The catalyst for this particular post is the recent launch by Creative Commons of ccLearn, a division of Creative Commons, “dedicated to realizing the full potential of the Internet to support open learning and open educational resources.”
Open Educational Resources, or OER, as the Wikipedia entry will tell you in more detail, is a term that came out of UNESCO’s 2002 Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. It is intended to denote “educational materials and resources offered freely and openly for anyone to use and under some licenses re-mix, improve and redistribute.”
My sense is that this is a term and a movement much more visible in the international development and non-governmental organization (NGO) community than in the domestic United States nonprofit community. Perhaps the most visible manifestation of it here in recent years is the MIT Open Courseware Initiative.
As the involvement of MIT might suggest, OER tends to be associated more with the academic sector than with the association, charitable organization, or corporate sector. The availability and inclination of academic subject matter experts to participate in a movement of this sort is perhaps a driving reason for the academic stronghold in the movement, but certainly portions of the work being done by technical and management support organizations like Tech Soup (see TechSoup, Learning, and Web 2.0) fit under the OER umbrella, and groups like LINGOs are primed for making a more meaningful contribution to it than they appear to have done to date.
A handful of sites you will want to visit if you take time to find out more about OER:
Sources for Open Education:
dgCommunites: Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration Worldwide
FlossCom.Net: Community-based Educational Approaches
ITrainOnline (see also Nonprofit Online Learning: LINGOs, ItrainOnline, STEP)
Open Courseware Consortium
Open Media Commons
Sofia: Sharing of Free Intellectual Assets
Reports and Guides:
There are quite a few blogs out there that are either dedicated to OER or discuss it with some frequency. The following is just a very small sampling:
Designed to Inspire: Links to the beginning of a great 15 weeks series covering a course on open education with David Wiley (see below)
OCWBlog: Blogging in the OpenCourseWare (and OER) Movements
OERBlogs: An aggregator of open education and open courseware blogs
Open Education News: A a daily dose of the most relevant open education news from around the world
OERderves: A blog dedicated to open education
ZaidLearn: A link to a recent posting by Zaid on open education.
There is still much to be done to raise awareness and implement standards across the OER movement, but the ccLearn project represents one more significant step forward in improving access to OER materials and information. For nonprofits on tight budgets that are seeking educational resources, this may be another instance of the Web windfall at work. For associations, many of which tend to be, in my opinion, overly and unnecessarily proprietary about their intellectual property, the process by which the movement has developed and continues to develop is worth observing. For corporations, OER may represent a highly productive way to engage in the global community.
I won’t pretend that this is in any way a comprehensive overview of OER. If there are organizations I have not listed above that you feel deserve mention or if you have observed or experienced the pros or cons of OER first hand, please comment.
Postscript, 24-Sept-07: Based on an e-mail related to the to the original posting, I have added OER Commons to the list of sites above. The Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME), the group behind OER Commons was recently named a 2007 Awards Laureate by The Tech Museum of Innovation. Additionally, based on the comment below from Jennifer Maddrell, I’d like to highlight the Introduction to Open Education Course currently under way with Professor David Wiley at Utah State University. As Jennifer notes, this syllabus represents a great addition to the list above. (And many thanks to Stephen Downes for posting the link that led Jennifer here.) Finally, many thanks to Andreas Meiszner from FLOSSCom (whose site is listed above) for his comments. Based on these, I have added the OpenLearn project to the list above, and the presentation Andreas references follows.