Case study: Creating European Standards for Open Education and Open Learning Resources
Tell us about yourself and the kind of work that you do
My name is Marc Beutner. I am Chair Professor of Business and Human Resource Education (Wirtschaftspädagogik II) at Paderborn University. I am responsible for vocational teacher study programmes and contacts for general and vocational schools. I have also been an advisor on open educational resources (OERs) to the Educational Committee of the Parliament of North-Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
My research activities are in the field of vocational education and training (VET), adult and youth education. My research topics are European educational approaches, curriculum design, e-learning, m-learning (mobile learning), serious games, OERs and entrepreneurship education.
I am also the creator of the project ‘Creating European Standards for Open Education and Open Learning Resources’ (EU-StORe).
What is the EU-StORe project?
The main aims of the EU-StORe project were to:
- Conceptualise and implement a European inventory of OERs
- Analyse open learning scenarios and OERs
- Create shared and common European standards and guidelines for open learning
The project was elaborated by an international consortium within the Erasmus+ programme with a focus on vocational education and training. The duration of the project was 24 months – from the beginning of September 2014 to the end of August 2016.
The project coordinator was my colleague Prof. Carmen Duse from Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Romania. We had project partners from seven institutions across six EU countries – Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Romania and the UK. The consortium consisted of four universities, a technical partner, a small to medium-sized enterprise with a focus on education, and a research and development institute.
How did the idea of the EU-StORe project come to be?
Open education and OERs are actually one of the main educational topics in the EU. In J. M. Pawlowski’s vision paper Open Education 2030, he stated that in order for Europe to successfully distribute education on the global market, it is crucial to engage a broad community in cross-border collaboration. He came up with six recommendations:
- Create an inventory of OERs and open educational practices
- Integrate existing communities
- Integrate curricula
- Create regional networks
- Create global outreach programmes
- Support open education policy building
In order for online learning resources and open learning to be successful, they should be offered for free all around Europe. While this presents a real opportunity to make education available for a broader group of learners, teachers and trainers, there is no quality assurance of the courses, learning resources and open measures available. And this is where EU-StORe comes in.
The project was based on the recommendations of Pawlowski and the EU and we built an inventory of OERs.
How did you go about implementing the project?
During the project implementation we had experts analyse the collected online learning resources and open courses, and create standards for open learning activities to serve as high-quality benchmarks. This led to the development of guidelines for creating open learning scenarios and rating existing open learning activities and OERs.
To promote this information in the European learning community, the standards and the inventory of resources were uploaded on an online platform. This also acts as a basis to foster curricular design and regional networks. The guidelines and standards can be combined with policy papers to engage ministries, the European Commission and multipliers in the field of education across Europe.
Why is quality in open education important? What are the challenges?
OERs are an important aspect of future education. Some of them reside in the public domain and some have been released under an intellectual property licence. These licences usually allow free use or re-purposing by others. For European education, this opens a lot of opportunities to foster educational activities. Moreover, it is not always useful or necessary to create new teaching and learning resources when there are already high-quality ones available. This saves the teacher time and allows them to focus on the pedagogical aspect of their work.
OERs follow the principle of Revise, Reuse, Remix and Redistribute. This allows to adapt and improve existing materials as well as use original materials to produce new ones. It also offers the chance to make copies and facilitates the sharing of information and resources. Therefore, the term ‘open educational resources’ includes full courses, selected course materials (worksheets, etc.), course structures and descriptions, complete modules, but also videos, software and test tools, e-books, etc.
An important aspect is that OERs are available for free, which makes education more attractive and accessible. But here also lies the challenge. Many teachers use texts, pictures, and other resources directly from the internet, but some materials on Google and on teaching platforms are copyrighted. Moreover, OERs are not always of good quality. That is the reason why we created EU-StORe – to allow teachers to check existing materials and to provide a way for them to differentiate between OERs and non-open educational resources, as well as between those of low and high quality.
What were some of the bigger challenges you faced during your project and how did you overcome them?
There were not many problems or challenges during the project because our partners were all very enthusiastic and reliable. One challenge that we faced was the cut funding for sustainability, which surprised us. Sustainability is an important aspect of every project and when we put it in the project’s work plan this part was cut off and not supported. Nevertheless, we wanted EU-StORe to be sustainable so we had to do much more work on our own. Eventually, we managed to do everything that we had promised to do in the project – we created the standards, established showcases and built the rating platform.
It seemed to me that a lot of the people in different National Agencies and also the evaluators we talked to were not knowledgeable enough on the topic of OERs. This was sometimes challenging because we seemed to be working on our own without much external support. In many European countries the government doesn’t really try to encourage the use of OER in education and to train the teachers to use OER.
What are the measurable results of the project?
The platform is still running and we are currently looking for a way to allow certain institutions to include more data and rate other OERs.
The core results are:
- Research on OER
- EU-StORe standards – quality criteria
- OER database and OER inventory
- OER rating platform integrated in the online platform
- EU-StORe policy paper
- Results of the acceptance evaluation
- Showcases and scenarios for the use of OERs in education
- Print EU-StORe book
- EU-StORe online handbook
We presented the criteria to different chambers, educational institutions and ministries as well as to the Educational Committee of the Parliament of North-Rhine-Westphalia.
How did you personally benefit from this project?
OER is my research topic and therefore it was very beneficial for me to work on a project in this field. I met many people who are also passionate about open educational resources and I was able to expand my professional network. It was great that I could publish a book on OER and now I can present new information and data in my lectures.