Contributed by: Paul Bardack, ICDE OER Advocacy Committe, Chair Emeritus of the United States Distance Learning Association, Senior Solutions Architect, Education and Training, Advanced Analytics, Training, and Simulation Service Line, SAIC
The World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress, held at UNESCO, Paris in June 2012, defined OER as “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.”
Through lowered content cost, increased content access, amenability to re-use and adaptation, and enhanced distribution, OER has the potential to impact favorably all aspects of education throughout the world: from early childhood to post-graduate, and from informal learning to professional training. In particular, it offers the potential to expand education as never before in developing countries.
How, then, to transform that potential into a reality that could reach hundreds of millions of people throughout the world who have not yet benefited fully – or even at all – from the ongoing global revolution in educational technology?
Addressing that question, in its 2012 Paris Declaration the World OER Congress recommended that nations undertake activities to foster greater awareness and use of OER, facilitate enabling technological environments, develop policies for the production and use of OER, promote understanding and use of open licensing frameworks, support capacity building, foster strategic alliances, adapt OER to diverse languages and cultures, encourage research, facilitate OER sharing, and encourage open licensing of educational materials produced with public funds.
The Dream Deferred
Yet, none of these steps are easy. Indeed, there are at least six generic problems to be overcome which thwart efforts nationally and sub-nationally to take these recommended steps:
- Censorship – Governmental and non-governmental restrictions on the free expression of ideas;
- Cultural – Gender, religious, racial, ethnic, sexual orientation and identity, class, disability, immigrant, prisoner, and other forms of discrimination against those who could benefit from enhanced educational opportunities;
- Financial – At the national and sub-national level, inability to fund OER technical infrastructure and at the personal level, inability to afford computers or Internet service;
- Legal – Intellectual property and other laws now in place which restrict the ability to transform “content” into “open content;”
- Physical – Especially for those in poverty, inability to travel easily and safely to locations where accessible computers are located; and
- Technological – Access to, or availability of, needed networks, software, or hardware.
ICDE – Making A Difference
To combat these barriers to inclusive and equitable quality education for all, at its May 2017 Visionary Leadership Forum in Paris, ICDE created an OER Public Policy Committee and graciously asked me to lead it.
The Committee is now in formation and will be comprised of OER experts from throughout the world.
We will create an online forum, to be housed on the ICDE website (www.icde.org) where OER advocates globally may turn for public policy practices and lessons learned, and vigorous debate regarding those practices and lessons.
We will take part in ICDE, UNESCO, and other conferences and meetings to stimulate greater worldwide awareness of, and nation-specific ideas for overcoming, the above impediments to greater use of OER.
We will work with other ICDE OER committees, to help them transform their ideas into concrete, actionable public policies.
We will disseminate some of the best newly published work relating to OER public policy, to give that work a wider audience.
And we will work in tandem with other NGOs so that, together, we may achieve our collective policy objectives.
Where You Come In
Above all, the new Committee we will be open to new input and new ideas. So, as it finds its own best path forward, I ask you to:
- Share with me – Paul Bardack – your input and ideas, and even your desire to be a part of this exciting new venture, by reaching me at firstname.lastname@example.org; and
- Help me start a global conversation by commenting on this first blog entry about the new ICDE Public Policy Committee: tell me, specifically, how the Committee uniquely could help you do a better job extending the reach of OER within your own country.
I look forward to your involvement, and to your comments.