Access2OER:10 Conclusion and next steps
1 10.1 The OER freedoms
The discussion ranged widely over many different aspects of access, at times going into a great deal of detail on specific issues or solutions. In the conclusion of this report it is helpful to take a step back and return to some of the broader ideas - the concept of access as a capability, and the freedoms that are embodied in "open" with regard to Open Educational Resources. Reflecting further on our classification, we may draw out three essential freedoms:
- legal freedom,
- technical freedom, and
- cultural freedom.
Legal freedom embodies licensing: How free am I to make use of the OER? Does that freedom include the freedom to make profit to support my livelihood? Is the license used a standard license that is easy to understand? Or is the license bespoke and hard to understand?
Technical freedoms include the freedom to download, to disaggregate easily, to move an OER around and to obtain different versions that are suitable for different contexts: low bandwidth versions for poorly connected areas; documents without images to save ink in printing; content formatted for different devices - whether these are used out of preference or due to need.
Finally, cultural freedom of an Open Educational Resource is perhaps harder to express. It might well be called educational freedom. Does the resource travel well? Is it written in a way that supports human rights and human needs? Does it support Sen and Nussbaum's capabilities (see Wikipedia articles on the capability appraoch and Martha Nussbaum)? Does it encourage engagement and participation? Is it pedagogically meaningful and easy to integrate into the curriculum? Does it make sense as a resource for a lifelong learner?
These freedoms build on each other: legal freedom is needed in order to exercise technical freedom. However, having legal freedom is not sufficient to give technical freedom. Similarly, cultural or educational freedom can only be exercised fully once the conditions of legal and techical freedom have been met, at least to some extent. As a community, we may ask to what extent we have realised these freedoms - and where further work is needed.
2 10.2 The way forward
While good progress has been made in terms of defining frameworks for legal freedoms (especially through the work of Creative Commons), there are other areas where there is still much to be done. Coming back to the original aims of the discussion, the idea was to add perhaps a novel element: the concrete focus on proposals and "do-able" projects as outcomes, rather than simply to arrive at a better understanding of the issues.
Following the clos of the discussion on the main UNESCO OER mailing list, a second mailing list was set up to take potential proposals further. The work on actual proposals is available on the wiki.
3 10.3 In conclusion - a final word from the moderator
In conclusion, I hope that this report gives a good overview of the state of play regarding access to Open Educational Resources - and is a good reflection of the UNESCO OER Community discussion. That discussion was as insightful ever, and shed light on a great range of issues.
It was clear from the discussion is that there is no one overarching access problem; nor is there one solution. Rather, there are groups of issues, with various localised solutions. It is particularly important to remember that the access issues that concern the developed world are not necessarily the most pressing and important issues for the developing world. Thus, in increasing access to Open Educational Resources together, it is imperative to proceed with a participative approach in order to develop truly appropriate solutions - solutions that provide viable paths for improving access to Open Educational Resources even in the most disconnected areas of the world.