Recently, UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) have published a report with Guidelines on the Development of Open Educational Resources Policies. According to a tweet from one of the authors, Dominic Orr, this publication took a long time before it was finalized:
These guidelines are published just in time for the 40th session of the General Conference of UNESCO, organized from 12-27 November in Paris. In this conference, the Draft Recommendation on Open Educational Resources will be on the Agenda for acceptance by the Member States. To realize the ambitions as stated in this Recommendation, policies both on national level and institutional level will be necessary.
The aim of the guidelines are, in the words of the authors (p. 2):
- Understand essential subject-matter knowledge on OER through a learning-by-doing process
- Develop a set of procedural knowledge on OER policy planning, working through key steps necessary for designing a comprehensive OER policy
- Reinforce the contextual knowledge needed to leverage OER in achieving SDG 4 through assessing the policy context and needs for OER, planning institutionalised programmes and drawing up a contextualised masterplan
- Ensure the commitment to policy adoption and implementation through integrating stakeholder engagement into the policy-planning process and determining adequate policy endorsement and implementation strategies
- Enhance the quality of policy implementation by planning a mechanism for monitoring and evaluation, and working towards an evidencebased policy-planning and updating cycle
The target group are “those directly involved in policy design” (p.2).
The structure of the report is based on a 7-phase action plan, devised by the authors of these guidelines:
Each phase has the same structure in the guidelines:
- Overview of the phase;
- Learning outcomes: “After reading and working through this chapter, you are expected to be able to:”;
- Guidelines for the topic on hand, illustrated with tools, literature references and examples;
- A set of guiding questions to fill in by the user of the guidelines and with which s/he can apply the knowledge of the chapter on her/his own policy development.
With this setup, the report can really be used as a guide taking you by the hand in step-by-step developing your own OER policy.
Overall, I consider these Guidelines as a valuable tool for formulating OER policies. I especially like the last phase on launching the OER policy. This phase is crucial for the success of policy, since it focuses on ultimately realizing impact with the teachers. As I mentioned in an earlier blogpost (in Dutch), there is a long way to go with many hurdles to pass before policies on a high level have impact on the “chalk level”. For this, more detailed guidances and good practices (e.g. to extract from the OER Worldmap) could be a valuable addition to these Guidelines.
A bit unclear for me is for which types of OER policies these Guidelines have been developed. Although table 3 (p. 34) suggests the Guidelines could be used for both national and institutional policies, box 3.1 (p. 36) points the user of the Guidelines to alternative tools and guidelines, specifically for developing an institutional OER policy. And because most examples in the Guidelines are from national policies, one could question its applicability for other than national policies. Asking this to one of the authors of the Guidelines, Ben Janssen, he confirmed applicability also for institutional policies, but considered that some of the guiding questions at the end of each chapter should be changed a bit.
OER policies could be widened to policies on Open Education. One such example can be derived from the strategical agenda from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in the Netherlands. In the 2015 version (soon to be updated), this agenda formulated the ambition that in 2025 all Dutch Higher Education institutions would recognize each other MOOCs. Institutional open policies are needed to realize this ambition, going beyond the framework shaped by these Guidelines.
Finally, much attention is needed for policies in other sectors than Higher Education. Although the examples provided in the Guidelines are also taken from K12 and Vocational Education (kudos!) and are not only targeted to policies on open textbooks (kudos!), the majority of the examples stems from Higher Education. When the overview of policies from OER Worldmap is representative, this Map illustrates the urgent need for policy makers to give more attention to sectors other than Higher Education. Currently, the overview consists of 172 examples of OER policies, of which 48% are targeted towards Higher Education, 37% cross sector and only 1 (0.58%) towards Vocational Education. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to bring these Guidelines under the attention of policy makers outside of the Higher Education sector.