UNESCO’s international Community on Open Educational Resources has been active since 2005. It connects over 700 individuals in 105 countries to share information and discuss issues surrounding the production and use of Open Educational Resources – web-based materials offered freely and openly for use and reuse in teaching, learning and research.
The community periodically holds discussions on various topics. During an earlier discussion (in June 2008), it was suggested that there should be a discussion devoted to access to OER, that would consider access very broadly, including specific access issues from less resourced environments.
OER is seen as having the potential to extend access to knowledge worldwide, but there exist certain barriers to its achieving this objective. Access is one potential barrier – and a crucial challenge. Although our initial interaction on the issue started with the consideration of limited or no connectivity, lack of electricity was identified as an even more basic barrier to access to OER. However, there are many other potential barriers or constraints and it will be useful to identify the range of them, for there are emerging solutions or approaches that would mitigate the problems. Developers of OER will benefit from having these in mind – donors and other agencies may be able to contribute to addressing them.
We thus return to the issue of access in a new community discussion (held in February/March 2009), and this report gives on overview of this discussion. This new present discussion continues that earlier discussion, to take up the issue of access to OER and explore the challenges and some of the potential solutions at hand. It was an opportunity to share creative responses from different situations. Broadly speaking, the discussion was conducted in three phases:
- Week 1: Identification and description of the main problems associated with access, and an initial development of a classification scheme.
- Week 2: Reflection upon and exploration of solutions and approaches and their potential for the various types of barriers identified.
- Week 3: A concrete attemp to develop specific proposals.
The present document is the summary report of this discussion. It documents the discussion itself, as well as outcomes. We hope that thre report gives an overview of the various types of constraints that limit access to OER, as well as some tested or proposed solutions or approaches.
The challenges raised by problems related to access may justify further exploration and follow up action. This will depend upon the OER Community.