As the country’s leading academic institution in open learning and distance education, the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) adheres to the philosophy of open education and has been a staunch advocate of Open Educational Resources (OERs) and open access courses. As early as 2012, the UPOU has crafted its OER policies and has put in place strategies to promote, support, contribute and integrate OER values in its institutional processes and practices.
OERs, as defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2012, are “teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. Open licensing is built within the existing framework of intellectual property rights as defined by relevant international conventions and respects the authorship of the work.” OERs play a pivotal role in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and specifically Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 which calls on the international community to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
Recognizing the transformative potential of OERs in achieving SDG 4, UPOU continues to produce free educational resources in various formats. These free educational resources are housed in the UPOU Commons under the UPOU Networks, an online repository of all UPOU-produced multimedia resources. Through the UPOU Networks, the university is able to provide free access to a plethora of knowledge in various multimedia formats such as publications, videos, animations, web-streamed lectures, presentations, seminars, university events, and podcasts. The UPOU Networks is now the university’s window to the world where communal interaction happens both in real-time during scheduled webinars and asynchronously through recorded multimedia materials. This is in line with UPOU’s thrust as a Public Service university, its vision for “Pamantasang Bukas Para sa Magandang Bukas,” and its mandate in Republic Act 10650 (Open and Distance Learning Act) as the lead institution to promote best practices for open and distance learning in the country. Since 2010, there are at least 700 learning resources uploaded on the UPOU Networks. The UPOU Networks can be accessed via https://networks.upou.edu.ph/.
Additionally, UPOU started exploring Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as early as 2011 and offered its first MOOC in 2013. With this, UPOU was the first university in the Philippines to offer not just OERs but also MOOCs, which are free online courses intended for unlimited participation. More than accommodating thousands in enrollment, UPOU has emphasized the “openness” of these courses. UPOU recognizes the potential of MOOCs to meet the demands of a changing educational landscape, to reach a wider audience, to make education more open and accessible, and to promote lifelong learning.
UPOU has been developing and offering a number of MOOCs through its platform, the Massive Open Distance e-Learning (MODeL, https://model.upou.edu.ph). These courses have allowed UPOU to cater to lifelong learners, career shifters, out-of-school youth, alternative learning system students, and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). From 2013, there have been more than 80 courses offered via the UPOU MODeL, and has accommodated almost 70,000 learners.
As the pioneer and the first university in the Philippines to offer fully online courses, UPOU has been a keen advocate on the use of technology-enhanced learning to deliver its courses to a wide range of learners, especially to learners not normally reached by a University of the Philippines (UP) campus and the conventional educational system. It encourages and supports the creation of open educational and training materials for its academic programs and community extension work. With these values, it recognized the use of OERs and offering of MOOCs as key to its mandate to promote lifelong learning and provide access to quality education through the use of distance education materials and technologies.
Creating, using, and promoting OERs and offering MOOCs are just two of the programs UPOU implements to advocate not only access but also equity in quality education. UPOU has unique brands of public service aimed to widen access to continuing professional education, provide digital opportunities to local communities, foster critical discussion of relevant issues in the community and society, and provide technical assistance to higher education institutions (HEIs), local governments, people’s organizations, and civil society.
Written by Joane V. Serrano, PhD