Open educational resources

Open educational resources

Open educational resources (OER) are digital materials that can be re-used for teaching, learning, research and more, made available for free through open licenses, which allow uses of the materials that would not be easily permitted under copyright alone.[1] As a mode for content creation and sharing, OER alone cannot award degrees nor provide academic or administrative support to students.[2][3] However, OER materials are beginning to get integrated into open and distance education.[4] Some OER producers have involved themselves in social media to increase their content visibility and reputation.[5]

OER include different kinds of digital assets. Learning content includes courses, course materials, content modules, learning objects, collections, and journals. Tools include software that supports the creation, delivery, use and improvement of open learning content, searching and organization of content, content and learning management systems, content development tools, and on-line learning communities. Implementation resources include intellectual property licenses that govern open publishing of materials, design-principles, and localization of content. They also include materials on best practices such as stories, publication, techniques, methods, processes, incentives, and distribution.


Other Definitions

The following definition of OER has been proposed by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation:

OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.[6]

One report, the OLCOS Roadmap 2012, notes that there is no established definition of OER and prefers to identify three core attributes:

  • that access to open content (including metadata) is provided free of charge for educational institutions, content services, and the end-users such as teachers, students and lifelong learners;
  • that the content is liberally licensed for re-use in educational activities, favourably free from restrictions to modify, combine and repurpose the content; consequently, that the content should ideally be designed for easy re-use in that open content standards and formats are being employed;
  • that for educational systems/tools software is used for which the source code is available (i.e. Free Software/Open Source software) and that there are open Application Programming Interfaces (open APIs) and authorisations to re-use Web-based services as well as resources (e.g. for educational content RSS feeds).[7]


The aspirations of OER proponents range from a desire to reshape the captive market of textbook publishers[8] to the aim of creating "a world where each and every person on earth can access and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge."[9] High hopes, especially, have been voiced for OER to alleviate the digital divide between the global North and the global South, and to make a contribution to the development of less advanced economies.[10]


The term learning object was coined in 1994 by Wayne Hodgins and quickly gained currency among educators and instructional designers, popularizing the idea that digital materials can be designed to allow easy reuse in a wide range of teaching and learning situations.[11]

The OER movement originated from developments in open and distance learning (ODL) and in the wider context of a culture of open knowledge, open source, free sharing and peer collaboration, which emerged in the late 20th century.[11] OER and Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS), for instance, have many aspects in common,[12][13] a connection first established in 1998 by David Wiley,[14] who introduced the concept of open content by analogy with open source.[15]

The MIT OpenCourseWare project is credited for having sparked a global Open Educational Resources Movement after announcing in 2001 that it was going to put MIT's entire course catalog online and launching this project in 2002.[16] In a first manifestation of this movement, MIT entered a partnership with the University of Utah, where assistant professor of instructional technology David Wiley set up a distributed peer support network for the OCW's content through voluntary, self-organizing communities of interest.[17]

The term "open educational resources" was first adopted at UNESCO's 2002 Forum on the Impact of Open Courseware for Higher Education in Developing Countries.[3]

In 2005 OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) launched a 20-month study to analyse and map the scale and scope of initiatives regarding “open educational resources” (OER) in terms of their purpose, content, and funding.[18] The report Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources,[19] published in May 2007, is the main output of the project, which involved a number of expert meetings in 2006.

In September 2007, the Open Society Institute and the Shuttleworth Foundation convened a meeting in Cape Town to which thirty leading proponents of open education were invited to collaborate on the text of a manifesto. The Cape Town Open Education Declaration was released on 22 January 2008,[20] urging governments and publishers to make publicly funded educational materials available at no charge via the internet.[9]

Some OER Initiatives

A parallel initiative Connexions, came out of Rice University starting in 1999. In contrast to the OCW projects, content licenses are required to be open Creative Commons Attribution only license. The hallmark of Connexions is the use of a custom XML format [[CNXML], designed to aid an enable mixing and reuse of the content.

Other initiatives derived from MIT OpenCourseWare are China Open Resources for Education and OpenCourseWare in Japan. The OpenCourseWare Consortium, founded in 2005 to extend the reach and impact of open course materials and foster new open course materials, counted more than 200 member institutions from around the world in 2009.[21]

One of the first OER resources for K-20 education is Curriki. A nonprofit organization, Curriki provides an Internet site for open source curriculum (OSC) development, to provide universal access to free curricula and instructional materials for students up to the age of 18 (K-12). By applying the open source process to education, Curriki empowers educational professionals to become an active community in the creation of good curricula. Kim Jones serves as Curriki's Executive Director.

In August 2006 Wikieducator was launched to provide a venue for planning education projects built on OER, creating and promoting open education resources(OERs), and networking towards funding proposals.[22] Its Wikieducator's Learning4Content project builds skills in the use of MediaWiki and related free software technologies for mass-collaboration in the authoring of free content and claims to be the world's largest wiki training project for education. By 30 June 2009 the project facilitated 86 workshops training 3,001 educators from 113 different countries.[23]


Open educational resources are inextricably bound up with intellectual property issues, as most educational content is protected under conventional copyright terms that must be honored. Creative Commons, an organisation that provides ready-made licensing agreements that are less restrictive than the "all rights reserved" terms of standard international copyright, is a "critical infrastructure service for the OER movement."[24]

Institutional support

A large part of the early work on open educational resources was funded by well-endowed US universities and foundations such as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation,[16] which was the main financial supporter of open educational resources in the early years and has spent more than $110 million in the 2002 to 2010 period, of which more than $14 million went to MIT.[2] The Shuttleworth Foundation, which focuses on projects concerning collaborative content creation, has contributed as well. With the British government contributing £5.7m,[25] institutional support has also been provided by the UK funding bodies JISC[26] and HEFCE.[27]

UNESCO is taking a leading role in "making countries aware of the potential of OER."[28] The organisation has instigated debate on how to apply OER in practice and chaired vivid discussions on this matter through its International Institute of Educational Planning (IIEP).[citation needed] Believing that OER can widen access to quality education, particularly when shared by many countries and higher education institutions, UNESCO also champions OER as a means of promoting access, equity and quality in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[29]

National and US State Programs

  • US - Washington State's Open Course Library Project is a collection of expertly-developed educational materials – including textbooks, syllabi, course activities, readings, and assessments – for 81 high-enrolling college courses. 42 courses have been completed so far, providing faculty with a high-quality option that will cost students no more than $30 per course.
  • Bangladesh is the first country to digitize a complete set of textbooks for grades 1-12.[30] Distribution is free to all.
  • Uruguay sought up to 1,000 digital learning resources in a Request For Proposals (RFP) in June 2011.[31]
  • South Korea has announced a plan to digitize all of its textbooks and to provide all students with computers and digitized textbooks.[32]
  • The California Learning Resources Network Free Digital Textbook Initiative at high school level[33], initiated by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • The Shuttleworth Foundation's Free high school science texts for South Africa[34]
  • Saudi Arabia had a comprehesive project in 2008 to digitize and improve the Math and Scinece text books in all k-12 grades.[35]
  • Saudi Arabia start a project in 2011 to digitize all text books other than Math and Science.


The OER movement has been accused of insularity and failure to connect with the larger world: "OERs will not be able to help countries reach their educational goals unless awareness of their power and potential can rapidly be expanded beyond the communities of interest that they have already attracted."[36]

In more fundamental criticism, doubts have been cast on the altruistic motives typically claimed for OER, and the very project has been accused of imperialism in that the creation and dissemination of knowledge according to the economic, political and cultural preferences of highly developed countries for the use of less developed countries is alleged to be a self-serving imposition.[37]

See also


  1. ^ Hylén, Jan (2007). Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources. Paris, France: OECD Publishing. p. 30. doi:10.1787/9789264032125-en. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  2. ^ a b Hafner, Katie (2010-04-16). "Higher Education Reimagined With Online Courseware". New York Times (New York). Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  3. ^ a b Johnstone, Sally M. (2005). "Open Educational Resources Serve the World". Educause Quarterly 28 (3). Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  4. ^ "OER for Assessment and Credit for Students". Wikieducator. Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  5. ^ Stannard, Russell (2010-04-24). "#loveHE: A wide-open web of potential". Times Higher Education (London). Retrieved 2010-12-18. 
  6. ^ Atkins, Daniel E.; John Seely Brown, Allen L. Hammond (2007-02). "A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities". Menlo Park, CA: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. p. 4. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  7. ^ Geser, Guntram (2007-01). "Open Educational Practices and Resources. OLCOS Roadmap 2012". Salzburg, Austria: Salzburg Research, EduMedia Group. p. 20. Retrieved 2010-11-06. 
  8. ^ Kamenetz, Anya (2010-07-25). "Eliminate Print Textbooks, Go Digital". New York Times (New York). Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  9. ^ a b "The Cape Town Open Education Declaration". Capetown Declaration. 2007. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  10. ^ Mulder, Jorrit (2008). Knowledge Dissemination in Sub-Saharan Africa: What Role for Open Educational Resources (OER)?. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam. p. 14. 
  11. ^ a b Wiley, David (2006-02-06), Expert Meeting on Open Educational Resources, Centre for Educational Research and Innovation,, retrieved 2010-12-03 
  12. ^ "FOSS solutions for OER - summary report". Unesco. 2009-05-28. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  13. ^ Hylén, Jan (2007). Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources. Paris, France: OECD Publishing. doi:10.1787/9789264032125-en. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  14. ^ Grossman, Lev (1998-07-18). "New Free License to Cover Content Online". Netly News. Archived from the original on 2000-06-19.,2822,621,00.html. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  15. ^ Wiley, David (1998). "Open Content". Retrieved 2010-01-12. 
  16. ^ a b Guttenplan, D. D. (2010-11-01). "For Exposure, Universities Put Courses on the Web". New York Times (New York). Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  17. ^ Ticoll, David (2003-09-04). "MIT initiative could revolutionize learning". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). Archived from the original on 2003-09-20. Retrieved 2010-12-20. 
  18. ^ "Open Educational Resources". CERI.,3343,en_2649_35845581_35023444_1_1_1_1,00.html. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  19. ^ Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources. Paris, France: OECD Publishing. 2007. doi:10.1787/9789264032125-en. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  20. ^ Deacon, Andrew; Catherine Wynsculley (2009). "Educators and the Cape Town Open Learning Declaration: Rhetorically reducing distance". International Journal of Education and Development using ICT 5 (5). Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  21. ^ Attwood, Rebecca (2009-09-24). "Get it out in the open". Times Higher Education (London). Retrieved 2010-12-18. 
  22. ^ "What is WikiEducator? (October 2006)". COL. Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  23. ^ "The Purpose of Learning for Content - outcomes and results". Wikieducator. 2010-02-10. Retrieved 2010-12-28. 
  24. ^ Atkins, Daniel E.; John Seely Brown, Allen L. Hammond (2007-02). "A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities". Menlo Park, CA: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. p. 13. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  25. ^ Swain, Harriet (2009-11-10). "Any student, any subject, anywhere". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  26. ^ "Open educational resources programme - phase 2". JISC. 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  27. ^ "Open educational resources programme - phase 1". JISC. 2009. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  28. ^ "Initiative Background". Taking OER beyond the OER Community. 2009. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  29. ^  Communiqué: The New Dynamics of Higher Education and Research for Societal Change and Development, UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education, 2009, 
  30. ^ PM opens e-content repository]
  31. ^ (PDF in Spanish)
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ "UNESCO and COL promote wider use of OERs". International Council for Open and Distance Education. 2010-06-24. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  37. ^ Mulder, Jorrit (2008). Knowledge Dissemination in Sub-Saharan Africa: What Role for Open Educational Resources (OER)?. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam. pp. 58–67. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 

External links

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