational delivery. This simplistic position ignores the obvious reality that content is only one piece of the educational puzzle, and that effective use of educational content demands, among other requirements, good educators to facilitate the process. Importantly, OER provides an opportunity to engage educational institutions and educators in structured processes that build capacity to design and deliver high quality higher educational programmes and courses without increasing cost. Without this growing institutional and human capacity, OER will not be able to fulfil its transformative potential.

Will OER be co-opted as another in a long line of ultimately failed cost-cutting exercises? Or will it be harnessed as part of a strategy to invest more wisely and effectively in education, in the belief that producing intellectual leadership through free and open development and sharing of common intellectual capital is a worthwhile and socially essential activity for a healthy society? With this in mind, the remainder of this section of the Guide focuses on presenting a set of practical guidelines for educational planners and decision makers on how to create environments that embrace the economic and educational possibilities of OER to create better quality teaching and learning environments.

The above commentary is from this document published by UNESCO, please continue to read the full publication. (highlighted : p.39, The implications for educational planners and decision-makers)

A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER) (download: Basic-Guide-To-OER)
Prepared by Neil Butcher, Edited by Asha Kanwar (COL) and Stamenka Uvalic´-Trumbic´ (UNESCO)

License : CC-BY-SA (share alike with attribution)

Do you think we need a new perspective for what learning content should be like ? Enjoy the open licensed music : You raise me up.

End note : When you hear that OER brings a cost shift for education, that’s right. Because our expectation for education is higher, a paradigm shift  definitely comes after a new model.

A quote from SETDA’s report : Out of Print: Reimagining the K-12 Textbook in a Digital Age

re-imagine textgbook

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5 Responses »


  1. Free #OER Mobile Course – Free Learning in Summer | Classroom Aid
  2. You Raise Me Up, #OER | Educación Abiert...
  3. Open Content On The Horizon of Education – Part I | Classroom Aid
  4. Open Content On The Horizon of Education – Part II | Classroom Aid

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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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