Open Educational Resources: The Way Forward

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Author(s): {{#arraymap:Susan D’Antoni|,|xyz| xyz}}

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Between 2005 and 2007, a Community of Interest of more than 600 members from over half of the 193 Member States of UNESCO took part in online discussions on Open Educational Resources (OER) – open content for education.

The Internet and the web offer opportunities for interaction that have tremendous potential for an organization such as UNESCO, which has a mandate for advice and action worldwide. International meetings, workshops and consultations are all means used by the organization to carry out its work in collaboration with Member States, but they have limitations in their capacity to include all those interested in the topic or activity at hand. The Internet offers an opportunity to reach further and faster than ever before. The tool is not yet perfect for the purpose – there are many who cannot connect. But the numbers of these people are diminishing, as are the costs associated with technology and connectivity. Over the period that the OER community has existed, we have been able to link many more people and institutions than would have been feasible through other means. Experts and neophytes alike have come together to learn from one another, share information, and deliberate on related issues. Finally, after two years of intensive interaction, members expressed their opinion on the priority issues and the stakeholders that should take action to advance and support the growing movement.

This document is a testament to the power of group deliberation in a vibrant virtual community. It presents the way forward for OER based upon the informed opinion of an international community, and sets out priorities for future action. It will be of interest to many readers – from decision and policy makers at the national level to teachers and academics at the local level.

Initiated by the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP), the project has benefited from the support of many. First, the energy and interaction of the community itself was maintained by a large and diverse number of individuals. A Consultative Committee of seventeen members acted as a sounding board and provided helpful input at important points over the two years. My colleague, Catriona Savage, contributed unstintingly her very considerable energy and competence to ensure that the OER community interaction and resource building activities were well supported. She was also responsible for the analysis of the data presented in this report. The format and presentation of this document owes its elegance to another colleague, Philippe Abbou. And all of these activities benefited from the support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. With its vision of promoting equal access to knowledge worldwide, it has played the very significant role of champion of the OER movement.

The OER community has a very special character: its composition, as well as the nature and shape of its exchanges give it that character, which is every bit as distinct as that of a colleague or friend. From a personal perspective, I find this community wonderful in its thoroughly energetic thought and action, as colleagues can be – and cherished in the way that friends may be. I feel privileged to accompany it.

Susan D’Antoni February 2008