Open Educational Resources for Sustainability

OSIER in context

Re-orienting education to integrate sustainable development principles, values and practices is UNESCO’s current strategy for the second half of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). For the purposes of this project ESD is defined as education that ‘enables people to develop the knowledge, values and skills to participate in decisions about the way we do things, individually and collectively, both locally and globally that will improve the quality of life now without damaging the planet for the future’ (ACCAC, 2002).

UNESCO consider that reinforcing the abilities, competencies and professional knowledge of teachers and educators are critical elements in this regard and called for action to support the incorporation of sustainable development issues in formal education as well as in non-formal and informal education at all levels, in particular through the development of effective pedagogical approaches, teacher education and teaching. This emphasis on sustainable development is now a central part of both HEFCE strategy for the future development of the higher education (HE) sector and, becoming increasingly prominent in UK schools’ curricula:

Lecturers in initial teacher education (ITE) and continuing professional development (CPD) programmes in HE need to update their teaching programmes to take account of these changes. Thus a timely opportunity exists to develop an open educational resource site within the area of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) to broker universal sharing of learning materials and resources for reuse and repurposing between programmes that have integrated ESD and those that have yet to do so.

Why Open Educational Resources?

UNESCO noted it will take concerted effort and resources to establish ESD in curricula, programmes, practices, and policies across teacher-education institutions. The proposed open sustainability in education resource repository OSIER will be a strong, useful and timely support for those making this effort to amend their education programmes in the light of new demands from the school sectors across the four nations of the UK.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) provide an effective way to disseminate and share materials. The Higher Education Academy lists nine key benefits of OERs to UK Higher Education institutions, staff and students. These include raising standards in learning materials; achieving greater value for money; allowing resources to be re-purposed, and raising institutional and individual profiles. Of relevance to ESD and the OSIER project, they also note the value of OERs outside the UK, especially in the developing world, as evidenced by the OER Africa UK project.

By providing freely-licensed OERs, the OSIER project will:

  • Offer teacher-educators a valuable bank of resources to support their teaching and their students’ learning.
  • Provide teacher-educators and researchers with examples of best practice.
  • Stimulate new approaches to the teaching of ESD.
  • Allow the re-use and re-purposing of resources, thereby extending their value outside their original context.

How OSIER will achieve its goals

We are aiming for the re-purposing of existing resources rather than the creation of new ones. However, much material to be released will be more suited to the postgraduate M level nature of many education programmes. In all, resources equivalent to 360 undergraduate credits will be released across primary education and secondary science, geography, citizenship, RE, language, design technology, ICT and mathematics education. All resources will be appropriate to the teaching of ESD and/or Global Citizenship on HE education programmes.

OSIER has six partners in academic institutions in all four of the UK home nations, and also has links to several networks promoting the teaching of ESD and Global Citizenship. These partners will be supported by the project team to build the resource base and provide the associated contextual information that will allow them to be re-used and re-purposed.

The centrepiece of the project will be a resource repository that not only contains materials but provides extensive supporting information both about the resources and how they have been used. Overall, the project outputs will be far wider, and will include exploration of resource use and its underlying pedagogy:

  • Engagement of project partners with issues of sharing resources.
  • Enhanced knowledge of support needed for academics with respect to reusability and copyright/IPR concerns.
  • Searchable, browsable OER digital repository containing reusable, re-purposable resources for teaching ESD in HE equivalent to 360 credits.
  • Resources made openly available through a variety of other access routes.
  • Project website.
  • Three case studies of the OSIER repository in use.
  • External evaluation report.
  • Final project report.
  • Interim and completion reports.