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Giselle Martins dos Santos Ferreira

Adjunct Professor, Post-Graduate Programme in Education, UNESA, Brazil
Visiting Research Fellow, The Open University, United Kingdom

Open Educational Resources and Social Networks is a book that brings together a sample of state-of-the-art thinking and research in areas of intersection between Education and Technology. As the volume was being prepared to move from its original medium to this printed version, the publishers felt that some extra material was needed to tease out the many common themes, issues and questions, pulling together the numerous texts that comprise the collection and placing them in a broader context. Hence, readers are here presented with an introductory chapter that aims at providing an overview of the volume and a thematic guide to its contributions, written to help researchers, teachers and students to locate, more easily, materials of their specific interest.

Creating this tailored introduction to the volume, however, has been a challenging task. Organised in three Parts, each written in a different language, the book is the outcome of significant collective effort at various levels. From this perspective, Open Educational Resources and Social Networks constitutes, in fact, a remarkable accomplishment: whilst there is much talk of collaboration, co-creation and openness in academic circles, actual practices are not and, often, simply can not be, always consistent with these values, making the volume a concrete illustration of how researchers, teachers, learners and institutions can work together to create and share knowledge truly collaboratively. What was initially a challenging task, thus, became a celebratory activity.

This coming-together of commentaries on so many different contexts and from such varied origins brought with it the temptation of a more thorough analytical effort than warranted by the requirements of the job at hand. Approaches to research, academic practices, linguistic and broader cultural specificities, all of these provide fascinating research avenues. More importantly, however, is that they constitute themes of fundamental importance to discussions on the impact of technology, especially networking technologies, on Education. In presenting a sample, limited as it may be, of the globe’s linguistic and cultural variety, this volume goes some way towards allaying the fear that we may eventually come to live in a ‘monolingual’ world, as forewarned by Canclini (2009).

The volume also illustrates different conditions that enable creating, sharing and reusing open educational resources, even if a fundamental question concerning the OER movement and, more broadly, other expressions of free culture, remains open: sustainability. In some cases, particularly in some of the examples and case studies presented in Parts I and II, a significant amount of funding is (or has been) dedicated to a single project, including institutional, private and public funds allocated, in some instances, to multiple partners. In other cases, it is sheer individual motivation and determination that appears to drive processes forward. The initiatives discussed in the book range from relatively small to rather large projects, reflecting both the magnitude of the incentives involved and the level of awareness and uptake of the values of openness in different situations and places. Hence, in its mix of examples representing little and big OER (Weller, 2012), Open Educational Resources and Social Networks illustrates ways in which OER can be produced locally, shared widely and reused broadly, enabling growing cross-fertilization across institutional, regional and national boundaries.

Following the structure of the volume, this chapter is divided into three main sections, each providing an overview of a book Part. The chapter is complemented with 4 maps prepared to aide more focused readings. Three of these maps refer, specifically, to each of the Parts of the book, and show selected key themes that are dealt with in each chapter. The mapping of Part III, the longest of the volume, is offered in two separate images. A final map is provided that refers to the volume as whole, indicating the chapters that address selected broader themes that arise in the book and also constitute core questions confronting contemporary Education.

Part I

Part I comprises 9 chapters that address, each, one or more core areas of chief concern to the OER movement. Each of the chapters reports on research carried out in a different context, predominantly in English-speaking parts of the world, illustrating the multiplicity of purposes, issues and solutions being collectively created and shared in different places around the globe, including developing countries. The Part illustrates the wealth of possibilities opened up by OER in terms of pedagogy, institutional structures and processes as well as research methodology, amongst others. In this sense, Part I can be viewed, arguably, as a representative sample of the latest thinking, research and practice in Educational Technology.


Map 1: Themes Part I

In ‘Colearning – Collaborative Open Learning through OER and Social Media’, Alexandra Okada and colleagues set the tone for the volume by introducing the concept of colearning, which provides the basis for a discussion of how networks can produce, share and reuse OER collaboratively through social media. The core of the chapter focuses, however, on a case study based on the experiences of the authors as members of COLEARN, an online community of Portuguese-speaking teachers, researchers and learners interested in educational uses of technology. Based, initially, around the UK OU’s LabSpace, one of the twin sites of the original OpenLearn project (McAndrew et al, 2008), COLEARN members were invited to explore the tool library created by a second project, the European-funded OpenScout, which has developed an extended version of the ELGG social networking platform to create a more appropriate base for social learning through OER. The chapter includes various interesting examples of resources created by the community, thus allowing for an interesting counterpoint between the affordances of Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) and Personal Learning Environments (PLE).

OpenLearn and the concept of PLE also constitute basic elements in the second study in the Part, Alexander Mikroyannidis and Teresa Connolly’s ‘Introducing Personal Learning Environments for informal learners: lessons learned from the OpenLearn case study’. The chapter reports on work conducted within the remit of the Responsive Open Learning Environments – ROLE – project, a European-funded initiative that aims at developing tools to support lifelong and personalized learning. The authors present a case study that explores the capabilities of widget-based PLEs to facilitate searching and locating OER as well as supporting collaborative writing. The case study examines the potential of personalized learning as a means to enrich OER-based learning. The discussion also examines distinctions between VLE and PLE –based affordances for learning and, thus, explores the boundaries between formal and informal learning.

Chapter 3, on the other hand, tackles a more fundamental issue related, arguably, to cultural, social and digital inclusion questions. ‘Learner-centred teaching through OER’ is a contribution by Sandhya Gunness that takes the University of Mauritius as context to examine a core matter to the OER movement: OER uptake in developing countries. Two areas are presented as specifically problematic in developing countries, namely, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and pedagogical focus. On the one hand, the chapter discusses the lack of awareness about OER and policies regarding IPR as barriers to OER uptake in Mauritius. On the other hand, the author argues for the need to locate learners at the centre of the educational processes. The author concludes that further work is needed, at least in her context, to raise awareness of legal issues and potential pedagogical improvements associated with using OER in teaching.

In Chapter 4, ‘Framework for understanding postgraduate students’ adaptation of academics’ teaching materials as OER’, Cheryl Hodginkson-Williams and Michael Paskevicius address another more fundamental issue for the OER movement. OER production relies, heavily, on the core knowledge construction developed by academics, but these actors are not normally available to repurpose their teaching resources, originally created for face-to-face education, and create interesting and, perhaps, self-contained OER to be shared online. Focusing on the work carried out at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, this chapter explores the engagement of post-graduate students, tutors and, generally, teaching assistants in the practice of creating OER through repurposing academics’ classroom resources. In their exploration of possible motivations for student engagement with OER production, the authors identify various categories of aspects that describe students´ willingness to work even without remuneration.

Chapter 5, ‘The Open Education Evidence Hub: a Collective Intelligence Tool for Evidence Based Policy’, by Anna De Lido and colleagues, discusses the OER Evidence Hub (EH), a tool developed within the remit of the Open Learning Network, OLnet, project, which was funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Based on a collective intelligence approach, the EH is a website that uses the technique of crowdsourcing to gather data on open education and OER with a view to supporting policy development. The chapter presents the approach and structure of the site, as well as usage figures and strategies, together with suggested techniques to be used for further development and data collection via the site. Importantly, the text discusses emerging themes of central importance to the OER movement in respect to 12 key challenges identified as a good starting point for exploring the data contained in the site.

Policy development is also central to Chapter 6, ‘A business model approach for OER in Open Universities’, by Ben Janssen and collaborators. The chapter tackles the issue of sustainability in a discussion of the challenges faced by Open Universities when offering their learning materials as OER, focusing on the context of the Open University in the Netherlands. The authors suggest that, since Open Universities traditionally develop learning resources for self-study, OER may be perceived as a threat if they contribute to discourage learners to register for paid-for courses. The issue has been examined through a student survey which used three different scenarios, each corresponding to distinct a business model based upon the construction of OER as a distinct combination of content, exercises, guidance and assessment. Although the authors are conservative in their conclusions, they suggest that the results do appear to support the notion that OER availability may support student recruitment, which is in direct opposition to the common institutional fear that it may be ‘giving away the crown jewels’ when sharing resources openly.

Chapter 7, ‘Institutional and Faculty Collaborations in Curriculum Development using Open Technologies and Open Content’, by Mary Y. Lee and colleagues, discusses two hugely successful institutional OER initiatives: the Tufts University Sciences Knowledgebase (TUSK), a software system for dynamic knowledge and curriculum management for the health sciences, and the Perseus Digital Library (Perseus), a digital repository of open source textual and linguistic data for Greek and Latin. The history of each of the projects is presented, current work is discussed and the authors’ experience of institutional and faculty collaborations is examined. The chapter also discusses a number of specific issues related to reuse, including technology adaptation.

In Chapter 8, ‘The OER university: from vision to reality’, Gabi Witthaus shares the findings of the first phase of the TOUCANS (Testing the OER university Concept: a National Study) project, which investigated the OER university (OERu) and its potential future uptake in the UK Higher Education (HE) sector. This chapter discusses results from interviews with representatives of the partner institutions, covering core areas such as institutional processes for making curriculum decisions, approaches to assessment, ideas about accreditation and credit transfer and, in particular, the type of support to be provided to students. The discussion highlights that the OERu might potentially generate useful models for collaboration around OERs to enable wider access to HE.

The final chapter of Part 1, ‘Creative Commons and OPEN maximize Impact of Department of Labour US$2 Billion Grant Program’, by Cable Green and Paul Stacey, discusses the services provided by the Open Education Network, OPEN, to the grantees of the U.S. Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training, TAACCCT. OPEN is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and offers support on practices and policies related to OER, including licensing, accessibility, technology use and learning design. The chapter illustrates how an open access policy can be implemented to allow for knowledge created with public funds to be openly and freely accessed. It also illustrates the importance of Creative Commons as both community and institution.

Part II

Part II, the shortest in the volume, comprises 5 chapters. Chapter 2 is particularly interesting in that it highlights differences in development of OER-related discussion across linguistic and national borders, indicating the concentration of OER debate in English, which is consistent with findings reported in various other chapters that conclude by stressing the need for further work in terms of raising awareness of OER, especially in Part III. In general terms, the chapters in this part tend to focus on broader concerns of a more institutional and policy-related character.


Map 2 – Themes in Part II

Chapter 1, ‘La función de los recursos de aprendizaje en la universidad’ (The function of learning resources in the university), by Iolanda García, presents a reflection on the notion of ‘learning resource’. The chapter traces changes that the notion has undergone in recent years, in particular, in respect to the advent of digital storage and social media. Examining the potential of digital content and OER for HE, the chapter presents institutional strategies to facilitate open and flexible forms of management of these resources.

In Chapter 2, ‘REA en plataformas académicas y no académicas: análisis de materiales en portugués, castellano e inglés’ (OER in academic and non-academic platforms: analysis of resources in Portuguese, Castellan and English), Cristóbal Cobo discusses a fundamental question to the OER movement: the extent to which OER debate is taking place outside the Anglophone community. Focusing, specifically, on materials in Castellan and Portuguese, the author compares the evolution in the volume of discussion material on OER in these languages and in English in the period between 2007-2011, taking as sources 4 major repositories, namely, Web of Knowledge, Scopus, YouTube and Scribd. The results indicate a significantly growing gap between the volume of publications in English and Castellan, with the number of publications in Portuguese practically negligible, in comparison. The chapter suggests the need for further studies to identify the causes of these gaps, considering the increasing interest in OER worldwide, the potential of these resources and the actual number of speakers of the languages in question.

Chapter 3, ‘Diseño de Recursos Educativos Abiertos para el aprendizaje social’ (Designing OER for social learning), by Marcelo Maina and Lourdes Guàrdia, focuses on pedagogical issues implicated in OER production. The chapter presents an OER production model that capitalizes on the learning activities conducted by learners themselves, thus providing a model for Learning Design that is consistent with a conceptualization of openness not only in terms of access, but also in terms of a view of knowledge as subject of continued modification.

‘Aprendiendo a trabajar com Recursos Educativos Abiertos’ (Learning to work with OER), Chapter 4, by Sergio Martínez and José Luis Ramírez Sádaba, describes the work carried out by the Open Courseware (OCW) Unit at the University of Cantabria, in Spain. The chapter discusses the process of implementing and developing the Unit, which works towards raising awareness of OER across the institution and provides support to teaching staff in respect to questions of quality. Crucially, the authors discuss how the work evolved from a teaching innovation initiative, originally, to a much wider enterprise now reflected in institutional policy.

The final Chapter in this Part, Chapter 5, ‘El repositorio institucional de la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, UOC’ (The institutional repository of the Open University of Catalonia), co-authored by Cristina Lópes-Pérez and Cristina Vaquer-Sunyer, discusses the processes supporting the creation of an institutional repository at the Open University of Catalonia. The chapter describes the origins of this library-based project, covering also its planning, implementation and development. Also, the authors identify key aspects in successfully implementing such an initiative.

Part III

Part III is composed of 19 chapters that, together, present a portrait of research revolving around OER, Web 2.0 and social networking as conducted by the Lusophone educational community. Maps 3A and 3B represent the key themes discussed in the Part. The chapters are, generally, more theoretical and exploratory in character than is the case with the texts presented in the preceding Parts. It is interesting to remark on the probing and predominantly tentative manners in which the chapters in this part deal with OER, which is consistent with the findings reported by Cobo in Chapter 1 of Part II. Another point to note is that a significant proportion of those has been written by Brazilian researchers working in the area of teacher training, a core research and development area in the country. All of these highlight specificities in policy and research practices, as well as focus in respect to research funding and assessment.


Map 3A – Themes in Part III, chapters 1 to 10


Map 3B – Themes in Part III, chapters 11 to 19


Chapter 1, ‘Co-aprendizagem através de REA e Mídias Sociais’ (Colearning through OER and Social Media) is a Portuguese-language version of the opening chapter of the volume. This is followed by Alexandra Okada and Alexandra Bujokas’ ‘Comunidades abertas de práticas e redes sociais de coaprendizagem da UNESCO’ (Open communities of practice and colearning social networks). This chapter takes a historical perspective on the OER movement, tracing its origins, discussing its original community development and, in particular, highlighting the role that UNESCO has been playing in the area and reviewing the actions of UNESCO in Brazil.

In Chapter 3, ‘Conceitos e discussão sobre software livre, software aberto e software proprietário’ (Concepts and discussion of Free Software, Open Source Software and Proprietary Software), Neide Bueno compares and contrasts the different forms in which software is currently available, both openly and commercially, examining issues related to IPR and highlighting the link between Open Source Software, Free Software and OER.

Issues related to IPR in the Brazilian context, specifically, are also discussed in ‘Recursos Educacionais Abertos: nova cultura de produção e socialização de saberes no ciberespaço’ (OER: a new culture of production and sharing of knowledge in cyberspace), Chapter 4, by Maria de los Dolores Peña and collaborators. The chapter presents both a critical discussion of the concept of OER and an examination of various illustrations in which OER appear in educational and journalistic contexts, with focus on the usefulness and exemplary uses of infographics.

Chapter 5, ‘Construção coletiva do conhecimento: desafios da cocriação no paradigma da complexidade” (Collective construction of knowledge: challenges of co-creating in the paradigm of complexity), by Patrícia Lupion Torres and colleagues, offers a discussion of key OER-related concepts, taking as theoretical grounding the notion of Complexity proposed as a new paradigm by the French philosopher Edgar Morin. In particular, the authors examine the notions of collaborative learning and co-creation with learning objects and OER, concluding that the new synchronous and asynchronous communication tools openly available facilitate collaboration, problematization, creativity and, in short, individual and collective development and growth.

Ana Maria Di Grado Hessel and José Erigleidson da Silva complement this discussion in their chapter ‘A inteligência coletiva e conhecimento aberto: relação retroativa recursiva’ (Collective intelligence and open knowledge: recursive retroactive relationship), the sixth in the Part. The chapter discusses the relationship between collective intelligence and open knowledge as a dialogic process represented as a never-ending spiral that relies on the processes of recursivity and retroactivity. Drawing upon the notions of potential collective intelligence, which is stored on cyberspace and in the minds of those connected through digital networks, and kinetic collective intelligence, which is involved in knowledge construction and problem solving, the authors conclude the chapter by suggesting a role for OER in the recursive relationship between the two types of intelligence.

‘Estilos de Coaprendizagem para uma coletividade aberta de pesquisa’ (Colearning styles for an open research collective), Chapter 7, by Daniela Barros and colleagues, discusses the theory of learning styles in its relevance to an open research collective engaged in colearning. The chapter tackles issues related to learning online, connecting learning styles to styles of use of virtual environments for colearning and providing a set of principles upon which online pedagogy could be based.

Chapter 8, ‘Narrativa transmídia e sua potencialidade na educação aberta’ (Transmedia storytelling and its potential for open education), by Vicente Gosciola and Andrea Versuti, proposes the use of transmedia storytelling as a strategy for the use and creation of OER in schooling at compulsory level. In particular, the authors explore the educational potential of fan fiction, which is presented as a form of transmedia storytelling, proposing the use of the Harry Potter universe as a setting.

Elements of youth culture are also a core aspect in Chapter 9, ‘Games, colaboração e aprendizagem’ (Games, collaboration and learning). In this chapter, Lynn Alves discusses the use of games in collaborative learning. Making a case for the need for schools to consider the preferences and demands of youth culture, the chapter reviews examples of successful initiatives that have used gaming in educational projects.

Claudio Kirner and colleagues’s contribution, ‘Realidade Aumentada Online na Educação Aberta’ (Augmented Reality in Open Education), Chapter 10, focuses on the uses of augmented reality in education. The chapter traces the enablers of augmented reality and reviews some of the technologies openly available to non-specialists, discussing their collaborative potential for open education through a series of examples developed by the authors.

The five subsequent chapters (11-15) offer a series of reflections on the potential of OER in contexts of formal teacher education. ‘A experiência de ensinar e aprender em ambientes virtuais abertos’ (The experience of teaching and learning in open virtual spaces), Chapter 11, by Vani Moreira Kenski and colleagues, reports on the strategies developed for the presentation of a post-graduate module delivered in blended mode. The module focuses on the theory and practice of online teaching, and, in the experience discussed, its delivery utilized three different VLEs that offer distinct functionalities and affordances. In addition to describing the experience and discussing the issues raised, the chapter presents various subsidiary outcomes related to community ties, creation of OER and participation in the wider academic community.

In Chapter 12, “Docência na cibercultura: possibilidades de usos de REA’ (Teaching in cyberculture: possibilities for OER), Edméa Oliveira dos Santos and her research students explore potential uses of OER in teacher training for online education, taking the notion of cyberculture as backdrop for contextualization of the discussion. The chapter proposes the process of teacher training as a means to foster authorship, a core theme within cybercultural studies, stressing the need for further promoting a culture of openness as a key strategy to guarantee the sustainability of teacher training.

The discussion on the potential of OER for the formal education of teachers is extended in Chapter 13, ‘Formação permanente de educadores, REA e integração dos conhecimentos’ (Continuing professional development of educators, OER and integration of knowledge), by Stela Conceição Bertholo Piconez and colleagues. Following an examination of the pedagogical issues involved in teacher training, the chapter highlights the potential of OER to support constructivist and connectivist approaches to teaching and learning and puts forward a framework that integrates OER in continuing professional development of educators.

In Chapter 14, ‘Coaprendizagem em rede na formação docente: plasticidade, colaboração e rizomas’ (Colearning in teacher training: plasticity, collaboration and rhyzomes), Adriana Rocha Bruno and her group discuss their research on the Web as a space for managing open and flexible rhyzomatic networks. The authors present a theoretical framework based on the work of the French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guatarri, who, amongst other thinkers, inspire the group’s investigations into pedagogy for online learning.

The following chapter, 15, ‘Validação de webconferências para produção de videoaulas abertas, voltadas à formação de educadores’ (Webconferencing validation for the production of open video-lectures aimed at teacher training), by Lucila Pesce and her research group, presents a case study that focuses on the work of training tutors for Distance Learning, an area of heated debate in Brazil. Reporting on a case study, the chapter discusses the processes of development and evaluation of video-lectures in a training course for tutors delivered via webconferencing. The context for the case study is provided by the Open University of Brazil (OU of Brazil), which consists, in fact, not in a single institution, but of a coalition formed by HE institutions that work collaboratively to deliver distance education opportunities across the Brazilian territory.

Corporate education is the theme of Chapter 16, ‘Educação aberta corporativa: formação do relações públicas para atuar com literacia e REA em ambiente organizacional’ (Open corporate education: training the PR to act with literacty and OER in an organizational environment), by Roseane Andrelo e Renata Calonego. Arguing that the widespread dissemination of Web-based technologies and, in particular, social media, has opened up new fields of action for Public Relations professionals, the authors discuss a conception of this professional’s role as having an educational element in respect to the provision of training in the area of media literacy. The chapter discusses the potential use of OER in PR trainees with basis on a case study that capitalized on the OpenScout portal (discussed in Chapter 1 of Parts I and III).

Chapter 17, ‘Formação continuada virtual intercultural de educadores de comunidades indígenas com REA e redes sociais’ (Continuing intercultural training of native Brazilian communities with OER and social networks), by Maria Cristina Lima Paniago Lopes and her group, focuses on teacher training in an intercultural context enabled by ICT. Taking as context a teacher training programme in Brazil that adopts social media to cater for a multicultural audience, the chapter examines the possibilities opened up with the integration of OER in ways that foster, on the one hand, constructive dialogue across cultural boundaries and, on the other hand, encourage respect for difference and identity. The use of social media for collaborative learning is also a key theme in Chapter 18, ‘Abertura, mobilidade e cognição expandida: possiblidades de novos territórios de aprendizagem’ (Openness, mobility and expanded cognition: possibilities for new learning territories), Chapter 18, by Cláudia Coelho Hardagh and colleagues.

The final chapter in the book, ‘REA na Universidade Aberta do Brasil: limites e perspectivas’ (OER at the Open University of Brazil: limits and perspectives), by Antonio Roberto Coelho Serra and colleagues, examines the current methods of production and distribution of learning resources at the OU of Brazil. The chapter discusses preliminary findings of a piece of research that is investigating perceptions and uptake of OER and, more broadly, openness values within the institution. The authors suggest the need for more awareness raising and debate on the potential of OER to further develop the OU of Brazil, as well as the Brazilian HE, as a whole, stressing the importance of including OER in decision-making agendas at all levels, including, in particular, national policy-making.

Closing remarks

As suggested above, key themes addressed in the volume are indicated in a final map, presented below. A cursory look at the representation allows the reader to glimpse the distinctions already mentioned in terms of differences of foci and gaps. Perhaps running counter to the current trend towards a globalised (or globalising) view of Education, the volume as a whole may be viewed as an indication that various pressing to the OER movement, specifically, can only be resolved locally, with consideration of local values, practices and existing structures and processes. More comparative studies are clearly needed.

In closing, it is crucial to highlight the arbitrary and provisional nature of the maps included here. As such, they are presented as open and incomplete objects, as parts of an invitation for readers to participate and further develop the debates represented in this volume, with a view to fostering new thinking, new practices and new research directions for the future.


Map 4 – Themes in Open Educational Resources and Social Networking



Canclini, N. G. (2009) Diferentes, desiguais e desconectados. 3a Edição. Rio de Janeiro: Editora UFRJ.

McAndrew, P.; Santos, A.; Lane, A.; Godwin, S.; Okada, A.; Wilson, T.; Connolly, T.; Ferreira, G.; Buckingham-Shum, S.; Bretts, J; Webb, R. (2009) OpenLearn Research Report 2006-2008. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Available online at http://oro.open.ac.uk/17513/2/Research_forWeb.pdf. Accessed 29 June, 2013.

Weller, M. (2012). ‘The openness-creativity cycle in OER – a perspective’. Journal of Interactive Media in Education. n.1. Available online at http://www-jime.open.ac.uk/jime/article/view/2012-02. Accessed 29 June, 2013.

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