Higher Education

The higher education sector and the open educational resources (OER) movement are commonly seen as inextricably linked. Early drivers for a global OER movement came from US universities MIT and Utah State University and since then higher education initiatives have continued to dominate this field.

In 2007 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources identified six arguments for higher education institution sharing and developing OER:

  • Altruism – the belief that ‘sharing knowledge is a good thing to do’

  • The leveraging taxpayers’ money argument: that resources developed by publicly funded institutions should be freely shared and reused;

  • The efficiency argument: that ‘by sharing and reusing, the costs for content development can be cut’

  • The showcase argument: that OER initiatives are ‘good for public relations and…can attract new students’

  • The taster argument: that ‘new students…may be more likely to enrol on paid-for courses when they have had a free taste of the learning on offer.

  • The internal development argument: that ‘open sharing will speed up the development of new learning resources and stimulate innovation’

The term ‘open educational resources’ was first adopted at UNESCO‘s 2002 Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries.   It is therefore quite fitting that one of the main focuses of our higher education-related OER research is teacher education in India and, more specifically, the TESS-India project. Building on the success of its sister project TESSA, TESS-India aims to use OER both in training new teachers, to meet a shortfall estimated at 1.33 million, and in improving the practice of existing teachers, reducing pressure on teacher education institutions and enabling them to deliver quality teacher training, at scale and speed, to both teachers in training and teachers in the classroom.  The project is working in partnership with Indian States and a range of education institutions to create the first and biggest network of freely available, high quality, teacher education resources in India, co-written by UK and Indian academic experts and available both in print and online.


Photo credit: Leigh-Anne Perryman CC-BY

Our TESS-India research is exploring the following areas:

  • The process of OER localisation, whereby various aspects of the teacher education materials (e.g. language, pedagogy, imagery and cultural references) are adapted to meet the needs of each of the Indian states in which those resources will be delivered. The focus on OER localisation aligned with OER Research Hub Hypothesis C (Open education models lead to more equitable access to education, serving a broader base of learners than traditional education).

  • The ways in which teacher educators’ and teachers’ use of OER can be encouraged through communities of practice and other means. (Hypothesis B and Hypothesis E are relevant here.)

  • The ways in which participation in the TESS-India project has led to policy change at national and regional level (Hypothesis J).

We are also hoping to gain a broader view of the impact of OER in India via our pan-India survey.

There’s more on TESS-India and OER use in India more generally in the following blog posts:

Other OER Research Hub research in the higher education sector looks at the use of OER repositories. We’re covering a broad range of repositories through our general surveys but are also conducting more in-depth research focused on the UK Open University’s open content platform OpenLearn and the Connexions repository, hosted at Rice University.

This strand of our research has focused on the impact of OER in increasing access to education (Hypothesis C), as a bridge between informal learning and formal education (Hypothesis I), in improving the performance and satisfaction of formal students (Hypothesis A) and in changing educators’ approach to their teaching (Hypothesis E) and their sharing practices (Hypothesis B).

You can read more about the OpenLearn and Connexions research in these blog posts:

Some of the findings from the OpenLearn research were presented at the EADTU 2013 conference. The slides from this presentation are now available as are the conference proceedings (see pages 175 – 190, and pages 234 – 250).  The relationship between formal higher education and open educational resources was also discussed in our webinar Are OER Complementary or Competitive with Formal Education?.

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