OER: “Moving towards the tipping point”



Contributed by: Torunn Gjelsvik,  Head of Development, ICDE and Gard Titlestad, ICDE Secretary General

Impressions from the 2nd World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress 18-20 September, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

A three days world congress of OER has come to an end, hosted by a small country with an impressive dedication to OER as an enabler for inclusive and equitable quality education and the Education 2030 Agenda.

Co-organized by the government of Slovenia and UNESCO in partnership with the Commonwealth of Learning and Creative Commons, the congress gathered educators, ministers and OER advocators from various regions and countries.  The purpose was to examine solutions for mainstreaming OER into education systems worldwide and identify strategies and visions for the way ahead.

The theme of the congress: “OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education: From Commitment to Action”, refers to the first World OER Congress and the 2012 Paris OER Declaration. Six regional consultations have taken place during 2016 and 2017, giving input to a draft action plan that has been developed and finally been approved at the end of the congress.

“In OER the team spirit is here”, stated the Slovenian Minister for Education, Science and Sports, Maja Makovec Brencic in her opening speech, and no one could doubt her sincere engagement and action oriented approach. Her opening was followed by an impressive ministerial panel, where education ministers of 20 different countries discussed challenges and possible solutions for inclusive and equitable education with OER as a main driver for digital transformation and increased quality and access to education. The urge for international collaboration and community building was substantially addressed, and many stressed the need for investigation and knowledge sharing of the practice of OER. Several of the following panel and group discussions of the congress pointed in the same direction: the need for extended development and collaboration in the field, and that research on evidence should be related to practices – how and in which contexts OER improves teaching and learning.

The adopted recommendations and the Action plan is promising and filled with constructive and concrete follow up suggestions. It focuses on 5 fields for actions:

  1. Building the capacity of users to find, re-use, create and share OER
  2. Language & Cultural issues
  3. Ensuring inclusive and equitable access to quality OER
  4. Developing sustainability models
  5. Developing supportive policy environments

However, a question rises from this document: Who is accountable for the agreed actions? How will the action plan be followed up and monitored to assure progress towards the agreed goals? The document concludes that: “Educational stakeholders should further ensure that a set of indicators, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms are in place to support these action areas.” But will the stakeholders take this responsibility? And who is accountable for the fulfilment of the actions in the end of the day? This is, in our view, where the document has its greatest potential for further development, perfectly aligned with the Slovenian slogan for the conference: OER – your endless body of knowledge.

The plan states that “ Support of decision makers at governmental and institutional levels is essential for the realization of the Ljubljana OER Action Plan. Multiple stakeholder’s support for the actions is also crucial for the implementation of the proposed actions. Specific stakeholders are identified in the possible actions proposed.” So the action plan could maybe more be seen as a blueprint, road map for moving OER over the tipping point and become mainstream in education and learning.

ICDE, as the global facilitator for quality learning and teaching in the digital age (ICDE Strategic Plan) is ready to take responsibility for building communities and enable international collaboration in OER. ICDE can support in taking the action plan forward by:

  • continuing to reinforce its support for the OER-chairs (UNESCO/COL and ICDE Chairs)
  • launching a broad energetic OER advocacy network – the ICDE OER Advocacy Committee
  • integrating OER in other major ICDE activities, like the 27th ICDE World Conference 16-19 October in Toronto, Canada, in our work with teachers’ education, literacy, and initiatives such as Learning analytics.

A possible new, concrete collaborative project between OER repositories was presented at the congress; named Global Open Libraries – GOL . The project was presented in a satellite event and in a plenary panel addressing recommendations for actions to mainstream OER in education systems worldwide from the perspective of key stakeholder groups in education. ICDE pointed out the paradox of the existing gap between the widespread OER production and the efficiency and efficacy of their reuse to support learning and increase access to education. The idea was also presented in the satellite event organised by the UNESCO Institute for IT in Education .

The project idea is to network quality assured widespread OER repositories, enable collaborative communities and to develop the practice of OER in new contexts across regions. All to increase the impact from OER. A feasibility study for Global Open Libraries has been commissioned by ICDE and the French Thematic Universities – UNIT, and the draft report is now available for comments and suggestions.

The lifeblood of ICDE work on OER will be partnership and collaboration, which is the major critical success factor for moving OER mainstream.

What is immediatly around the corner? During the ICDE World Conference:

  • ICDE will launch the new OER Advocacy Committee
  • Monday 16 October 3:00pm a workshop will take place to celebrate the OER Chairs and the 25th Anniversary for the UNESCO Chairs concept, supported by ICDE, UNESCO and OEC
  • Thursday 19 October 8:30am – 9:30am a panel discussion organised by ICDE and OEC will take place: OER going mainstream?

Important documents:



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