Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Open Educational Resources and Mobile Technology to Narrow the Learning Divide (#OER, #mlearning)

From the paper “Open Educational Resources and Mobile Technology to Narrow the Learning Divide“, by Mohamed Ally(Athabasca University, Canada) and Mohammed Samaka(Qatar University, Qatar)

Mobile learning with open educational resources is the future of education.

This is the time to transform education because learners have the technology in their pockets and are able to access OER anywhere and anytime.

The combination of mobile technology and OER will enable institutions, organizations, and companies to narrow the learning divide so that there can be Education For All. There are many benefits of accessing OER using mobile technology. Learners are given the flexibility of accessing the OER from anywhere and at any time and learners can learn in their own context (Ally, 2009). Use of mobile technology allows learners to access OER and at the same time participate in learning communities. The OER initiatives and Web 2.0, which supports high levels of social interaction, are moving education into the Learning 2.0 era where content and social interaction will go together to provide global education (Brown & Adler, 2008).

Examples of how OER can transform education

The Open Content Alliance (2012) is building a permanent archive of multilingual digitized text and multimedia material that will cater for different cultures and learning styles.

Athabasca University Press is publishing books as open access, which is contributing to bridging the learning divide and making education available for all.

On Khan Academy over 92 million lessons were accessed around the world as of the end of 2011, (Khan Academy, 2011).

The University of the People (2012) is the first tuition-free online academic institution dedicated to providing global access to higher education. It is taking advantage of the Internet to reach people around the world so that they can have access to education.

The World Digital Library (2012) is a global initiative that will allow free access to information and learning materials. Libraries will be networked together to maximize the amount of information learners can access.

Open Education Resources University (OERu) is a consortium of accredited universities around the world that is planning to offer formal courses at a significantly reduced cost, making education affordable to millions of students (Attwood, 2011).

Keegan and Bell (2011) conducted a study where they asked students to generate videos as OER. They reported many benefits of having students generate their own content. Benefits included the following: Students became creative in the process of generating the video, they learned the content as they produced the videos, and they were able to share the videos with their colleagues. The videos were posted on YouTube with many peers and users providing excellent comments on the video. Having students generate OER has many advantages for them and their peers. As novices in the field they will use simple language, step-by-step procedures, and examples their peers will understand. At the same time, students will process the content at a high level as they generate the OER (Craik & Lockhart, 1972; Schwier & Misanchuk, 1993; Sternberg, 1998; Stoyanova & Kommers, 2002).

The Future of Education with OER and Mobile Technology

In a world where there is an information explosion and constant changes in content, having students completing long courses and programs may not be appropriate anymore. The learner should be the focus of the OER not the developer of the OER or the system. Educators should not develop and deliver OER to fit the current education system. If learners cannot access and benefit from the OER then it is a waste of resources developing OER (McAndrew, 2011). The current course and program structure and length of courses were developed for classroom face-to-face instruction where the information resided in the teacher’s mind. The information is now recorded in electronic format and learners want access anytime and from anywhere rather than waiting for when a teacher is available to disseminate the information. For delivery of mobile technology, the structure and length of courses must be re-examined. Courses should be shorter and be designed in the form of modules and learning objects. Developers of open education courses must keep this in mind rather than using the same structure and length that were used for classroom face-to-face instruction.

Education programs should be developed in the form of modules, which are about four to eight hours long. Each module should consist of five to eight learning objects that are independent but are linked together. After students complete the learning objects in a module, and have their learning properly assessed, they will have successfully completed it and should be given credit for that module.

Classroom face-to-face courses should not be copied and placed on the Internet as OER. Online OER courses must be designed properly to facilitate flexible delivery. It is important to train educators on how to design OER so that they are of high quality, resulting in high level learning as well as meeting the needs of learners globally.


Chen (2011) conducted a study on teachers’ use of OER and found that two major obstacles for teachers in the use of OER are locating the OER and finding the most appropriate OER.

A recent report from the Commonwealth of Learning provided suggestions for academic staff to successfully implement OER (COL, 2011). These include the following: develop skills to evaluate OER; consider publishing them; assemble, adapt, and contextualize existing OER; leverage networks and communities of practice; encourage student participation; promote OER use through publishing about OER; provide feedback about, and data on the use of, existing OER; and update knowledge of intellectual property rights, copyright, and privacy policies. Guidelines such as these are important for the successful implementation of OER; however, there should be training programs for teachers on how to develop and implement them and how to provide support to students who are completing OER courses. Educators should be made aware that OER exist and be educated on how to access them and the benefits of using them (Nikoia & Armellinib, 2012). If educators do not see the benefits of using OER, they will not use or promote their use of OER. In a discussion forum involving 500 individuals from around the world, participants identified awareness, training, and promotion as major issues for the successful implementation of OER in education (Antoni, 2008).

All too many OER are being developed using the face-to-face classroom paradigm of education. If OER are to have a significant impact on education so that Education For All is possible, and the need for millions of teachers and physical classroom space is reduced, there must be a significant shift in the way education is delivered. Many learners around the world cannot afford to go to a physical location to learn because of a lack of financial resources and transportation infrastructure. Citizens of all countries must be empowered to learn by giving them the technology(so many learners have only mobile devices) to access learning materials from their local communities. Educators must design OER for access at no cost or low cost so that learners can readily access the OER.

A major challenge for educators is the development of quality OER. But the question is how to define quality for global use and to meet global needs. This requires setting global standards for the development of OER so that the OER meet the needs of users around the world.

The following are some help we strive to offer for the issues discussed in the paper.

Some Help You Can Use

Free #OER Mobile Course – Free Learning in Summer

To help you get started, we’ve prepared a mobile course for you to learn anytime anywhere. (internet connection needed) Since it’s authored by Claro – HTML5 based authoring tool, so you can access to the course on computer or mobile devices. There are 8 succinct chapters giving the most basic and important concepts about OER, 44 interactive practices with immediate feedback offered, a little entertainment space good for taking a break. (just relax when you access to it)

OER course top menu

Online Course : Using #OER to Create K-12 Curriculum

  • This course is a “Course As A Service“, the content will be updated and upgraded as time goes by, you will always have access to the most up-to-date version.
  • It’s self-paced, totally online, no time limit for learners to finish it. It depends on when you finish the required activities and learning profile put together.
  • Learners will always be connected with our community and OER news updating. Weekly newsletters will feature learners’ tweets, notable activities, articles or projects and OER news. (Twitter hashtag #OERtree)
  • The quizzes are to help you catch the key points in each lesson, its purpose is problem-based learning. (you might find it interesting that passing quizzes are not a required part to past this course, but taking quizzes definitely helps you learn)
  • Peer feedback and peer review are required to pass this course.
  • Participation is crucial to pass this course, but we understand that the commitment in a rigid time frame is difficult and not necessary, so there is no duration limit for you to finish it after you enroll.
  • The final project of creating an OER resource is required to pass the course. All the assignments and quizzes are to help you in the journey toward this final goal. The core of this course is project-based learning.
  • Personal blog and Twitter account are required to join this course, learners always publish to authentic audiences. Through this way, they build strong digital identities and participate in the real world with real experience. (we’ll post great articles here too, if with permission)
  • To give the learning a fun skin, we give it an initial story(also see : A Message from 2038 – Help Education!), game terms (missions, quests) and we award badges to show off on your own blogs. Your experience point starts from zero and grow as you finish tasks one by one, the final achievement (and hence badges) really depends on your effort submitted. You own the learning. We will grow the story as participants’ stories will join into its development. Your story could possibly change its direction!
  • After passing the course, learners can obtain 3 graduate-level professional development e-course credits

At the end of this course, the importance of mobile learning will be addressed. Learners will have the opportunity to work with me and our team from Classroom Aid Inc. to publish their mobile applications without coding a line. Teachers, it’s not a bad idea to turn your curriculum design idea into a real mobile app in this summer! (related reading : Mobile Devices and Apps as Accelerators for #OEROER in the Mobile Era)


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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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