Robert Schuwer is highly esteemed by the open education community for his outstanding work and quiet but relentless perseverance in open education. Robert has made important contributions to innovate education with the use of OERs, both nationally and internationally. In the Netherlands, he has been one of the key players behind the official recognition of the strategic importance of OER in Dutch education. Robert has consistently explored solutions to promote sharing and reusing of digital OERs so that instructors and students enjoy them and find them useful. He has done so from two different perspectives. Firstly, how to consolidate and organize the tangible use/reuse of OER within and for education (pilots, projects, and programmes). And secondly, focusing on the data. Setting up studies and research that would encourage reflection and thought about the implementation of OER as an innovative solution for education.
Robert’s open education journey is extensive and goes back to the first phases of OER. Here are some of his highlights:
In 2006, Robert was the project manager and public face of the first OER project in the Netherlands: OpenER (Open University of the Netherlands). OpenER quickly became a flagship project of open digital self-study courses, both nationally and internationally. It changed the attitude towards OER within the university itself and led to a growing awareness in the Netherlands of the value of OER in general, in other educational levels as well as among policy‐makers and politicians.
Shortly after, and together with Fred Mulder, Robert played an important role in the development of the national Wikiwijs project (https://www.wikiwijs.nl). He was involved from the initial planning in 2008 to the completion of the first phase of the national Wikiwijs programme in 2013. A single platform was to be created for all digital educational resources, for all sectors from primary education to higher education. Robert worked hard to ensure that higher education also started using Wikiwijs. Thanks in part to his efforts, there is now a single standard for metadata for educational resources in the Netherlands. He also made an important contribution to the quality assurance of educational resources in Wikiwijs.
Robert was involved in setting up and launching GO-GN (Global OER Graduate Network). A network of PhD students from all over the world whose research projects focus on open education (OER, OEP, MOOC). These PhD students form the core of the network. Currently, this “community of practice” consists of more than two hundred PhD students, experts, supervisors, and mentors. GO-GN was founded in 2013 by Fred Mulder, former rector of OU, and world’s first UNESCO Chairholder OER.
As of 2016, Robert is the second UNESCO OER Chair in the Netherlands, affiliated with Fontys Hogeschool ICT. He works with an international network of OER chairholders to advance open education globally.
Robert has participated in multiple research studies and special interest groups. A couple of his latest involvements are:
- SURF Special Interest Group OER / Open Education
- National Acceleration Plan for Innovation with ICT
- This working group was a major driving force behind the creation of the National Approach to Digital and Open Learning Resources Statement, signed by the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences, the Universities of the Netherlands, and SURF Control of educational resources: Towards a national approach to digital and open educational resources. In the Statement, the Dutch higher education institutions agree to work together to create, share, reuse open educational resources, to purchase collectively digital educational resources, and to build an open infrastructure for OER.
Robert will retire in 2022 but we hope to continue to see him as a strong advocate of OER and an active member of the open education community.