The endeavour to ensure individual right to education is upheld should be any country’s top priority; however access to higher education is prohibitively expensive particularly in most developing countries. Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely accessible teaching, learning and research materials in licensed text, media, and other digital forms. They are openly accessible in public domains and have are released under open licenses which allow free access, use and redistribution with no or limited restrictions. OER has potential to level the playing field and ensure individual right to education is guaranteed.
The global OER movement was sparked by an announcement by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2001 that it was going to put its entire course catalogue online and consecutively launching the project in 2002. The movement’s first manifestation was when MIT partnered with the Utah State University in setting up of a peer support network for the Open Courseware (OCW) content through voluntary, self-organizing communities of interest.
The term OER was first adopted by UNESCO at a forum on the impact of Open Courseware (OCW) for higher education in developing countries. The Cape Town OER declaration was released on 22 January 2008 after 30 proponents were invited to collaborate on text of manifesto in a 2007 convention organized by Open Society Institute and the Shuttleworth Foundation. The declaration urged governments and publishers to make publicly funded learning material freely available via internet. The global OER movement’s stage was set after UNESCO convened the first OER Congress on June 2012. The resulting declaration reaffirmed shared commitments of international organizations, governments and institutions to promoting the open licensing and free sharing of publicly funded content.
Merits of OER can never be understated; the improved access to learning materials has ensured that no student is disadvantaged as all needed learning materials are freely available in public domains. Secondly, rapid dissemination of information is facilitated as it is much quicker and cheaper to post online than publishing a book. Another advantage is the ability to modify and enhance course materials; texts, images and videos can support a variety of learning styles. On the other hand, OER also has is fair share of demerits, some of them are; quality and reliability of resources are paramount and could be compromised as some educational materials can be edited by anyone at any time. Secondly, copyright issues, although many academics are willing to share their work, most would still want to retain some rights over their work (Hylén, 2006). Lastly, not every student has access to internet and the relevant educational software.
Educational resources of higher education were often considered as intellectual properties and were therefore available only to privileged groups of learners and teachers (Krelja Kurelovic, 2016). Although having its own limitations, OER could be the solution to guarantee education is accessible and affordable to all especially in economies with limited resources. Its promotion could be the answer to bridging the educational and economical gaps and ensure education opportunities are equally available irrespective of a student’s geographical location. Promotion, awareness raising, positive attitudes, and invention of initiatives supporting OER are the first important steps towards its global acceptance.
Hylén, J. (2006). Open educational resources: Opportunities and challenges. Proceedings of Open Education, 4963.
Krelja Kurelovic, E. (2016). Advantages and Limitations of Usage of Open Educational Resources in Small Countries. International Journal of Research in Education and Science, 2(1), 136–142.