OER for Enrichment of Academic Life in Indian Universities

OER for Enrichment of Academic Life in Indian Universities

1.Transformation Potential of OER

Open Educational Resources (OER) -- teaching, learning, and research materials available online or otherwise in open license has revolutionary potential in education.

It is an important development greatly influencing the philosophical foundations and the ways of doing things in the world of education. In this period of increasing marketization of education, which limits educational opportunities to those who can afford, OER provides a balancing mechanism by ensuring universal access of educational resources to all. OER is based on the democratic foundation of knowledge as common wealth of society. Education as a process and product has both ‘use value’ and ‘exchange value’. The OER focus is more on use value of education, than on its exchange value. Use value makes it a service activity and exchange value makes it more a commercial activity. The open access of knowledge with focus on sharing than owning has a transformative potential of ushering in shared economy and inclusive society.

2. Enrichment of Campus Academic Life

The OER, used appropriately, can enrich the teaching by teachers and learning by students. It results in a new academic ambience of reconstructive teaching-learning with the active participation of staff and students. In Indian context, the enrichment process includes:

i) Teaching Enrichment

There is a widespread criticism of Indian academic community’s failure to update their knowledge. Commenting humorously, but meaningfully, one of my teachers quoted a student remark:  “I don’t know whether Hegel’s statement of history repeats itself is correct or not, but I am sure the history repeats itself in the notebook of my history teacher”. Earlier the access to knowledge resources was limited. In the past sometimes we have to wait for years to access the books printed in developed countries. This access was very uneven and costly. Today, the open resources including open access journals and many other open platforms help in access to latest knowledge in all fields of knowledge. Teachers can update their knowledge and adopt the new knowledge to the learning requirements of their students.

ii) Expand the Reach

The OER gives an opportunity to teachers to reach beyond their classrooms. Good teachers are in great demand and their number is very limited. They can contribute to the pool of OER, enriching the pool itself. They can offer programmes through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to large number of learners. MOOC is becoming another important development in democratising access to best educational opportunities. It is a great opportunity to Indian academic community to participate in wider sharing of their competencies. This has particular significance in Indian context of unequal quality in higher education.

3. Enrichment of Learning

The ultimate measure of OER relevance is its impact on student. The enrichment of learning environment includes:

i) Multiple Source of Knowledge

In the conventional university system the teacher is the primary source of knowledge. The OER helps in expanding the sources of knowledge. The open access results in access to multiple sources of knowledge. The students can supplement and integrate the knowledge given to them by their teachers. This makes the learning more interesting and challenging. The teacher will continue to play an important role, may be a different role. Because of access to multiple sources of knowledge, the teacher-student interactions may become more meaningful. Teachers may not always be able to quench the thirst for new knowledge of students, particularly of bright students. The OER provides diversity in learning experiences, which may not be possible in teacher-centric delivery systems.

ii) Learning Through Participation in OER

In the constructivist approach to learning, student is viewed as participant in the learning process. This is in contrast to consumer and receiver view of student. The student, while using OER materials adapts them to his/her requirement. This adaption process itself will enrich OERs. The student interaction with OER may result in creation of new OER. This opportunity to create new materials is an exciting opportunity to young minds with immense potential for independent thinking and intellectual growth. These new ways of learning by participating in creating learning resources opens a new chapter in pedagogy.

4. Restraining Factors

Large number of Indian academic community is not sufficiently motivated to learn new things. The internal and external environment is not properly tuned to new ways of doing things. In OER context, where multiple knowledge resources are equally accessible to staff and students, there will be change in the role of teachers from information disseminators to experts in guiding application and interpretation of knowledge. It is a more challenging role for which the teachers are not fully prepared. There are also apprehensions of loosing academics identity in the process of knowledge creation and knowledge dissemination through OER. The contradiction between individual recognitions and collective use of knowledge needs to be addressed. The relative nature of “openness” also results in wide gap between the ideal and practice in OER.

The students find it difficult to navigate in the ocean of OER. Particularly students studying programmes of universities may be looking for relevant materials to their academic programmes. Here they may require guidance of their teachers. In the exam oriented learning environment, the students may not be that enthusiastic for OER. Maybe creating a learning environment in the institutions with a broader learning objectives may result in more demand and use of OER.

There are some contradictions in the attitudes of Indian higher education institutions to OER. Some of the institutions are very happy if their teachers extensively use OER to enhance their teaching capabilities. But the same institutions may not be that happy if their staff participates in OER development and make their expertise available to all. These institutions fear that by this process they lose their brand advantage. In a context of education for profit, OER use and development has to address many contradictions.

Understanding and resolving these contradictions is the best way of taking forward the OER movement to create a new world of learning.

About the Author
Author: V S Prasad
Prof. V. S. Prasad, Former Director, National Assessment and Accreditation Council, Bangalore, India

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