Many of the European NRENs are active in Open Education activities and have made a significant contribution to the deployment and availability of OE digital technology and content. The NRENs would like to offer their knowledge and expertise to progress the objectives of the EC’s Open Education policy.
The focus in Open Education Resources continues to be largely on increasing access to digital content in the form of repositories and infrastructures. To encourage the wider take-up and use of Open Education Resources, more consideration needs to be given to how technology can support educational institutions in offering Open Education facilities in a financially sustainable manner, and to developing methods and practices which enable learners, teachers and institutions to best engage with OER.
The NRENs are well-qualified to contribute to these next steps, in collaboration with the EC, educational institutions and other relevant players. Beyond providing and supporting the technology that delivers OER/MOOCs to users, NRENs wish to engage with educators and participate in the production of openly licensed content (course development) especially in the area of ICT and networking, for the benefit of teachers and the next generation of the knowledge economy. In return, educators should encourage students by creating appropriate policies (e.g. participate in flipped classes, use Creative Common licences) to better use the NREN services directly or indirectly offered to them.
Europe’s NRENs, within their GÉANT collaboration, proposed to develop a pilot European Open Educational Resource portal service (called eduOER), which prototypes a one-stop-shop (broker) for national learning resource organizations. The portal enables structured searching and re-use of content on a European level. The initiative is complementary to the European Commission’s Open Education Europa portal and can be made accessible via that portal.
The European NREN community is in a good position to facilitate how Open Education Resources can be findable and accessible, more effective in helping students, serving minority populations, improving the teaching and learning process and potentially lowering the cost of higher and adult education.
The European NRENs support the EC’s policy of EU-level cooperation to push reforms towards the adoption of open learning, and is ready to engage in discussion and activity aimed at realizing reform.
Our belief is that the well-established NREN collaboration in Europe is the gateway to bridge the open education digital divide concerning the penetration of European OER and MOOCs as well as to get over the technical, cultural and language barriers – especially the dominance of the English langue – by demonstrating efficient knowledge sharing and multilingual diversity by eduOER.
- Instead of competing with the commercial or large community based software development market, NRENs can better focus on application development and service integration for the benefit of the research and education sector that they very well know. Connecting the yet scattered landscape of the European institutional and national multimedia content repositories using standard metadata schemas and harvesting protocols is one of these interest areas of the GÉANT NRENs.
- NRENs are in the forefront of the development and deployment of federated Authentication and Authorization Infrastructures (AAI) around the globe. State-of-the-art AAI is the key to ensure the full benefits of Open Education.
- The digital divide concerning the European education sector cannot be efficiently bridged without the engagement of the best technical experts – those working for the NRENs – in teaching and learning processes. NRENs are well positioned to contribute to the traditional and online (such as MOOCs) course development especially in the area of ICT and networking.
While it is a fact that millions of learning objects and OER can be found on the Internet using search engines like Google, there is no guarantee that a query will lead to trustable, openly licenced material on which high quality open education can be built. Well managed OER repositories that aggregate high quality content offer a solution to this problem.
The primary aim of GN4-1 SA8 Task 3 (OER) is to develop and launch an Open Educational Resource portal service of GÉANT (eduOER) by adapting and developing a scalable metadata aggregation engine and a web portal front-end demonstrator. The objective is to provide this service for the broader GÉANT Community in order to:
- facilitate connection of the scattered institutional/national OERs and unlock the deep-web (i.e. not indexed by standard search engines) by enabling structured searching and reuse of content; and
- prototype a one-stop-shop (broker) for national learning resource organisations, each of them managing and/or federating one or more learning object repositories within the country.
Eventually, GÉANT will be able to make a suite of online services and tools available to its partners for the exchange of learning resources, and facilitate access to the worldwide open education community (i.e. GLOBE or EC Open Education Europa) guided by the following principles:
- Keep the barrier of entry to GÉANT eduOER low and participation high.
- Provide open specifications and community source code as much as possible, openly shared among and beyond community members.
- Use open standards, where appropriate, and contribute further to the development of these standards based on experiences and best practices.
- Respect and build on European values and operate as a community of peers.
The following diagram depicts the architecture of the aggregation engine for the GÉANT eduOER service.