Aug 10

What Are Open Educational Resources (OERs)?

By Viv Rolfe

This article is the first one of a series that talks about open education.

What are OER?

The term Open Educational Resources (OER) emerged around the time of the millennium and has the potential to change the face of education globally. The concept is that teachers, educators and lecturers make their learning materials freely available for others to use. This sounds like a preposterous idea! Why should I share materials that I have spent hours preparing? Surely nobody would want to use my materials? Don’t my materials belong to my employer?

These are all sensible and justified questions that the OER movement is addressing. But where did it all begin?

The Beginnings of OER

The philosophy of open working emerged in the late 1990’s with the open source software community leading the way by sharing computer code and allowing the creation of derivatives works. This culture of open working was then discussed in relation to educational materials by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, and in 2001 they launched the OpenCourseWare project which is a repository for their course materials that is openly available for anyone to use on the web. Out of this emerged the OpenCourseWare Consortium, a growing collaboration of institutions and universities from around the world working together to share their teaching resources.

The term OER was first used in 2002 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and relates to “web-based materials offered freely and openly for use and re-use in teaching, learning and research”. A great boost came from the emergence of user friendly “open” licences, such as Creative Commons (CC) and the GNU Free Documentation Licence (GFDL). These are simple licence that individuals and institutions to apply to their education materials when releasing them on the web, and importantly, the licences make it clear to individuals how and under what restrictions the materials can then be used and reused. The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in the US have been great supporters of open education initiatives since 2002, “fostering the spread of high-quality OER”. The Foundation provided funding for “OER Africa” which is driving OER development and release in Africa, and importantly, is building a dynamic network of participants.

So over the last decade there has been a global shift towards the notion of sharing and borrowing educational resources, and today we have an abundance of services such as YouTube Edu and iTunes U which are supporting open education, helping educators share their work and reuse the work of others.

OER in the UK

In the UK, the OER movement is building momentum after the Open University led the way in 2006 when it launched “OpenLearn” with support from the Hewlett Foundation. In 2009 the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) provided funds to support an OER Programme, currently run by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). In Phase 1 (2009 – 2010) 29 OER projects were supported, and in Phase 2 (2010 – 2011), which runs from September 2010 to August 2011, a further 23 projects are being supported to promote OER development, discovery and use.

At De Montfort University in Leicester, staff in the School of Allied Health Sciences have been involved in two OER projects. The first “Virtual Analytical Laboratory” (VAL) released over 200 laboratory skills resources onto a website that now has around 10,000 visits a year from all around the globe. VAL includes video and animation on basic level laboratory skills such as using a microscope, pipetting and other techniques. The second project is “Sickle Cell Open – Online Topics and Educational Resources” (SCOOTER). SCOOTER will release educational materials on the subject of blood disorders with a focus on Sickle Cell Anaemia and Thalassemia – Cooley’s Disease in the US. Both VAL and SCOOTER are led by Dr Vivien Rolfe who has been a biomedical scientist for 20 years and is also a self-taught learning technologist who won the UK Association of Learning Technology’s “Learning Technologist of the Year” in 2009. SCOOTER also combines the expertise of Professor Simon Dyson who researches the social aspects of health care related to Sickle Cell Anaemia and Thalassemia and Dr Mark Fowler who is a geneticist and leads the Forensic Science degree programme at De Montfort University.

This article has been an introduction and brief history of Open Educational Resources. Further articles in the series will look at “Where to find OER on the web” and “How to create your own OER”. Come and join the Open Education revolution.


Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Viv_Rolfe


1 comment

  1. Cable Green

    Please see Hewlett’s definition of OER: http://www.hewlett.org/programs/education-program/open-educational-resources

    OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.

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