Open educational resources (OER) offer a practical, workable solution to the challenges of educating outlying populations. Not being subject to traditional licensing restrictions, OER can be used, reused and adapted to suit the needs of a wide variety of learners and teachers in both conventional and open schools.
One of the priorities of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) is to promote capacity-building in open schools in developing nations to bring educational opportunities to prospective learners, regardless of their circumstances. With this in mind, COL partnered with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to embark on the Open Educational Resources for Open Schools (OER4OS) Project.
Six countries — Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Seychelles, Trinidad and Tobago and Zambia — participated in this ambitious, ground-breaking project to train educators to create a bank of OER that could be used in both conventional and open schools by both school-age children and adult learners. Each country based its OER on its country curricula, but built in enough cultural and pedagogical flexibility to allow the OER to be used and adapted by other countries — epitomising the essence of OER. In addition, the training equipped the participants with the knowledge and skills to train current and future colleagues, thus contributing to the sustainability of the OER.
The project presented many challenges — technical, personal and logistical — for the participants and these are discussed openly and honestly in the country reports. It also brought a real sense of professional and personal achievement, and those who participated can be proud of their contribution to the development of OER for open and distance education. If we can continue to develop and maintain OER, we can continue to educate and to open doors.
This book is an important landmark in how OER can be developed and embedded in local contexts, using indigenous capacities and available technologies. Most discussions have focused on OER in higher education, whereas this book provides us with valuable insights into how OER can be harnessed for the rapidly expanding secondary education sector.