Murilo Matos Mendonça, OpenCourseWare Consortium Board Member, GUIDE Association Board Member, Unisul – Universidade do Sul de Santa Catarina
It was not until late 2007 that I first heard the term Open Educational Resources (OER), the reason why I had been invited to a meeting at UnisulVirtual, the campus of Universidade do Sul de Santa Catarina (Unisul), Brazil, dedicated to distance education. Having learned that the term had been coined in 2002 my first thought was that I was five years late but at the same time it didn’t take me five minutes to grasp the revolutionising potential of OER. Immediately, ideas and questions started racing through my mind even as that first meeting was being held and which lasted no longer than five minutes either, such was the urgency to catch up on what we had been missing out on. It was there and then that I got the invitation to embark on a journey which, little did I know despite my intuition that it was something momentous, was about to lead me through educational scenarios previously not quite conceived of by me and change my perception of education – expand, broaden, open it – in the most surprising and beautiful ways.
The next thing I know is that within three months of that meeting I was bound for the Open University of the United Kingdom, where I was received with open doors through which I stepped into an awe-inspiring, parallel world of educational opportunities meant for everyone. During a three-day visit I was introduced to the OpenLearn project and all the features designed to make it not only an OER repository but also a place of further possibilities such as inter-institutional collaboration and collaborative learning enabled by a set of social interaction tools. All of that coupled with an overview of open licenses provided me with enough “ food for thought” to come back home and share all that food with the colleagues whom I had left “hungry” for news at Unisul. We soon set out to adopt, provide and promote the uptake of OER. We used OER in English, we translated OER into Portuguese and localized them, we shared our own OER in Portuguese and also translated some of them into English to share with non-Portuguese-speaking audiences as well. It wasn’t long before we realised the etymological paradox in OER sharing, where sharing does not mean dividing but, rather, adding up and/or multiplying.
Soon afterwards, in 2011, I was taken as a fellow by the OLnet Project (Open Learning Network) at the Open University UK, which sought to investigate the impact of OER on users. And one year earlier Unisul had become a member of the OpenCourseWare Consortium (OCWC) in 2010. OCWC was formally founded in 2008 and has approximately 300 members today, as a consequence and recognition that working in OER is a collaborative activity. OCWC offers comprehensive support to universities and organizations which, through a variety of actions, wish to help the adoption of OER and/or tackle social and/or institutional problems through open educational approaches. Having served one term as an OCWC Board Member and currently serving the second, I am ever more certain of my commitment to and of the transformational power of OER, especially from the perspective of Brazil, a country whose educational standards of all sorts are and have always been below what is minimally expected and acceptable.
When Alexandra Okada kindly invited me to write the preface for this book I felt not only honoured but indeed grateful, for it had me thinking, back on what has been going on in Open Education for little over than a decade. As it turns out, so much has happened as regards openness in education. Institutions started with freeing up access to their materials, following from the OpenCourseWare initiative announced by MIT in 2001. Then came the repositories and the issues of what to do with them, how to make people benefit from them in light of the myriad possibilities provided by Web 2.0. Furthermore, how to keep track and gather evidence of what impact OER can have on users and providers. Last year was marked by the signing of the 2012 Paris OER Declaration during the 2012 World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress at UNESCO, ten years after the term OER had been established. And today academic communities and other sectors of society are talking not only about OER but also about OEP (Open Educational Practices and Policies), encompassing an ever-growing range of aspects such as pedagogical concerns, cultural dominance issues, learning pathways, curriculum development, accreditation, policies for non-formally acquired knowledge, business and sustainability models and collaborative learning, to mention a few. All of these fall under the scope of what has come to be referred to more broadly as Open Education.
Within this context, I consider this book to be a milestone. It is a work of notable relevance, for it weaves together a series of articles which illustrate the transition from an inception centered mostly on OER provision to a new phase where knowledge is collectively shared, exchanged and, more importantly, constructed. It builds on the considerable impact that Web 2.0 and its underlying participatory culture have had on the development of OER, where the word development entails creating, co-creating, sharing, remixing, repurposing, using, re-using, collaborating! The possibilities of interaction inherent to Web 2.0 play a decisive role in the new, emerging ways in which knowledge is being not only disseminated but also collectively de- and reconstructed.
The symbiotic relationship between OER and participatory culture both creates and calls for new ways of teaching and learning which cannot be disregarded and are true for all stages of education, whether primary, secondary or tertiary if they are to respond to local and global educational needs. Therefore, it is crucial for us to look into how such teaching and learning processes come to pass and in that sense the present book is an ideal starting point. It offers an admirable collection of studies which shed light into such processes typified by interaction and collaboration around OER. The book is in itself an example of collectively built knowledge as it brings together an extraordinary number of authors and topics, is published under an open license, is available in different media, and is trilingual. In other words, this book is the materialization of what it is about.
I cannot refrain from expressing my thankfulness to both the Open University UK and the OpenCourseWare Consortium for making my life so much richer and full of purpose because of what They do for OER and Open Education and of what They generously invite me to do together with them.
I envision a worldwide scenario with educational opportunities for all. The changes are underway. And this book is a testimony thereof.