There has been considerable progress in the development and adoption of OERs in many countries and cultures. This has been to a large extent based on awareness-raising around potentials and important practices at local, national and international level, initiatives which need to continue and be deepened. Nevertheless, there remain barriers to be overcome. These include how to measure and recognise the quality of OERs, the development of interoperable repositories, how to ensure the discoverability of OERs, and the localization of different OERs including in minority languages. The PLC-OER model provides an approach for OER development in native languages
While progress has been made, policy developments are uneven in different countries. There remains an issue of ensuring teachers’ capacity to understand the discovery, potential and use of OERS and, importantly how to themselves develop and share OERs. This requires the incorporation, of OER use and development in both initial and continuing professional development for teachers.
De Los Arcos and Weller (2018) have undertaken a study funded by the Hewlett Foundation addressing concerns that “established trends in open educational resources (OER) research originate largely in the US and Europe, while the provision of open content and pedagogy tend to be dominated by English-speaking, developed countries.”
They reference Albright (2009) in introducing the danger that the world of OER risked being separated into contributors and consumers, if the North was allowed to lead the production of knowledge without reciprocity from the less developed nations of the South. De Los Arcos and Weller’s paper presents the results of an extensive survey of 7700 responses from participants in over 180 countries, nearly a quarter of them native speakers of a language other than English, grouping the survey responses into those from the Global North and the Global South. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a higher percentages of computer users in developed nations had broadband at home, use a mobile phone or a tablet to go online, and are able to connect to the internet at work, impacting on their ability to perform effectively in a digital environment. These challenges have been identified as strategic areas of action in the Ljubljana OER Action Plan adopted at the 2nd OER World Congress hosted by UNESCO and the Government of Slovenia
Other results were more surprising. Teachers in developed countries indicated that they create classroom resources and share them online with an open license marginally more often than teachers in developing countries; however, teachers in the global south were more likely to tell others how they have used a resource and assessed its quality. 75.4% of educators in the South said that they use OER because it allows them to better accommodate diverse learner needs in the class, compared to 62.3% in the North.
Obviously, teachers in the South faced bigger technological barriers to finding and contributing resources. The authors cite Perryman and Seal (206, in their study of OER users in India, who observed that educators who experience a high incidence of inhibitors also show high levels of engagement with OER.
Arcos and Weller (2018) conclude that the survey results provide no evidence to talk about a divide, still less to brand the South as passive consumers. Challenge of getting OER in local languages still very significant.
The growing diversity of Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives coupled with better understanding of the limitations of open content has led to an understanding that a narrow focus just on OER may not be enough for educational institutions to fundamentally embrace and establish effective open pedagogical practices.
Open Educational Practices (OEP) are defined as practices which support the production, use and reuse of high quality open educational resources (OER) through institutional policies, which promote innovative pedagogical models, and respect and empower learners as co-producers on their lifelong learning path. OEP address the whole OER governance community: policy makers, managers and administrators of organizations, educational professionals and learners. Open educational practices seek to fully use the potential inherent in OER to support learning and to help students both contribute to knowledge and construct their own learning pathways. Such open practices provide the architecture and philosophical underpinning for fulfilling the promise of using OER to expand collaborative, inclusive, accessible, and active learning and related pedagogy. Open educational practices are also seen as giving agency to students by allowing them more control over the structure, content, and outcomes of their learning and by creating opportunities to generate their own learning materials.
The 2nd World OER Congress in 2017 co-organised by UNESCO and the government of Slovenia produced Draft Outcome and Recommendations detailing the challenges for the future development of OER in terms of:
- Capacity of users to access, re-use and share OER
- Language and culture issues
- Ensuring inclusive and equitable access to quality OER
- Developing Sustainability Models
- The development of supportive policy environments.