Since 2016, an informal network has existed in Italy to promote open education: Open Education Italia is a grassroots initiative set up by researchers and advocates. The network acts as a meeting point for educators working in connection with national and international initiatives, that are also promoted through the website. Members of the network include university lecturers, teachers, independent researchers, NGOs, journalists and companies. The network has just created an open document in progress, which can be used as a manual and enriched to increase knowledge about openness in schools and universities.
The network met in-person in Bologna, Italy on 7 October 2022, at the headquarters of Archilabó, a project that brings together several associations and NGOs, hosts a library and delivers various training initiatives.
Fondazione Politecnico di Milano (FPM) and Universidad Internacional de La Rioja (UNIR), who participate in the network with several representatives, involved those present in a Focus Group to discuss aspects of the ongoing ENCORE+ Survey, to assess aspects related to quality, sustainability and the use of advanced technologies such as AI in the design and creation of Open Educational Resources (OER) repositories.
Some interesting insights emerged from the discussion on the topic of quality, such as the need to re-evaluate the role of publishers and create a new ethical pact with them. The digital format of books allows new forms of distribution, fruition and also new economic models, such as that of Scribd, which through agreements with various publishers offers a monthly subscription to access all the content on the circuit. A similar model in Italy is run by MLOL, which is used by schools and libraries – but still has limitations.
The Book in Progress Project was mentioned, an Italian initiative of self-publishing of textbooks by teachers, which, although not strictly an OER initiative, has nevertheless demonstrated a third way in the construction and peer review of content, while at the same time guaranteeing considerable savings for families. There are about a hundred secondary schools in Italy that adhere to the initiative.
The second topic addressed was sustainability. The first provocation was: “Does OER have to be free?” Again, a new publishing model was discussed, drawing parallels with music content in digital format. Is a Spotify model (a platform that provides audio content for free with advertising or for a fee) conceivable for education? There are already platforms that distribute digital music content with other economic models, mainly oriented towards emerging musicians. New mixed paper/digital publishing modes could also be envisaged, as some publishers do in the United States. Finally, one could think of a model offering paid services while leaving the content in free form.
The third topic addressed was the use of advanced technologies such as AI to support the search for OER in the various repositories. On this point, those present expressed misgivings, mainly related to the Edtech world. The experience in the United States where AI-managed student tutoring services are not very popular with students is mainly motivated by the financial savings this provides.
On this last point, we invite you to attend our next event on 10 November where we will present an innovative model of using AI for finding educational content on the web. Register for the event here.
The collaboration with Open Education Italia and the ENCORE+ project will certainly continue given the mutual interest in open education topics.
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