Laatst bewerkt door Hester Jelgerhuis op 07-08-2012 10:07

Blog Cambridge 2012 congres over OER: diner pensant, 16 april 2012

On the Monday evening of the Cambridge 2012 OER conference, SURF organised a diner pensant with ‘food for thought’ (programme). The theme of this dinner is ‘Open Education in Europe: what are the opportunities?’ Besides a three-course meal, the “menu” included three speakers with clear ideas about Open Education in Europe. They believe that open access to education is the future, and they gave their views on the opportunities that they foresee within Europe. The dinner combined pleasure (the meal) with business (an exchange of views about OER).

There were 4 tables with 32 participants (list of participants) from 21 institutions in 10 countries. The theme for the evening – opportunities for OER in Europe – was introduced by the three speakers, and discussion then continued at the tables.

The first speaker, Fred Mulder (Dutch Open University), talked about his fascination for open in all its aspects. He described Open Education as an area consisting of three components: Open Educational Resources, Open Learning Services (available online services – free or charged for – offered to learners, e.g. tutoring and assessment), and Open Teaching Efforts (activities of a human teacher vis-à-vis the learner). His thesis was that the EU should focus on mainstreaming OER and not on mainstreaming Open Education. This was formulated because of pragmatism: because of its multitude of possible implementations, open education will never become mainstream. On the other hand, the advantages of OER are easier to explain and will be more broadly accepted by institutions of higher education.
During one of the table discussions, everyone emphasised that the EU should aim for easy adoption for a start. Open Education will always be one of multiple directions for OER. OER can therefore be the starting point, but we shouldn’t think it’s the end point! We should think about further applications and developments and facilitate these as well!


The second speaker, Anka Mulder (Delft University of Technology and president of the OCW Consortium), pointed out the necessity of looking for different ways to offer higher education. She mentioned researcher Tony Bates; he gave the growth of open education 70% chance in his blog on 2 January 2012.  Anka Mulder also mentioned Sir John Daniel. He says there is a inevitable need for other ways of dealing with the demand of higher education. To accommodate the nearly 80,000,000 more students needed in higher education worldwide by 2025, three large universities need to be opened each week, each accommodating 30,000 students. She referred to initiatives that higher education and governments have undertaken to promote openness. The Korean government, for example, has decided that the degree of openness of an institution is a criterion that determines its position in the rankings.

The challenges in higher education are also valid for Europe, but the EU has some additional issues to deal with. From Anka's experience, many innovations in the field of Open Education are developed in the US, the UK, and Australia. The adoption and production of Open Education is especially noticeable in Asia, in countries such as Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia, India and Japan. At present, Europe is not in that group. This is a pity. And unnecessary, especially since the EU has a good ICT infrastructure. The EU as an organization is becoming more interested in Open Education, but are governments and institutions? In the EU, both governments and educational institutions can influence open education by:

  • funding projects;
  • policy development: by showing they believe it is important (like the Korean government);
  • saying “open as default”, and adopting legislation to ensure this;
  • including openness as a performance indicator in the list of indicators that apply to higher education institutions;
  • promoting the setting up of an EU OpenCourseWare Consortium.

What can we do?

  • don't believe it will go away;
  • experiment;
  • show the advantages of open education;
  • join forces, exchange experiences;
  • set up the EU OCW Consortium.

One of the table discussions quickly went into how to convince people to share educational materials online. Creating awareness is important, but linking up with the needs and interests of practitioners is even more so: people should actually experience that sharing and using shared educational materials aligns with their own goals and needs. It seems odd that it is only in education, and not in research or other areas, that the results of publicly funded projects are not shared openly by default.

Last but not least, David Kernohan (programme manager for JISC’s UKOER programme) spoke about three years of activities on open education in the UKOER programme. After an initial phase of supporting individuals, institutions, and consortia to produce OER (how can we best release OER?), the second phase was about the use of OER and measuring effects. Phase 3 focuses on the use of OER to meet strategic and cultural needs. The main problem the UK is facing is that more and more academics are only partly funded. The biggest challenge he mentioned was how to get all the benefits of open education whilst still finding a way to pay academics properly.


> programme and menu
> list of participants
> photos by Willem van Valkenburg
> blogs Cambridge 2012 (in Dutch only)
> information about the Dutch OER programme, including the OER Trend Report (in English)




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