Open Educational Resources:
Increasing Access While Improving Quality
August 24, 2011 — 3:45 p.m.
||Catherine M. Casserly, Creative Commons
Hal Plotkin, U.S. Department of Education
Asha Kanwar, Commonwealth of Learning
Fred Mednick, Teachers Without Borders
Catherine Ngugi, OER Africa
||Kathy Nicholson, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Anthony Bloome, USAID Office of Education
This session focused on how Open Educational Resources (OER) can simultaneously improve access to educational content and improve educational quality by personalizing teaching and learning and aggregating resources. OER is a global movement concerned with improving access, quality, and usability of education content for teachers and students through the use of openly-licensed content and technology.
Members of the panel presented OER programs worldwide to illustrate how teaching, learning, and research content are digitized, made freely available in the public domain, and released under an intellectual property license that permits free use and repurposing by others. Panelists pointed out that in many instances the “remix and reuse” of OER has led to radically reduced material costs.
Kathy Nicholson from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation emphasized five benefits of OER: (a) the ability to make continuous improvements to enhance learning, (b) the ability to localize content, (c) accessibility for all, (d) greater learning efficiencies, and (e) radically reduced costs. Nicholson stated that OER’s goals are to equalize knowledge and improve teacher learning. Catherine Ngugi of OER Africa shared some examples of OER best practices in Africa, where reading programs have been developed at both regional (80%) and national (20%) levels. Hal Plotkin from the U.S. Department of Education highlighted the Obama administration’s efforts to support OER since the beginning of its term and emphasized the national and worldwide importance of this initiative.
The panelists stressed the advantage to educational institutions of using OER and customizing the professional development courses they offer to their teachers. Embracing OER often provides educational institutions with frameworks, tools, and models that help teachers learn and adopt innovative, inquiry-based teaching methods. The increased breadth of educational resources also encourages improved critical analysis by students. This open learning environment raises the bar of education quality. Materials can now be downloaded and adapted to different needs. The panel ended the presentation by stating that it is necessary to increase awareness of the availability of OER because OER can help achieve education development goals in a scalable, practical, and cost-effective way. Agencies can encourage open licenses via grant-making programs, supportive infrastructure projects, and partnership development.
Key take away points stress that OERs can improve access to education by personalization of teaching and learning, and the proper aggregation of resources. The use of OER has five potential benefits: continuous improvements to enhance learning, localized content, accessibility for all, greater learning efficiencies, and reduced costs. The Obama administration supports the importance of OER nationally and internationally, and organizations such as OER Africa are using Open Educational Resources to develop reading programs.