The European Commission (EC) is calling for the “complementary” use of Open Educational Resources as part of a transformation of Europe’s education systems, EC policy officer Ricardo Ferreira told the What Works? education conference at the London Book Fair last week. But research from Germany, presented at the same event, raised questions aout the quality of free online educational materials currently available.
Ferreira, policy officer for the EC’s “Opening Up Education” initiative, told delegates that the digital revolution was seeing learning moving out of educational institutions, with content becoming mobile and a “massification” process affecting learning. There are now around 510 Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) being conducted in Europe, with almost 90 in the UK alone, he said. The EC was issuing “a call for action for all to see how the world is changing, [and asking] ‘how can I change my business model?’”
“With a predicted surge in student numbers and a digital skills deficit, our education systems need revision to cope with this challenge at a time when public expenditure is decreasing in many EU member states,” Ferreira said. “We must think of more cost-effective solutions”, he added.
“We stress the huge role performed in society by publishers, providing quality assessed material,” Ferreira said. “We have never talked about replacement [of what publishers currently produce] by [freely accessible] Open Educational Resources (OER), but we have said there is room for complementarity and that a lot of schools do not know about OER. We want traditionally published paper textbooks, digital resources which are copyrighted, and open resources as well.”
However, research into educational materials freely available online—conducted by Professor Eva Matthes of Augsburg University, and presented by Andreas Vaer from German educational publishers’ trade body Verband Bildungsmedien e.V.—found quality was “a big issue”. The report found “a majority of mediocre materials”, and voiced fears that the unvetted content could have a negative influence on students.