From Nepal to the Nordic countries, innovations in digital learning resources

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The recent launch of the E-Pustakalaya digital library in Nepal is one example of the innovative ways that countries are exploring how to provide learning materials to schools in electronic formats. OLE-Nepal, an NGO affiliated with the Open Learning Exchange, has been working with the Ministry of Education to develop interactive digital lessons aligned with the national curriculum in a pilot subjects.  E-Pustakalaya will complement this work by bringing in digital content from a variety of publishers and organizations of relevance to learners in Nepal.  This is just one example (among hundreds) of a project seeking to help answer a question confronting many countries as they accelerate the speed at which they are looking to utilize computers in their schools: How can we provide useful educational content in local languages?

Many countries, especially those with limited resources and whose language of instruction is not one of the major international languages for which there is already a great deal of education content available in digital formats (English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Russian, etc.), are beginning to explore the use of so-called 'open education resources' (OER) as one way to develop relevant education content.

Following up on its own successful OER initiative, the results of which are collected in the excellent Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources, the OECD is currently sponsoring a project that it is calling 'Digital Learning Resources as Systemic Innovation'.  This work is attempting to take stock of policy innovations and a variety of discrete initiatives promoting "the development, distribution and use of digital learning resources for the schools sector", with a specific focus on experiences in the Nordic Countries.  Individual reports (all in PDF) on the current situation in Denmark, Finland, Iceland (disclaimer: I was part of the team that put together this report), Norway and Sweden are now available on the OECD web site.

The experiences and lessons learned documented from these countries -- considered by many to be world leaders in this area -- suggests that that system-wide innovations in this area are still the exception and not the rule.  Innovation related to digital learning resources, where it is occuring, appears to be happening largely at the level of specific programs and schools, and even classrooms.  It will be interesting to see just what generalized guidance will emerge for policymakers from the synthetic report from the OECD on this topic, due out later this year. 


Michael Trucano

Visiting Fellow, Brookings, and Global Lead for Innovation in Education, World Bank

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