Adult #Education and #OER: conclusions and policy recommendations for #Europe

This posting deals with the conclusions and policy recommendations from the Adult Education and Open Educational Resources study for the European Parliament, a 140-page “Study”, written by Sero, released on 15 October 2015. The Study reviews the current use of Open Educational Resources in Adult Education in Europe (with a focus on Member States of the European Union), assesses its potential and makes recommendations for policy interventions, taking account of the European Commission’s policy frameworks and those developed by the European Parliament and relevant European agencies. The majority of the research was carried out in the first five months of 2015.

The Study incorporates an Annex (starting on p. 77) including new research on over 12 Member States (with a focus on UK, France, Spain, Hungary, Sweden, Latvia, Germany and Romania), leveraging on a synthesis of existing research from a range of projects including POERUP (Policies for OER Uptake) and a 2014-15 study on Shared OER for the Joint Research Centre, augmented by more recent OER-related studies (D-TRANSFORM and SEQUENT) from Sero and others for the Joint Research Centre, Erasmus+ and the Lifelong Learning Programme. The work also was able to draw on some of the country reports for OERup!

The main conclusions are:

  1. There is sufficient OER activity under way related to Adult Education that we felt confident in drawing conclusions; however, some conclusions are tentative and for others the evidence base (especially in terms of case studies) is weak.
  2. The topic of OER is most usefully considered within the wider topic of the use of ICT in Adult Education.
  3. Issues of quality and accreditation are in our view soluble, but we encourage European and national agencies to move faster to solve them.
  4. The issue of recognition of prior learning is again in our view soluble, but requires an element of specialised attention and faster progress in EQF, ECTS and credit transfer generally.
  5. The much-hoped cost savings are potentially achievable, but case study information is limited. Furthermore, the cost savings may be achievable only by making changes to the educational system which may be challenging in some Member States as an infringement on the role of institutions or the teachers within them. Trade-offs will be needed. Smaller states, and smaller autonomous regions within states (especially those with their own languages), may have difficulty in making these trade-offs.
  6. A range of actions is also possible with bilateral or language-specific multilateral collaborations between Member States. (Examples are given in the SharedOER report – see Language Groupings below.)

Policy recommendations come into several categories:

Quality and accreditation

  1. National quality agencies, with support from ENQA (for HE) and EQAVET (for VET) should develop their understanding of new modes of learning (including online,
    distance, OER and MOOCs) and ensure that there is no implicit non-evidencebased bias against these new modes.
  2. The Commission and related national and international authorities developing the European Higher Education Area and the European Area of Skills and Qualifications should work towards reducing the regulatory barriers against new
    non-study-time-based modes of provision.
  3. Member States should more strongly encourage HE and VET providers to improve and proceduralise their activity on Accreditation of Prior Learning.
  4. Larger Member States should set up an Open Accreditor to accredit students for HE studies and a parallel model, perhaps via ‘one stop shops’, to accredit vocational competences.

 Staff development

  1. Member States, with support from the Commission, should support the development of online initial and continuous professional development programmes for teachers/trainers/lecturers, focussing on online learning and intellectual property rights (IPR).
  2. Member States should consider the use of incentive schemes for teachers/trainers/lecturers engaged in online professional development of their pedagogic skills including online learning.

 OER and IPR

  1. The Commission and Member States should adopt and recommend a standard Creative Commons license for all openly available educational and vocational training material they are involved in funding.
  2. Member States should phase out use of the ‘NonCommercial’ restriction on content.

Costing and other research

  • Member States should increase their scrutiny of the cost basis for university teaching and vocational training and consider the benefits of different modes of funding for their institutions

 Focus on students

  1. Member States should promote (within the context of their sovereign educational aims and objectives) to adult learners the availability and accessibility of open resources created through their respective cultural sector and schools
  2. Specific funding should be devoted to building OER corpora of material in key topic areas of interest to adults. The corpora should be designed ideally for independent self-study, guided self-study (in both the formal and informal sector)
    and as resources to support lecturers teaching such courses. This maximises the investment in them. Rather than just ‘silent’ textual materials, the materials should contain audio-visual elements and, for hard to learn concepts, interactive components and quizzes. This to some extent will overcome the barriers that can be found to studying textual material by those whose reading skills in the national language(s) may be less adequate.


  • The scarce funding for supporting adult learners should increasingly be targeted in an output-based fashion to reward adult learners for progression through the EQF. The accreditation gateways (one stop shops) could play a key role in this process. It is recognised that for this to work well, it needs a more developed and pervasive EQF than currently exists.

Language groupings

Language groupings where the languages are (a) either shared across borders or (b) are sufficiently similar to enable access (reading or listening for study purposes) from each country in the linguistic community, could include:

  1. the wider French, Dutch and German-speaking communities
  2. the groups of countries speaking the Continental Scandinavian, Balto-Finnic and Eastern Baltic groups of languages (Sweden/Norway/Denmark; Finland/Estonia; just possibly Lithuania/Latvia).
  3. within the wider set of European countries that can take part in the Erasmus+ Programme, some of the Slavic countries.