User:Drksrk/Temp/Open Educational Resources - A Panacea for Secondary Education.doc

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Dr. K.S.Ramakrishnan
Assistant Professor, School of Education
Tamil Nadu Open University, Chennai – India
Contact –

Abstract: The National Knowledge Commission Report 2008 targets Universalisation of Secondary Education and 15 % GER at higher education and by 2015. It reiterates education and knowledge resources should be accessible to a large number of people through various means in a seamless way so that the gap between demand and supply should be narrowed down. Paucity of funds is one of the major concerns of Indian secondary education. In such a situation, ICT combined with other new methods is a good alternative for imparting knowledge in a short time with less cost.

The emergence of Open Source Initiative (OSI) has created a new era in the field of ICT, particularly in education. Open Source software, Web 2 and Web 3 tools, social networking, Open Educational Resources, etc are some of the outcome of OSI. Open education educational resources (OER) are learning materials and resources that are freely available in the WWW. Anyone may use and under some licenses re-mix, improve and redistribute. All kinds of learning contents, tools and implementation resources are available in OER. Learning contents include full courses, course materials, content modules, learning objects, collections, and journals. Software to support the creation, delivery, use, improvement, searching and collaboration of open learning content and on-line learning communities come under tools. Implementation resources include intellectual property licenses to promote open publishing of materials, design-principles, and localization of content.

Wikipedia, MIT Open Courseware, blogs, WikiEducator, etc are some examples. In 2007, ‘The Open High School of Utah’ an online high school has been established at Utah State University in USA. It is committed itself to use OER exclusively throughout the entire curriculum and rejects traditionally copyrighted materials. These educational resources play an important role in implementing pedagogy in classroom. This paper discusses OERs, their pedagogical concerns, and the possibilities of using them in Indian secondary education.

Key Words: Open Educational Resources, FLOSS, Wikipedia, National Knowledge Commission

State of Secondary Education in India

Secondary education serves as a bridge between elementary and higher education. The stage is thus set for Universalization of Secondary Education (USE). The population of children in the age group (14–18 years) is estimated at 107 million in 2001, 119.7 million in 2006, and 121.1 million in 2011, whereas, the enrolment in secondary and senior secondary education together is around 37 million only. The enrolment in 1.02 lakh secondary and 0.50 lakh higher secondary schools is 24.3 million and 12.7 million, respectively (2004–05). The GER for secondary education (IX and X) is 51.65% and that for higher secondary 27.82%. The combined GER for both the levels is only 39.91%. This means that the dropout rate at secondary level is as high as 62%. The number of years a person has spent in school is a dismal 4.4 years for India as compared to global average of 7.4 and 4.6 for South Asia. The mean years of schooling children are expected to complete is 10.3 years, whereas this is 15.9 years and 12.3 years for the OECD nations and the world.

The success of SSA in achieving large scale enrolment of children in regular and alternate schools has thrown open the challenge of expanding access to secondary education. Rapid changes in technology and the demand for skills also make it necessary that young people acquire more than eight years of elementary education to acquire the necessary skills to compete successfully in the labour market.

The ‘India Vision 2020’ envisages the transformation of India into a knowledge superpower. There are about 350 odd universities and 18,000 colleges providing higher education in the country to about 12% of the relevant age group. National Knowledge Commission, India-2007 recommends setting up 1500 Universities and 50 National Universities to attain a Gross Enrollment Ration of at least 15 %. It stresses that education and knowledge resources should be accessible to a large number of people through various means in a seamless way so that the gap between demand and supply is alleviated and some standardization of quality takes place across all institutions.

It has been often found that students who do not perform well in conventional subject examinations demonstrate high success levels in the use of Information Technology (IT) and IT-enabled learning. IT could provide new directions in pedagogical practices and students’ achievement. The idea is not merely making children computer literate but also initiating web-based learning through modern software facilities. In such a In such a situation, Open Educational Resources and Open Educational Practices play a vital role in the Indian Secondary Education.

The Open Source Initiative

The Open Source Initiative is considered as the origin of Open Educational Resources. The OERs provide the following:

  • Learning content: Full courses, course materials, content modules, learning objects, collections, and journals.
  • Tools: Software to support the creation, delivery, use and improvement of open learning content including searching and organization of content, content management systems, learning management systems, content development tools, and on-line learning communities.
  • Implementation resources: Intellectual property licenses to promote open publishing of materials, design-principles, and localization of content.


FLOSS the abbreviation for Free/Libre Open Educational Licenses was started in 2006. Their motto is “FREE” and “OPEN”. It is the result of developments in open and distance learning (ODL) and the emergence of collaborative peer-production communities. Since that there has been a marked increase in the Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Educational Licenses such as Creative Commons. FLOSS model shows how users can become active resource creators and how those resources can be re-used and freely maintained. In OER the focus is on the traditional way of resource creation and participant roles. But the fundamental principle underlying both FLOSS and OER is the freedom to share knowledge - whether this takes the form of making software code open for collaborative modification and improvement, or allowing unrestricted access to learning materials.

FLOSS Communities

They are built by volunteers producing good quality software using a different development approach backed by companies that generate their revenues by providing services related to the software. In recent years they gain attention for their community production, support models and their way of knowledge creation and learning. These communities possess many characteristics that educational communities could benefit by adopting:

  • Everyone can participate, no charges, no deadlines, lifelong participation
  • Up to date content. Everyone can add, edit and update the content
  • Materials are usually the product of many authors with many contributions from people other than authors.
  • Frequent releases and updates where product features and community structures are the result of a continuous re-negotiation / reflection process within a continuous development cycle
  • Prior learning outcomes and processes are systematically available through mailing lists, forums, commented code and further instructional materials.
  • A large support network, provided voluntarily by the community member in a collaborative manner
  • Free Riders (lurker) welcome paradox – the more the better
  • New ICT solutions are adapted early by the community


There are many OER models in the recent past. Some of them are given below:

Wikipedia: It is an online encyclopedia that anyone could edit. It relies upon volunteers for undertaking editing work. Its rapid growth is phenomenal. By containing more than 10 million articles, now it is the largest encyclopedia in the world and an immense resource for students and lecturers.

MIT Open Courseware: In 2002, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched its OpenCourseWare (OCW) project. It published all of its course materials online, open for others to use, modify and share free of charge. The initiative reflects MIT's commitment to its teaching and public service missions, and to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge. As of today, MIT has published 1,900 courses online, which are being accessed by more than one million users every month.

Flickr: Flickr is a tool developed for sharing photographs which is enormously popular. It has a Creative Commons option to photograph uploads. Today there are more than 66 million photographs licensed with a Creative Commons licence. Although it is not a collection of material designed explicitly to support teaching and learning, it is a treasure trove of openly licensed photographs, which may be useful in a variety of educational settings.

WikiEducator: It was created as a means of creating, distributing and promoting OER and is currently supported by the Commonwealth of Learning. For optimal compatibility with other OER, WikiEducator uses the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license as opposed to the GNU Free Documentation Licence of Wikipedia. It allows embedding video, using a service called Kaltura, which allows anyone to contribute to a video in a wiki-like manner.

Present status

Many educational institutions around the world recognize the value of sharing curricula and content, collaborating on their initial creation and further development, and doing so under the umbrella of free and open access to information and knowledge. But very few universities from developing countries have joined this emerging open education movement as active contributors. This imbalance carries an assumption that knowledge flows from developed to developing countries. So far, not enough attention has been paid to the special needs and requirements of institutions in the developing countries.

Application of OER in Secondary Education

Recent OER developments are connected to the broader open education ecosystem. The learning and teaching practices change in an education environment that is based around social networking, peer-to-peer learning, and open content that can be shared and modified with few restrictions. The OER movement has produced a significant amount of content, such as lesson plans, teaching aids and software tools, etc. There is growing consensus that OERs offer benefits to educational institutions in developing countries. The secondary school teachers can:

  • Identify OERs and share them with other academics and students
  • Integrate OERs into teaching and learning practices
  • Publish their own OERs

The skills necessary for the teachers

To be successful in creating, using and publishing the OERs, the academics should possess or develop the following skills:

  • Finding and using Open Educational Resources: It is with regard to searching and finding OER, knowledge about local hosting and licensing issues when working with content created by others.
  • Creating and sharing OER: This is with regard to the needs of the individual students, practical steps for creating and sharing materials as OERs, technical formats to use, and hosting/storing resources.
  • 21st century skills: The use of well-established, traditional instructional practices may not be effective for developing the new skills that are required. Self-direction, creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, problem-solving, teamwork and effective communication become vital. The ability to access and use dynamic knowledge becomes more important than building up a large stock of static knowledge.
  • Creating, adapting, evaluating and sharing OER within communities of learners require practices that embody these new competencies.
  • Student innovation: ICT have enabled students to develop new ways of collaborating that surpass traditional education practices in terms of innovation. Students already use technology to create social networks, share information and collaborate in ways that are more sophisticated than many traditional e-learning approaches.

Technical standards for hosting and publishing

The present section below outline the technical standards that are more relevant to an institutional OER project.

Content packaging and exchange formats: This is a relevant issue for projects that publish whole courses but that want to enable others to download them to their local learning management systems. The OpenCourseWare Consortium's Technology Working Group has informally agreed on IMS Content Packaging (CP) as the standard for course materials. Specific import/export filters must be created for packages from different providers. Some examples of providers include the proprietary WebCT/Blackboard learning management system, the MIT OpenCourseWare repository and the eduCommons courseware platform. SCORM is another content packaging standard, but its complexity means that it has found relatively little support among open source software projects or open courseware initiatives.

Metadata: Metadata is information that describes something, in this case a course or educational resource. A number of metadata schemes exist for the description of educational content. There is as yet no agreed standard taxonomy for OER, but there is some consensus on following the Dublin Core specifications. As social tagging and bookmarking services become more prevalent, and specialised search engines more developed, there may be less need for formal taxonomies in the future. Others disagree and are working on defining metadata standards.

Resource Description Framework (RDF): The RDF defines a method of storing descriptive information about a resource in a way that computers can understand. In context of OER, the RDF is used to store metadata about a course, or to embed Creative Commons licensing information in a resource. End users do not usually have to worry about dealing with the RDF. Applications for creating and hosting content should have functions for adding metadata and making it available automatically within HTML pages.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS)/Atom feeds: RSS feeds are used by many OER projects to publish basic information about their courses. Atom is an alternative format that provides the same functionality. Most applications that work with feeds can support both. RSS feeds are an important source of input for aggregation and specialised search engines. Members of the OpenCourseWare Consortium are encouraged to create RSS feeds with a minimal set of course information. Some OER repository solutions (e.g. eduCommons) publish RSS feeds automatically with a basic set of fields.

OER Toolkit

Most of the Toolkit is designed for academics who are interested in finding and using OER in the courses they teach, or who wish to publish OER that they have developed. The sections have been kept short and to the point. They aim to provide just enough information to get the reader started. Each section ends with a list of references and suggestions for further reading. The decision-makers and academics may up a more formal OER project. These projects may start with just a few interested academics but, as they grow, institutional policies, funding and legal constraints become more relevant. Some of the most innovative and successful open education projects are driven or supported by students.

Establishing institutional OER projects

It covers some of the arguments that can be used to "make the case" for such a project, and describes some of the strategic choices that have proven effective in existing projects.

Setting up your OER project: This moves from the strategic to the more practical level to list the things you need to consider when setting up an institutional OER project.

Steps involved in an open source course: Sophisticated support systems enable recruitment and education of new community members. The following steps are involved in an open source course:

  • All learning is open and recorded. The creative process, all steps, discussions and decisions are captured and stored in mailing list archives, wiki pages and other electronic records. This makes it easier for newcomers to join the community and get up to speed.
  • The distinction between teachers as creators and students as consumers is blurred in communities of practice, where everyone creates and consumes at the same time.
  • There is continuous and ongoing engagement with the subject matter, beyond the duration of a course or educational programme.


The Open Content License is an effort to create a legal tool for content that is similar to GNU Public License (GPL) for software. It allows others to freely use and modify content to better suit their needs. The authors of an OER grant anyone the freedom to use and share their materials with others, modify, translate or improve them and, in turn, share these new versions with others. Generally Open Educational Resources are made available in digital formats, to make it easier to share and adapt them.

Benefits of Open Educational Resources

Cost: OER can reduce the cost of developing educational programmes. Academics can adapt existing materials to their needs, reducing the investment required for the development of original content. They also reduce the cost of searching and uncertainty over whether a particular material may be used legally in a particular teaching and learning context.

Access: Lower costs increase access.

Time: OERs eliminate the weeks and months of time it can take to seek permission to use existing digital materials. Both the developers and educators across the world use the resources immediately without having to go through a permission seeking process.

Reward and recognition: The course developers and institutions creating and publishing these resources are rewarded through increased status, recognition and visibility that can be used to support performance measures and reputation. By having development of OER done via a collaboration across multiple institutions, faculty develop a network of professional peers who all collectively are working on a set of common resources over time.

Collaboration: Open collaborative models increase innovation and have the potential to advance learning for students, and increase knowledge sharing and peer-support among academics. With limited economic resources, we have more to gain by being an active member in a global community of open educational resource sharing and development. Sharing and reusing can cut the costs for content development, thereby making better use of available resources.

Issues associated with OERs

Quality: It is a primary concern for academia and the content developers. Open models, which broaden participation to individuals other than recognized experts, are developing new mechanisms to assure quality. Many people have the false assumption that free must equal poor quality. Quality is a characteristic of an educational resource. Generally peer-reviewed collections of OER are guaranteed to be of high quality. MERLOT is an example of a collection that facilitates a peer-review process as an attempt to respond to this demand.

Sustainability: Sustainability models for OER projects are still in flux. Initial pilots relied on donor funding, but recently governments and private investors have started to support OER - related work. There is some hope that with open source software development volunteer communities will become sustainable producers of OER. However, few of today's well-known OER projects have the vibrant volunteer communities of contributors and users needed to make them sustainable. In the secondary education context, it is possible to sustain OER initiative with the help of central and state Governments, NCERT, NCTE, voluntary organizations, and philanthropists. There are a number of possible sustainability models for open source software or open education projects, which are worth summarising here:

  • Endowment model - a project raises significant base funding, then uses the interest earned on those funds to pay the operating costs of the project.
  • Membership model - interested organisations join a consortium, to which they contribute seed money, or an annual subscription. In return, those organisations are granted a set of privileges such as early access to the new products or services, or access to an enhanced range of services.
  • Donations model – a project requests donations from its community of users. The funds received are managed by a non-profit foundation, which may either use them for operating expenses or establish an endowment. Eg. Wikipedia and MIT OpenCourseWare.
  • Conversion model - users are initially given a product or service for free, in the hope that they will be converted in time into a paying customer. Alternatively, users are given a free basic product, but pay for advanced services; for example, installation and support in the case of commercial Linux distributions.
  • Contributor-pay model - a content contributor covers the cost of maintaining their contribution in a freely accessible repository.
  • Sponsorship model - various companies sponsor open education projects, often in partnership with educational institutions, in return for the positive publicity that supporting such a project can generate.
  • Institutional model - an institution chooses to finance an OER initiative through its regular budget, often justifying the expenditure as contributing to fulfilling its mission.
  • Governmental model - government agencies fund OER projects directly to fulfill objectives such as expanding access to education and learning opportunities for their citizens. Many initiatives are funded in this way, as was Canada's SchoolNet project.
  • Partnerships and exchanges - both play an important role, or potential role, in the development of OER networks, and thus in sustaining OER initiatives. Partnerships may depend less on an exchange of funds as on an exchange of resources, where the output of the exchange may be an OER.

Assessment and accreditation: In an education environment that breaks down barriers between teachers and students, new ways of assessing and accrediting students are required. Peer assessment, reputation-based credit and standardized tests open to anyone are just some of the solutions that are being tried out.

Global perspective: OER enables the developing countries to take a more active and confident role. Barriers to access are lower, enabling the participation of smaller and more specialized institutions. To create such a shift in global perspective, change is needed both in developed and developing countries where lack of capacity, infrastructure and technical tools and enabling policy can hold back OER production and use.

Re-use: The ability to adapt OER to local needs is one of the key benefits of open licensing. However reports indicate that there has been very low re-use of resources.

Area specific problems

There are region specific problems associated with OERs. Most of the OERs are created by English speaking people in English language. But in countries such as India, there are many regional languages, dialects, cultures, socio-economic conditions, levels of learning, etc. So, the content must be modified according to the individual needs. In this aspect, we cannot use OERs as such. To solve this problem, the following suggestions are put forward:

Need based Wikis: In this Wikis, communities are formed among the content developers and experts from a particular area, subject, standard, language or dialect, and according to the local needs, content is created. In this method, as the developers are well known about the needs of the target audience, the materials can be of much use for the students.

Network of personal blogs: Courses can be taught entirely online using a central course wiki and a network of personal blogs. Participants are either registered students or individual learners who are interested in a particular course. Participants come from a homogeneous community. The teacher provides a weekly set of open content readings and questions. Students post responses on their personal blogs, using a common tag to differentiate course related posts from other content. RSS-feed reader software can be used to gather all relevant posts, rather than having to visit dozens of web sites to follow the class discussion. Discussions takes place within blogs by posting all comments on one blog or between blogs by posting a response on one's own blog, that would automatically alert the original blog. The sheer amount of posts created and the fascinating, insightful conversations that become part of the course create a distinctly innovative educational experience.

Conclusion: This paper has dealt elaborately about the OERs, the need for them in the Indian Secondary Education, the methodology of using them, their benefits, and other problems associated with OERs. The Secondary Education in India can really benefit by using OERs in a proper way. Already in SSA, efforts are started by creating a Wiki and the results are yet to be analysed. In future, the Secondary Education institutions also can adopt similar experiments and models.


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