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'Opening up Education' – frequently asked questions

European Commission - MEMO/13/813   25/09/2013

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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 25 September 2013

'Opening up Education' – frequently asked questions

What do we mean by 'opening up education'?

Opening up education means bringing the digital revolution into education. Digital technologies allow all individuals to learn, anywhere, anytime, through any device, with the support of anyone.

What are the main objectives of this initiative?

  1. Create opportunities for organisations, teachers, students and pupils to be more innovative in the way they teach and learn by making more use of digital technologies and content. The Commission will provide support for organisations to review their strategies, promote reforms to improve teacher training, set up ‘communities of practice’ among teachers, and encourage innovative curricula.

  2. Boost the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) by ensuring that educational materials produced with public funding, such as Erasmus+, the new EU programme for education, are freely available to all. The new 'Open Education Europa' portal, launched today, will provide a gateway to high-quality OER produced in Europe, in their original language. OER are learning content, generally in digital form, that can be used and shared, free of charge for users.

  3. Increase transparency for users of educational resources regarding copyright.

  4. ICT infrastructure and connectivity in schools is often poor. Opening up Education will help schools and classrooms to get broadband access and support ICT infrastructure for education and training. It will also stimulate the market to produce new interactive content and learning tools by promoting the development of open frameworks and standards for interoperability and portability of digital educational content, applications and services.

  5. Strengthen cooperation with international organisations and stakeholders to better understand the impact of technology in education and explore new modes of teaching and learning.

What concrete actions are specified?

This Communication includes 24 actions that will greatly improve the use of digital technologies in education and boost digital skills (see annex for full list).

How will these 24 actions be funded/implemented?

The actions will receive EU funding from Erasmus+, Horizon 2020, the new programme for research and innovation, as well as Structural and Investment Funds. For example, from 2014, Erasmus+ will offer funding to education providers to ensure they adapt their business model to technological change, boost the assessment of digital skills and support teachers’ development through open online courses. All educational materials supported by Erasmus+ will be available to the public free of charge under open licences. Implementation will also be supported through the Open Method of Coordination in Education and Training 2020.

Why is Commission action needed now?

Because we use digital technology in every aspect of life, but many schools and universities are not keeping pace with this revolution.

For example, a study shows that

  1. 63% of 9-year olds study in schools which lack appropriate digital equipment, fast broadband and high connectivity;

  2. Between 50% and 80% of students in EU countries never use digital textbooks, exercise software, broadcasts/podcasts, simulations or learning games

  3. 70% of teachers would like training to improve their ICT skills.

The EU lacks a critical mass of good quality educational content and applications in specific subjects and multiple languages. This fragmentation of approaches and of markets could lead to new digital divide between those who have access to innovative, technology-based education and those who do not.

Chart 1: % of Grade 4 pupils (age 9-10) attending classes where teachers' use of ICT in more than 25% of lessons

Chart 2: % of Grade 8 pupils (age 13-14) attending classes where teachers' use of ICT in more than 25% of lessons

Source: European Schoolnet and Université de Liège (2013)

What has the Commission done to address this problem so far?

Several projects and good practices have been developed so far, including with the support of EU research and innovation funding. Many of these have been very successful, for example ITEC: designing the future classroom, or Open Discovery Space. However, the integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in education and training has not yet been realised to its full potential.

Opening up Education addresses this by helping national administrations, educational institutions, teachers, learners and stakeholders better coordinate their action and discover new ways of working and learning.

What will be the impact of Opening up Education?

  1. More and better open learning environments (OLEs) – meaning widespread uptake of ICTs in the classroom.

  2. Cost savings and better education outcomes through increased use of Open Educational Resources (OERs) such as free-to-use textbooks, videos, tests, and software which can be adaptable to specific learning needs. Since OERs are available at no cost for users, they could make education and training cheaper, for administrations, institutions and for users.

  3. Organisational change in schools, universities and training institutions to support integration of new technologies and high-quality OER.

  4. Better ICT infrastructure and connectivity in schools

  5. Greater demand for new interactive content and learning tools, helping to build new businesses in Europe around these educational needs.

When will we see an impact?

The timeline of the 24 actions vary. The Open Education Europa portal opens today, some existing projects will increase in scale, and others such as EPALE, the Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe, will be launched in early 2015.

What will the 'Open Education Europa' website do?

Open Education Europa is a one-stop shop for open educational resources in Europe. A place where you can find material in your own language, which teachers and students can use and share for free.

How does Opening Up Education relate to the Commission's annual Country-Specific Recommendations for Member States?

Once a year the Commission reviews the economic and social performance of each EU Member State and makes country-specific recommendations to guide national policies in the coming year. Opening up Education is part of the Commission's response to this objective at EU level.

All Member States received recommendations relating to education in the 2013 European Semester Country-Specific Recommendations. The latest CSR reportMoving Europe Beyond the Crisis, published May 2013, spells out the need across all Member States for greater investment in education, in equipping young people with the skills needed for the 21st century economy and for boosting innovation and competitiveness.

STUDENTS: What will Opening up Education mean for students?

More of the digital skills they need to get good jobs, after completing their education, especially for students without good internet and technology access at home.

TEACHERS: What will it mean for teachers?

More of the digital training and skills they need to be confident in the classroom. Opening up Education will support teachers' professional development through open online courses, in line with a project of the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs, and by creating new (or by scaling up existing) European platforms for teachers' communities of practice across the EU such as eTwinning and EPALE - the Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe.

GOVERNMENTS: What will it mean for national authorities?

Many national authorities have invested massively in ICT for education and training, yet this investment rarely yields the expected returns. Opening up Education represents an opportunity for Member States to work together and to learn from each others' experiences, avoiding duplication and lowering costs.

INDUSTRY: What will it means for digital and education businesses?

Besides educational institutions, education is also backed by an industry, which provides textbooks, eLearning tools and applications for mathematics, for language learning, learning games and other education material. Using technology more extensively in education opens a new set of opportunities for industry, and coordinating at the European level will speed up the growth of these markets.

How will traditional educational publishers be affected?

The European Commission recognises the disruption digital technologies bring to past business models, but highlights the need for publishers to work closely with authorities, institutions and ICT companies to take up the new opportunities that come with these new ways of learning.

Publishers are concerned that Open Educational Resources do not match the strict quality control procedures that have characterised the print market; the Commission continues to support high quality materials, and remains neutral as to specific business models.

What will this mean for intellectual property rights?

Studies show that more than 50% of teachers do not share their teaching material, because they are concerned about the legal consequences. This prevents collaborative and personalised teaching and learning practices.

Open Educational Resources are usually made available under licenses that allow free use, re-use and sharing. While these open licenses do not challenge the current intellectual property rights framework, they can still represent a challenge to the traditional business models of publishers or universities.

Opening up Education will facilitate experiments to test the impact on business models, and encourage the exchange of best practices. It also proposes to develop technical solutions which provide transparent information on copyrights and open licences to users of digital educational resources. For example, the industry initiative Linked Content Coalition which aims at making it easier to identify copyright owners, therefore facilitating the legal use of copyrighted materials.

Actions under Opening Up Education

What?

Action for …

Open Learning Environments: opportunities to innovate for organisations, teachers and learners

Support educational institutions in developing new business and educational models and launch large-scale research and policy experiments to test innovative pedagogical approaches, curriculum development and skills assessment;

Commission, through Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020

Support teachers' professional development through open online courses, following pledges made under the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs, and by creating new and scaling up existing European platforms for teachers' communities of practice (e.g. eTwinning, EPALE) to establish collaborative peer-based teaching practices across the EU;

Commission, through Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020

Explore and test, in cooperation with stakeholders and Member States, digital competence frameworks and self-assessment tools for learners, teachers and organisations;

Commission, through Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020

Explore how established and emerging tools for the validation and recognition of skills, such as 'open badges', can be tailored to the needs of learners. Ensure that transparency and recognition instruments for formal education are adapted to new forms of learning including validation of skills acquired online, in line with national tools in the context of the Council Recommendation for Validation of non-Formal and Informal Learning;

Commission, through Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020

Member States and education institutions

Coordinate, facilitate exchange of experiences and results achieved in national programmes between Member States, and provide targeted policy guidance to clusters of Member States to help them identify successful measures for meeting their challenges in view of the specific country recommendations (SCRs) under the European Semester /Europe 2020;

Commission, through Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020

Support innovative teaching and learning environments, including through the use of EU Structural and Investment funds (ESIFs);

Member States and education institutions

Support teachers in acquiring a high level of digital competences and adopt innovative teaching practices through flexible training, incentive schemes, revised curricula for teachers' initial education and new professional evaluation mechanisms;

Member States and education institutions

Reinforce digital skills in education and training institutions, including among disadvantaged groups, and revisit learners assessments in order to ensure that all skills acquired through digital learning can be recognised.

Member States and education institutions

Open Educational Resources: opportunities to use open knowledge for better quality and access

Ensure that all educational materials supported by Erasmus+ are available to the public under open licences and promote similar practices under EU programmes;

Commission

Use the new programmes Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 to encourage partnerships between creators of educational content (e.g. teachers, publishers, ICT companies) to increase the supply of quality OER and other digital educational materials in different languages, to develop new business models and to develop technical solutions which provide transparent information on copyrights and open licenses to users of digital educational resources;

Commission

Launch the Open Education Europa portal linking it to existing OER repositories in different languages and bringing learners, teachers and researchers together, in order to improve the attractiveness and visibility of quality OERs produced in the EU;

Commission

Stimulate open access policies for publicly-funded educational materials;

Member States and education institutions

Encourage formal education and training institutions to include digital content, including OERs, among the recommended educational materials for learners at all educational levels and encourage the production, including through public procurement, of high-quality educational materials whose copyrights would belong to public authorities.

Member States and education institutions

Connectivity and Innovation: partnerships for infrastructures, new products and services, and interoperability

Promote the development of open frameworks and standards for interoperability and portability of digital educational content, applications and services, including OER, exploring potential cooperation with European standardization organisations and programmes, and develop components for an efficient educational technologies market place including the coordination of joint specifications for public procurement of innovative solutions to help the deployment of affordable devices, software and content;

Commission, through Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020

Promote research and innovation on adaptive learning technologies, learning analytics and digital games for learning, creating links with innovative entrepreneurs;

Commission, through Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020

Connect every school, ideally including connectivity to individual classrooms, to broadband, upgrade their ICT equipment, and develop accessible, open national digital learning repositories using structural and investment funds by 2020.

Member States and education institutions

A concerted effort to seize the opportunities of the digital revolution

Launch a platform open to all stakeholders (teachers, learners, families, digital communities, economic and social partners, etc.) to record and benchmark the digital state of educational institutions;

Commission through Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020

Establish a European Hub of Digitally Innovative Education institutions, showcasing and piloting innovative ICT-based pedagogical and organizational practices;

Commission through Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020

Promote networks of volunteer teachers, digital communities and ICT experts in launching initiatives (such as coding courses or back-to-school programmes) and establish teachers' awards for the good pedagogical use of ICT for all educational sectors. Award of Digital Excellence.

Member States and education institutions

European Commission support for better knowledge and stronger evidence-based policies

Carry out a comprehensive exercise of foresight scenarios for education in Europe 2030, in consultation with relevant actors such as European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT), European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU), League of European Research Universities (LERU), European University Association (EUA) and European Schoolnet on the basis of the work carried out by JRC-IPTS and in line with the on-going FUTURIUM project. As regards higher education, the Commission will also pursue work with the High Level Group for Modernisation of Higher Education to establish recommendations on the new modes of learning;

Commission

Develop measuring tools and indicators to monitor more closely the integration of ICT in teaching and training institutions, and support Europe-wide quantitative surveys;

Commission

Launch a specific impact assessment on the economic and social impact of an EU initiative to stimulate open access to educational materials produced with public funds;

Commission

Exploring ways with rights-holders, teaching institutions and other educational stakeholders to understand and assess the current practices and needs of sharing educational materials (including open educational resources), including those resulting from copyright and licensing regimes, multilingualism, quality assurance, etc. both in national and cross-border contexts.

Commission

For more information

IP/13/859 Commission launches 'Opening up Education' to boost innovation and digital skills in schools and universities

ICT in schools study

Advances in technology enhanced learning


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