Since 2002 UNESCO has been promoting the initiative for free educational resources (OER) on the Internet, which are critically important for ensuring wide access to quality higher education and life-long learning (Forum on Open Courseware for Developing Countries, UNESCO, Paris, 1-3 July, 2002). Since then a consensus within the relevant community has been achieved on the approaches to be used in producing virtual repositories of learning materials. Dozens of large-scale repositories have been complied, updated and used. The importance of OER for the world education community has been stressed in the Communiqué of the World Conference on Higher Education: The New Dynamics of Higher Education and Research for Societal Change and Development as "ODL approaches and ICTs present opportunities to widen access to quality education, particularly when Open Educational Resources are readily shared by many countries and higher education institutions" (UNESCO, Paris, 5-8 July 2009).
At its initial stage the project was focused on educational content in the Russian language and covered mostly CIS and Baltic States. The preliminary study of the state-of-the-art of OER was carried out in the Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Armenia, Republic of Belarus, Republic of Kazakhstan, Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, as well as in Latvia and Lithuania. A synthesis report “CIS on the Way towards Open Educational Resources” was prepared and published by IITE. In 2011, the geographical scope of the IITE OER project expanded to include Japan, People’s Republic of China, Brazil, Turkey and Vietnam. These surveys provided a further insight into how OER-related patterns vary in non-English-speaking countries. IITE published the case studies on OER in Lithuania, Brazil (this publication was considered by Stephen Downes in 2011 as one of the top publications on OER and was translated into the Portuguese with the support of the CI Sector), China, Poland, France (publications were published in 2011, 2013, 2015) and Kenya (will be published in 2016 ). Several other case studies surveying best practices in OER in non-English-speaking countries are under preparation for publication. In total, 20 selected non-English speaking countries were surveyed.
IITE was involved in consultations promoting OER beyond the OER community held by the UNESCO Education Sector and the Commonwealth of Learning. The Institute has contributed to the development of the UNESCO/COL Guidelines for Open Educational Resources (OER) in Higher Education and translated the Guidelines into the Russian language to further promote them in the CIS countries, in particular Kyrgyz Republic. The Russian version of the "Open Educational Resources (OER) Country Policy Development Template" (joint translation project with ABBYY LS) was published by UNESCO IITE at its website and distributed. The Kyrgyz Republic initiative in developing national OER strategy was supported by IITE through advice and consultancy based on these two documents.
To introduce the open licensing frameworks, two international workshops “Open Educational Resources and Intellectual Property Rights” and “The use of open licenses in CIS” were organized in Moscow. The first workshop brought together experts in ICT in education, OER and IPR from Azerbaijan, China, Latvia, Russia, Turkey, UK and Ukraine. The second workshop was attended by Creative Commons Europe and participants from six CIS countries. In collaboration with UNESCO IITE the Institute for the Information Society produced the analytical report “The use of Creative Commons Licenses in the Russian Federation”.
An IITE article on OER in CIS was published in a joint UNESCO/COL volume “OER as a Catalyst for Educational Change in Higher Education” distributed at the World OER Congress 2012. UNESCO IITE prepared a chapter “Open Educational Resources through the System of Russian National Portals” for the monograph “Open Educational Resources: Policy, Costs and Transformation” published on OER in non-English-speaking countries by the UNESCO Headquarters.
To develop the capacity of educators in OER production and re-use, an online training course, including a special tool for OER development was elaborated and made openly available at the IITE website. To facilitate access to OER, an IITE OER gateway was developed and launched (iite.unesco.org/oer/).