The importance of OER in higher education in Europe (Andreia Inamorato dos Santos)

The importance of OER in higher education in Europe (Andreia Inamorato dos Santos)

September 20, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski


We have a research strand on open
education, which is aiming to support policy making about open education in
Europe, but all such at institutional level: all the different sorts of
institutional policies and practices that higher education institutions can
have to foster open education, and the implications of such practices. So I would like to start by talking about the importance of Open Educational Resources: as we know, Open Educational Resources are openly licensed materials. They normally have a
licence, quite often a Creative Commons licence – that’s the most used license for
OER – and the goal is really to make knowledge available for all, is to
take the knowledge that is produced inside of a university to the world – you
know – quite often using digital technologies with the use of the
internet, but really making it available to all. So Open Educational Resources can
be used not only by formally registered students of the higher education
institution, but also for the learners out there in the world, that we can
sometimes also call the open learners. And they have different
profiles – you know – they can be people that have already retired and want to
keep themselves active – you know – in terms of engaging with knowledge produced by
universities, it could be students that are just about to start university and
they wanted to use Open Educational Resources and MOOCs as a taster in terms
of what universities offer, and whether they would like a particular subject area
to study or not. So Open Educational Resources are very much used by
students that are starting universes or wanting to apply to a university to test
methodologies, to see further into the subject;
also for example by people that are already in employment and they are
willing to reskill or upskill or taking a different direction in their
careers, and they want to get some knowledge that is up-to-date, that is
quality, because universities produce quality knowledge, quality information
and courses. So they tend to look at materials developed by universities and
by professors and lecturers and also researchers sometimes, as a trustworthy
source of educational materials to study with and to learn from. Apart from that,
it’s important to think that open educational resources are openly licensed
materials, materials that have a licence, and they can be distributed like for
example by repositories, they can be academic papers and articles produced by
academics, but they can also come in the form of full courses via MOOCs,
Massive Open Online Courses. There are many universities that
are now making Open Educational Resources available to the world via
MOOCs. So I wanted also to say that, besides
opening up knowledge to the world and giving opportunities to access quality
knowledge to all, Open Educational Resources also promote some
sort of advantage to the author and to the university itself: so let’s think of a
university perspective. So why to have policies and initiatives on open
educational resources? So first of all it’s about showing to the world the
quality of the teaching provided by the institution, the type of academic
recognition of the professors they have, the researchers… so it’s all about
spreading knowledge, but also showcasing the universities’ – let’s say – specialities:
you know, the subjects that the university would like to focus on, the
expertise of their staff members, their lecturers, so on and so forth. A result of
that is that quite often this attracts attention from learners to the
university itself, who therefore afterwards end up registering as a
formal learning in the institution. So our research at the Joint Research Centre
really shows that, talking to universities, they tend to report that
Open Educational Resources and MOOCs actually help increase formal
enrollments of students into the institution. So it has been
used as a marketing tool for universities – very successful – but at the
same time meeting the social mission of a university, which is to be open, to
share the knowledge and to be more inclusive. So it’s a win-win situation
for a higher education institution to do Open Educational Resources and to
promote that. On the other hand, for the staff member, for the lecturer, the academic or the
researcher that does some teaching as well, engaging in open educational
practices can be a real change in the way they perform their teaching,
quite often because first of all they will make themselves known outside of
the four walls of a classroom: so the world out there will be able to look
into their intellectual production, and will be able to access their materials,
that would otherwise be closed within the four walls of a classroom at the
university. So it’s really important for – let’s say – personal profile
of the academic: this is to start with, and it’s also important to think that
the content doesn’t need to be perfect – you know – super ready for publication. It
can be also something that is ongoing, because the feedback from the community
can help improve that content: so that’s another benefit. It’s engaging in
producing OER as a tool to communicate with the community, both
academic community, but also student community to improve one’s own ideas and
research and teaching methods and thinking. So it’s sharing for gaining,
gaining insights and gaining input. So it normally when a lecturer engages in
producing OER or producing MOOCs or video lectures via MOOC, so on and so
forth, they end up changing their teaching
practices and improving the teaching practices. So we not only see
more visibility to their work, into themselves, but they also tend to improve
in the way they teach, and the engagement of the students also change, because they
look at resources in different platforms and different ways, and they move away from
the well-known simply PowerPoints and talk and chalk that we normally have
in higher education institutions. So the combination of these also leads to the
modernization of teaching practices in higher education, because we really need
to think that what other ways do we have to teach and Open Educational Resources
and MOOCs and open education as a whole can help us use digital
technologies to teach, and therefore reach further audiences but also
modernize the way we teach