Introduction to OER
Open Educational Resources
You have heard of the National Curriculum Framework 2005, which speaks of contextual, inclusive and meaningful education. In your units on education, you have also read about constructivist learning models. For these ideas to come true, relevant learning resources must be available for the students (teachers) and teachers (teacher-educator). These resources must be contextual, easily available, allow for learners to modify and adapt for their requirements.
Right now, in many cases, the textbook tends to be the most important resource for teachers, if not the only resource. This resource is limited, made once in a year and represent on set of thoughts. These resources are largely text based, have very audio visual resources and may not address multiple learning needs. External resources, though available, are also largely non-digital, expensive and cannot easily be adapted for local needs and contexts. For critical and diverse perspectives to develop, multiple resources must be available and it must be possible for knowledge to be constructed and shared from multiple contexts. Otherwise, it is possible that only some forms of knowledge will remain important and other will die out. For knowledge sharing to freely happen, educational resources must become freely available, freely shareable and freely changeable to adapt to local contexts and needs. You have also read about the role of ICTs in the creation, sharing and distribution of knowledge in section on ICTs and Society. Open Educational Resources (OERs), as they are called are such learning resources. They are available freely, in multiple formats – text, audio, video – to allow for multiple learner needs.
OER as a global phenomenon began in 2001 with the launch of wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org), where knowledge was created and shared by many many people and not restricted to one person. Following this, Massachussetts Institute of Technology, a leading university in the United States of America, released many of its course materials for free called Open Courseware (2001).
The term Open Educational Resource (OER) was coined at the 2002 UNESCO Forum on Open Courseware. Subsequently, its definition has been updated to the following:
…teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions” (2012 Paris OER declaration).
Hoosen, Moore, and Butcher (2012) have provided a clearer indication of the range of possibilities under this definition:
“They are educational materials and resources that are offered freely, are openly available to anyone and, under some licences, allow others to reuse, adapt and redistribute them with few or no restrictions. OER can include lecture notes and slides, lesson plans, textbooks, handouts given to students, videos, online tutorials, podcasts, diagrams, entire courses, and any other material designed to be used in teaching and learning. Thus, the scale of OER can vary significantly. They can be as large as a textbook or as small as a single photograph. They can make up an entire course or curriculum or can be used to enhance existing textbooks” (p. 2).
In teacher education also, educational resources were developed collaboratively by a programme for Teacher Education in Sub Saharan Africa and published on http://www.tessafrica.net. These are some of the early initiatives in OERs; now many more OERs are available across the world teaching and learning. In India, National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) (http://nptel.iitk.ac.in) and IGNOU have offered many of the courses as Open Educational Resources.
Kinds of OERs
There are different kinds of OERs: - Sharing already created academic content for free www.khanacademy.org; www.tessafrica.net - - Structuring free course materials and courses – like www.nroer.metastudio.org; ; www.edx.org; www.coursera.org ; www.nptel.iitk.ac.in - Collaborate and creating materials - www.wikipedia.org The Karnataka Open Educational Resources (KOER) project is a project of DSERT Karnataka to enable and support teachers to collaborate and create educational resources and share with all.
Principles of OERs
Open Educational Resources are those resources that allow the following four kinds of freedoms to learners/ users. These “Freedoms” are as follows:
- Resources can be accessed for free, used and 're-used'
- Resources can be revised/ adapted to make it relevant
- Resources can be re-mixed / combined to make a new resource
- Resources can be redistributed - the revised/ remixed resource can be shared back.
These are called the 4 Rs (re-use, re-vise, re-mix and re-distribute) Licensing and copyright
These resources are shared under copyright which are less restrictive than the usual 'all rights reserved' and allow for some or all of the four R's. One popular copyright used for such resources is the “Creative Commons”. Creative Commons is a type of copy right (sometimes called Copy Left) that will allow you to use the resources, modify them, combine them and also redistribute. When you are accessing/ sharing something as OERs, you can share it under Creative Commons License, by explicitly mentioning that 'Copyright – Creative Commons' in your text. If nothing is mentioned, the default copyright is 'all rights reserved', which will mean others cannot modify or share your resources.
Licensing and copyright
OER are shared under copyright which are less restrictive than the usual 'all rights reserved' and allow for some or all of the four R's. One popular copyright used for such resources is the “Creative Commons”. Creative Commons is a type of copy right (sometimes called Copy Left, to contrast it with the traditional 'all rights reserved' copyright) that will allow you to use the resources, modify them, combine them and also redistribute. When you are sharing a learning resource as OER, you can share it under Creative Commons License, by explicitly mentioning the license 'Copyright – Creative Commons' in your text. If nothing is mentioned, the default copyright is 'all rights reserved', which will mean others cannot modify or share your resources. The ICT hand book and text book are released as OER, which allows teachers, teacher educators and others to re-use, as well as revise and re-distribute.
What limits OER adoption
‘’Build it and they will come?’’ This perhaps captures an earlier paradigm in the OER space, with more and more materials being made available from educators and institutions, but with limited uptake from users. The causes for limited uptake could be:
- legal - limited awareness of open licensing possibilities amongst people
- cultural - OER availability is more in English than in other languages, thus limiting access and use, especially in countries in Asia, Africa and South America.
- social - OER creation is largely ‘expert-driven’ with limited participation of teachers and other resource creators and hence awareness of its possibilities is limited
- pedagogical - teaching is often restricted to ‘text books’ in many education systems and teachers are yet to look beyond the text books for sourcing materials for their teaching, this minimises any need for OER
In addition the technology ecosystem plays an important role in OER adoption. With OER being largely digital, the means of accessing OER for reuse, revision and sharing must be freely available. OER began as a digitization of textual resources and thus text format has dominated. However, the digital allows creation possibilities in multiple formats – textual, graphics, audio-visual – and the availability of software applications for creation and re-purposing becomes critical.
Secondly, in a proprietary software dominant desktop environment, where the use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is limited, it becomes prohibitively expensive for most individuals and institutions, to license proprietary applications for creating resources in audio, video and other media formats, thus limiting their creation. With the dominance of text format, and the lack of appropriate software applications, users do not have the tools for accessing and re-purposing OER in multiple formats, thus affecting its creation and adoption.
However, we now have a variety of mature and high quality FOSS applications which can allow resource creators and editors to create, re-mix, revise and re-distribute OER in multiple formats. These are available on the desktop environment, on the web and on mobile phone platforms. The power of OER comes from its ‘openness’, that it can be freely re-used, revised and re-distributed. Similarly, software that is 'open' and can be freely re-used, revised and re-distributed can create a rich learning environment, by providing the tool-set for OER creation and re-purposing.
Karnataka Open Educational Resources, is a resource repository collaboratively created by the teachers of Karnataka. It is organized on the same principles of OERs and is built on a wiki platform like wikipedia. Teachers and teacher-educators play a key role in creating locally relevant, meaningful and dynamic resources.
The objectives of KOER are 1. To develop a process of learning, sharing and creating by building collaborative peer networks 2. To provide for continuous learning through the process of resource creation 3. Provide a sustainable model of creating and sharing educational resources that can enhance the educational outcomes 4. To build a repository of teaching resources – for teachers, teacher educators and as a resource base for teacher education For information on KOER, visit http://karnatakaeducation.org.in/KOER/en/index.php/KOER_background-note