The Future of OER

By Sarah Rawson

Open education resource (OER) is one of the rapidly changing education platforms globally. However, as this versatile educational platform gains popularity, a number of questions have been raised concerning its sustainability and future. Here are some aspects about the trend that will help you answer some of the issues or questions about OER.

Why is it innovative?

OER has played a big role in providing knowledge to the disadvantaged students and/or learners in disadvantaged institutions, communities and countries. It has practically diversified teaching and learning arrangements. The relative easy access of knowledge has led to successful learning at a cheaper cost. In fact, one of the most important innovations of OER is being able to increase the quality of knowledge, allowing learners to access education from anywhere in the world. The only limit is what you want and how much your brain can handle. It has also resulted in balanced hegemonic relationships in higher education globally.
With OER, therefore, knowledge flows around the world connecting the southern and the northern globe to form one network. The Vurtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC) was set up to serve educators and students in remote and small states. Using the internet, they have managed to leapfrog the establishment of costly campuses. They actively promote the use of OER’s and contribute their own resources in OER format. Adding more credibility to the use of OER is the Peoples-UNI (Link: ), who proudly make use of OER’s with their Masters level education in Public Health.
What’s on the front edge? A broad spectrum of legal frameworks has emerged to control ways in which OER is used. This is to answer the cry: ‘OER is too open’. So some legal frameworks make a provision for its beneficiaries to use the available resources while others can just allow one to copy. Hence the answer to the scariest question to authors; they can still retain the entire acknowledgment for the work they do as they allow it to be used.

Where to find OER?

The availability and scope of OER is always expanding. New resources are added to the already existing body of resources weekly. Currently, there is no comprehensive list of all the OERs meaning one has to use a number of search strategies, which include:
* Find an appropriate OER repository: Learners can access the main repositories to every OER. In most cases, they are grouped according to the institution as they focus on the material that has been released from that organization. Project Guttenburg provide over 40,000 free books in electronic format, and training materials can be found on ItrainOnline.
* Using the OER directory websites: These have search facilities that are capable of pointing to other places in the Internet in which the available resources match the search criteria. These sites do not act as the repository themselves, but have identified quality material and store them in a web links’ database. Usually, the databases have a specific focus. In OER Africa just to note, they do highlight the resources that have been developed in their continent.
*Using a search engine that is OER specialized: Search engines like Bing and/or Google might be good for a starting point when looking for content online, but there are some that are specialized to search strictly for OER. However, their listings can be selective based on your search criteria. Hence it might be a great idea to attempt more searches. OpenTapestry is a widely used OER search engine. Searches can also be conducted on the Federal Resources for Education Excellence resource site for free.
Based on the above aspects, it is obvious that OER does not come without costs. OERs must be released on the Internet and hosted in particular repositories. In general, cost must be incurred to ensure that OER is operational. Therefore, because the business model in every sector is changing, the sustainability and future of OER depends on the amount of resources that is being invested to run it.
Sarah Rawson is a freelance writer and is currently studying an Executive online MBA program. Her articles appear on various higher education blogs.
Photo courtesy of BigStock.

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