As the Saylor Academy Higher Education Summit nears, we are introducing innovations in education that can help close the global skills gap. Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani, Associate Vice Provost, Open Education of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, is a world-renowned expert, speaker, and author specializing in student-centered pedagogies and open education, and advocates for the use of OER (Open Educational Resources) to increase educational access.

Dr. Jhangiani is well known in OER circles, and we are honored to have him moderate a panel, “OER is Poised to Close the Global Skills Gap” at our Summit. You can also find Dr. Jhangiani on Twitter @thatpsychprof or

Join Dr. Jhangiani and other education leaders at the Saylor Academy Summit on Closing the Global Skills Gap, November 14-15, 2019, in Washington, DC! Register at

Saylor Academy: You previously testified in front of the United Nations to advocate for Open Educational Practices (OEP) in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS).  Why is OER/OEP critical in supporting sustainable development goals?

Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani: If you look at the 17 SDGs you will quickly see that they centre on Goal 4, which is about ensuring inclusive, equitable, and high-quality education for all. Creating, adapting, and adopting OER is an easy and powerful way to lower the cost of education while simultaneously enabling the localization and revision of content.

But more than just widening access to education, OER is also reducing systemic inequities within education as students assigned OER perform the same as or better than those assigned expensive commercial resources, no matter the type of institution, the discipline, the mode of delivery of education, or the country. What is more, the greatest gains in learning outcomes are seen among students who are first in their family to pursue education, those who are economically precarious, and those who are marginalized in various ways.

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The use of OEP builds on OER and takes it much further as it emphasizes the democratization of both knowledge and knowledge creation. OEP encompasses a set of action-oriented, transformative pedagogies that support self-directed learning, participation and collaboration, problem-orientation, inter- and transdisciplinarity and the linking of formal and informal learning. It is a pedagogical approach that is especially well suited to develop the key competencies needed for promoting sustainable development.

SA: What can governments/national leaders do to encourage OER development?  Why should national governments get involved?

RJ: For starters, governments and policymakers can look at adopting an open licensing policy. This would mean, for example, that resources that are created through government grants or other programs are published with an open license, which permits their free and unfettered reuse. This simple step introduces massive fiscal efficiencies into the system, amplifies the impact of the funding programs, and even creates opportunities for entrepreneurship.

Examples of this approach can be seen around the world, from Poland to Brazil to the Department of Labor here in the United States. Integrating OER into teacher education programs is another step that is paying dividends throughout the world, including in India, Afghanistan, Colombia, Mauritius, Tanzania, and Uganda. And finally, supporting the creation of OER through government grant programs like those seen in the US and Canada ensures that high quality and localized OER will be available to both formal and informal learners at low to no cost. It is truly difficult to find a program with a higher return on public investment than OER.

SA: How can OER help close global skills gaps? 

RJ: While tertiary education is an important vehicle to help address the global skills gaps, universities and colleges around the world simply cannot accommodate the growing demand from learners worldwide. By reducing the cost of education, by distributing educational resources at low or no cost, by enabling the localization of content, and by supporting both formal and informal learning, OER is already helping to close global skills gaps.

To give you one concrete example, take the open online course called Learning in a Digital Age that is currently being offered by an international consortium known as the OERu. Thousands of informal learners have registered for this learning opportunity, with 60% of registrants living in countries across the Global South. And this is just one of many courses offered by this global network, which gives learners the option to complete assessments, earn micro-credentials, and even credentials from accredited universities around the world, such as the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland or Thompson Rivers University in Canada.

SA: What are a few examples of OER/OEP supporting sustainable development?

RJ: There are many. For instance, in Senegal, which has one of the fastest growing markets for self-paced online education, the project SeeSD is translating and adapting STEM OER to fit local needs. In South Africa, 10 million Siyavula open textbooks were printed and distributed to government schools between 2012 and 2014. And the Commonwealth of Learning has leveraged OER and information and communication technologies to launch low-tech massive open online courses, learning design workshops for teacher educators, and open schooling for across the Global South which, at last count, more than 47,000 women and girls have benefited from.

Looking more at OEP, there are cases like medical students at the University of California who are writing, editing, and improving articles in Wikipedia on a variety of medical topics, serving good health & well-being and quality education. There are undergraduate students at The Ohio State University who are writing chapters of an open textbook on Environmental Science, a volume that is edited and overseen by the faculty in that program, serving Climate Action and quality education. And there are students at Montgomery College in Maryland (USA) and my own institution Kwantlen Polytechnic University who are currently working with their faculty to create OER (as part of their coursework) that serve progress towards specific SDGs such as Reducing Poverty or Gender Equality.

SA: What barriers exist to implementing OER in sustainable development?  How can those barriers be addressed?

RJ: A general lack of awareness of OER, training, and support to create or localize OER, and the lack of recognition for OER work are some common barriers. Happily, there are many strategies that may be deployed to address these, including information & advocacy campaigns, distribution of OER in both print and digital formats, incentivization at various levels, and the adoption of supportive institutional and national policies. Groups such as the OERu and the Commonwealth of Learning provide free, open, and online access to training in working with OER and national networks are emerging in places such as Australia to help build capacity and community. More than anything, it is important to remember that resources and practices in open education are designed for sharing and collaboration, so this is not a road anyone needs to walk alone. This is a space in which we go further together.

The Saylor Academy Summit: Closing the Global Skills Gap is taking place on November 14-15, 2019 in Washington, DC.  Register today and join us!

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