Educators from around the world have flocked to Doha for the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), an initiative of Qatar Foundation, which starts today. Over the three-day Summit, participants will discuss the global challenges and opportunities in education. One of the topics that will certainly be at the center of many discussions is Open Educational Resources (OER). OER refers to any educational materials that can be used for teaching, learning or research that is shared under an open license, allowing for the free re-use, re-mix and sharing of the materials. For any educators struggling with resources or just trying to find new ways to engage learners, OER can open a whole world of educational approaches.
The most famous example of OER is MIT’s Open Courseware, which makes almost all of MIT’s course content available freely online. At WISE, another innovative OER platform educators should know about, Connexions, will be recognized with a WISE Prize for Education. Connexions is a non-profit organization that takes open courseware to the next level. It enables a global community to contribute learning modules, which are then shared via Connexions’ open source software that allows anyone to freely discover, use, customize or remix the modules. As Connexions puts it, educators can easily contribute, rip, mix and burn this valuable content – all of which is shared under Creative Commons licenses.
There are nearly 20,000 learning modules available on the Connexions platform and they cover pretty much any topic you can think of, and are available in a multitude of languages. The learning modules are for all levels of education, from k-12 to higher education. Rhaptos, the open source software Connexions uses to share its material, makes customizing content “frictionless,” offering a range of filters or lenses, and also enables peer review of content to ensure quality. Selected resources can be distributed to students or colleagues digitally, downloaded electronically, customized for mobile, or for a small fee, printed as textbooks.
To my knowledge, no educational institutions in Qatar are actively engaged with Connexions, although I am certain there are creative educators in the country taking advantage of its rapidly growing resources. As Qatar continues to undergone education reform at all levels of education, tapping into Connexions broad range of customizable learning modules seems very logical. I am admittedly not an educator, but as an advocate for digital openness, education is clearly one of the realms where the open sharing of knowledge and global collaboration can have a profound impact.
Beyond the use of the resources available on Connexions, I would love to see educational organizations start to contribute content that could be shared and possibly join the Connexions Consortium. Qatar Foundation is clearly taking a leading role in supporting education, and I hope they have plans to openly share much of the valuable content created within its various programs, including within Education City. Qatar University also seems like an extremely logical partner as well. There is unquestionably a need for more quality educational resources in Arabic, and I am sure many of the learning materials created by Qatar University would benefit the global Arabic-speaking population.
Open certainly seems to be a major component when thinking about the future of education, and hopefully it will be embraced broadly across Qatar. As part of Creative Commons Qatar, I’ll certainly be exploring ways to promote OER here. The recognition by WISE of an innovative open education organization like Connexion shows that the vision and support exists here, now hopefully the adoption will follow.