Last updated: 24.04.14

EC drive to open up education online

The European Commission is calling on businesses and schools across the EU to support the use of open educational resources (OERs) as part of a transformation in education and the way it is provisioned across the continent.

OERs are learning tools and documents that are freely accessible online and openly licensed.They are designed to support a wide range of educational aims, including teaching, learning and research. Often they also make use of open formats as well and aim to provide alternative frameworks to conventional education.

According to the Bookseller, EC policy officer Ricardo Ferreira told those in attendance at the What Works? education conference at the London Book Fair that the commission believes these open resources are necessary for the development of education in Europe.

As part of the EC’s Opening Up Education programme, it is supporting a number of open online courses in Europe and the UK. However, the quality of free online education materials was reportedly called into question at the same event, with researchers from Germany suggesting that the tools currently available are not all they are cracked up to be.

Despite this, Mr Ferreira said that there is a significant body of evidence to suggest that learning is moving out of traditional educational establishments. As part of this trend, content is becoming “mobile” in nature and the learning process itself is being transformed.

He said that it is vital at this stage to see the direction in which the world of education is changing and consider how business models should be adapted in response.

“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,” he was quoted by the website saying. “We must think of more cost-effective solutions.”

This is something, he added, that content producers will play an important role in and stressed that OERs should not be seen as an alternative to other learning tools, but rather as a complementary aid.