Can Open Education Resources (OER) Help Low Income Communities?


Can Open Education Resource (OER) Help Low Income Communities?

With an increasing emphasis on remodeling education system with the change in time and industry demand, private sector schools are fast taking up steps to implement new ideas of 21’st century education.

But are the public sector schools which accommodate the low-income community students too implementing steps to reform education to meet the new age learning needs? Well, the answer to this question is 'NO'.

So why are public schools lagging behind the private schools regarding leveraging advanced educational resources and remodeling educational process?

The answer to the above question is, public schools face funding challenge and with it the administrators and policy makers of these schools are not aware of affordable solutions. Adoption of those solutions can help the students as well as the educators to stay attuned to educational needs of the time.

Till today, in most of the public schools one finds the existence of outdated technology and inadequate teaching materials. These schools persist in buying and re-buying proprietary learning resources that are unalterable. So, by following such practices the stakeholders of these schools are only fuelling the stumbling blocks rather than reforming the structure for societal progress.

One cannot but forget the fact that, in the 21’st century the idea of education is no ordinary thing as it is regarded not less than a civil right that is entitled to every citizen in all the nations. Hence, let’s stop fretting at the challenges that public schools are undergoing and take our discussion on a positive direction that talks on a viable solution which tackle the challenges to a large extent.

This affordable solution that we are talking about is Open Education Resource or commonly referred to as (OER). If adopted by the public schools, it is believed that it can change the face of education in low income schools by providing free/cost-friendly access to curricula, textbooks, self-directed learning material and end-to-end instructional facility including other benefits too.

What is Open Education Resource?

Open Educational Resource (OER) are freely accessible, openly licensed text, media and other digital assets that are useful for teaching, learning and assessing as well as for research purposes.” It contains all the materials and techniques to support access to knowledge such as full courses, course materials, and modules, textbooks, steaming videos, tests, software and other tools.

Besides free accessibility of valuable contents, OER allows the students to directly own their individual learning in a broader sense. And the openness in learning assists students to be more collaborative, more proactive and more independent- all very essential skills that guide a person throughout in life.

Barabara Soots, the Open Education Resource Program Manager in the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction feels, OER has opened up new avenues for K-12 Public education in Washington States. To quote her words, “OER brings a huge potential to K-12 for maintaining current content and collaborating within the school district and beyond on continual quality improvement of that content.”

In Bangladesh for example, the Government of this country has directed its OER Congress to create more open resource contents so that they can use it as an alleviation tool in the public education system. Considering the fact that, Bangladesh is a very poor nation and more than half of its citizens’ reels under poverty, access to costly educational resource is almost out of question for the poverty stricken family. More on this initiative can be heard here.

Similarly, China too, the public schools are increasingly focusing on ways by which they can spread the use of MOOC and OER to provide affordable access to education in districts and schools that accommodate low income community students.

The U.S. Department of Education has formulated a campaign called GoOpen which aims to open up educational opportunities for all whether rich or poor thriving in their country. To quote what the chief authorities had to say on this-

“We believe that educational opportunities should be available to all learners, Creating an open education ecosystem involves making learning materials, data and educational opportunities available without restrictions”

How is its adoption beneficial for low income communities?

One of the greatest benefits of OER is its flexibility and the other is the permission it provides to engage in the 5R activities that hold great relevance for public schools. They may be broadly defined as-

  1. RETAIN- the provision/right to make, own and control copies of the content or in other words, download, duplicate, store and manage educational resource.
  2. REUSE- the facility to use the content in different ways such as in the class, in a study group, on a website or in video format.
  3. REVISE- the opportunity to adapt, adjust or alter the content such as translating the content into another language for better understanding.
  4. REMIX- the right to blend the original content/ revised content with any other content to make content more resourceful or to create a new content.
  5. REDISTRIBUTE- facility to share content with others people.

Apart from the above benefits, there are few more advantages of OER which public schools need to consider.

  1. OER is a free and low-cost solution a necessary consideration of all the public schools. Low cost implies that it will offer fewer barriers for students to succeed.
  2. Educators in OER are able to easily customize the class instructions for their students to facilitate more meaningful, more inclusive and pedagogical practices.
  3. OER contain course modules and complete package of resources such as textbooks with complimentary resources such as slides, exercises, learning material etc.
  4. OER engage students more deeply in the educational process offering the facility of more retain- ability. For the educators, they get a benefit to make use of tools available in the solution to involve students in creation of learning materials.
  5. OER allow students to access courses content many times whenever they wish to do so and even after the completion of course for reference purpose.

To conclude, from what we have learned about the advantages of OER as a free and affordable educational resource for the low income communities, it is clear that public schools will not face any challenge in implementing this solution for the benefit of students and educators growth. Also, it will help the teachers and students to be a part of the 21’st century digital learning trend and fill in the gap of teaching and learning process of Low income community schools. This solution is suitable for higher education but for all levels that includes primary and secondary education. Hence, stake holders should make optimum usage of OER in present time to revise their outdated learning mechanism.

About the Author
Author: Ananya DebroyWebsite: http://edtechreview.in
Ananya is currently working as the Content Manager at EdTechReview. She has a keen interest in Ed Tech and the ways in which it is strengthening the education sector as a whole. She is an avid reader and loves to meet relevant people & unleash new updates on various innovations in the EdTech world as it indirectly helps her pen down well-researched blogs on the niche. Follow her @AnanyaDebRoy

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