promotes new initiative for free educational resources on
July 8, 2002 - Open Educational
Resources are critically important for ensuring wide access
to quality higher education in developing countries and full
participation of universities in these countries in the rapidly
evolving world higher education system, said the participants
of the UNESCO Forum on the impact of open courseware for higher
education in developing countries in Paris last week.
The sixteen principal participants
from universities in developing and industrialized countries
and representatives of six international and non-governmental
organizations express in the declaration adopted by the Forum
their wish to develop together a universal educational resource
available for the whole of humanity, to be referred to henceforth
as Open Educational Resources.
Open Educational Resources are
defined as "technology-enabled, open provision of educational
resources for consultation, use and adaptation by a community
of users for non-commercial purposes". They are typically
made freely available over the Web or the Internet. Their
principal use is by teachers and educational institutions
support course development, but they can also be used directly
by students. Open Educational Resources include learning objects
such as lecture material, references and readings, simulations,
experiments and demonstrations, as well as syllabi, curricula
and teachers' guides.
Open Educational Resources are
mainly developing in the area of higher education. Several
initiatives in the United States of America were presented
at the Forum including the OpenCourseWare initiative of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has announced
that it will put online the substance of all of its courses
during the coming few years, and established portals including
the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online
Teaching (MERLOT) and the World Lecture Hall of the University
of Texas. The UNESCO Portal for Higher Education Faculty of
Science and Engineering, developed by UNESCO's Cairo Office,
is a digital library aimed at faculty and is also a platform
for them to publish and share their own web publications.
The meeting discussed three principal
aspects of Open Educational Resources:technology support including
software standards for dissemination and exploitation of Open
Educational Resources and requirements in terms of Internet
connectivity; the methodology for organizing international
cooperation in this area including worldwide identification
of learning objects and frameworks for collaboration and user
feedback; policy issues such as institutional commitment,
financial support, intellectual property rights, and the export
and import of educational material.
Two proposals for international
cooperation under UNESCO auspices were recommended by the
Forum:an pilot international evaluation and usability improvement
project on Open Educational Resources involving universities
in developing and industrialized countries, and A global indexing
system and forum for international accreditation and validation,
in cooperation with the International Association of Universities
and the UNESCO Global Forum on International Quality Assurance.
The final report of the Forum is in preparation and will be
posted soon on Webworld.
The Forum was organized with
the support from the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications
(WCET), a USA based cooperative advancing the use of technology
in higher education, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.