Open education relies on Open Education Resources (OERs), which are considered a trend within higher education and are based on other, already established movements, such as Open Source and Open Access software. Therefore, when talking about openness we refer to content and information that is1:
- Available for free
- Unrestricted to use
- Freely modifiable
- Easy to share
OERs are digital materials that are free and open for educators and students to use and reuse in their teaching, learning, and research2. There are opportunities and challenges to OERs developers and users. The following opportunities and challenges were extracted from a study from the “Centre for Educational Research and Innovation”, located in Paris, France3.
1. Sharing is good for knowledge: This is supported by the Open Access (OA) movement. This movement views openness as a way use and reuse educational resources.
2. What you give, you receive: Sharing and reusing any kind of resource reduces development costs and improves quality far more than having each person do things individually.
3. Participating in open projects improves relationships: For students, being able to participate and be part of institutions that offer open courses is very attractive. The ability to share educational practices and experiences with others greatly improves learning.
4. OERS eliminate barriers of distance in learning for users from different backgrounds: OERS involve more people in the educational process because students from anywhere can access and share resources, regardless of where they are, which improves the exchange of knowledge with peers.
5. Improved community ties for learning: All users have the ability to work together to share their knowledge and experiences among their community of peers in order to solve mutual challenges and goals.
1. Awareness of copyright issue: Although there is an intention to share work credits, many authors prefer to keep the copyright of their work. There are some who believe that open work should be limited to strictly academic, non-commercial ends. However, several open content licenses have been developed, such as Creative Commons, which mitigates the issue by sharing some of the copyrights. All content must be reviewed to ensure no copyright law is infringed.
2. Ensuring quality: OERs offers a vast amount of content is very easy to find. The challenge is knowing how to prioritize and detect the importance of the educational materials. This aspect is key because it also evaluates institutions’ prestige. It is advisable to only publish material that has been reviewed by peers.
3. Sustainability initiatives: Numerous OER initiatives have been launched to create a competition for financing. Though some projects possess strong institutional backing, it is very likely this financing will cease after a few years. With this in mind, sustainable community and institutional models are proposed. The former refers to voluntary work and the latter to a program that defines contributing figures.
4. Language and cultural context: Many OERs have not been localized and their development is limited by their original socio-cultural context, which can hinder the chances of them being globalized.
5. Technological setbacks: Even if technology is what enables the global and massive exchange of knowledge, there may be occasions where one of the agents involved in the academic process has connectivity issues or problems to access the technological platforms.
1 Hylen, J., Dr. (n.d.). Open Educational Resources: Opportunities and Challenges. Retrieved November 22, 2016, from https://www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/37351085.pdf
2 Hylen, J., Dr. (n.d.). Open Educational Resources: Opportunities and Challenges. Retrieved November 22, 2016, from https://www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/37351085.pdf
3 Hylen, J., Dr. (n.d.). Open Educational Resources: Opportunities and Challenges. Retrieved November 22, 2016, from https://www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/37351085.pdf
4 Hylen, J., Dr. (n.d.). Open Educational Resources: Opportunities and Challenges. Retrieved November 22, 2016, from https://www.oecd.org/edu/ceri/37351085.pdf