The landmark Paris OER declaration in 2012 calling all the governments worldwide to openly license educational material for public use. | Image Source: Pixabay.

Can Open Educational Resources Take Education Beyond Utopian Equity & Quality?

Education is seen as the tool to bring progressive changes in society. However, the cost of access to quality learning material and teachers makes it sound more utopian than practical. Will then the concept of open educational resources (OERs) prove worthwhile for egalitarian goals of education?

Information technology has revolutionized our life in unimaginable ways. The internet and web 2.0 have provided access to enormous information that we are finding difficult to handle. It’s obvious to get bamboozled by the quantum of content and information available on the internet. The various online tools and technologies has made it so easy to download, upload, live stream videos, etc. as if a child’s play. Open educational resources are yet another boon for learners facilitated by digital and online revolution.

On a positive note, this web-enabled empowerment has provided freedom to anyone to float content in form of blogs, videos, images, photos, podcasts, texts, learning objects, PPTs etc. and showcase their knowledge, skills and talents.

On the flip side, this ability also has raised some serious concerns related to cyber security, data theft, copyright issues, plagiarism, inauthentic and misleading information. Especially among the academia, this ability to easily upload as well as download content and then using it as one’s own started to be seen as an intellectual theft and infringing the rights of the original author.

Genesis of the Open Movement:  To Take Learning to All

It was in 1990s that the concept of ‘open content’ was initiated by California State University in form of MERLOT for access to online materials in higher education followed by David Wiley’s proposal to create a license for such open resources. This later came to be known as Creative Commons or GNU license. The concept of OER was born out of the radical idea that access to knowledge must be free as all the knowledge generated is a public good and hence learning resource must be available openly in the public domain.  

The term ‘OER’ was later coined by UNESCO in 2002. Simultaneous initiative by Rice University and MIT to build a web-based platform called Connexions (Now OpenStax CNX) for sharing of open resources and MIT’s OpenCourseWare (MIT OCW) respectively ignited the open movement in favor of OERs. Subsequent support came from the Hewlett Foundation and the landmark Paris OER declaration in 2012 calling all the governments worldwide to openly license educational material for public use. Launching of MOOCs further boosted the open movement.

OERs and Six Creative Commons Licenses: Freedom to Learn

OERs are digital teaching and learning materials like documents, books, images, graphics, audio, video, courseware, etc. that one may freely use and reuse, without any charge. This provides users with permission to engage in 5Rs, i.e. retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute. In order to publish a work under creative common license, one may opt for any one of the six creative common licensing types. The CC-BY licensing enables full open use provided attribution to the original author for his/her work is given. Likewise, other five licenses CC BY-ND, CC BY-SA, CC BY-NC, CC BY-NC-ND, CC BY-NC-SA have some restrictions on its usage.

Under CC BY-ND, the original work cannot be modified (No Derivatives [ND]); CC BY-SA  doesn’t allow modified work to be shared under different terms (ShareAlike [SA]); in CC BY-NC, one cannot used the resource for commercial purposes (NonCommercial [NC]);in CC BY-NC-ND, resources can neither be used for commercial purposes nor modified (NC-ND); and under CC BY-NC-SA, neither the resources be commercialized nor the modified work can be shared (NC-SA).

In order to publish a work under creative common license, one may opt for any one of the six creative common licensing types. | Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Open Educational Resources in India: Where are We?

In 2005, a high-level advisory body, National Knowledge Commission, was constituted to contemplate how to build India as a knowledge-society. It strongly advocated open access to education as one of the key recommendations by developing and disseminating OERs through high-speed broadband internet connectivity.

Subsequently, a pan-India network called National Knowledge Network (NKN) was established in 2010 to connect all 1500 plus knowledge and research institutions in the country for knowledge sharing and collaboration. Since then a number of OER repositories and digital libraries have been created. These are open and free to access, but may or may not have license under Creative Common License policy. There are many OER repositories by GOI which can be used by anyone for quality content and instructional material.

10 Most Popular OER Repositories by GOI

1. National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER)

NROER was developed by Central Institute of Education technology (CIET), NCERT in 2013 in collaboration with Department of school education and literacy. It hosts a wide range of learning resources for varied number of school subjects at all levels (primary, secondary and senior secondary). The content in the form of document, images, audio, videos etc. is available in different languages.

All the high quality content has been prepared in collaboration with other allied institutions like SCERTs, CCERT, Vigyan Prasar and GIET and is highly useful for teachers and students alike. It also hosts an e-library comprising of digital versions of all NCERT textbooks and e-books easy to download. All the content on NROER is licensed under creative commons CC BY-SA 3.0 license but the books can be downloaded and shared for other than commercial purposes.

2. National Digital Library (NDL)

Made available for public in 2018, this huge repository was a MHRD initiative coordinated by IIT, Kharagpur to integrate contents from different Indian institutional repositories. This platform provides access to high quality educational material from primary to post graduate level in more than 70 Indian languages.

The content ranges from multiple subjects like science and technology, humanities, agriculture and much more. More than 60 types of learning resources are available on it. About 10 million items have been authored by 3 lakh authors. One has to get registered to the portal to get open access to its rich learning materials.

3. SWAYAM and SWAYAM PRABHA

With the objective of achieving the three cardinal principles of education: access, equity and quality, the former president of India, Sh. Pranab Mukherjee launched SWAYAM and SWAYAM PRABHA on 9th July 2017. The Study Webs of Active learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) is government initiated indigenously developed MOOC platform offering hundreds of free and open courses run by some of the best educators of prestigious Indian universities and colleges.

SWAYAM hosts courses in 4 quadrants:  (1) video lecture, (2) specially-prepared, downloadable reading material, (3) self-assessment tests, and (4) an online discussion forum. The credits earned during a course can be transferred to a regular offline course. 

SWAYAM PRABHA is a group of 32 D2H channels for telecasting high quality educational programs free of charge even to remote areas using GSAT-15 satellite transponders.

4. eGyanKosh

As a National Open university, Indira Gandhi National Open University  (IGNOU) has always been in the forefront of creating quality educational material for the learners in various forms like document, self-learning modules, audios, videos, multimedia CD’s, online courses etc. 

Initiated in 2005 for digitalization of its self-learning materials (SLMs), as of now it has become a huge repository of more than 40,000 text and 2000 quality video lectures. Though the content has copyright of IGNOU, egyankosh provides open access to all its educational resources free of cost. The university may soon provide all its learning resources as OER under the open licensing policy.

5. Shodhganga and ShodhGangotri

To facilitate high quality research and sharing of knowledge, the Government of India initiated a digital repository of Indian thesis and dissertations. While, Shodhganga is a repository of full text Indian thesis and dissertations submitted to universities in India; ShodhGangotri is a reservoir of synopsis submitted by research scholars for getting registered for a research program with an Indian university.

These digital repositories are maintained by INFLIBNET which is an inter-university center of university Grant Commission (UGC). The synopsis, thesis and dissertations are openly accessible to the world academic community. All the content is licensed under creative common license CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

The concept of OER was born out of the radical idea that access to knowledge must be free as all the knowledge generated is a public good and hence learning resource must be available openly in the public domain. | Image Source: Courseware World.

6. National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL)

This project, funded by MHRD, GOI and initiated by seven Indian Institute of Technology (IITs viz. Bombay, Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras, Guwahati and Roorkee) along with Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bengaluru, was launched in 2003 to offer video lectures of IIT professors pertaining to engineering, natural sciences and other related disciplines.

As of now, NPTEL has become the largest online repository for engineering courses in the world with 471 million plus views. The official You Tube channel for NPTEL became the most subscribed educational channel with more 1.5 million subscribers. Its Alexa ranking is 155 in India and 1472 globally. These courses have been licensed under CC BY-SA license. These are now also available at SWAYAM.

7. IITBombayX

This is IIT-Bombay’s MOOCS for providing free online courses in association with edX. It offers courses on a variety of subjects and provides certificate of completion on payment of a nominal fees. Anybody from around the world can get access to the courses.

8. SAKSHAT

Sakshat is a one stop education portal conceived under the government’s National Mission on Education through ICT (NMEICT) to leverage Information and Communication technology in Education. It is an open access repository of all ICT initiatives of the Government of India like Consortium for educational communication (CEC) e-content, NPTEL, e-PG pathshala, Spoken Tutorial, Talk to a teacher, A-view virtual classrooms, e-Yantra, Amrita Virtual Interactive e-learning World, Open source courseware animations repository (OSCAR), Virtual Labs and other upcoming projects.

9. ePathshala

It is a joint initiative of MHRD and NCERT to provide open access to teachers, educators and learners of quality educational e-resources like textbooks, audio, video, periodicals and other digital learning objects. ePathshala mobile app is also available through which one can easily access all the learning resources with the help of a smartphone.

10. NISHTHA

Recently launched in August 2019 by MHRD and NCERT, National Initiative for School head’s and Teachers’ holistic advancement (NISHTHA) is a holistic capacity building program for school teachers and Principals. The online platform consists of courses on various aspects of teaching, pedagogy, educational psychology, school administration, inclusiveness etc. which is essential for every teacher to embark successfully on teaching-learning journey.

DIKSHA, a digital infrastructure for knowledge sharing has also been launched by National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) in the form of a mobile app which provides engaging learning material conforming to the prescribed curriculum. This can be utilized by teachers to make learning interesting in a classroom.

What OERs Mean to Teachers and Course Creators

Open educational resources are created and developed by competent professionals in collaboration with others. This enhances the quality of the content. A teacher can gain from the collective efforts of those who made OER and use it for optimum benefits in the teaching-learning process. Use of OERs may also save teachers with time and effort so that they rather may concentrate more on teaching-learning process.

Qualified teachers may also contribute in creating open educational resources as this provision is available on many of the websites developing OERs. This creative engagement in the field of education is akin to transform the society into a knowledge society. Online teachers can also immensely benefit from OERs by incorporating them in their courses. However, proper care must be taken to attribute the original source and follow the licensing terms while using the content or learning objects classified under OER.  

The learners can highly benefit from OERs for their enrichment and quality learning. The OERs and MOOCs have been mulled as powerful tools for lifelong learning and continuous self-development, and are increasingly becoming means for accessing quality teachers and learning

Rikisha Bhaumik

    Rikisha Bhaumik is Honorary Associate Editor at Courseware World and has over 5 years of active association with the field of e-learning along with 10 years of active and continued association with school education. She is adept at experimenting with innovative tools and technologies in school education and her direct involvement with learners and pedagogy has given her an augmented insight into the scope of e-learning in school education. Her writing repertoire mainly consists of detailed and research-based articles on various e-learning concepts and trends.

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    Rikisha Bhaumik