Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning and research resources that are free to access and are legally available for open use. Generally, this permission is granted by use of an open license which allows anyone to freely use, adapt and share the OER.*
Why Open Education?
Education is a fundamental human right. Education enables us to pass down knowledge and equip the next generation of scientists, innovators and active citizens to lead us into the future. As societies everywhere seek to expand educational opportunities, the infrastructure needed has not caught up with 21st century technology. While the field of education has experienced robust growth, much of the infrastructure and resources required for societal success in these programs are still lacking. Whether the issue stems from inadequate internet access or teachers lacking the required training necessary to educate the next generation, the problems are expansive.
The educational materials market remains dominated by legacy publishing models that work to restrict the dissemination and innovative use of resources, and the publishers who produce this content work to serve the largest markets and generate the highest profits. This means a bad deal for everyone. In countries like the United States, textbooks often cost more than $200 each, which is hard for many students even in developed countries to afford; and in countries like Senegal, the majority of students cannot learn in their native language and have no choice but to learn from materials written in languages different than those spoken at home.
Through the Internet, learners can find information instantly on virtually any topic, teachers can share their knowledge with students on another continent almost as easily as in their own classroom, and educational materials can be disseminated to a worldwide audience at virtually no marginal cost. For too long, our educational systems have operated with a fundamental disconnect between practices left over from the analog world, and the vast potential of technology and the Internet to support more affordable, effective teaching and learning. The movement for Open Education seeks to close this gap.
Open Education encompasses resources, tools and practices that are free of legal, financial and technical barriers and can be fully used, shared and adapted in the digital environment.
The foundation of Open Education is Open Educational Resources (OER), which are teaching, learning, and research resources that are free of cost and access barriers, and which also carry legal permission for open use. Generally, this permission is granted by use of an open license (for example, Creative Commons licenses) which allows anyone to freely use, adapt and share the resource—anytime, anywhere. “Open” permissions are typically defined in terms of the “5R’s”: users are free to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute these educational materials.
Accessing textbooks should not be a barrier to education.
In many countries, college textbooks can be very expensive, and K-12 schools use books many years out of date because they are too expensive to replace. Using OER solves this problem because the material is free (in digital formats) or available at low cost (in print formats). OER makes it easier for all students to have access to the materials they need to succeed on day one of classes, and have the right to retain the material for future use.
Expanded educational opportunities
Through the utilization of the Internet, Open Education platforms are providing access to free, self-paced, online courses. Through both web and mobile delivery, students are able to learn from anywhere in the world. For those seeking accreditation towards a qualification from a recognised institution, there are affordable ways to gain academic credits.
Technology holds boundless potential to improve teaching and learning.
Open Education ensures that teachers, learners and institutions can fully explore this potential. Imagine a Modern European History textbook with the latest news from the 2017 Brexit negotiations, or a math tutorial that incorporates local landmarks into word problems. Imagine those same materials being translated into a minority language to better serve students interested in learning in their native language. Alternatively, picture an online seminar attended by hundreds of thousands of people across the globe, or a peer-to-peer exchange between Canadian students learning Mandarin with Chinese students learning English. All of this and more is possible when the pathways for technology in education are fully open.
A better education results in a better future.
Education is the key to advancing society’s greatest goals, from a building a strong economy to leading healthy lives. By increasing access to education and creating a platform for more effective teaching and learning, Open Education benefits us all.
Open Government Partnership: OER Commitments (International)
The Affordable College Textbook Act(U.S. Congress)
Join the SPARC Libraries & OER Forum
Implement an OER initiative at your institution:
Check out SPARC’s Connect OER project to see what other institutions are doing
Start a student-run campaign on campus: Student Government Organizing Toolkit
*Definitions adapted from http://sparcopen.org/open-education/