Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Guidelines for OER in Higher Education by UNESCO and COL

Yesterday (Nov 1, 2011) UNESCO and COL together have brought out the ‘Guidelines for OER in Higher Education’ at the UNESCO General Conference at Paris Headquarters. It is also a natural outcome for UNESCO as it had coined the "OER" phrase in 2002.  Perhaps an ideal memento to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the phrase - which has been working as a catalyst in converging and strengthening the efforts for open and inclusive higher education system all over the world. The UNESCO Open Educational Resources Platform was also launched in the same function. The platform offers selected UNESCO publications as open educational resources.

The introduction to the guidelines clearly states its purpose as “...to encourage decision makers in governments and institutions to invest in the systematic production, adaptation and use of OER and to bring them into the mainstream of higher education in order to improve the quality of curricula and teaching and to reduce costs.”

The raise of knowledge economies, the projected 98 million growth to current 165 million  global enrolment for higher education  by 2025, innovations in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) etc make it imperative for our higher education systems to open up educational resources and further build on it through collaborative efforts and by avoiding duplication and wastage of time and resources.

The guidelines precisely explain all the crucial factors relating to the use of OER in higher education such as the higher education context, open licensing and the emergence of OER, the transformative potential of OER and the scope of the guidelines.

The guidelines are also contain separate sections for all the key stakeholders of higher education viz
  1. Governments
  2. Higher education institutions
  3. Academic staff
  4. Student bodies
  5. Quality assurance/accreditation bodies and academic recognition bodies 
Many governments in the world have already started to develop OER policies, many academic bodies have working policies on OER - I hope these guidelines would definitely exert further momentum for the main stream adoption of OER. The policy making bodies are usually found to be comfortable with triggering innovations on the basis of the guidelines and other documentations from intergovernmental organizations.

We should also realize that when the world population would touch 10 billion mark towards the end of the current century itself, the only powerful tools in our hands to meet the demand for higher education would be OER and ODL. Therefore let us carry forward the spirits of this UNESCO – COL joint initiative.

The CC-BY-SA licensed version of the guidelines can be downloaded from the Commonwealth of Learning website at http://www.col.org/resources/publications/Pages/detail.aspx?PID=364
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