Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Open Education Resources

The availability of Open Educational Resources (OER) has exploded recently. MIT has made its entire curriculum available to the public and many other universities have followed suit. David Wiley of Utah State has created an interactive course called "Introduction to Open Education" and made it available to any who want to participate, with students from all across the world signing up. The explosion of OER isn't just a phenomenon in the United States, as many other countries across the globe have also made strides in this endeavor, including China, Japan, Vietnam, as well as countries throughout Europe and Latin America.

A few questions remain in my mind; however, with regard to the use of OER in the classroom setting. First and foremost of which is, are teachers aware of and do they know how to use the vast resources now available? Although I haven't been in a K-12 classroom in many years, I suspect that much of the same sort of teacher centered instruction remains, with little collaboration and use of OER. I think that teachers need to be made more aware of OER resources and their possible uses in the classroom. This may be a tall task considering the slow rate at which educational institutions seem to embrace change. The key may be to include considerable OER training throughout the schooling of new teachers entering the field of education. I also believe that it would be very helpful if OER experts and instructional systems technology staff were hired at each school, or even each school district to train and assist teachers.

I realize that resistant teachers aren't the only roadblock to the use of OER in classrooms. There needs to be better systems of cataloguing and organizing OER so that teachers can easily find material that suits their needs and share material that they've created. In conjunction with this, Open Courseware needs to be made more flexible, that is, designed in modules versus courses, and educators can use various modules to supplement, not replace, their curriculum.

All in all I believe that OER will become more widely used in schools as teachers become more aware and more familiar with its use, and as a result education will imrove.

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