OER in Asia Trends and Issues (report)

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Through this address I hope to first provide a brief overview of the OERAsia survey and what us Asians are currently engaged in. I will then attempt to paint the macro picture of the current situation in terms of OER creation, use and re-use from the perspectives of both individuals as well as institutions in Asia.

You will then be provided with an overview of the readiness of institutions in the region with respect to adopting an institutional policy; and a few points for action which will provide a potential benchmark for policymakers for encouraging wider adoption of open educational resources in Asia.

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OER in Asia Trends and Issues (report)

  1. 1. OER in Asia: Trends and IssuesAdapted from: Abeywardena, I. S., & Dhanarajan, G. (2012). OER in Asia Pacific: Trends and Issues.Presented at the Policy Forum for Asia and the Pacific: Open Education Resources organised byUNESCO Bangkok and Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Thailand (available for download athttp://oercongress.weebly.com/uploads/4/1/3/4/4134458/oer_asia_trends_and_issues_2.pdf).The OERAsia study (http://www.oerasia.org/oerasiasurvey) was conducted to explore the use ofOpen Educational Resources (OER’s) in the Asian region especially with the view to encouraging thedevelopment of an OER community that would share learning resources across institutions andnations. Several regions representative of South, South East and East Asia, which show sparks ofenthusiasm in OER, were selected as subjects for study. However, as the study was conducted bothonline and offline, the respondents werent necessarily limited to these few regions. The scope of thesurvey was clearly defined to include the broad topics covering learning content, tools andimplementation resources. The topics were then sub divided into smaller areas resulting in acomprehensive survey instrument consisting of seventy plus independent items aimed specifically atindividuals and institutions. There were several objectives which the study aimed to achieve by theend of its 27 month lifespan. All of these objectives fall under the broader categories of awareness,use, re-use, policy and legal environment in the regions.Out of 576 responses received from academics who have been exposed to OER, 420 responses fromindividual OER users and 98 responses from institutional representatives were identified as valid(Figure 1). The analysis of the data mainly concentrated on the key regions, namely Malaysia,Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Philippines, Japan, China, Hong Kong China and South Korea, which wereidentified at the outset. However it also took note of the responses from other countries such asBangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka as well. The respondent profile showed a good mixof senior, mid-career and junior academics from public, private not-for-profit as well as private for-profit institutions. The responses also captured both undergraduate as well as post graduateacademics in a ratio representative of typical Higher Education institutions. Figure 1 Participant ProfileBefore probing the practice with respect to OER, the survey tried to identify the extent of the practicewith respect to digital resources which forms the superset of OER. A clear definition of DigitalResources was provided to the respondents to ensure that a broad canvas is covered pertaining to aset frame. Looking at the use of digital resources, it was found that text based resources were themore widely used types in the region. It was also encouraging to see that digital film and video wereused by half of the respondents. This trend will possibly pickup more in the future due to video sharingportals such as YouTube and Vimeo offering large volumes of quality video material. News and other 1
  2. 2. media sources have also become important suggesting that students are exposed to the latest trendsin the world. Among the digital resources which weren’t that widely used, simulations and animationsare worth noting as there are large volumes of rich resources of this type available especially forscience education. One possible reason for this low use could be the lack of technical skills requiredto use and re-use them. Audio materials were also not widely preferred. This could be due to thesubstitution of audio material with audio/video material. Another interesting trend identified was thatOER repositories and course packs were not very widely used in Asia even though generousamounts of funding have been spent on the creation of these resources. When looking at how userslocate digital resources, generic search engines such as Google and Yahoo! take precedence.Although these search engines are quite apt at locating digital resources, it is somewhat doubtfulwhether the average user would have the capacity to conduct advanced searches to locate openlylicensed content.The study further suggests that one of the more important areas to focus on with respect to policywould be to provide more support for the use of digital resources. Among the areas which show a lackof support; locating resources, accessing the quality of the resources and copyright concerns play amajor role. However, it seems that the practice of using or creating digital resources is not seen as acareer move but a social responsibility of an educator to share knowledge. This in turn creates asense of community among the academics and students. As far as barriers are concerned, three keypoints stand out in the responses indicating that a lack of access to software tools and a lack oftechnological infrastructure at the students’ end still inhibit the wider use of digital resources. Thesebarriers should be of special interest to policy makers at a national level as public infrastructure wouldneed to be upgraded to facilitate the wider use of digital resources.OER were defined as “educational materials and resources offered freely and openly for anyone touse and under some licenses to re-mix, improve and redistribute” in the survey. The data suggeststhat the use of OER is widespread in Asia contrary to the general understanding among advocates.This then begs the questions whether advocates are preaching to the converted or whether there isstill a sense of confusion with respect to what OER really are. The research team believes that thereis some truth to the first question as many of the respondents were exposed to the Open Universitycommunity which is somewhat knowledgeable about OER. They also believe that there is aconsiderable amount of confusion among academics with respect to the difference between digitalresources and OER. However, comparing the publication with use, it seems that a majority haven’tpublished OER in their careers. Nevertheless it is promising to see that about 60% of the respondentsare willing to publish their work as OER in the future.Resources feely downloaded from the internet seem to be the favoured choice for academic use(Figure 2). OER produced by self are also widely used in teaching. It is also worth noting that the useof OER repositories such as Connexions is only popular in countries such as Vietnam where there isa strong national OER presence. 74% of the respondents indicated that they have produced OER inone form or the other at some point in their career. This again could be a result of the Open Universityinfluence on the respondents and the confusion regarding the concept of OER. 2
  3. 3. Figure 2 Sources of OERRelating to the models discussed in literature for sustaining OER efforts, it is apparent that institutionsneed to collaborate with each other to harness the full potential of OER through partnerships andexchanges. However, the data suggests that institutions are not collaborating in the production orexchange of OER. This again is a wakeup call to the policymakers at institutional level to includecollaboration as a significant component in their OER policies.Lack of awareness, skills and time still impedes the OER movement among academics suggesting aneed for more capacity building. It is however encouraging to see that technological infrastructure isno longer a barrier at least at the institutional level. This is especially true in the case of openuniversities as many of them have established robust technological infrastructure. The data suggeststhat there are still concerns with respect to copyright and the legal use of OER. Awareness ofrepositories is also mentioned as a major concern. This is affirmed by the lack of use of repositories tolocate OER. These concerns again hold true with respect to the publication of OER. However, it isapparent that a large majority of the individuals and institutions are aware of current copyright laws.As such it can be concluded that the concerns regarding copyright and legalities in the use andpublication of OER are not due to a lack of awareness but a possible confusion in the understandingof what is permitted and what is not in the realm of OER. This point is further confirmed as a majorityof the individuals and institutions are yet to use a licensing scheme such as the Creative Commons toexpress and exercise the 4R’s of OER. Therefore, the data suggests that policy makers should payspecial attention to furthering awareness regarding copyright and the adoption of widely used licensessuch as Creative Commons when setting policies at institutional and national level. The respondentsagree that the use of open educational resources will have great impact with respect to the reductionof costs for both students and institutions promoting a win-win situation. It is also encouraging to seethat OER are seen as a movement which can potentially improve the standards of living for manydeveloping countries in Asia.In conclusion, the study suggests four points for action: (i) further support and capacity building in theuse of digital resources and OER; (ii) fostering a culture of collaboration among institutions; (iii) raisingawareness and capacity building in open content licensing; and (iv) the establishment of institutionalpolicies to facilitate the wider use of OER. These four points need to be taken into consideration whencontemplating the future of the whole OER movement in Asia.The trends identified from the overall data were compared and verified against the trends in theindividual regions during the third OERAsia workshop held in Hong Kong (April 2012). Further 3
  4. 4. statistical analysis of the data will be conducted in the future. For more details on the surveyinstrument, methodology, list of collaborating researchers and institutions; results and data visit(http://www.oerasia.org/oerasiasurvey). This research project is funded through the Grant (# 102791)generously made by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada through anumbrella study on Openness and Quality in Asian Distance Education and is anchored at WawasanOpen University, Penang, Malaysia. 4

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