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In Germany, OER remains largely a grass-roots phenomenon, but policy interest is rising

In Germany, OER remains largely a grass-roots phenomenon, but policy interest is rising

Author: Dr. Dominic Orr, freelance educational consultant, Germany
Date: 6th November 2014
Licence: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Whilst many countries have been supporting OER through policy interventions over the past 5 years or so, Germany currently has no national strategy for this area. However, interesting OER projects and initiatives[1] are occurring and experiencing success. Wikimedia Germany[2] and the Technologiestiftung Berlin[3] held an event entitled Best Practice for OER in October, which was attended by about 30 people (low because of school holidays) and streamed live online[4]. The discussion showcased three interesting projects.

Schulbuch-o-mat[5] – The initiators of this project wanted to do something about the difference between life outside and inside of school (technology-rich vs technology-poor) and are also against the idea that the contents of school books should be static and see the benefit of open licence textbooks in the fact that content can be updated by users at any time. The first book on biology, which is orientated on the Berlin school curriculum, has been downloaded 40 thousand times so far. The project initiators have also carried out a Book Sprint[6] to update content. However, they also pointed out the problem of getting sufficient people to participate in such events. In their case, too few people has led to a delay in the completion of a second book, although this has already been released as a beta version.

Serlo[7] – This portal offers learning materials to school pupils mainly in the area of mathematics. In his introduction, the founder explained that he had started the portal at school and didn’t know the term OER at the time. The aim was to provide accessible explanations of topics to young learners. At the same time the portal tries to leverage the kind of participation in creation found in Wikipedia. Links between learning materials should also help students to find their own learning path through the content. In order to make the project more sustainable the team are currently trying to unbundle the technology on the backend of the portal and sell this as a service to third parties.

Lernox[8] – This platform aims to help teachers use OER by helping them find, adapt and redistribute existing OER (from others, from public art collections etc.). It is a new start-up and the initiator was previously employed in the publishing industry. The overall aim of Lernox is to get more media into lessons and daily life in schools. It aims to create a Freemium-type business model around an editing suite and learning system for OER.

The end of the discussion focused on whether OER is a grass roots movement in Germany or moving towards mainstream. Certainly the agreement was that it wouldn’t help to wait for policy to react and was better to just keep working on OER projects… Just do it!. In this sense one could argue that OER remains a grass roots phenomenon at the present. However, policy discussions on national level are progressing and it is expected that a national policy recommendation on OER will emerge late spring next year.

[1] OER projects and initiatives in Germany, http://poerup.referata.com/wiki/Germany#National_OER_initiatives
[2] Wikimedia Germany, https://www.wikimedia.de/wiki/Hauptseite
[3] Technologiestiftung Berlin, http://www.technologiestiftung-berlin.de/de/startseite/
[4] Best Practice for OER, http://www.technologiestiftung-berlin.de/de/aktuelles/veranstaltungen/beitrag/best-practice-oer-oer-praxis/
[5] Schulbuch-o-mat, http://www.schulbuch-o-mat.de/
[6] Book Sprint, http://www.booksprints.net/about/
[7] Serlo, http://de.serlo.org/
[8] Lernox, http://lernox.de/remix/]