The final report of the UNESCO OER Discussion Forum was written by Paul Albright of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. A few sections from the report are quoted below. _____JH
Open initiatives in higher education have crystallized around three major areas of activity: the creation of open source software and development tools, the creation and provision of open course content, and the development of standards and licensing tools. The outputs of all three may be grouped together under the term Open Educational Resources (OER). This term has been adopted by UNESCO to refer to the open provision of educational resources, enabled by information and communication technologies, for consultation, use and adaptation by a community of users for non-commercial purposes.
Lasting six weeks, from 24 October to 2 December 2005, the forum was organized to present some initial background information about Open Educational Resources and then to examine a number of examples of providers and users of OER, along with several key related issues. Some 480 individuals from 90 countries participated, either by exchanging email or by receiving a daily digest of the messages. A wide range of expert discussants presented institutional examples and issues and leant their experience and intelligence to the discussion. With the “whole world around the table” (as one participant put it), email exchanges averaged 100 each week for a total of more than 700 postings.
The immediate next step is to form an international Community of Interest to support ongoing information sharing and an exploration of the most important issues related to the provision and use of open course content, as identified during and at the conclusion of the forum.
A second forum will be held in late 2006 to share and discuss the draft report of an OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) study of OER in tertiary education. The purpose of the study is to map the scale and scope of current OER initiatives, and to address four questions concerning:
*the development of OER initiatives;
*the development of sustainable cost/benefit models;
*Intellectual Property Rights, and
*improving access to, and the usefulness of, OER.
Following that forum, it is anticipated that an international Community of Practice will be formed to link practitioners from around the world to work together, and to continue sharing information and experience.