Book Review: Open Educational Resources and Change in Higher Education: Reflections from Practice

British Journal of Educatonal Technology, Vol.44 no. 2 2013 provides a review by Dr Sara Hammer of the University of Southern Queensland of "Open Educational Resources and Change in Higher Education" edited by Jenny Glennie, Ken Harley, Neil Butcher and Trudi van Wyk.

This engaging book reviews current policy and practice in the development and use of Open Educational Resources (OER) internationally. It includes chapters that examine the current environment for OER development and use, including government and institutional policy, as well as a range of case studies that describe the development, re-use and implementation of OER with a particular emphasis on developing countries.

The book is useful for educators, educational leaders, learning resource developers, and government policymakers. This publication provides a unique international overview of OER policy and practice. What makes it even more exciting is that the oer movement is underpinned by a social justice agenda: to reduce educational inequities between developed and developing nations by providing free (“open”) access to high quality learning resources and tools.

The central—and also near unique—rationale of the book's editors is that OER promotion and development are best served by their working with contributors who can reflect critically about the use of such resources. The book certainly delivers on this, with authors who reflect frankly about both the effectiveness and implications of oer use in their particular contexts and a range of case studies from different countries.

The Introduction sets the scene with a critical examination of the role of government and institutional policy in the promotion of OER. This aspect is so important that the book's closing chapters come back to it in more depth. The chapters between these deal with the design, re-purposing and implementation of OER in a number of countries, most of them in the developing world.

Chapters 1 and 2 focus on the role of policies in the promotion of OER, with the first looking at insights and recommendations emerging from an initiative by UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning; this initiative was to expand awareness of OER and motivate government and institutions to create an enabling environment for their adoption. Chapter 2 describes challenges to the adoption of OER in the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic states and makes recommendations to overcome them.

The case studies in Chapters 3 to 6 focus on key principles for the effective development of OER in a number of developing parts of the world including India, Ghana, South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. The principles include soundness of design, cost-effectiveness, and simplicity—simplicity both of instructional design and of techniques and tools. The case studies also emphasise the importance of collaboration in the achievement of high quality, low cost resources.

Case studies featured in Chapters 7 and 8 examine guidelines and strategies for the search for and effective use of OER. Chapter 7 presents guidelines produced by the Open Educational Quality Initiative and Chapter 8 describes an environmental review in Africa that focused on resource “openness” and provides a foundation for discussing ways of searching for OER across disciplines.

Chapters 9 to 12 explore the impact of OER on learning and teaching. They include examination of the potential for OER use to change teacher practice and of the challenge of applying OER across different disciplines and cultures; they also present some pedagogical principles to guide their use within course design.

The return to that policy focus in Chapters 13 to 15 begins with a review of OER government and institutional environments and ends with case studies of policy developments in Brazil and New Zealand. These case studies illustrate different national approaches to policy development but also reinforce the importance of international government and institutional policy approaches to the successful promotion and adoption of OER.

A key strength of this book is the breadth of coverage of issues that are relevant to OER combined with the particular challenges and opportunities that their use presents to poorer developing nations. I would recommend it to any educator interested in finding out more about this amazing movement and even starting to put these ideas into practice

Dr Sara Hammer (received November 2012) Lecturer, Learning and Teaching, University of Southern Queensland, Australia