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Open educational resources

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Open educational resources

Open Educational Resources (OER) are freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes. It is the leading trend in distance education/open and distance learning domain as a consequence of the openness movement.[1] Although some people consider the use of an open file format to be an essential characteristic of OER, this is not a universally acknowledged requirement.

The development and promotion of open educational resources is often motivated by a desire to curb the commodification of knowledge[2] and provide an alternate or enhanced educational paradigm.[3]


  • Defining the scope and nature of open educational resources 1
  • History 2
  • Licensing and types of OER 3
  • OER policy 4
  • Institutional support 5
  • Initiatives 6
  • International programs 7
    • OER global logo adopted by UNESCO 7.1
  • Critical discourse about OER as a movement 8
    • External discourse 8.1
    • Internal discourse 8.2
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Defining the scope and nature of open educational resources

Alternate logo for open educational resources.
of open educational resources logo.

The idea of open educational resources (OER) has numerous working definitions.[4] The term was firstly coined at UNESCO's 2002 Forum on Open Courseware and designates "teaching, learning and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions. Open licensing is built within the existing framework of intellectual property rights as defined by relevant international conventions and respects the authorship of the work". Often cited is the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation term which defines OER as:

"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 and 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".[5]

The above definitions expose some of the tensions that exist with OER:

  • Nature of the resource: Several of the definitions above limit the definition of OER to digital resources, while others consider that any educational resource can be included in the definition.
  • Source of the resource: While some of the definitions require a resource to be produced with an explicit educational aim in mind, others broaden this to include any resource which may potentially be used for learning
  • Level of openness: Most definitions require that a resource be placed in the public domain. Others require for use to be granted merely for educational purposes, or exclude commercial uses.

At the same time, these definitions also share some universal commonalities, namely they all:

  • cover both use and reuse, repurposing, and modification of the resources;
  • include free use for educational purposes by teachers and learners
  • encompass all types of digital media.[11]

Given the diversity of users, creators and sponsors of open educational resources, it is not surprising to find a variety of use cases and requirements. For this reason, it may be as helpful to consider the differences between descriptions of open educational resources as it is to consider the descriptions themselves. One of several tensions in reaching a consensus description of OER (as found in the above definitions) is whether there should be explicit emphasis placed on specific technologies. For example, a video can be openly licensed and freely used without being a streaming video. A book can be openly licensed and freely used without being an electronic document. This technologically driven tension is deeply bound up with the discourse of open-source licensing. For more, see Licensing and Types of OER later in this article.

There is also a tension between entities which find value in quantifying usage of OER and those which see such metrics as themselves being irrelevant to free and open resources. Those requiring metrics associated with OER are often those with economic investment in the technologies needed to access or provide electronic OER, those with economic interests potentially threatened by OER,[12] or those requiring justification for the costs of implementing and maintaining the infrastructure or access to the freely available OER. While a semantic distinction can be made delineating the technologies used to access and host learning content from the content itself, these technologies are generally accepted as part of the collective of open educational resources.[13]

Since OER are intended to be available for a variety of educational purposes, most organizations using OER neither award degrees nor provide academic or administrative support to students seeking college credits towards a diploma from a degree granting accredited institution.[14][15] In open education, there is an emerging effort by some accredited institutions to offer free certifications, or achievement badges, to document and acknowledge the accomplishments of participants.


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.[16]

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.[16] OER and Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS), for instance, have many aspects in common,[17][18] a connection first established in 1998 by David Wiley[19] who coined the term open content and introduced the concept by analogy with open source.[20] Richard Baraniuk made the same connection independently in 1999.[21]


External links

  1. ^ Bozkurt, A., Akgun-Ozbek, E., Onrat-Yilmazer, S., Erdogdu, E., Ucar, H., Guler, E., Sezgin, S., Karadeniz, A., Sen, N., Goksel-Canbek, N., Dincer, G. D., Ari, S.,& Aydin, C. H. (2015). Trends in Distance Education Research: A Content Analysis of Journals 2009-2013. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 16(1),330-363.
  2. ^ Kauppinen, Ilkka (29 January 2013). "Different meanings of 'knowledge as commodity' in the context of higher education". Critical Sociology.  
  3. ^ Sanchez, Claudia. "The use of technological resources for education: a new professional competency for teachers". Intel® Learning Series blog. Intel Corporation. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  4. ^ "What is OER?". Creative Commons. Retrieved 18 April 2013. 
  5. ^ "Open Educational Resources". The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  6. ^ "Giving Knowledge for Free: THE EMERGENCE OF OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES" (PDF). Center for Educational Research and Innovation. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  7. ^ Wikiversity:Open educational resources
  8. ^ "Open Educational Resources (OER)". Commonwealth of Learning. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  9. ^ "Oer". Retrieved 17 April 2013. 
  10. ^ "Defining OER". Open Education Resource Foundation. Retrieved 18 April 2013. 
  11. ^ Camilleri, Anthony F; Ehlers, Ulf; Pawlowski, Jan (2014), State of the Art Review of Quality Issues related to Open Educational Resources (OER), Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, p. 54 
  12. ^ (CERI), Center for Educational Research and Innovation (2007). Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources (PDF). Executive Summary (Policy implications and recommendations): Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). p. 15.  
  13. ^ (CERI), Center for Educational Research and Innovation (2007). Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources (PDF). Executive Summary (What are open educational resources?): Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). p. 10.  
  14. ^ a b Hafner, Katie (2010-04-16). "Higher Education Reimagined With Online Courseware". New York Times (New York). Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  15. ^ a b Johnstone, Sally M. (2005). "Open Educational Resources Serve the World". Educause Quarterly 28 (3). Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  16. ^ a b Wiley, David (2006-02-06). "Expert Meeting on Open Educational Resources" (PDF). Centre for Educational Research and Innovation. Retrieved 2010-12-03 
  17. ^ "FOSS solutions for OER - summary report". Unesco. 2009-05-28. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  18. ^ Hylén, Jan (2007). Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources. Paris, France: OECD Publishing.  
  19. ^ Grossman, Lev (1998-07-18). "New Free License to Cover Content Online". Netly News. Archived from the original on 2000-06-19. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  20. ^ Wiley, David (1998). "Open Content". Retrieved 2010-01-12. 
  21. ^ "Throw Away your School Books: Here Comes Textbook 2.0,", 8 November 2007
  22. ^ 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. 
  23. ^ 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. 
  24. ^ "Open Educational Resources". CERI. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  25. ^ Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources. Paris, France: OECD Publishing. 2007.  
  26. ^ "CERI - Open Educational Resources: Meetings and Conferences - OECD". Retrieved 2015-04-27. 
  27. ^ 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. 
  28. ^ "The Cape Town Open Education Declaration". Cape Town Declaration. 2007. Retrieved 2010-12-27. 
  29. ^ Guggenheim Museum. "Joseph Beuys". Guggenheim Museum. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  30. ^ Biro, Matthew (Winter 1995). "The Arts of Joseph Beuys". The Journal of the International Institute 2 (2). Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  31. ^ Atkins, Daniel E.; John Seely Brown; Allen L. Hammond (February 2007). A Review of the Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement: Achievements, Challenges, and New Opportunities (PDF). Menlo Park, CA: The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. p. 13. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  32. ^ Hylén, Jan (2007). Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources. Paris, France: OECD Publishing. p. 30.  
  33. ^ Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources (PDF). Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI), OECD. 2007. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  34. ^ "OER Policy Registry". Creative Commons. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  35. ^ "Open Policy Network". Creative Commons. Retrieved 19 July 2014. 
  36. ^ Swain, Harriet (2009-11-10). "Any student, any subject, anywhere". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  37. ^ "Open educational resources programme - phase 2". JISC. 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  38. ^ "Open educational resources programme - phase 1". JISC. 2009. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  39. ^ "Initiative Background". Taking OER beyond the OER Community. 2009. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  40. ^ "Communiqué: The New Dynamics of Higher Education and Research for Societal Change and Development" (PDF). UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education. 2009 
  41. ^ "UNESCO Paris OER Declaration 2012" (PDF). 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-27. 
  42. ^ Attwood, Rebecca (2009-09-24). "Get it out in the open". Times Higher Education (London). Retrieved 2010-12-18. 
  43. ^ "Introducing OER Africa". South African Institute for Distance Education. 
  44. ^ "Trend Report: Open Educational Resources 2013" (PDF). SURF. Open Educational Resources Special Interest Group (SIG OER). March 2013. 
  45. ^ "Open educational resources programme - phase 1". 
  46. ^ "Open educational resources programme - phase 2". 
  47. ^ "What is WikiEducator? (October 2006)". COL. Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  48. ^ "The Purpose of Learning for Content - outcomes and results". Wikieducator. 2010-02-10. Retrieved 2010-12-28. 
  49. ^ "About.""Writing Commons". CC BY-NC-ND 3.0. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  50. ^ Anders, Abram (November 9, 2012). "Experimenting with MOOCs: Network-based Communities of Practice.". Great Plains Alliance for Computers and Writing Conference. Mankato, MN. Retrieved February 11, 2013. 
  51. ^ "About.""Cultivating Change Community". CC BY-NC 3.0. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  52. ^ OER ECONOMICS "MU OER PORTAL" . Wikieducator. 
  53. ^ Thibault, Joseph. "241 OER Courses with Assessments in Moodle: How has created one of the largest Free and Open Course Initiatives on the web". Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  54. ^ "Saylor Foundation to Launch Multi-Million Dollar Open Textbook Challenge! | College Open Textbooks Blog". 2011-08-09. Retrieved 2011-10-21. 
  55. ^ DELILA Project Blog:
  56. ^ Anderson, L. 2011. DELILA – Embedding Digital and Information Literacy OERs into the PG Cert. Journal of information literacy, 5(1), pp 95-98 JIL/article/view /PRJ-V5-I1-2011-1
  57. ^ "OER@AVU - Open Educational Resources by the African Virtual University". Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  58. ^ "Community college to offer textbook-free degree". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  59. ^ "Digitale læremidler i videregående opplæring - Oppfølging av Revidert Nasjonalbudsjett for 2006". Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  60. ^ "Lov om grunnskolen og den vidaregåande opplæringa (opplæringslova) - Lovdata". Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  61. ^ a b "The reinvention of Neeru Khosla". Silicon Valley Business Journal. 2014-03-28. Retrieved 2014-04-22. 
  62. ^ "Open Educational Resources and Creative Commons". Eliademy Blog. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  63. ^ Kimmons, R. "Introduction to open education in K-12". Open Courses. University of Idaho Doceo Center. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  64. ^ Kimmons, R. "Open Textbook Crash Course". Open Courses. University of Idaho Doceo Center. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  65. ^ Kimmons, R. "Developing open education literacies with practicing K-12 teachers". International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 15 (6). Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  66. ^ Mulder, Jorrit (2008). "Knowledge Dissemination in Sub-Saharan Africa: What Role for Open Educational Resources (OER)?". Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam. p. 14. 
  67. ^ PM opens e-content repository
  68. ^ (PDF in Spanish)
  69. ^
  70. ^ "Learning Resources for California". Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  71. ^ "The Shuttleworth Foundation Home". Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  72. ^
  73. ^ Mello, Jonathas. "Global OER Logo" (PDF). UNESCO. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  74. ^ "UNESCO and COL promote wider use of OERs". International Council for Open and Distance Education. 2010-06-24. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  75. ^ Mulder, Jorrit (2008). "Knowledge Dissemination in Sub-Saharan Africa: What Role for Open Educational Resources (OER)?" (PDF). Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam. pp. 58–67. Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  76. ^ Scanlon, Eileen (February–March 2012). "Digital futures: Changes in scholarship, open educational resources and the inevitability of interdisciplinarity". Arts and Humanities in Higher Education 11: 177–184.  
  77. ^ "OER: Articles, Books, Presentations and Seminars". Educause. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  78. ^ Rivard, Ry. "Coursera begins to make money". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved 25 April 2013. 
  79. ^ Carey, Kevin. "The Brave New World of College Branding". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 25 April 2013. 
  80. ^ Downes, Stephen. "The Role of Open Educational Resources in Personal Learning". VI International Seminar of the UNESCO chair in e-Learning. Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 


See also

Stephen Downes has argued that, from a connectivist perspective, the production of OER is ironic because "in the final analysis, we cannot produce knowledge for people. Period. The people who are benefiting from these open education resource initiatives are the people who are producing these resources."[80]

Within the open educational resources movement, the concept of OER is essentially contested[76] and active.[77] Consider, for example, the conceptions of gratis versus libre knowledge as found in the discourse about massive open online courses, which may offer free courses but charge for end-of-course awards or course verification certificates from commercial entities.[78][79] A second example of essentially contested ideas in OER can be found in the usage of different OER logos which can be interpreted as indicating more or less allegiance to the notion of OER as a global movement.

Internal discourse

More fundamentally, doubts were cast on the altruistic motives typically claimed by OERs. The project itself was accused of imperialism because the economic, political, and cultural preferences of highly developed countries determine the creation and dissemination of knowledge that can be used by less-developed countries and may be a self-serving imposition.[75]

The OER movement has been accused of insularity and failure to connect globally: "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."[74]

External discourse

Critical discourse about OER as a movement

With the advent of growing international awareness and implementation of open educational resources, a global OER logo (shown right) was adopted for use in multiple languages by UNESCO. The design of the Global OER logo creates a common global visual idea, representing "subtle and explicit representations of the subjects and goals of OER". Its full explanation and recommendation of use is available from UNESCO.[73]

OER global logo adopted by UNESCO

  • Saudi Arabia had a comprehensive project in 2008 to digitize and improve the Math and Science text books in all k-12 grades.[72]
  • Saudi Arabia started a project in 2011 to digitize all text books other than Math and Science.
English language version of global logo for open educational resources.
of Open Educational Resources global logo.

  • Europe – Learning Resource Exchange for schools (LRE) is a service launched by European Schoolnet in 2004 enabling educators to find multilingual open educational resources from many different countries and providers. Currently, more than 200,000 learning resources are searchable in one portal based on language, subject, resource type and age range.
  • India – National Council Of Educational Research and Training digitized all its textbooks from 1st standard to 12th standard. The textbooks are available online for free. Central Institute of Educational Technology, a constituent Unit of NCERT, digitized more than thousand audio and video programmes. All the educational AV material developed by CIET is presently available at Sakshat Portal an initiative of Ministry of Human Resources and Development. In addition, NROER (National Repository for Open Educational Resources) houses variety of e-content.
  • 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. All course have now been released and are providing faculty with a high-quality option that will cost students no more than $30 per course. However, a study found that very few classes were actually using these materials (
  • Bangladesh is the first country to digitize a complete set of textbooks for grades 1-12.[67] Distribution is free to all.
  • Uruguay sought up to 1,000 digital learning resources in a Request For Proposals (RFP) in June 2011.[68]
  • South Korea has announced a plan to digitize all of its textbooks and to provide all students with computers and digitized textbooks.[69]
  • The California Learning Resources Network Free Digital Textbook Initiative at high school level,[70] initiated by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • The Michigan Department of Education provided $600,000 to create the Michigan Open Book Project in 2014. The initial selection of OER textbooks in history, economics, geography and social studies was issued in August, 2015. There has been [Http://|significant negative reaction] to the materials' inaccuracies, design flaws and confusing distribution.
  • The Shuttleworth Foundation's Free high school science texts for South Africa[71]

High hopes have been voiced for OERs 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.[66]

International programs

In 2015, the University of Idaho Doceo Center launched open course content for K-12 schools, with the purpose of improving awareness of OER among K-12 educators.[63] This was shortly followed by an Open Textbook Crash Course,[64] which provides K-12 educators with basic knowledge about copyright, open licensing, and attribution. Results of these projects have been used to inform research into how to support K-12 educator OER adoption literacies and the diffusion of open practices.[65]

In March 2015, launched the crowdsourcing of OER courses under CC licence. The platform expects to collect 5000 courses during the first year that can be reused by teachers wordwide.[62]

LATIn Project brings a Collaborative Open Textbook Initiative for Higher Education tailored specifically for Latin America. This initiative encourages and supports local professors and authors to contribute with individual sections or chapters that could be assembled into customized books by the whole community. The created books are freely available to the students in an electronic format or could be legally printed at low cost because there is no license or fees to be paid for their distribution, since all they are released as OER with a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license. This solution also contributes to the creation of customized textbooks where each professor could select the sections appropriate for their courses or could freely adapt existing sections to their needs. Also, the local professors will be the sink and source of the knowledge, contextualized to the Latin American Higher Education system.

[61] open educational resources aligned to state curriculum standards and tailored to meet student and teacher needs. The foundation's tools are used by 38,000 schools in the US, and additional international schools.K-12 CK-12 provides free and fully customizable [61] Founded in 2007, the

In Sweden there is a growing interest in open publication and the sharing of educational resources but the pace of development is still slow. There are many questions to be dealt with in this area; for universities, academic management and teaching staff. Teachers in all educational sectors require support and guidance to be able to use OER pedagogically and with quality in focus. To realize the full potential of OER for students' learning it is not enough to make patchwork use of OER – resources have to be put into context. Valuable teacher time should be used for contextual work and not simply for the creation of content.The aim of the project OER for learning OERSweden, is to stimulate an open discussion about collaboration in infrastructural questions regarding open online knowledge sharing. A network of ten universities led by Karlstad University will arrange a series of open webinars during the project period focusing on the use and production of open educational resources. A virtual platform for Swedish OER initiatives and resources will also be developed. The project intends to focus in particular on how OER affects teacher trainers and decision makers. The objectives of the project are: To increase the level of national collaboration between universities and educational organisations in the use and production of OER, To find effective online methods to support teachers and students, in terms of quality, technology and retrievability of OER, To raise awareness for the potential of webinars as a tool for open online learning, To increase the level of collaboration between universities' support functions and foster national resource sharing, with a base in modern library and educational technology units, and To contribute to the creation of a national university structure for tagging, distribution and storage of OER.

In Norway the Norwegian Digital Learning Arena (NDLA) is a joint county enterprise offering open digital learning resources for upper secondary education. In addition to being a compilation of open educational resources, NDLA provides a range of other online tools for sharing and cooperation. At project startup in 2006, increased volume and diversity were seen as significant conditions for the introduction of free learning material in upper secondary education.[59] The incentive was an amendment imposing the counties to provide free educational material, in print as well as digital, including digital hardware.[60]

Nordic OER is a Nordic network to promote open education and collaboration amongst stakeholders in all educational sectors. The network has members from all Nordic countries and facilitates discourse and dialogue on open education but also participates in projects and development programs. The network is supported by the Nordic OER project co-funded by Nordplus.

In August 2013, Tidewater Community College become the first college in the U.S. to create an Associate of Science degree based entirely on openly licensed content – the "Z-Degree". The combined efforts of a 13-member faculty team, college staff and administration culminated when students enrolled in the first "z-courses" which are based solely on OER. The goals of this initiative were twofold: 1) to improve student success, and 2) to increase instructor effectiveness. Courses were stripped down to the Learning Outcomes and rebuilt using openly licensed content, reviewed and selected by the faculty developer based on its ability to facilitate student achievement of the objectives. The 21 z-courses that make up an associate of science degree in business administration were launched simultaneously across four campus locations. TCC is the 11th largest public two-year college in the nation, enrolling nearly 47,000 students annually.[58]

In 2006, the African Virtual University (AVU) released 73 modules of its Teacher Education Programs as open education resources to make the courses freely available for all. In 2010, the AVU developed the OER Repository which has contributed to increase the number of Africans that use, contextualize, share and disseminate the existing as well as future academic content. The online portal serves as a platform where the 219 modules of Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, ICT in education, and teacher education professional courses are published. The modules are available in three different languages – English, French, and Portuguese, making the AVU the leading African institution in providing and using open education resources[57]

In 2010 the University of Birmingham and the London School of Economics worked together on the HEA and JISC funded DELILA project, the main aim of the project was to release a small sample of open educational resources to support embedding digital and information literacy education into institutional teacher training courses accredited by the HEA including PGCerts and other CPD courses.[55] One of the main barriers that the project found to sharing resources in information literacy was copyright that belonged to commercial database providers[56]

Another project is the Free Education Initiative from the Saylor Foundation, which is currently more than 80% of the way towards its initial goal of providing 241 college-level courses across 13 subject areas.[53] The Saylor Foundation makes use of university and college faculty members and subject experts to assist in this process, as well as to provide peer review of each course to ensure its quality. The foundation also supports the creation of new openly licensed materials where they are not already available as well as through its Open Textbook Challenge.[54]

In 2011-12, academicians from the University of Mumbai, India created an OER Portal with free resources on Micro Economics, Macro Economics, and Soft Skills – available for global learners.[52]

Peer production has also been utilized in producing collaborative open education resources (OERs). Writing Commons, an international open textbook spearheaded by Joe Moxley at the University of South Florida, has evolved from a print textbook into a crowd-sourced resource for college writers around the world.[49] Massive open online course (MOOC) platforms have also generated interest in building online eBooks. The Cultivating Change Community (CCMOOC) at the University of Minnesota is one such project founded entirely on a grassroots model to generate content.[50] In 10 weeks, 150 authors contributed more than 50 chapters to the CCMOOC eBook and companion site.[51]

One of the first OER resources for K-20 education is 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.[47] 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.[48]

was spearheaded in 2007 by ISKME, a nonprofit education research institute dedicated to innovation in open education content and practices, as a way to aggregate, share, and promote open educational resources to educators, administrators, parents, and students. OER Commons also provides educators tools to align OER to the Common Core State Standards; to evaluate the quality of OER to OER Rubrics; and to contribute and share OERs with other teachers and learners worldwide. To further promote the sharing of these resources among educators, in 2008 ISKME launched the OER Commons Teacher Training Initiative, which focuses on advancing open educational practices and on building opportunities for systemic change in teaching and learning.

OER Commons
Logo of OER Commons.

In 2003, the ownership of WorldHeritage and Wiktionary projects was transferred to the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization whose goal is to collecting and developing free educational content and to disseminate it effectively and globally. WorldHeritage ranks in the top-ten most visited websites worldwide since 2007.

The Open educational resources programme (phases one[45] and two[46]) (United Kingdom), funded by HEFCE, the UK Higher Education Academy and Jisc, which has supported pilot projects and activities around the open release of learning resources, for free use and repurposing worldwide.

Wikiwijs (the Netherlands), a program intended to promote the use of open educational resources (OER) in the Dutch education sector;[44]

OER Africa, an initiative established by the South African Institute for Distance Education (Saide) to play a leading role in driving the development and use of OER across all education sectors on the African continent.[43] The OER4Schools project focusses on the use of Open Educational Resources in teacher education in sub-Saharan Africa.

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.[42]

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 under a Creative Commons Attribution only license. The hallmark of Connexions is the use of a custom XML format CNXML, designed to aid and enable mixing and reuse of the content.


International Institute of Educational Planning (IIEP). Believing that OERs can widen access to quality education, particularly when shared by many countries and higher education institutions, UNESCO also champions OERs as a means of promoting access, equity and quality in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[40] Recently, the 2012 Paris OER Declaration[41] was approved during the 2012 OER World Congress held in UNESCO HQ.

A large part of the early work on open educational resources was funded by universities and foundations such as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation,[22] 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.[14] The Shuttleworth Foundation, which focuses on projects concerning collaborative content creation, has contributed as well. With the British government contributing £5.7m,[36] institutional support has also been provided by the UK funding bodies JISC[37] and HEFCE.[38]

Institutional support


Creative Commons hosts an open educational resources policy registry lists 95 current and proposed open education policies from around the world.[34]

Open educational resources policies are principles or tenets adopted by governing bodies in support of the use of open content and practices in educational institutions. Many of these policies require publicly funded resources be openly licensed. Such policies are emerging increasingly at the country, state/province and more local level.[33]

OER policy

Types of open educational resources include: full courses, course materials, modules, learning objects, open textbooks, openly licensed (often streamed) videos, tests, software, and other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge. OER may be freely and openly available static resources, dynamic resources which change over time in the course of having knowledge seekers interacting with and updating them (such as this WorldHeritage article), or a course or module with a combination of these resources.

Open educational resources often involve issues relating to [31] Another license, typically used by developers of OER software, is the GNU General Public License from the free and open-source software (FOSS) community. Open licensing allows uses of the materials that would not be easily permitted under copyright alone.[32]

The GNU head, iconic symbol of the GNU Project, and thus the GNU GPL.
Creative Commons logo
Turning a Resource into an Open Educational Resource

Licensing and types of OER

An historical antecedent to consider is the pedagogy of artist Joseph Beuys and the founding of the Free International University for Creativity and Interdisciplinary Research in 1973. After co-creating with his students, in 1967, the German Student Party, Beuys was dismissed from his teaching post in 1972 at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. The institution did not approve of the fact that he permitted 50 students who had been rejected from admission to study with him. The Free University became increasingly involved in political and radical actions calling for a revitalization and restructuring of educational systems.[29][30]

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,[27] urging governments and publishers to make publicly funded educational materials available at no charge via the internet.[28]

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" in terms of their purpose, content, and funding.[24] The report "Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources",[25] published in May 2007, is the main output of the project, which involved a number of expert meetings in 2006.[26]

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.[15]


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