Wawasan Open University (WOU) hosted the inaugural Open Educational Resources (OER) symposium for the Asian region to give impetus to the OER movement in Asia.
The Regional Symposium on “Open Educational Resources (OER): An Asian perspective on Policies and Practices” – covering the five sub-themes of policy, technology, practice, quality and sustainability - was attended by some80 international educators, policy makers, institutional administrators, OER advocates, researchers and Open Distance Learning (ODL) practitioners.
The three-day event at the main campus was organised by WOU in collaboration with DISTED College, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), the Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU), the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and UNESCO.
The delegates came from more than 20 countries – among them were Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Japan, India, Indonesia, Korea, Pakistan, Philippines, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, and Malaysia.
At the opening, Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Gajaraj Dhanarajan, Convener of OER Asia, credited Senior Programme Officer Maria Ng from IDRC’s regional office in Singapore as the inspiration behind OER Asia.
Highlighting that Asia is the one of the biggest producers of digital learning materials, he added, “This region is potentially the biggest users of OERs if its institutions of higher learning begin to realise and accept the value of hundreds of thousands of freely available resources. It is my hope that this symposium will be the start of many such initiatives that will enable us to exchange thoughts, experience, understanding and practice of open educational resources.”
Meanwhile Dr Rosalia Sciortino, Director of IDRC, said that the movement towards an open knowledge society “helps improve not only the quality of teaching but also the quality of human resources in Asia”. She said policy framework, quality of the materials produced, copyright, language and cultural diversity are issues that must be addressed in OER.
Sanjaya Mishra, Director of the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA), India, talked about COL, followed by opening remarks by Prof Tian Belawati, President of ICDE, and Prof Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye, Secretary-General of AAOU.
Mishra noted that the OER movement is important for democratising education in the 21st century, and Prof Tian remarked that OER improves access to education, educational quality and cost efficiency.
Dr Gwang-Jo Kim, Director of UNESCO’s Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, presented the opening keynote address on “Regional Trends, Achievement, Issues on Access to Knowledge and Contents: Asia Pacific Perspectives on OER’. He spoke on the trends associated with OER and gave recommendations to push the OER agenda forward.
Among UNESCO’s recommendations for the OER movement are: foster cross-institutional collaboration; develop more educational contents in more Asian languages and education contexts; and support capacity building for sustainable development of quality learning materials.
The opening also saw OER Asia presenting a plaque to Maria Ng in recognition of her role in inspiring the OER movement on a regional scale.