Bulletin of the Technical Committee on Learning Technology (ISSN: 2306-0212)
This paper reports the global initiatives that advocate and promote open educational resources (OER) and focuses on the main benefits of OER for our global society. Comparing and integrating diverse publications and studies, 40 main benefits of OER can be identified in total, clustered in six categories, namely: character, financial, design, learners’, organisational and social benefits. Being justified by the broad benefits of OER, this paper argues that there is a need for creating a future OER research agenda. Such a global research coordination is currently lacking. Through their identified diverse benefits, OER can support learning designers, educators, learning providers and educational systems. And OER can also contribute to improve education worldwide and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations, in particular, SDG No. 4 to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. The UNESCO Recommendation on OER offers a new opportunity to annually report on OER status and progress. Therefore, this paper calls open education and OER advocates to take local actions so that we can collectively make a global impact.
Keywords: Global needs analysis, OER benefits, OER practices and research, Open Educational Resources (OER), Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), SDG No. 4, UNESCO Recommendation on OER, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Future OER research agenda.
The global movements for Open Educational Resources (OER) have originated in many grassroots initiatives . They are sharing the same vision of education for all as a human right. From the beginning, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has strongly facilitated and supported the OER movement through the two World OER Congresses (2012 in Paris and 2017 in Ljubljana). Indication of the strong dedication, UNESCO member states and OER experts worldwide have developed the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Educational Resources that was discussed and approved at the 40th assembly of UNESCO in 2019 in consensus by all 194 member states . Based on these UNESCO recommendations all countries have committed themselves to report on the status and development of OER. As a global research community, we can and should contribute and support them through coordinated scientific research and studies worldwide , .
Based on the aforementioned context, this article discusses research gaps and opportunities related to OER and their global needs, benefits, and practices. We invite all researchers, experts, practitioners, and interested parties to join our research agenda to gain deeper insights into how to improve the (re-)use of OER.
II. OER AND THEIR GLOBAL NEEDS AND BENEFITS
OER represent contributions to the commons. One of their main benefits is easier access to learning material, content and applications for all. In this way, they can be used to complement the educational curricula as well as to enrich the educational systems worldwide . However, the potentials of and needs for OER have not been fully explored and exploited . Furthermore, the benefits that OER can provide are not yet widely known by educators, and administrators worldwide. Therefore, we summarize in the following key arguments why OER use should be promoted and applied.
The global needs for OER can be adduced and documented indirectly through the continuing lack of educational opportunities worldwide and the insufficient investment in education by governments . The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 4 is there to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Despite the commitment by governments worldwide, the educational systems and ministries are failing to achieve it. As documented by UNESCO, it can be argued that OER can play a significant role in supporting SDG goals due to their many benefits . However, a global coordination of the OER research is currently lacking . Through the identification of the main OER benefits, we want to facilitate a first step towards such a close collaboration of researchers worldwide.
The benefits of OER are multifaceted, diverse, and also both in relation to their objectives and to the potential learning achievements. Diverse publications and studies are discussing the benefits of OER from multiple perspectives. In our analysis and comparison, we could integrate them into one outline. Table I provides this overview of the 40 main benefits of OER: They are clustered in six categories, namely: character, financial, design, learners’, organisational and social benefits. All benefits are only assigned to one key category even though we are aware that there are many overlaps.
Main Benefits of OER
On the other hand, some disadvantages of OER should be acknowledged. First of all, the quality of OER is being debated, however, the quality of commercial publications, learning content, studies, and even of articles in prestigious journals is also being questioned due to the increasing internal assessment and pressure for publications to be promoted and as a consequence of the rapid growth in available publications as well as in learning content . The presence of an open license or commercially restricted license has no effect on the quality of the content or application. Second, the required time for creating or adapting OER is a common complaint by many who do not use OER. OER users do not have to create. They can and do adopt OER “as is” or make minimal adaptations, thus, they use OER to avoid the need to create new content . Moreover, upfront investment into the adaptation or creation of OER is quickly paid back through the positive effects in the revision and improvement of them. Third, the OER licenses are considered to be complicated, however, the legal conditions for using commercial content are even more complex and non-transparent and impossible to work with when working in different copyright jurisdictions .
Analysing these disadvantages, we can argue that these issues are not specific to OER but relate to any type of educational resources (OER as well as commercial content). Besides, they often result from an incomplete fulfillment of the OER definition or an unfavourable introduction to learning processes and educational practices without pedagogical reflections and adaptations.
In summary and acknowledging their identified diverse benefits, OER can support learning designers, educators, learning providers and educational systems, and OER can also contribute to improve education worldwide and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations, in particular, SDG No. 4 to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” .
III. OER PRACTICES AND RELATED RESEARCH
The OER practices are countless and differ among institutions, regions, countries, and educational traditions and cultures. Key influencers for OER practices are (mandatory or voluntary) policies, internal and public promotion, and established support services including OER development processes, assistant teams, coaching and qualifications as well as financial instruments such as funding of open access publications, incentives, and pilot project funds for OER development and integration. The OER landscape is complex and diverse. Regional conditions and needs are vast varying demanding for specific developments. In particular countries with low income can benefit from organisational support such as institutional OER repositories . However, there is no complete overview and no central collection of good practice examples.
OER research started to reveal and analyse the richness and ongoing efforts to mainstream the original grassroot initiatives into a strong global movement . First studies have started to spotlight and illuminate special aspects of OER practices and related theoretical or conceptual thoughts . However, the OER research is still in the early stages, in particular in relation to evidence-based results of the hard facts such as resource investments, cost savings, and learning success rates , .
IV. THE CALL FOR A FUTURE OER RESEARCH AGENDA
Openness in education and its practices such as OER have impacted the educational landscape and emerged as a major paradigm across the globe. Though OER research drew much attention and was advocated by a global society, there still are many challenges along with the opportunities that came up . Because OER is not a single entity and a part of broad openness ecology, there is a need for developing a collaborative understanding in order to improve and advance OER movement.
In this regard, we kindly invite you to create a collaborative future OER research agenda and take actions accordingly. We want to identify and analyse conditions for the introduction of OER and the relevant factors, effects and impact of the publication, sharing, (re)usage, assembly, adaptation and hosting of OER and related processes and policies. There is a growing body of research on OER available in global collections such as the OER Knowledge Cloud (http://oerknowledgecloud.org). We aim to address all three educational research levels (micro, meso and macro) with a globally representative coalition and strive for mixed methods research combining quantitative and qualitative analyses to reach a holistic understanding . Beyond creating a future OER research agenda, this paper calls open education and OER advocates to take local actions so that we can collectively make a global impact.
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Christian M. Stracke
developed interdisciplinary competences and expertise in research and education and in leading large-scale projects (budgets over EUR 50 million) and research institutes and teams (200+ researchers). As internationally recognized expert and innovator and appointed ICDE Chair in Open Educational Resources (OER), he published over 150 scientific articles on his main research fields: Open education, technology-enhanced learning, competence building, impact assessment and educational policies. Currently, Christian is Coordinator for Virtual Collaboration at the University of Bonn, appointed Advisory Professor at East China Normal University in Shanghai, and Adjunct Professor at Korea National Open University in Seoul. His twitter: @ChrMStracke
is a researcher and faculty member in the Department of Distance Education, Open Education Faculty at Anadolu University, Turkey. He holds MA and PhD degrees in distance education. Dr. Bozkurt conducts empirical studies on distance education, open and distance learning, online learning, networked learning, and educational technology to which he applies various critical theories, such as connectivism, rhizomatic learning, and heutagogy. He is also interested in emerging research paradigms, including social network analysis, sentiment analysis, and data mining. He shares his views on his Twitter feed @arasbozkurt.
is a Professor in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies at Athabasca University (AU), Alberta Canada. He is also the UNESCO/International Council for Open and Distance Education Chair in Open Educational Resources and Director of the Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute (TEKRI). In addition, he is the Editor-in-Chief of Canada’s first open access journal, The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning (IRRODL). As part of his work as a Chair in OER, he has been responsible for creating the OER Knowledge Cloud, a database of scholarly articles and reports related to OER. He is the recipient of several international awards, conducted workshops in more than 60 countries, and been an invited speaker in more than 40.
is a professor of educational technology at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. He is the Dean of the Faculty of Education and Social Sciences and Director of the Center for Open Education Research (COER). Olaf has over 25 years of professional experience in the field of open, distance, and digital education. He has authored over 180 publications and served as invited keynote speaker, chair, and reviewer at many international conferences. Together with Professor Insung Jung (Japan), he is currently editing the Handbook of Open, Distance, and Digital Education in Springer’s Major Reference Series (open access). His publications are available on ResearchGate and GoogleScholar. Twitter: @Zawacki_Richter.