OpenEd21: Building the 21st Century OER Ecosystem

6 min read

OpenEd21 is happening this week and instead of tweeting I am blogging from selected sessions I am attending. These notes may be rough as the intent is to try to follow the flow of the talk and publish as soon as possible.

Session Description

ENCORE+ (European Network for Catalysing Open Resources in Education) is building a regional Ecosystem for OER, focused along four engaging circle communities on the following four topics: OER Technology, Policies & Practice, Quality and Innovation & Business Models. The initiative is open to anyone interested in furthering the implementation of the OER Recommendation. The presentation will highlight results from a pan-European stakeholder survey on OER to give a state of play for the sector. (full abstract)

Presenters: Rob Farrow (Open University UK), Juliane Granly (ICDE)

Session Notes

ENCORE+ is funded by the EU and is a knowledge alliance project designed to support the uptake of OER, act as a catalyst and share best practices in open education. Designed to modernize educational practices cross Europe by coordinating OER projects & supporting modernizing & digitization, stimulating innovation in learning & training through open.

Rob summarizes the research showing the benefits of OER including improved access to education, reducing cost and hits upon some of the organizational benefits of OER when embedded in the right organizational culture including more flexibility in provision in education & training, translation and adaptation of materials for different markets, more responsive design and calibration of material, flexible integration into LMS, and transparency/publicly in the creation & use of OER.

Europe has robust OER ecosystem using map from OER World Map detailing 1400+ organizations, 900+ services 500+ projects and 300+ policies across Europe.

The European ecosystem – outside circle represent 5 major challenges (discovered through stakeholder mappings) while the inside circle represents the 4 communities of practice designed to address the 5 challenges

The “Innovative-approaches” includes examining how open education/OER can contribute to the development of unique business models built on OER. One of Rob’s examples was the use of OER as training materials for businesses. There is a strong value proposition around lifelong learners for commercial/businesses that is untapped or unknown among businesses (not surprising to me as the business culture is built mostly around competition, not collaboration and sharing. There are different values in play here. More in my commentary below).

Rob also references a 2020 paper on OER sustainability from Ramierez-Montoya (2020) on the complexities of open and why those may be a barrier for businesses around open

Rob then moves on to talk at length about the important innovation bits in the project, and some of the underlying models of innovation the project is using, including Rogers classic Diffusion of Innovation model which shows OER usage is still likely in the “early adopter” phase (note: data used is from k-12 US education system. I would like to see this mapped out in higher ed context)

Rob also references an interesting model of innovation he feels works quite well in an OER context called the Task-Artifact Cycle (Carroll et all 1991)

Then looks at innovation through the SAMR lens using open textbooks.

All these models are meant to frame OER and open education as an innovative practice.

The final bits of the presentation was focused on business models, starting with an open business model known as the Defender/Prospector model where businesses can be considered one of the two.

He then references a model of business innovation from Darwish (2019) that classifies business models into 4 types: Static, Interactive, Dynamic and Transformative and ends his section on innovation referencing Chesbrough (2003) model of Open Innovation, which refers to the need for all types of organizations to increase cooperation as a response to the increasing complexity of the world. Open Innovation is built on open and collaborative approaches as opposed to closed proprietary ones with alternative approaches to intellectual property and shorter feedback loops for knowledge exchange.

Session ends with an open call for anyone to join one of the 4 CoP circles.


My Takeaways

There is a lot to unpack in this interesting project. As I would expect from a project that Rob Farrow is involved with, there is a solid body of research supporting the implementation work of ENCROE+ and if you look at the slides you will find almost every slide is built on both empirical and theoretical research.

I find the focus on open education as a driver of innovation – especially among commercial and business entities – very interesting as a way to build and sustain open education. Paul Stacy has done similar work in the past with both Creative Commons and OE Global looking at ways in which education and commercial businesses can build upon open works in innovative ways that respect both the work and the values of the open eco-system. I see similar strands of work happening here with the ENCORE+ project. Are there ways in which commercial and open can worth together in ways that respect the values of open? Yes.

I am also intrigued by the technical work happening around making repositories more findable and surfacing resources more easily. This has always been a challenge and it sounds like there is renewed work happening with ENCORE+ to develop interoperability standards, new OER tools (Joubel, the creators of H5P are among the commercial tool developers involved in the project), and potentially new ways to search and find OER.

That was definitely worth the 6am rise west coast start time to attend.

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