OER in Greece

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OER Initiatives in OER in Greece

As an introductory note, OER activities in Greece are spread throughout all educational sectors, according to the 2012 OECD study operated in 34 OECD countries (Hylen et al., 2012[1]) with the exception of the post-secondary/non tertiary education sectors where the level of activity is low. However, it is not clear whether there is a shared understanding of what an OER initiative is or what the prerequisites are for labelling an activity as OER across the countries who responded to the questionnaire. This ambiguity is reflected in the selection of resources presented below. In most cases, there is confusion between OER and Open Access (OA) materials. Although the open (freely shared) character of a resource is a condition of OER, the mere display of a resource on the Internet doesn’t automatically qualify the resource as an OER.

At this stage it is worth mentioning briefly some frequently cited definitions of OER in an indicative, non exhaustive analysis, with the aim of highlighting an OER dimension that is often underestimated or neglected: the social dimension enabling content reuse and repurposing in new educational contexts.

For instance, the OER Commons[2] definition points to the «process of engaging with the materials» as a fundamental feature of their approach to OER, the same applies to the 2003 Unesco forum definition of OER according to Hylén (2007)[3]. For Atkins and his colleagues «the culture of contribution» is paramount to OER success and development. The authors clearly speak of the OER movement that «will create incentives for a diverse set of institutional stakeholders to enlarge and sustain this new culture of contribution» (Atkins et al., 2007: 3)[4]. In the abovementioned definitions, the resource as a static piece of knowledge is in an equal relationship to the dynamic (social) dimension, both combined in an indistinguishable concept.

The social component of OER – seen in the various types of roles (repository designers, OER developers, researchers, educators and learners) and in the interaction modalities fostering user engagement with content – seems to be gradually becoming more closely integrated into the OER discussion.

More and more voices are advocating a shift from OER as «pieces-of-content-to-be-released» towards a «users-interacting-with-content» approach. OER from a collaborative learning perspective (Conole & al., 2010)[5] and in relation to their affordances for interaction around content (Petrides & al., 2008)[6] certainly give greater insight into the social dynamics of educational resources.

In the investigation of OER practices in Greece, we have identified many serious initiatives targeting Open Access resources but far fewer initiatives in the direction of reuse of OER in different educational contexts, namely by formally addressing the issues of:

  • interoperability between digital content repositories;
  • effective data management and classification, namely through metadata harvesting mechanisms, such as the Open Access Initiative-Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH), so that services can be built using metadata from many archives, and
  • implementation of resources: intellectual property licenses to promote open publishing of materials, design-principles, and localisation of content.

Although indicative and non-exhaustive, in the literature review presented in the next sections, OER are often associated with digitization and with content made freely accessible, which is only the first step towards user engagement with resources in terms of dynamic reuse and repurposing of OER in new educational contexts.

At this stage it would be useful to mention initiatives to build, maintain and expand OA repositories that can potentially give birth to OER.

OA repositories

OA repositories can be accessed directly and through the Openarchives.gr site which is an aggregator of 62 digital Greek libraries (see below #Greek OA harvester).

Some of the most popular repositories are Helios, set up by the National Hellenic Research Foundation, containing research outcomes of various types and formats, Pandektis, also maintained by the National Hellenic Research Foundation, which is a major digital collection of Greek history and civilization materials developed by the Institute of Neohellenic Research, the Institute of Byzantine Research and the Institute of Greek and Roman Antiquity.

Other OA repositories are Anemi, the digital library of Modern Greek studies set up by the University of Crete Library, E.L.I.A., run by the Hellenic Literature and History Archive (E.L.I.A), covering Greece's historical development during the 19th and 20th centuries through a repository of 84,500 records (photographs and postcards, newspapers, periodicals, and cultural life documentation), Arheiomnimon run by the National Archives of Greece, giving access to the State Archives collected from 37 Central and Local agencies of the General State Archives. Finally, the Parthenon Frieze Repository offers free access to cultural material for this masterpiece of world heritage. The repository provides the possibility of immediate access to the frieze, both as a database for scholars and as digital games for schools and their pupils.

With regard to interoperability, a 2009 study[7] listed OAI-PMH compliant (19) and non-compliant (65) digital collections in Greece. However, data has now changed in the direction of more OAI-PMH compliant repositories allowing better indexing of resources and more importantly better interoperability between repositories.

From a policy perspective, in the area of Open Access content, it is worth mentioning the policy and development role of the National Documentation Centre (Εθνικό Κέντρο Τεκμηρίωσης, ΕΚΤ ), which, under the umbrella of «Open Access» activities

  • organizes conferences and seminars on OA;
  • publishes calls for participation in OA related actions;
  • informs on the objectives and methodology of setting up digital repositories and
  • keeps an up-to-date website on the activities of the nationwide funding programme "National Information System for Research and Technology (ΕΠΣΕ+T)" Phase III -"Electronic Repositories and Journals Open Access".

In terms of funding sources, digitization of collections began mainly after 2000, with the support of the framework programme "Digital Greece" that is funded 80% by the European Union - European Regional Development Fund and 20% by the Greek government (Operational Programme "Information Society", CSF 2000-2006). Another funding source for the maintenance of existing repositories and the creation of new ones is the "National Information System for Research & Technology / Social Networks – User Generated Content" Programme, part of the "Digital Convergence" Operational Programme of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) 2007 -2013, co-funded by the Greek State and the European Union - European Regional Development Fund.

Greek OA harvester

Openarchives.gr is to date the only Greek OA harvester, collecting data from 62 digital libraries and institutional repositories in Greece and Cyprus . 429777 items belonged to the repository in October 2012. The openarchives.gr aggregator is being hosted, managed and developed by the National Documentation Centre (EKT). The openarchives.gr aggregator, originally designed and implemented by Vangelis Banos, began operation in 2006. The enhancement of openarchives.gr with new features has been carried out since May 2011 by EKT within the framework of the project "National Information System for Research and Technology – Social Networks and User Generated Content" under the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) 2007 -2013.

National OER initiatives

The "Digital School" initiative by the Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports, is the official repository of all the textbooks in the form of e-books for all levels of education (primary, secondary, upper secondary and professional education) . It is not clear whether these textbooks constitute an OER or not (content is not designed in a mode allowing its reinvestment in contexts others from their target context: formal learning settings in Greece), but in its response to the 2012 OECD questionnaire[8], Greece noted that the documents describing the function and areas of responsibility of the Directorate that handles the educational portal in the Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports of Greece make reference to OER. The same applies to the "Digital learning supportive materials"(Psifiaka sholika voithimata), also at the initiative of the Ministry of Education, Religious Affairs, Culture and Sports. The set of materials includes all chapters of textbooks selected for the national exams of the state examination system. Each unit includes: i) a videoconference, consisting of a set of videorecordings of the lectures for each unit, ii) course notes, iii) model solutions to the questions and exercises for understanding the theory organized by degree of difficulty, and iv) set of questions and exercises to be solved for further practice by the student. These materials are all available under Creative Commons licences.

Other Internet supported open learning initiatives

The initiative Mathisi 2.0 plus fosters knowledge building and collaboration in the area of social media and open learning communities in Greece. It has a very strong social media presence, through a blog, a Facebook page, a twitter account and a YouTube channel. An initiative worth mentioning is the call for good practice in the area of learning through digital technologies, with emphasis on social media and open communities[9]. Each year the call invites young learners, students, teachers, independent groups and educational institutions to apply for an award, which is accompanied by a public display of the practice on the Mathisi 2.0 website. Mathisi 2.0 plus is implemented by the University of Athens (Department of Communication and Media), with the financial support of the Hellenic General Secretary of Youth, within the framework of the European Commission Youth in Action programme.

Regional OER initiatives

More of an Open Access initiative than an OER initiative, Veria Central Public Library gives access to a large digital repository comprising the library’s collection, including the collections of the Monastery of St John the Baptist, Skete Veria, and the Lyceum of Greek Women, annex of Veria. The initiative is financially supported by the "Public Libraries digitization" action of the Information Society Operational Programme (80% contribution by the European Social Fund). Through a set of metadata mechanisms, the Central Public Library of Veria provides its digital content to the European culture portal Europeana.

Institutional OER initiatives

To our knowledge there is no formal institutional OER initiative, presumably due to the novelty of the OER field. However, forthcoming developments are expected from institutions, including the Hellenic Open University, through the Educational Content, Methodology and Technology Laboratory (e-CoMeT Lab) which is involved in two European Commission funded projects:

Open courses

In 2012 the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens launched "Open Courses at the University of Athens" within the action "Development and sharing of Digital educational resources from Universities and Technological Institutes/ Hellenic Academic Opencourses" supported by the Operational Programme "Education and Lifelong Learning" of the NSRF. Through this scheme teaching staff of the University will benefit from a technical team that will support staff in the digitization of educational content and in its upgrading to the available learning environment (http://eclass.uoa.gr). The digital content will be built on a pedagogically sound e-learning approach that takes copyright issues into account.

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