Open education as a concept exists in several forms including education for all, open access to fully-accredited programs, open access to kind of informal courses like massive open online courses (MOOCs), open educational resources (OERs), open textbooks, open research, and open data (Bates, 2015). At the present, OERs and MOOCs are the prevailing developments in the domain of open education. Though there is no consensus on the definition of OER yet, it simply describes educational resources that are freely available for use by educators and learners, without an accompanying need to pay royalties or licence fees (Butcher, 2010). However, OER incorporates a licence such as Creative Commons with automatic permission for different kinds of using the material without charge or any bureaucracy. The essence of effective OERs is fundamentally about working together towards a common cause through creating and sharing materials within connecting networks such as communities of practice that integrate the concepts of experiential learning, social constructivism, and connectivism (Bates, 2015).
The implementation of OER policy is affected, either positively or negatively, by technical, socioeconomic, and legal factors (Yuan et al., 2009). Other challenges related to OERs comprise sustainability depending on the available funding, reluctance of educators to adopt OERs, and technical and cultural barriers to material sharing (Weller, 2014).
The concept of openness in higher education (HE) is invaluable particularly in Third World developing countries like Sudan where most, if not all, HE institutions cannot afford accessibility to the costly scientific material. Therefore, availability of OERs would definitely contribute to the scientific development in those nations. A good starting point could be through taking the advantage of the freely available MOOCs like ONL (Open Networked Learning) that uses Google+, which is a user-friendly platform. This can be an excellent way for building PLN (Personal Learning Networks) and PLE (Personal Learning Environments) as well as be adapted and contextualized for specific learning and teaching situations. Reflecting on a pity accident we came across a couple of days ago, an account of a student in one of our online courses had been hacked. According to the IT department, the hacker used the account mainly for PubMed search and access to the library resources, so it has been a kind of scientific stealing. This experience practically showed us the importance of open learning and OERs where no need to misconduct in order to catch the learning materials; they are already freely available to everyone.
BATES, T. 2015. Teaching in a Digital Age: Guidelines for Teaching and Learning.
BUTCHER, N. 2010. Open Educational Resources and Higher Education.
YUAN, L.; MACNEILL, S.; KRAAN W. 2009. Open Educational Resources – Opportunities and Challenges for Higher Education.
WELLER, M. 2014. Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory.