ICDE OERAC 2020 - Summary and Reflections

The ICDE OER Advocacy Committee (OERAC) has completed its second term as of December 31, 2020. The mandate was for one year and throughout 2020, with a particular focus on supporting the implementation of the 2019 UNESCO OER recommendation. A full report has been submitted to the ICDE in a special order and will be presented to the  ICDE Board at the April 2021 Board meeting.


It was decided in Autumn 2020 that the current mandate of ICDE OER Advocacy Committee should be renewed from January 2021 to the end of 2024 with a public invitation for members and an open call. The mandate should be related to the ICDE 2021-2024 strategic plan,

The UNESCO Recommendation on OER supports the creation, use and adaptation of inclusive and high-quality OER and facilitates international collaboration in this area. The recommendation outlines five action areas, namely:

  1. Building the capacity of stakeholders to create, access, re-use, adapt and redistribute OER
  2. Developing supportive policy for OER 
  3. Encouraging inclusive and equitable quality OER 
  4. Nurturing the creation of sustainability models for OER, and
  5. Promoting and reinforcing international cooperation in OER

In addition to impressive and extensive individual advocacy, contributions, consultations, publications, keynotes at national, regional and international levels, the ICDE OER Advocacy Committee (OERAC) has carried out two joint activities in particular during the 2020 mandate period.

(i)             A joint article entitled From Open Educational Resources to Open Educational Practices. For resilient sustainable education was carried out on demand and published in DKC-DMK. The abstract was translated to French, and Spanish. Please for information and downloading

During the past twenty years Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Educational Practices (OEP) have increased educational access and affordability worldwide. The OER-OEP synergy reflects one of the most promising strategies for increasing access to education globally. Despite significant progress, emerging research suggests the need for a more concerted focus on moving from awareness raising to implementation. This article analyses the current status of OER and OEP in concert with the recent educational response to COVID-19 by educational providers with complimentary mini-case studies from Africa, Brazil, Canada, China, Sweden, and Turkey. The ICDE Ambassadors for the global advocacy of OER, and members of ICDE OER Advocacy Committee (authors) argue that in the six countries studied, there is a greater need and greater receptivity to expand access to education through OER and OEP. To better address the immediate needs of the COVID-19 educational crisis, and to make longer term educational improvements, countries should harness the policy supports and actionable steps offered by the UNESCO OER Recommendation. Currently, we see an opportunity to move OER-OEP to resilient sustainable education and the international policy framework to support such work. The article concludes with some general observations for the way forward.

(ii)            A global piloting survey on the implementations of the UNESCO OER Recommendation was jointly conducted. The abstract was translated to Chines, French, Hindu, Portuguese, Swedish and Turkish. Please follow the link for information and downloading

The ICDE OER Advocacy Committee (OERAC) survey gathered feedback from ICDE stakeholders, members and partners about the status of the UNESCO OER Recommendation's implementation within the first seven months of adoption, and during the educational crisis caused by COVID-19. Global survey results indicate only a fewcountries took action towards revising their OER policies or frameworks after the UNESCO Recommendation passed. However, responses also suggest most countries already have or were in the process of developing policies for supporting OER integration, development and evaluation, likely before the Recommendation was passed. Furthermore, COVID-19 seemed to catalyze more awareness-raising of OER, and engagement with OER in all regions. OERAC recommends ICDE support research and evaluation around OER work; reinforce communication around existing OER efforts, evaluation measures and incentive structures, and how they further develop in the coming years. ICDE should also strengthen the network and practice around information sharing. When more policy makers and institutions become aware of existing (1) capacity building initiatives, (2) supportive policies, (3) examples of incentive structures and initiatives building more equitable access to quality OER, (4) sustainability models, and (5) examples of monitoring and evaluation efforts, in other countries, it will be easier to adapt these efforts to local needs. Finally, ICDE should undertake a follow-up survey, once there are more implementation efforts to report.

During the year, it was confirmed by all ambassadors that due to COVID-19 the increase and extent of the use and development of OER was obvious, so was the awareness of OER. However, as was reported even from all regions in the OERAC survey on the implementation of the UNESCO OER recommendation, spring 2020 was probably too early for the recommendation to be implemented, especially at policy level. This is natural, as the survey was conducted only seven months after the launch of the OER recommendation.

The pilot survey was both acknowledged by the UNESCO OER Dynamic Coalition  and announced in its newsletter, the Network of Open Organizations, and the OER Policy Forum also highlighted and acknowledged the survey.

The OERAC has worked closely with the UNESCO OER Dynamic Coalition, the Network of Open Organizations, the OER Policy Forum and the OE4BW  initiative. For OE4BW two of the ambassadors served as mentors and one of the ambassadors served as Hub Coordinator. The mentoring program will continue in 2021.

The OERAC proposed several recommendations, both general and specific to ICDE, based on work during the 2020 mandate period, but also based on the pilot survey. Specific recommendations include:

  • Increase more visibility in Open Education and OER, trying to develop closer and stronger partnership with member states of UNESCO via mainstream universities in the complementation of the OER recommendation with more practical guidance/policy. 
  • Establish regional consortiums or alliances among the member universities to promote and share OER.
  • Reinforcing communication around existing OER efforts, and how they further develop in the coming years will (1) give countries recognition for (direct and indirect) work implementing the UNESCO OER Recommendation and (2) strengthen the framework the Recommendation provides for everyone.
  • Developing a stronger network and practice around information sharing. When more policy makers and institutions become aware of existing (1) capacity building initiatives, (2) supportive policies, (3) examples of incentive structures and initiatives building more equitable access to quality OER, (4) sustainability models, and (5) examples of monitoring and evaluation efforts, in other countries, it will be easier to adapt these efforts to local needs.

Some recommendations to ICDE concerned:

  • Promote at regional/national level on the progress of implementation of the UNESCO OER recommendation, and implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
  • Promote translations of the UNESCO OER Recommendation, and implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
  • Promote micro, meso and macro level implementation, monitoring and evaluation efforts of the UNESCO OER Recommendation.
  • Promote work at the UNESCO offices, and governmental levels for policies and strategies
  • Continue to promote the achieved experiences with OER, opening up education, and the digital transformation during the pandemic and work for sustainability.
  • Promote work in partnership for implementation, and build local, regional, national and international partnerships with stakeholders for implementation and impact.
  • ICDE website can be used to promote the linking portals into diverse OER courses offered by the member universities, and if possible, by the mainstream universities.

Furthermore, given the paucity of research and evaluation activities reported in the pilot survey, ICDE could add value to UNESCO Dynamic Coalition efforts by focusing on research and evaluation findings in the near future. Conducting research and evaluation activities related to OER activities developed in response to the UNESCO OER recommendation would fill a current gap. ICDE could explore large-scale impact evaluation of existing interventions to support the use, reuse and sharing of OER local countries. However, impact evaluations are time and resource intensive, so this may not be feasible. ICDE could begin to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of the OER policies through additional surveys and research over time. However, the most important recommendation related to actions associated with ICDE's 2021-2024 strategy. Several of the strategic goals are related to OER and its implementation. First, many of the strategies relate to advocacy, the importance of which was also emphasized by the presidents during the regional ICDE President Forum November 25, 2020. Second, several of the strategic goals in the strategies relate specifically to OER. For the new OERAC with the mandate period 2021-2024, it is therefore recommended that their mandate include further work and actions to achieve the ICDE strategic objective and related actions.

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Ebba Ossiannilsson is an e-learning expert and consultant with a range of research interests in the use of digital technologies for learning, teaching and research.
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