A 2017 Agenda for Open Education
A Call for Action by Contact North | Contact Nord
Open Education celebrates the possibilities of learning for all through open access to educational resources, research, strategies, and tools, with the Internet giving learners around the world unprecedented opportunities to connect to knowledge and each other. Educators and institutions have essential roles to play in contributing to and taking advantage of this new environment of openness to improve educational access, success, and quality.
Although open learning is not limited to open educational resources (OER), international support for and commitment to OER have been particularly striking. Since the term “open educational resources” was first coined at UNESCO’s 2002 Forum on Open Courseware, the 2007 Cape Town Open Education Declaration and the 2012 Paris OER Declaration outlined compelling reasons and concrete actions for the development, sharing, and support of OER.
Organizations such as the Commonwealth of Learning, the Hewlett Foundation, the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), the Open Education Consortium, OERu, and UNESCO are inspiring and guiding the move to open education through the provision of leadership, advocacy, courses, resources, funding, and opportunities for collaboration.
Building on the excellent work of open universities and dual mode institutions throughout the world, and of those dedicated to open educational resources, open research, and shared educational technologies, in addition to the support and actions of governments, agencies and philanthropic foundations, it is now time for a new commitment to Open Education.
What might be accomplished in this Year of Open to extend student access, support, flexibility and success through open learning? How can educators and institutions enhance their essential contributions to this effort?
Contact North | Contact Nord proposes the following five priorities.
An Agenda for Open Education
- Increase use of quality, open educational resources (OER) – textbooks, multi-media learning materials, open assessment tools – to support institutional and individual learning agendas.
Quality assured OER, developed by instructional designers and experienced instructors, provide high quality and low cost resources to enable and support learning and assessment. Hundreds of thousands of already available OER offer faculty access to resources whose effective use can enhance access and success in education, while at the same time improving the quality of teaching and learning. Institutions can present open educational resources developed by others as critical resources for learning and encourage students, faculty, instructors and instructional designers to fully leverage all available open educational resources relevant to courses and programs of studies. The development of new resources should only occur once it is established that no appropriate OER are available for use.
- Offer training to faculty, instructors and instructional designers in the effective use and adaptation of open educational resources to support learning.
Growth in the use of OER begins with deepening the understanding of those who teach and the design of the possibilities of OER and their selection, use, and adaptation to specific learning situations. This training can be delivered in person, online, by audio or other means. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on these topics are already available to build capacity for OER use worldwide.
- Increase investments from both public and private resources for the targeted development of additional open educational resources to serve particular languages and learning needs.
Despite the existence of a vast number of OER, gaps remain for particular languages, skills, learning groups and topics. For example, a public/private partnership, aimed at the development of modular, adaptable, stackable open educational resources leading to widely accepted credentials, would be a major accomplishment and asset to help achieve the goals of education worldwide.
- Provide institutional support for faculty and instructors, with the skills and interests, to create and adapt open educational resources and facilitate their sharing evidence of the effectiveness of the resources.
Publicly funded institutions and private institutions alike have an opportunity to recognize their social responsibility to add to the pool of available OER. More institutions could declare a commitment to sharing learning resources through the use of commons license arrangements, as well as support faculty and instructors in the modification and use of already existing resources.
- Action by national, state, and provincial accreditation agencies, professional associations, and institutions to develop effective systems to support learner mobility, acceptance of credentials, and the recognition of prior learning.
Transnational and national qualification frameworks, and recognition of credentials, are key components of any commitment to open learning. With growing levels of understanding and agreement on the nature of competencies and capabilities, and how these can be assessed (especially with respect to technical and vocational education), those involved need to accelerate the development and adoption of certification recognition systems and recognition of foreign credentials.
The Bologna and the Transnational Qualifications Framework adopted by the Small States of the Commonwealth, together with similar frameworks now in use elsewhere in the world, demonstrate real progress for learner mobility.
When you look at the combination of these aspects of open education, we can imagine an emerging global education system in which:
- Learners have great mobility – they can use their learning in many countries, enabled by a learning passport (ePortfolio) which is verifiable and reliable.
- Learners can access quality learning resources and assessment at a low cost for programs recognized both in their own country and worldwide.
- Instructors can access high quality learning resources to support their students, and at the same time, share evidence of the efficacy of using these resources.
- Instructors can contribute to a knowledge, skills and capability assessment bank and leverage powerful assessment systems, so they can support learners as they learn and assess their knowledge, skills and capabilities at any time.
- Institutions can share business processes, models and practices, which enable more students to access quality learning at a lower cost and secure high completion rates.
Open Education is now part of the eco-system and many students are not able to either access or succeed in their learning without the opportunities it provides. The challenge is to enable more students to engage in, and graduate from, more readily available quality learning opportunities more often at ever-lower costs.